Tales of the Trades shares just some of the millions of stories in the skilled industrial trades, shining a bright light on the hard-working tradesmen and women who build, operate and maintain the world we live in. We also focus on the individuals and organizations working hard to advance industrial sectors and ensure their success over the coming decades.
Meet Harvey Hamilton. Harvey is the owner of Maiden Contracting (@maidencontracting), founded 4 years ago and based in Indianapolis, Indiana. At 16, he started in the trades as a concrete laborer and then shifted to rough framing, roofing, finish carpentry, and metal work. At 35, he graduated with a Construction Engineering degree from Purdue University, but quickly realized his heart was indeed in the physical work of construction. Now at 43, he hopes to pass along as much knowledge and training while still working in the field. To anyone with an interest in joining the trades, Harvey encourages you to find the one you love, because it will provide for you if you put in the work.
What led you to pursue a career in the trades, and specifically your chosen industry?
Once I turned 16 and started looking for a job, my brother got me a job as a concrete laborer where we were pumping wheelbarrows full of concrete. That group of guys I worked with was so genuine and so true, and that’s probably the reason why I stayed in construction. I went to college at Purdue for construction engineering and graduated in December 2009, but I just kind of feel that my place is in the field, so I still remain in the field. I own my own little company, but I’m out in the field every day working with the guys. I’ve got a great crew of guys that work for me - they’re young, they’re willing to learn, and they’ve got drive and initiative. It’s been a road for sure, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
The camaraderie in the construction industry is great. It really creates a bond between such a diverse group of guys and gals across the board. It’s just that blue collar mentality. I went to college, and I just wasn’t fit for that role. It sucks that it took me so long to figure out what my role was, but I think the relationships that you build throughout your career and the people that you meet… those carry over infinitely. To this day, I still come across guys that I worked with 15 years ago, and it’s such a nice feeling when you see somebody that you haven’t seen for so long. I feel that once you find your trade and you find your calling, that if you have that drive, you can make something out of it and you can be proud of the work that you’re putting out. Be proud of what your client thinks of your work. That’s probably the best part of it - the relationships and the satisfaction from a job well done.
What does it take to be successful at what you do?
Bottom line, it takes a devoted work ethic. Nothing comes for free, and nothing’s easy. You have to be persistent. You can’t just expect things to happen, and as a small business owner, it’s hard to accept those things. It’s tough. There’s a lot to manage, but it’s the reward factor that we’re all after.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
I was a construction superintendent for many years here in Indianapolis, but 4 years ago, one of the clients that I did work for kind of urged me to go out on my own and start my own operation. I can’t say that I would have done that without having that nudge or having somebody that believed in you before you even made the attempt. Having a relationship like that with a client or even with another co-worker, that is going to be able to uplift you and help you achieve these outrageous goals at the time, is really something to be said. I don’t know of another industry where you can get that kind of satisfaction for the hard work that you put into it. It’s probably the main reason why I still love doing construction. I still love being in the field, I still love cutting plywood and hammering nails. It’s just a lifestyle at this point.
What about the most challenging parts of your work?
Now, it’s keeping up with the work as a small business owner, so keeping the word coming in, and then making sure that you’re putting out quality work. We don’t like to do things twice or leave a punch list or have to come back. We enjoy doing everything 100% and making sure that we put out a good product, regardless of what we’re doing. Once you’ve found your level of skill set, you just build on that and hope to get a little bit better every day. I always want to be better than I was yesterday.
What is the biggest misconception about your work or frustration that you experience in your trade?
The biggest misconception is that carpenters tend to get paid more than the other trades, but the reality is that all the other trades depend on their work. So I feel that carpenters are not necessarily more important, but they should be valued a little bit more not just because of their work, but because everybody has to work off of their work. I eventually started charging more for my work, because we’ve gotten better. As a group, we can do things better and more efficiently on a greater scale. I think knowing your worth and knowing the value of your work is one of the hardest aspects of it. I can tend to downplay the cost sometimes and think, “I’m gonna take a little off of it,” but when you really think through it, there’s a lot of steps that need to be taken to make a good bid - and to actually be successful and profitable off of your work.
What are your thoughts on the state of the trades right now industry-wise?
In my opinion, I think that we’ve lost a lot of interest. When I was in college, I was one of the oldest in the class, and everybody else in the class had very little field experience. It was hard trying to relate because I had spent so much time in the field doing all kinds of different trades. I’d already been through all of that, but they didn’t have that experience or knowledge, so it seemed to be harder for them to grasp the entire building process. It seems like the lack of experience in the field is what puts pressure on the younger generation. I love what Rock the Trades is doing to get the word out, because it seems like such a daunting task.
Any advice for those thinking about taking up an industrial trade?
You have to find out what piques your interest. For me, it took working through several different trades. I started off doing concrete and moved to brick, then I was a house framer and did trim carpentry, so I bounced around a lot in my youth. I think that’s what made me so well-rounded, because I can do a little bit of everything. You have to find out where you can get that satisfaction. For me, it’s building stuff with beautiful material and the entire visual aspect of it. I like to see what I’ve accomplished, and I know that it’s going to be here forever. I’m the dad that’s driving through town and like, “I built that!” That’s what drives me. My stuff stands proud and everybody sees it. Exploring your options and bouncing around is not a bad idea. At the end of the day, your job is going to be your job, so why not make that job enjoyable?
Last but not least: what’s your favorite way to spend your free time?
My kids are grown now, so they’re out of the house and doing their own thing, being great human beings. My wife and I like to play pool - we’re avid pool players. We play in a bowling league here in Indianapolis. We’re not quite homebodies, but we just like to spend quality time with each other, and we love to go camping when we can.
Our thanks to Harvey for making time to share his story and industry insights with us.
You can follow Harvey on Instagram at @maidencontracting.