Jeni Bogdan earned her Executive Master's to Take Her Construction Company to the Next Level
Published on:11-23-2009Jeni Bogdan's first business, selling handmade paper flowers in fifth grade, grossed $5. In 2008, the Saxon Group, the heavy industrial construction company that Bogdan has owned and operated since its launch in 1991, brought in $8 million in revenue.
Business has blossomed so rapidly that Bogdan, a College of Management alumna, didn't even know that she ran the largest woman-owned business in America by revenue until she was profiled in Inc. magazine last year.
"I always knew I'd run my own business, but I wasn't always sure what kind," says Bogdan, who earned her BS in management from Tech in 1989, then returned for an Executive Master's in Management of Technology, which she finished in 1997.
After completing her undergraduate studies, she started a nonemergency transportation company that transported elderly and disabled people to doctor's appointments in partnership with her mother. Funded primarily through Medicaid, the company fell victim to budget cuts.
Then consulting work she'd done part-time for her father's industrial construction firm became her full-time job. She was assigned to manage a supercollider project for Air Products and Chemicals, which proposed that a woman-owned business on board could give the company a strategic advantage in winning contracts. Soon after, the Saxon Group was born.
Earning her Executive Master’s in Management of Technology (which has since evolved into an Executive MBA program) helped her take the company to a higher level after her first five years running the business. “We were transitioning into handling multimillion dollar contracts, and it was great to get feedback from my professors to help guide me through that process,” Bogdan says. “I gained the confidence to grow my company.”
She considered various MBA programs, but the emphasis on management of technology offered by Tech made her decision easy. "We pride our company on being innovative, and a lot of that innovation comes from the technology side of the business," she says. "We have to stay on the cutting edge."
The walls of hallways and conference rooms in Saxon's headquarters in Sugar Hill, Georgia, are covered with photographs of the company's industrial projects.
Now employing about 1,000 people, the company has focused its energies on power plants, refineries and cryogenic projects, but now is looking ahead to transmission and distribution as well as nuclear plants. Southern Company is one of its biggest clients.
To date, the Saxon Group's biggest project cost $85 million, and Bogdan aims to expand into winning contracts in the $250-$300 million range. She considers development of her management team key to achieving this goal.
One of her project managers is following Bogdan's lead by enrolling in the Executive MBA in Management of Technology program in fall 2009, and Saxon is sponsoring his studies. "Because I’d gotten so much out of the program, I knew it would be a good fit for him and his role in our company," she says.
Bogdan—whose husband, Jeff, a sales manager for Motorola, also earned that same degree a year after she did—has maintained strong ties with her Executive degree classmates. "We get together three times a year, and they are a great sounding board. We're still learning from one another’s experiences."
Because the Saxon Group builds projects across the country, Bogdan is on the road at least one day a week. But she makes it a priority to be home for her three sons' sporting and school events. She also makes time to attend as many Tech football, basketball, and baseball games as possible. Even at work, her school spirit is evident by the large wooden Buzz statue standing in her office. It holds a yellow pompom and wears a safety helmet.
Saxon has an outstanding safety record. The company has twice won the National Safety Excellence Award from Associated Builders and Contractors. "Those are some of my proudest moments," Bogdan says.
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