Meet a Woman of Asphalt: Jim Reynolds Asphalt Contractor’s Chelsea Ellis-Hogan
BY Sandy Lender
Once upon a time, an 18-year-old named Chelsea A. Ellis embarked on an entrepreneurial journey. Embracing gratitude, humility, faith, family and the lessons learned from both challenges and successes, Chelsea Ellis-Hogan has emerged as a dynamic force in the industry. Today, she serves as a motivator, marketer, author, and holds the esteemed position of President/CEO at Jim Reynolds Asphalt Contractor Inc., headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky.
Since joining the company in 2014 as an estimator, Chelsea has gained extensive experience in operating every piece of equipment and has actively taken on all company roles. As part of her on-the-job training, she has even attended the National Pavement Expo over the years. We’re delighted she could find time to share her story with AsphaltPro readers and to inspire other women in our industry.
AsphaltPro: What did you find interesting or fulfilling about the position of estimating when you started out with the company?
Chelsea Ellis-Hogan: I found the estimating position to be interesting because it allowed me to meet a lot of different people and learn about the different scenarios that take place within the industry. This role would be attractive to other women joining our industry because it is a remote position that allows you to work from home and from your vehicle. It doesn’t require a lot of time being managed by others as long as you are keeping up with your estimates as needed. This position also allows you to truly show your personality and build relationships with residential and commercial customers as you share your knowledge of the industry and service with them.
AsphaltPro: What part of your education relates best to the career track you’re on? And what courses would you recommend to women who want to join a company as an estimator or working in online marketing & customer relations for a construction business?
Chelsea Ellis-Hogan: My educational background in the industry came from hands-on learning and mentorship from my great uncle Jim Reynolds and father Sam Ellis, who has over 30 years of experience in the industry. I’ve also attended the National Pavement Expo for multiple years to learn how to scale our profit margins, marketing, leadership and tech.
I recommend investing in online and offline courses that focus on topics such as tech, leadership, sales/marketing, safety and job costing. These are the main things that women can truly learn and allow them to help any company in the industry grow.
AsphaltPro: Could you share with the readers what your first job as an estimator entailed and how those experiences helped you decide what you wanted to focus on for a career?
Chelsea Ellis-Hogan: My first job as an estimator entailed measuring the surfaces, documenting photos and videos, getting pricing from other subcontractors, sending invoices, and customer communications. Because travel to various neighborhoods was involved, a side benefit was really getting to know the landscape of my city both geographically and culturally.
AsphaltPro: Could you share with the readers what your job as the president and co-owner of Jim Reynolds now requires of you?
Chelsea Ellis-Hogan: I am responsible for the strategic growth plan of the leadership and company. My responsibilities include:
- Monthly Reviews
- Strategic Planning
- Financial Oversight
- Hiring and Talent Management
- Reviewing Performance Metrics
- Crisis Management
- Legal and Compliance
- Implementing Safety Procedures
- Innovation and Growth
- Time Management
- Customer and Investor Relations
- Creating Opportunities for Community Connection
AsphaltPro: As you took on all the different roles at the company, which one stood out as the most challenging or rewarding?
Chelsea Ellis-Hogan: CEO Role—This role is challenging yet rewarding because I am responsible for keeping the day-to-day business functions flowing smoothly and in the right direction. This role helped me develop a lot as a leader and individual. It is also challenging because you help create the systems and strategies that set the tone for the business’s success.
AsphaltPro: Could you share with the readers how participating in and learning about all the roles of the Jim Reynolds team helped you partner with and gain trust of the other workers around you?
Chelsea Ellis-Hogan: Learning all of the roles of our team by working alongside them, sometimes performing the physical aspects of the job, asking questions/making suggestions and planning off-the-clock social time, allows workers to see that I’m truly invested in them (as company partners), am not “above” them and speaks to leadership and how valuable each position is as part of the team.
AsphaltPro: What about your job with Jim Reynolds now is “most cool” to you?
Chelsea Ellis-Hogan: It is cool to always be able to learn something new daily and create a business around our values as a family. It is also great to be able to make income with family and friends who can also support the community we live in.
AsphaltPro: What do you think is the most important skill you’ve brought to your position as president of Jim Reynolds Asphalt Contractor? How would you encourage other women entering the industry to hone a similar skill to be any kind of asphalt leader they want to become?
Chelsea Ellis-Hogan: My tech-influenced leadership skills are what I bring to my position. I can use tech to avoid micromanaging leadership on all levels and ages within the company. These strategies encourage other women to use tech because it allows you to become a leader and allows the systems to work for you versus having to manage people directly. My leadership style gives our team a sense of ownership that leads to a sense of pride.
AsphaltPro: One of your topics at NPE 2024 will be “Growing Leadership Through Technology.” Is there a specific message you can offer to women joining our industry regarding how they can embrace or implement different technologies for different roles?
Chelsea Ellis-Hogan: I recommend trying to incorporate technology in your company in ways that can make it easier for different departments. Technology is made to simplify processes, so always look at it as a way of doing that. Also finding the balance between using technology and having personal interactions is important.
AsphaltPro: What would you say was the most challenging “obstacle” you, as a female in the industry, had to overcome in the past 10 years, and how did you overcome that obstacle? How do you think other women in the industry can incorporate that skill or habit into their workdays?
Chelsea Ellis-Hogan: I’ve always been one of the few minority women and owners in their 20s in leadership and decision-making meetings. This can mentally make a woman shy away from being a part of conversations about business choices. Also, a lot of the time the men in the industry have a lot of confidence and years of experience, which can sometimes intimidate women in our industry. The best way to overcome the obstacle is to build emotional and mental intelligence which means allowing logic and values to lead you through meetings and the things you know to be true about the services and industry. If you stay true to your strengths, then you won’t have to worry about the data or things you may not know.
AsphaltPro: Let’s talk about teamwork. What is an example of a project you were able to help your company bid successfully?
Chelsea Ellis-Hogan: We provided KFC Yum Brands! with bids for servicing their properties. We were able to successfully plan, negotiate and secure the jobs which took a lot of strategic planning and leadership. This project took a lot of teamwork to complete before the end of our season and due to their hours of operation the work had to be timed and carried out with precision. This project really took a lot of planning and taught us a lot about working with corporations.
AsphaltPro: Let’s talk about perceptions. What do you think is an incorrect perception that we, as an industry, can re-educate young people about to encourage more women to consider a career in the asphalt business?
Chelsea Ellis-Hogan: This industry normally looks like it’s for someone who actually only likes and wants to be in construction, but this industry is also good for those who love customer support, sales, project management and more. There is a lot of upward mobility in this industry that can allow someone to grow. If you focus on private customers, this is also a good industry to be in to provide homeowners with quality services.
AsphaltPro: What is the most rewarding aspect for you of being in the asphalt industry?
Chelsea Ellis-Hogan: It is rewarding to know my family has a place within an industry where they can grow, learn, teach and always be welcomed.
It is rewarding to be a part of an industry that values always putting out content to help those in the industry grow and succeed, which allows us to always improve in the work that we do. It is also rewarding to be able to open up doors for others from different backgrounds to grow in their leadership within the industry.
AsphaltPro: Will you tell us about people who served as mentors for you?
Chelsea Ellis-Hogan: Sam Ellis and Jim Reynolds encouraged me through always sharing advice based on their successes and failures which allowed me to bypass a lot of issues within business and the industry. I was also allowed to fail without criticism or punishment. I think people sometimes underestimate the value gained in failing. I even wrote a book about this. I always recommend having a mentor or advisor who wants to see you succeed in your career.
AsphaltPro: What piece of advice from them would share with other women in the industry/other operators?
Chelsea Ellis-Hogan: The biggest takeaway from one of my advisors is to never tell a customer no. Even if it is a service I cannot provide, I always send them in a direction that leads them closer to their answer. This helped me always build strong relationships with present and future possible clients through always being as helpful as possible.
Use Setbacks for Growth
Chelsea Ellis-Hogan’s family mentors encouraged her throughout her career and allowed her to make and learn from mistakes without fear of punishment. In 2015, she published a book titled Fail to Success: How to embrace failure while never losing the desire for success, in which she shared ways to grab and use the lessons from trials, setbacks, and failures. That back-to-basics motivational guide is available today at Amazon.