Summit Materials founder hits on high notes of career

By |  June 7, 2024

Over the course of his 40-year career in the aggregate industry, Summit Materials founder Tom Hill grew companies through over 300 mergers and acquisitions. Hill was enshrined into the Pit & Quarry Hall of Fame during a March 24 ceremony in Nashville.

ON THE SUPPORT OF HIS FAMILY: I want to thank my beautiful wife Jane and my equally beautiful two daughters Maggie and Ellie, who I am sure realize how lucky they are that they took after their mom. This is [a] business that requires a lot of face-to-face interaction, so with the amount of travel and stress [that comes with it], they put up with a lot.

ON THE AGGREGATE INDUSTRY: I truly do love this industry and the people [in it]. I grew up in suburban New York, and I don’t think I would have believed it if someone told me that I’d spent 40 years crushing rock. All I can say is thank God it happened. It has been an absolutely fantastic experience. It really gets down to the people.

ON HIS CAREER: I had a really simple career working for only two companies: CRH and then Summit Materials. One thing … I can say is I got to spend a lot of money. I did a little over 300 acquisitions in total in my career and spent close to $10 billion. The best part was getting to know the owner entrepreneurs – not only the ones we acquired or joined us – but also the 300 that didn’t. These were people of character and integrity.

ON CONDUCTING MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS: So many of these folks didn’t insist on the highest price; they wanted a very fair price. They’d negotiate hard – sometimes very hard – but they really wanted to do business with someone that they knew, respected and trusted. [Among] the most emotional and difficult things people do is sell their business. Dealing with someone they knew and trusted that wasn’t going to do anything was just so important.

Another thing that always amazed me was that you give someone tens of millions of dollars, and they [still] show up for work at 6 a.m. on Monday. They may buy an airplane or a bigger house, but they still went to work at 6 because that’s who they were.

ON HIS CAREER’S FOCAL POINTS: There are key turning points in someone’s career. For me, one was, certainly, leaving CRH and starting Summit with no money, no job, a big mortgage and a big idea. That was actually pretty stressful. The next one was teaming up with Blackstone, the big private-equity firm, who were great partners.

The biggest turning point for me was having a role model and mentor to help me along the way. For me, that mentor was Don Godson at CRH. He hired me in Dublin, Ireland, in 1979. He drilled into me the humility to treat everyone in the business with the same amount of respect. It didn’t matter if you were on the front desk, on the back of a paver or the CEO – you got the same amount of respect.

I’ve also been blessed to have a talented team around me, many of whom jumped off the cliff with me to start Summit. I just want to say a huge thanks to every single person that I worked with over the last 40 years. You are the ones who deserve this award.

Related: Drilling Deeper Episode 13: Interviews with Hall of Famers Tom Hill, Neil Hise

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About the Author:

Jack Kopanski is the Managing Editor of Pit & Quarry and Editor-in-Chief of Portable Plants. Kopanski can be reached at 216-706-3756 or jkopanski@northcoastmedia.net.

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