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Chandos Construction embarks on new chapter with new CEO Sean Penn

Angela Gismondi
Chandos Construction embarks on new chapter with new CEO Sean Penn

As the new CEO of Chandos Construction, Sean Penn is hoping to use a collaborative approach to lead the company.

Penn, who was officially appointed CEO in April, has spent most of his almost 30-year career at Chandos, starting as a carpenter and working his way up.

Sean Penn

“I joined Chandos Construction when I was 19,” Penn recalled, adding he left Saskatchewan where he grew up for Alberta. “I started as an apprentice and worked my way through the organization as a superintendent and a project manager and then became an estimator and an ops manager.”

Prior to taking over the role of CEO, Penn held the position of chief operating officer for nearly six years. He was part of a shared leadership team.

“I was sharing the role with two other partners,” said Penn. “Now I’m ultimately the one responsible. I have an amazing team, amazing partners and an amazing company, so at the end of the day I’ve started my new role but we’ve been doing this for a while.

“We’re just now hyper focused on executing the plans.”

Penn knew he wanted to be in the construction industry from a young age.

“When I was young it always appealed to me whether I was in the sandbox with the toys or if I was helping my grandfather around the farm fixing things,” he recalled. “It was always in my blood. It was always something I was destined to do. It was always something I wanted to do and it was my first choice of job. I went and found this amazing company I’m still with today.”

Within the company, Penn has served as the vice-president of operations and managing director for the Calgary district, where he was instrumental in shaping the company’s operations and strategic directions.

A focus throughout his career has been helping people and companies grow not only within Chandos but throughout the industry. Penn has also held board positions within the Alberta construction industry and with independent organizations.

Penn was appointed CEO by the board.

“His remarkable leadership, dedication to our people, deep understanding of our industry, and his vision for the future, make him the ideal candidate,” said Roger Babichuk, chief financial officer in a statement. 
Penn’s immediate focus, he said, is to continue to grow the brand.

“We are heavily focused on collaborative construction. That is our bread and butter and that is where we have most of our clientele,” said Penn. “We’ve recently become a national contractor working from B.C. to Ontario. We have a heavy focus on operational excellence, delivering great results to our clients and building strong opportunities for employees.”

Another goal is to continue to develop the company’s reputation across the country as it has grown into new markets, to deliver results and garner more repeat business, he added.

Over the years Penn has seen a lot of change, including the use of technology on sites.

“When I started there were no cellphones and there were no fax machines or computers on sites. Now, obviously, you hold a computer in your hands and all the systems are computerized and supported on the Cloud and through digital technology,” said Penn.

“There is also the rise in collaborative construction, IPD construction and a lot more focus on being able to invest in the organization, invest in your people, develop your people, grow your people which then allows you to grow your business.”

A big challenge companies and the industry face is the labour shortage.

“As an industry and as a company we are focused on trying to figure out how we get the youth more interested in construction,” he said. “We want to support the industry as they continue to find ways to draw talent and new Canadians and even marginalized Canadians into the industry to create opportunities for them to join or re-join the workforce.”

While growing the company is important, his priority is the people.

“If you ask what are the most important things to me, yes, I can talk about all the amazing projects Chandos does…but the most important thing to me is our people,” said Penn. “We hire people for the long-term, that’s what employee ownership does.

“The thing that I like to brag most about are the things our people accomplished, the growth our team members have had.”

Follow the author on X/Twitter @DCN_Angela.

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