Building Outside the Box

Erin Mitchell Clementson

As part of the fourth generation to work at G.W. Mitchell Construction, Erin Mitchell Clementson knows building well. Her role as director of business development may not require heavy equipment, but it does include building relationships while building the company’s brand.

G.W. Mitchell Construction literally helped shape the landscape of San Antonio, constructing projects that include what is now the McNay Art Museum, La Villita, the buildings that are now known as the Alamo Quarry Market and much of the campus of Trinity University.

“We have an incredible story. And it’s fun to tell,” she explains. “We’ve been in business for 96 years. This company has built a lot of what are now historical buildings in San Antonio, and I think San Antonio is a city that thrives on that — we appreciate our culture, our heritage, our traditions. And our company is a part of that.

“It’s extremely personal to me. I don’t just work for any company. I work for my family, and there’s extra motivation in that. It feels like I’m giving back to the family that raised me and has done so much for me,” she explains.

Clementson’s responsibilities include maintaining relationships with current clients while cultivating new business and marketing the company as a whole. The task requires her to wear different hats as she tackles the challenge of keeping G.W. Mitchell Construction front of mind. “There are a lot of good construction companies in San Antonio. We want to be one of the first they think of when they have a project,” she says.

To do that, she spends a lot of time building relationships: “I love being out meeting people, getting to know them — that’s my heart, my real passion. I thrive on relationships. I thrive on talking to people. I thrive on knowing them intimately and personally and knowing what’s going on with them. Those conversations fill me up.

“People in San Antonio are genuine. There are a lot of personal relationships. Business owners care about the people they are working with, and that fits well with us because we care about people. We care about the project, but we care about maintaining that relationship and doing whatever it takes,” she explains. “We do a lot of big projects and we’re a big company, but focusing on the people — including the people who work here — is huge.”

Clementson doesn’t fit the picture that may come to mind when you think of the construction industry, but that picture is changing. “Thirty percent of our staff is female — and they are directors and senior level positions. You’ll find that across the board in the industry. Maybe 10 years ago, people would have been intimidated to walk into this environment as a woman, but I don’t feel that. I feel respected. And if you speak with confidence, that commands attention,” she says.

But making the leap to work in the industry took some convincing from her father, Bill Mitchell, president of G.W. Mitchell. “I knew nothing about construction. But I knew business development,” she notes.

“I think that’s important: Look at your skill set, what you’re passionate about. Look at what motivates you, what fills you — that’s the job you need to go after,” says Clementson. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

And now that she works side by side with her father, she has a new appreciation for what it means to be a working parent. “Now that I work for him, I realize how much pressure he carries and how much weight is on his shoulders. Yet when he came home every day, I had no clue. I think that his being able to take off the work hat and be completely present at home had a huge impact on all of us as kids,” she recalls.

That is something she’s taken to heart since starting her own family. She and her husband, Brandon, have two boys: Cooper, 4, and Mitchell, 8 months. With her children and a blossoming career, Clementson works to balance home and work life. “It’s all about boundaries. You have to fuel yourself. If you never turn off work — or never turn off being a mom — you’re going to get burned out.

“That doesn’t mean you don’t work from home sometimes. But when I’m here (work), I’m here. That’s 100 percent of my focus. And when I’m home, they are my priority,” she says. “I think it makes me a strong mom because my time with them is purposeful.”

Clementson feels a pull to support others and help them realize their passion. “So many people, especially women, are put in a box. ‘You will be a mom. You will come work for this, you will do that’,” she explains. “Don’t let anyone put you in a box and say ‘this is only what you can do in this industry or in this job’. Wherever you are —in your career or as a mom, I think it’s important to know that dreams and skills are put in us for a reason, and that is as important to pay attention to as obligations.”

Juggling work and home roles requires Clementson to use what her husband refers to as her “crazy organization” skills. “Time management is huge. I function better that way,” she explains. But she still goes with the flow. “Things can change, and you’ve really got to be flexible.

“Whatever you do, take ownership and authority in it” is the advice that guides Clementson. “I never want to do something 50 percent. I feel like if I’m going to be a working mom, I’m going to work to the best of my ability. I’m going to be a mom to the best of my ability,” she explains. “If you’re a stay-at-home mom, do that to the best of your ability. If you’re a volunteer, do that to the best of your ability. If you are called into a position, take ownership of that and have authority over it. Give it your all.”

By Dawn Robinette

Photography by David Teran