Chairman & CEO
Location: Boulder, CO
Industry: Environmental & Water Resource Consulting
Marsh Lavenue’s leadership style is encapsulated by the book “Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss without Losing Your Humanity,” by Kim Malone Scott. The book outlines accountability, honesty and feedback as the tenets of a good leader.
“Others may call it being ‘carefrontational,’ but I prefer the phrase radical candor because it captures your responsibility to communicate your expectations to your team and your role in holding them (and yourself) accountable when you are not meeting those expectations,” Lavenue said. “Your team needs honest, direct and real-time feedback, otherwise the sense of urgency is lost, and the real conversations you should be having are not being held and your business suffers.”
Lavenue puts that philosophy into practice as the Chairman and CEO of INTERA Inc., an environmental and water resource consulting firm. He offers these five keys to success:
1) Learn and transform from your mistakes, this is where personal growth begins.
2) Define success paths for each of your people. Paint the picture of “The Possible” so they may rise to the occasion.
3) Be a good steward. Preserve and enhance your company.
4) Practice radical candor. Capital you build with personal connections is the currency that binds you.
5) Be intentional in the core values and behaviors you set for your team, and be accountable.
Lavenue has led INTERA since 2008. The international consulting firm of engineers and geologists is focused on solving the world’s most challenging environmental and water supply problems. Headquartered in Austin Texas, INTERA operates branch offices in California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, New Mexico, Texas, Hawaii, and Washington, and international offices in Australia, Switzerland and France. Its core purpose is “Innovation and stewardship for a sustainable tomorrow.”
Lavenue joined INTERA in Austin as a staff hydrogeologist in 1985 and since that time has served in INTERA’s technical, business development and management teams as Albuquerque group manager, director of marketing and sales, vice president of western operations and as senior vice president of INTERA’s performance assessment division. He’s played key roles in establishing several domestic and international INTERA offices and has served on INTERA’s Board of Directors since 2002 and as chairman and CEO since 2008.
As CEO, Lavenue has worked with his leadership team to grow the company from 65 staff to over 220 staff today. INTERA has grown through four acquisitions which broadened INTERA’s service offerings and expanded its geographical footprint. INTERA’s success is driven by the establishment and execution of a corporate growth philosophy and strategy, an adherence to key performance indicator best practices and the establishment of an intentional corporate culture based on stewardship.
INTERA’s culture is demonstrated by its high employee engagement, which has led to INTERA’s recent recognition as a company with a meaningful and sustainable corporate culture in “The Culture Book, Volume 1: When Culture Clicks.”
Lavenue volunteered to open the company’s first branch office in Albuquerque in 1989, now a 50-person office. “There had been some hesitancy for INTERA to expand beyond our office in Austin but now it’s clear that geographical expansion was really key to us growing from a small one office business to a middle-market corporation,” Lavenue said. “I also had an opportunity to establish an INTERA office in France after we had won a big contract there so I moved there for a year not speaking a word of French. That was a real challenge but I learned to be open to taking risks and to volunteer to open new locations.”
Taking the long view, Lavenue and his leadership team have set the course for the next wave of leaders to take over at INTERA, he said, a process that stands out as one of his core accomplishments leading the company.
“The accomplishment I am most proud of is our success in the internal transition of our company’s ownership from my generation to the younger staff over the last decade,” Lavenue said. “Internal ownership transition is very very hard. There are lots of financial challenges and succession dynamics you have to work your way through. It requires long-term planning, trust, communication and above all else, a commitment to stewardship.”
"Your team needs honest, direct and real-time feedback, otherwise the sense of urgency is lost, and the real conversations you should be having are not being held and your business suffers."