Meet Lynlee Altman, founder of Pinnacle Construction
, a general contractor with 25 employees that specializes in unique, complex and safety-critical construction and operates throughout the Eastern U.S. Founded in 2000, Pinnacle is the general contractor that gives high-profile and highly unusual projects the individualized attention they deserve.
How did you get into unique projects?
It’s hard to say what came first, the chicken or the egg. I think the Pinnacle team includes more engineers and LEED accredited professionals than other general contractors. Pinnacle’s culture revolves around learning, improving and asking questions.
to be challenged. I think clients pick up on our enthusiasm, especially when they have special concerns about a challenging project. Whether it is an unusual project or one on a tight schedule, I think having us on board puts their minds at ease.
What is the biggest struggle or hurdle you had to overcome and how did you overcome it?
The biggest struggle was recognizing the need to shift leadership as Pinnacle grew. As we started to singularly focus on our customers, we needed a higher level team in place that understood how to truly partner with them.
Partnership is built on trust, open communication and collaboration. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the norm in construction and it was a real shift for people who had worked in a different culture of construction throughout their careers. Not everyone was poised to make that adjustment and that can be emotionally difficult.
What’s the most unique project you’ve worked on?
Recreating the surface of Mars! NASA
needed us to recreate the surface of Mars to test the Mars Rover. The tires of the Mars Rover were actually developed here at NASA Glenn Research Center
and they needed to periodically test the tires throughout development. The Mars facility is comprised of surfaces representative of different environments found on Mars, ranging from fine sand to large boulders.
We created the project by first installing an engineered storm sewer system because the site is outside. The compacted soil was covered with geotextile fabric and covered by about three-and-a-half feet of sand. We used 368 tons of extremely fine sand, meant to mimic Mars’ surface sand. We also placed boulders throughout the site to recreate known obstacles on Mars’ surface.
We built the site, which is 100 feet by 100 feet by 25 feet, in 10 days using three Pinnacle employees.
What are the challenges to being a woman-owned design-build construction company?
The biggest challenge was in my own mind. When I started the company initially, I hesitated before asking questions. Knowing that I was the only woman in the room, I didn’t want to look ignorant or uninformed. Once I started asking questions, however, I realized that people who love what they do also love to teach. Now, I let the questions fly.
What do you enjoy about being a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization?
I enjoy the peer-to-peer learning within EO. We meet regularly in small groups called forums. And we have one key rule: No one is allowed to give advice or tell someone what to do. Instead, we share our own experiences. Benchmarking with other entrepreneurs, learning from their experiences and sharing my own has been tremendously beneficial. It’s made me a better leader within my company.
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
When I bought my first pair of steel toe boots, I knew I couldn’t show up for a customer meeting right away. Who would hire Pinnacle if they knew my work boots were brand new and not even dirtied yet? So, before my first meeting, I put on my boots and headed out to my backyard to walk around in the mud to dirty them up. I even asked my kids to jump on them and scuff them up as much as they could!
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Pinnacle’s first significant customer, Fowler Electric, took a real leap of faith in hiring us. I have found that as a new business, the biggest sale will change periodically, but you will always remember your first
sale. Today, Fowler Electric is our third largest subcontractor, and that relationship has carried us through many successful projects together. Every business is built on relationships.