Getting to Know You: Fred Soward, President of Allstate Interiors NY

Fred Soward is the President of Allstate Interior NY, a construction contracting company based out of Monroe, New York.

Beginning his career as a drywall finisher, Fred Soward set about learning everything he could about the contracting business by paying close attention to those professionals around him. By 1998, he had acquired a wealth of knowledge in a wide range of the core elements of construction, and bought Allstate Interior NY from the previous owner. Even as a young man, Fred saw thecompany’s potential, and he quickly expanded its purview to include gypsum and flooring.

Since then, Fred has overseen the growth of Allstate Interior NY, and cultivated it into one of the most successful contractors on the East Coast. Under his leadership for more than twenty years, the company has provided framing, drywall, and flooring services to a multitude of clients. From hotels to multi-family residential buildings, Allstate Interior NY has worked to establish its reputation for honesty, value, and quality workmanship with the successful completion of each project. The company takes great pride in the fact that all of their foremen possess a minimum of 15 years experience in the industry, ensuring that they have the professional know-how to finish any job efficiently and correctly.

The company is also known for its philanthropy. It has given time and financial support to groups such as The Joyful Hearts Foundation and GEMS, which is an organization that focuses on helping those living through hardship in South Sudan. Fred Soward has also been recognized for his lifetime of philanthropic work as an individual, both in his role as a business leader and member of his community, having received awards such as the Humanitarian Tikun Olam Award from leaders of the Chabad in Orange County, Rabbi Pesach and Chana Burston.

In his free time, Fred enjoys spending time with his family. He also loves to ride horses.

What do you currently do at your company?

My job is to oversee the daily operations. That could mean meetings or phone calls with potential clients or contractors for current projects. I also visit work sites to make sure we are on schedule. But, in many ways, my day-to-day activities are largely centered around my role as the company’s rainmaker. With over forty years in the business, I have accrued a tremendous amount of knowledge in the field and countless valuable connections. My decades of experience in the construction industry affords me the ability to reach out to numerous people. If we run into an issue, I know who to get in touch with to resolve the problem, and they know that dealing with me means dealing with someone with a track record for integrity and reciprocity. To that end, my reputation has always been an important factor for me, and that has helped my business grow throughout the years.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

I started off working as a drywall finisher. As years went by, I made sure I paid attention to all aspects of the construction business. I wanted to soak up as much as I could by watching the experts I was working with. The best way to learn a trade is to get in there and get your hands dirty. After several years, I wound up buying the company from the previous owner, and then expanded it into a gypsum and flooring business. We have continued to grow since then, of course.

What defines your way of doing business?

Getting the job done right and refusing to tolerate subpar work. That may seem like a really simple governing philosophy, but I’ve found it to be extremely effective. It also takes a lot of hard work and genuine dedication to not only run a business, but to make sure it constantly grows. When I first purchased the company, I had to work very hard to show that even though the leadership of the business was changing, the quality of work being done was not changing. We continued to provide high-quality craftsmanship at a standard even beyond what the company had a reputation for doing to that point. Everything the old owner did, we did—but better. Whenever we had a problem arise, I would make it my first priority to handle it right away. From a client’s perspective, there is nothing worse than a company not delivering on its promises, and that was simply never an option for me.

What keys to being productive can you share?

In my view, the keys to being productive are proper management, careful scheduling processes, and being deeply involved in the day-to-day aspects of the company and each of the projects we’re working on. Observing these principles guarantees that we deliver every job on time and on budget. Delegation is also an important factor. I’ve got a great team behind me. I set high expectations from the get-go with anyone I work with, whether it’s employees or contractors or vendors. Ultimately, I have a reputation to maintain, and I work consistently to do just that.

Tell us one long-term goal in your career. 

The primary long-term goal I have is to keep on being happy by producing a fantastic product and meeting great people in the process. Most people just want to do what they love and make enough money to be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. I want to keep doing what we’re doing, which is being a reliable company that people can depend on to produce high-quality work.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in your field?

Expect failure, but never give up. Entrepreneurs who fail tend to be those who don’t consider the possibility that not everything will work out exactly as you expect it. You have to be prepared for anything and be ready to change strategies if necessary. Failure is a learning opportunity. You learn so much through experience, especially when you work in any of the trades. When you’re first starting out, make sure to watch and listen to everything and everyone around you. Learn the right way to do things. You can always try new processes and innovate as you become more experienced, but don’t enter into your career trying to reinvent the wheel.

How do you maintain a solid work-life balance?

That’s something I can’t really say that I’ve been successful at, to be honest. With me, it’s either work or nothing. You try to separate your family life as much as possible, but to succeed in this business, it’s a 24 hour job. I do take time off and I am always there for my family, but I’ve always made myself available to the company outside of regular work hours if I’m needed. That’s just the way I’m comfortable operating. These days, it may be easier for people to maintain more of a work-life balance, but I’ve been doing it this way for so long that my family and I have gotten used to it.

What is one piece of technology that helps you the most in your daily routine?

Salesforce is a great customer relationship management system that has helped us to maintain our client records and sales information. We use it daily. It’s made staying on top of all of our pertinent business information a great deal easier because it’s all located in one place.

What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?

For me, the most challenging obstacle that I had to overcome was always being the youngest person in the room. Of course, that was primarily when I first bought the company. It took some time to convince other people in the field that I did know what I was talking about and that I was just as trustworthy as the old owner. Now that I’m older, it can be a bit challenging being the oldest person in the room. I’m used to doing things a certain way and that can sometimes make conversations difficult.

What does success look like to you?

A great reputation. Obviously, I’ve been doing this for many years now, so I have reached that goal. In fact, I would say that it has been the emphasis that I’ve placed on building up my reputation over the years that has helped the most in achieving success; that has gotten me where I am now. As I move closer to retirement, I can now more fully appreciate how much my reputation has helped me in my career.