She’s a Big Proponent of Corporate Philanthropy & Co-Founder of Build FORE Good. Our One-on-One Interview With Lisa Buelna, Director Of Business Development at hardison/downey construction.


Q: For those in our audience not familiar with hardison/downey, tell us about them along with your position as Director of Business Development.
hardison/downey construction is a local Phoenix general contractor. We’ve been around since 1985 and service a number of markets, including office & industrial, public & higher education, interiors, parking structures, multi-family, and student housing. We also have a few self-perform groups in civil, electrical, and plumbing work. Our firm has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kitchell Corporation since late 2010, giving us powerhouse financial backing and resources. In my role, I oversee all the business development and marketing activities for h/d. I mainly focus on helping with overall company vision and strategy, driving company culture, and developing and maintaining client and partner relationships throughout the community. I am lucky enough to manage a small group of extremely talented and creative folks that push our branding initiatives. I contribute general ideas in the marketing arena, and then I step aside and let them do it way better than anything I could have come up with!

Q: You graduated from the University of Northern Iowa … how did you end up in Phoenix?
We used to take family vacations to Arizona over the years while I was growing up. I fell in love with Arizona from an early age. Coming from a very flat, green state, I found the desert and mountain landscape incredibly beautiful. The lack of humidity and mosquitos here was the final selling point for me! By the time senior year rolled around, I was O-V-E-R the cold weather. I was here in Arizona three days post-graduation!

Q: Tell us about the local charity work that you have been involved with.
Giving back to the community is where my passion lies. I am so grateful that h/d has given me a vehicle to really make a difference through philanthropy. The big medium I have each year for giving back is our Build FORE Good charity golf tournament – the collective brainchild of myself and a colleague of mine at Kitchell. To date we have raised more than $750,000 for local Arizona charities, made possible by generous giving and participation from our industry trade partners. The absolute BEST day of my year, every year, is the day I get to hand over that giant check to that year’s recipient.

Q: What is it about your job that most excites you?
There are two things. The first is the people. I work with phenomenal people. Super talented, always willing to teach and grow, full of new ideas, and honestly just the most F-U-N people. I always say that I spend more time each week with my colleagues than I do with my own family, so I better love them or it’s not worth it. Secondly, winning. As a lifelong athlete, I am naturally just extremely competitive in every aspect of my life. So, when we get that phone call that we’ve been awarded a project, it’s the best feeling. Winning projects has absolutely nothing to do with me; instead, it’s the hard work, innovative ideas, and skill for their craft that our folks have demonstrated in our proposals and interviews with the clients. When we get that validation for their hard work, and the recognition that yes – you guys were the best choice – that is so fulfilling to watch them be rewarded.

Q: What's your advice for women in male-dominated fields?
You definitely have to have thick skin, just in general as a woman in any profession, but especially in construction. Be confident in your talents and capabilities. Volunteer for the hard jobs. Be proud of your accomplishments. Position yourself as the absolute expert in something.

Q: What's the greatest fear you've had to overcome to get where you are today?  
Without questions, being afraid to fail. I’m both a perfectionist and ultra-competitive, so winning has always been super important to me, and how I measure success for myself. Weirdly the fear of failure only came into play with me in my professional life. As a student athlete in both high school and college, “going for it” was second nature for me. But when it came to starting my professional career, when I was a little less sure of my talents in the office than I was on the court, fear of failure was an issue for me early in my career. I had to mentally challenge myself to treat my career like athletics, and that’s when success started happening for me. If you’re afraid to fail, you’re not taking chances…and then ultimately you’re just not in the game, are you?

Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
Do the work and be trustworthy. Period. If you want to move up in your career, get paid more, earn that title, run the company…whatever it is, you HAVE to work for it. And if that means nights and sometimes weekends, then put in the time. And don’t complain about it. You have been given the responsibility to do the work because someone feels confident putting their trust in you. Use that opportunity to give them even MORE than they thought they would get from you.

Q: After high school, where did you feel your career path would take you?  
I always, always wanted to work in professional sports. Sports was my life growing up, through both high school and college, and I just felt like I wanted to surround myself with athletics for my entire career. I was in for a rude awakening after my first job offer with a local professional sports team…for a salary that, frankly, I didn’t understand how one could live on. Although money isn’t the most important thing in the world to me, being able to afford to eat certainly is! What was hard to see at the time was that all of that led up to me being at h/d today, and I am so grateful and happy to be here. Everything truly does happen for a reason, even if it takes years before you understand why.

Q: Can you tell us how you manage your work life balance?
This is so, so hard. I’ve seen the evolution of how much harder this has gotten as I’ve moved through my career. When I started out, cell phones were not smart phones. There was no checking your email from absolutely anywhere. While technology is amazing, it has also tied us more tightly to our work. When I go home at the end of the day, this does not necessarily mean my workday is over. There are always emails to be answered, work to be done on the laptop, etc. I have to make a conscious effort to take a few hours after I get home to put the laptop away and stop checking my devices. I have a 6-year old son and I only get to see this precious human for a few hours each day during the week. It’s important to me to be present with him, and then after he goes to bed, I feel okay about opening my laptop up again. The bottom line is, there is always more work to be done, and there is never enough time to be with family…so the key is adjusting until you find what works best for you.

18 Things About Lisa Buelna

1. What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?
Read, play tennis, goof around with my family.

2. Among your friends, what are you best known for? 
My sense of humor and my loyalty.

3. What’s your favorite app on your phone? 
VRBO – always looking for that next dream vacation; or Amazon – because I keep our local driver employed!

4. Best and worst flavor ice cream? 
Best: mint chocolate chip. Worst: anything with coconut.

5. What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve done? 
Moving to Arizona. I packed up my car and left Iowa the day after I graduated from college. I didn’t have a job or know a soul, but I knew I wanted to be here.

6. What’s your favorite quote or saying? 
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Aristotle 

7. If you unexpectedly won $10,000, what would you spend it on? 
At this moment? Sun’s playoff tickets!

8. Are you a morning person or a night owl? 
100% night owl.

9. What would your perfect vacation look like? 
Husband, kid, beach, cocktails, no cell service.

10. Favorite Dessert? 
Chocolate lava cake

11. Do you read reviews, or just go with your gut? 
Research until the end! Reviews.

12. What’s your signature drink? 
Sour beer – the more mouth puckering sour, the better!

13. What would you sing at Karaoke night? 
I would not put anyone through the torture of listening to me sing!

14. What is your favorite game or sport to watch and play? 
Favorite to play tennis, favorite to watch volleyball.

15. Have you ever met anyone famous?
I have met a few famous people: John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Charles Barkley, Jessica Simpson, Kurt Warner, Paul Walker. More often than not, these encounters have happened in Las Vegas…perhaps I spend too much time in Vegas…

16. What were you like in high school? 
A complete tomboy jock. I wore a dress once – to senior prom.

17. Would you rather cook or order in?
Order in

18. What was your favorite subject in school?
Algebra (nerd alert!).


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