Gifford Briggs is the Vice President of Big D Construction, a top commercial construction company in Utah. After earning his undergraduate degree in construction management from Brigham Young University, Gifford worked for several commercial construction companies before he joined Big D. He earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix while working his way up to the Vice President position in 2012. In 2005, Gifford helped build and open the Big D Utah county office in Lindon, Utah, which is responsible for $70-90 million in construction annually. He oversees business development, estimating, project management and field construction for the office. For Gifford, commercial construction is exciting. “One day you’re working on a higher education facility, the next factories, offices, and more,” he says. “There’s something new every day.”
Additionally, Gifford volunteers his time in the community, having served as a board member of the Pleasant Grove Business Alliance and the Utah State Workforce Investment Board and a community council member of Foothills Elementary School. He also chaired the Mountainland Regional Council of the Utah Department of Workforce Serves for three years, championing economic empowerment in that region.
A Strong Work Ethic
Growing up in rural Sevier County, Utah, Gifford learned a strong work ethic from his game warden father and school teacher mother. While Gifford admits he wasn’t the smartest kid in school, he felt school was important, so he applied himself and got straight A’s, earning the valedictorian spot in his graduating high school class.
Gifford went on to study at Brigham Young University, and temporarily interrupted his studies to volunteer for two years as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bahia Blanca, Argentina. There, he worked hard to serve the people of Argentina and learned to speak Spanish. Upon his return, he resumed his hard work studying zoology with an emphasis in marine biology, while he worked for Facilities Services at BYU laying tile and vinyl and installing carpet. Gifford discovered he liked working with his hands. He changed his undergraduate major to construction management after realizing he could make a better living for his family in that industry.
Getting a job with Big D Construction was also the product of Gifford’s hard work, with a little creativity thrown in. “I always wanted to work for Big D, ever since he toured the Scott Matheson courthouse [they built] as a college student,” he says. An exec at Big D told him to gain experience after college and apply after five years. So Gifford went to work as the marketing manager of a construction company, then for a mechanical contractor. And after five years, he mailed a small wooden bat with a tag that said “I’m ready to go to bat for Big D” to the exec. Even though he didn’t have a position open, the bat left such an impression, he was referred to another executive in the company and was hired soon thereafter. Gifford still has that bat in his office, reminding him that hard work and a little creativity pay off.
Advice for Success
Gifford finds several factors have helped him succeed over the years.
Work is education. While Gifford earned two college degrees, he believes that learning is an everyday process rather than a formalized event. He advises those coming out of college to do the same. “A degree will prepare you for your career, but don’t be afraid of hard work,” Gifford says.
Leave your ego at home. Intelligence is important, but so is gaining experience. “You do yourself a disservice by not being willing to work your way up,” he says. “I worked under my best friend for seven years, and I learned a lot. You can’t let your ego get in the way.”
Hire the best people. Hiring people who are willing to learn and work hard is the key to having a successful team. Gifford also advises hiring people who are smarter than you as well.