Scott Acton mixes the whimsical with the serious as CEO of Forté Specialty Contractors and has a distinct way of managing.
His design-build firm has crafted designs for Walt Disney Imagineering as well as restaurants and entertainment centers up and down the Las Vegas strip, among other venues. His work has included the Preston Bailey Floral Display at Wynn Las Vegas, Momofuku at the Cosmopolitan, and Bardot Brasserie and Carbone at ARIA. Right now, his company is working on Gordon Ramsay’s new Hell’s Kitchen and a restaurant addition to the MGM Mirage in Las Vegas. The 120-employee company, based in Las Vegas, may be opening operations in Orlando, given all of its theme parks.
Acton says he likes to have fun on the job, with employees joining in. “I play a lot,” he said. “I think that we have fun at the office, from Nerf guns to, depending on the weather, squirt guns. You have to have camaraderie. As you spend a significant amount of time at work, you have to make it enjoyable.”
He also describes himself as a “servant leader,” meaning someone who cares about the human side of work and business and is able to support team members in a way that makes them feel significant. “It’s not always about business, it’s really about the people who come together to create the attractions that make us successful. It’s an effort by all of us, not just the leader,” Acton said.
“A big part of being successful is when people are happy and have freedom; they are more productive,” he said. “If you work better at night, work at night; if you work better in the morning, work in the morning. We have a very free-flowing atmosphere. Not everyone has to be here at 8 a.m.; I’m just not that kind of guy.”
And, “I never throw one of my employees under the bus,” Acton said. “If someone does something wrong and a client is upset and wants someone to get fired, I always offer myself up first. If I’m the leader of the business and if something goes wrong, I take responsibility first.”
As for bringing new people on board, “We hire passion and train skill,” Acton said. “We really hire people that care about the business including the delivery, creativity and problem solving. The people passionate about this business find us—we don’t find them.”
And he is driven by, he said,“quality, excellence, success. I’m very passionate about what we do and how we deliver it.”
Acton said the drive was shown when Forté was the first contractor to deliver on time and on budget an attraction for Disney—the Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout ride at Disney California Adventure—in a record-breaking nine months.
His biggest challenges are: “Time and money. It’s always a delicate balance on how much we can spend and how much it will take to deliver.”
Credos the company abides by are “do the right thing, even when it costs us money,” Acton said. “Integrity is at the top of the list. We do what we’re say we’re going to do.”
As for mistakes, Acton calls them “temporary defeats. As long as you continue to learn and grow along the way, you’ll continue to learn and get stronger.”
His career advice is, “If you don’t love what you do, stop doing it. Find something you love to do. I don’t feel like I’ve ever worked a day in my life. I’ve been able to come and play and meet interesting people. It’s a true gift to do what you love.”