Strong leaders for strong companies

We chat with two of Alabama's top chief executive officers

J. Thomas Hill. Photo by Art Meripol.

J. Thomas Hill

Vulcan Materials Co.

At age 20, J. Thomas Hill took what was supposed to be just a summer job with Vulcan Materials Co. in middle Tennessee. Decades later, he would take the helm as the company’s CEO.

“At that age you’re in the moment and not thinking about long-term goals,” Hill says. “It was a summer job that turned out to be a lot longer than that because it was such a great place to work.”

Today, Hill is CEO and chairman of the board of Vulcan Materials, the nation’s largest producer of construction aggregates such as crushed stone, sand and gravel, and a major producer of aggregates-based materials including asphalt and concrete.

During the first quarter of 2022, the company’s total revenues increased 44% to $1.541 billion after it acquired U.S. Concrete and expanded its footprint to 22 states and four countries.

Hill started as an operations trainee at Vulcan Materials after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 1979.

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“At that point, my goal was to become a division vice president of operations,” he says.

Hill, who has also completed the Executive Management Program at the Wharton School of Business, held various management positions at Vulcan until he went to work for Redlands Stone Products in sales and operations management from 1990 to 1996. Afterward, he returned to Vulcan Materials as its vice president and general manager of the Southwest Division.

“I went back because I knew Vulcan and knew it was a great company with great people. And I knew it was a place that, at 37 years old, I could get an education in the construction materials business,” Hill says.

In particular, he credits Tom Ransdell, former president of Vulcan Materials’ Southwest Division, for mentoring him. At the time, Hill says he dreamed of becoming a division president like Ransdell.

He continued to work, and in 2014 the company tapped Hill as company president and CEO. The following year, in 2015, the board elected him chairman.

Today, he credits the employees for keeping Vulcan Materials strong.

“Our success is a combination of what our predecessors did — the franchise we inherited — and what the men and women of Vulcan are doing today,” he says.

“You have to have really good people and a really good culture to make the most out of that franchise,” he says.

Hill says he is now reading “A Land Remembered,” a novel about a family building a legacy through hard work and perseverance.

He also enjoys watching whatever team is playing Alabama or Auburn on Saturday afternoons and fishing, he says. “My wife and I like to go wherever the fish are biting.”

His advice for anyone dreaming of the title CEO:

“Do what you love, and care about your professional family.”

John Turner. Photo courtesy of Regions.

John Turner

Regions Financial

Mobile native John Turner has banking in his blood.

Turner, who is CEO of Regions Bank and Regions Financial Corp., says his mother worked at a bank. Then, in his sophomore year in college at the University of Georgia, he landed a summer job at Trust Company Bank in Savannah, Georgia, passing messages along between customers, tellers and other bank staffers.

“I really enjoyed the interaction with customers. When I got out of college, the natural place I thought I would end up was in a bank because I had some experience and enjoyed it so much,” he says.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in economics, Turner worked at Trust Company Bank before moving to Mobile in 1985 to work at AmSouth Bank. Nine years later, in 1994, he made the move from Birmingham to Whitney National Bank in Mobile as its regional vice president.

Promotions followed and Turner later became president of the bank and Whitney Holding Corp.

“Probably in the back of my mind, I thought that one day I could be a bank president. But I really never thought too far down the road,” he says. “I was more focused on doing the best job I could in the role I was in.”

Then in 2011, he took the job of regional president of Regions Bank’s South region. From there, Turner later became the bank’s president, and, in 2018, CEO.

Today Regions is Alabama’s largest bank and among the top 20 largest banks in the nation with more than $164 billion in total assets as of March 31, 2022.

But Turner says that today, in a climate of uncertainty and great challenges in the world, leaders these days must be flexible, agile, maintain transparent communication with their teams, and focus on matters they can control rather than the ones they cannot.

“It’s also about continuous improvement and how to get better every day and find ways to make banking easier for customers and teammates,” he says.

When not at work, Turner says he enjoys reading, traveling to South Alabama and playing golf.

The father of three daughters, he is now reading “The Confidence Code” by British television journalist Katty Kay who spoke at the Women of Regions symposium earlier this year, and “I Love Capitalism” by billionaire Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot.

Turner has this advice for those eyeing a CEO post one day:

“Do something you enjoy and have a passion for. Work with people you like and admire who have an interest in your growth and development. Work hard. Collaborate. Be a good teammate and always do the right thing the right way.”

Gail Allyn Short is a Birmingham-based freelance contributor to Business Alabama.

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