KIMBERLY LUITJOHAN, 2023 OUTSTANDING WOMEN IN CONSTRUCTION | Construction Business Owner
Construction is practically in Kimberly Luitjohan’s – founder and president of Poettker Industrial Services – genes.
Luitjohan’s father Charles (Chuck) Poettker founded the Poettker Construction Co. in 1980, a few years before she was born. Once she was old enough, she was always around helping as a child. “In our summertime, we would have to clean the shop or do an inventory of tools, and we were literally always here, but it wasn’t like work. It was fun. This was all that we knew.”
Over the years, Luitjohan assisted in plenty of areas, including reconciliation, reception and other odds and ends around the office. But around the age of 17, Luitjohan began visiting different departments to learn more specifics. “Obviously I knew business was in my blood and that’s where I wanted to go, but just where I fit and just learning all the different departments that make up the company.”
Once she got involved in the estimates and bid processes, though, and learned all the different aspects of the finance side, Luitjohan found where she “belonged.” Unfortunately, right when Luitjohan had found her place, Poettker Co. hit hard times, and Luitjohan’s father laid off the entire accounting department. So, at 20 years old, Luitjohan stepped into a real construction accounting role to support the company. “It was either sink or swim, and we decided that we wanted to do everything we could to have the family business survive,” she said. “I learned so much, and I would never trade those years for anything. So, it was a blessing that I never knew would’ve blessed me so much.”
By the age of 26, Luitjohan had been promoted to vice president of finance for the company and even “managed significant growth for the firm over the next 10 years,” according to her nominator Lauren Freinberg.
After her father passed away in 2021, Luitjohan founded Poettker Industrial Services, a separate entity, to offer expanded services in the utility, infrastructure, industrial and commercial markets. Luitjohan says she saw it as an opportunity to extend her father’s legacy and passion for construction, and it has provided her with a new appreciation for the work he and the rest of her family did in rebuilding Poettker Construction Co.
“Being a part of that growth and rebuilding was an amazing experience that shaped my career and my appreciation of others. I am blessed with wonderful and passionate team members at Poettker Industrial, and being a part of that growth, supporting their aspirations and goals, is rewarding and exciting and gives me a sense of how grateful I am for everything my father provided to me.”
As for the industry as a whole, Luitjohan believes the workforce challenges are the biggest issue facing construction right now. So, Luitjohan and Poettker Industrial have recently partnered with Junior Achievement to work with St. Louis-area schools to show kids what a job in construction is like and to encourage them to consider it as a career path for themselves.
“Just making it seem like: This is a really good job; this is a good paying job. It’s very rewarding work that we’re doing,’ and just explaining that and getting that message out there to the younger generation.”
As for that younger generation and emerging professionals in the industry, if Luitjohan could offer one piece of advice? Ask questions. “I think people get hesitant to ask questions because they don’t want to look inferior to the people out in the field,” Luitjohan said. “But if you ask the questions that are of interest, it shows that you want to be out there, and you have a passion to be out there.”
When she’s not working, Luitjohan spends time with her two children, including one who has already caught the construction bug. “My son, he is everything construction. He and I rode the skid steer together, and I was teaching him how to do different things a couple of weekends ago – and he loves it. It’s definitely in his blood.”
Now, in the position her father once was, she gets to watch the cycle start over. “My nephew just started full-time in the business and I remember him being born. And so, watching him, it’s like I get what my dad felt.”