Though the national economy has been anything but booming over the past three years, Keith Tillage and his father have put together a powerhouse company in Tillage Construction. The firm ranked No. 805 on the Inc. 5000 list this year. Tillage Construction offers job-order contracting and design-build, among other services, and it has experienced a three-year growth rate of 424%, with $18.2 million in revenue last year. Tillage returned to Baton Rouge from Dallas in 2000 to team up with his father in the commercial construction business. The son might get more of the spotlight these days, but he says he and his father equally own the company.

Business Report: Why do you do what you do?

Keith Tillage: As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. From the day my father and I opened the doors, it was a burning desire to make the business a success. I still wake up with that same desire, even more so now! When I don’t, I’ll do something different.

BR: What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

KT: In retrospect, I honestly believe it was leaving the comfortable confines of corporate America to come home and follow my dream. It was the most important step of my entire journey because it was the first step.

BR: What was your first job?

KT: I was the head nail-setter and only other employee at my father’s cabinet company, Triple T cabinets.

BR: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

KT: Never take no for an answer from a person who doesn’t have the ability to tell you yes.

BR: If you could have any job other than your own, what would it be?

KT: I would love to be in public service in a capacity through which I could affect the lives of Louisianans.

BR: What is the greatest personal or professional obstacle you’ve overcome? 

KT: Professionally, I think it was the fear of entrepreneurship itself. It’s idealistic to want to be your own boss, but in actuality it’s like walking the tightrope without a net.

BR: If you started over, what would you do differently? 

KT: Absolutely nothing! Not that we didn’t make countless mistakes, but each one taught us invaluable lessons, and that learning process has been the cornerstone of our success.

BR: What is your prescription for life?

KT: Life is a train ride that we are all on eagerly anticipating the next stop to be the one that signifies that we have made it. Once we get there, we realize that the next stop will be the big one, and then the next, and so on. If you are lucky, you figure out that life is not about the stops at all; it’s really about the ride.

BR: What book are you currently reading?

KT: I’m currently rereading The Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino. Each time I do, I discover something new or something that seemed insignificant before but now applies to my life. It’s the ultimate motivational read for entrepreneurs.

BR: If you could have dinner with any three living people, who would they be?

KT: President Obama, so I could understand how he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders; Bono, to understand the humanitarianism in his heart; and my father, Ken Tillage, to help me make sense of it all, in order to follow in his footsteps and become a better man.

BR: Who would play you in a movie?

KT: Laurence Fishburne, because he is an incredible actor and would ensure the accent was authentic. I hate the way Hollywood depicts the way we [in south Louisiana] speak in movies.

BR: What do you do to unwind?

KT: I appreciate a nice cigar and great conversation.

BR: What is the most expensive purchase you’ve made for yourself?

KT: I’m a watch collector, so there you have it.

BR: What is your favorite weekend activity?

KT: I love to run the LSU lakes at dawn. It gives me an opportunity to be alone with my thoughts and reflect on the topic of the day.

BR: What’s your favorite spot in Baton Rouge?

KT: The AC Lewis YMCA, because it displays the best of Baton Rouge. It’s a melting pot of people from diverse backgrounds all working together. I grew up in that Y, and as much as it meant to me then, it means so much more now that my children are growing up there. Also, being on the board, I see the commitment to help and include less fortunate members of our community.

BR: How do you take your coffee/tea?

KT: Tall soy chai, 4 pumps, no water, no foam, extra hot.

BR: What is your favorite TV show?

KT: Any Law and Order series.

BR: What is your favorite gadget?

KT: I’m really not a gadget guy.

BR: What is something that you can’t live without?

KT: I love all genres of music; my iPod has 4,000 songs that range from Donny Hathaway to Maroon 5 to Rick Ross.

BR: What is your greatest hope for Baton Rouge?

KT: That we will realize the importance of diversity and inclusion, and how it directly affects the quality of life for everyone! Then we can take our place as one of America’s greatest cities.

BR: What is your greatest fear for Baton Rouge?

KT: That we never realize that there is no single solution to our city’s problems, and so fail to take a holistic approach that includes diversity and inclusion for everyone!

via The Business Report

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