The career trajectory Jeff Marrs has taken at Acco Engineered Systems has led him from construction to project management to his latest position overseeing the company. Marrs become chief executive of the Glendale firm on Jan. 2. Acco Engineered Systems started in 1934 as Air Conditioning Co. and transitioned from an air conditioning equipment distributor to the service company it is today installing heating, ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems in commercial and industrial facilities and some high-rise residential. A native Southern Californian, Marrs graduated from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and went to work at Acco right after graduation. Title: Chief executive Born: San Gabriel, 1961 Education: Bachelor’s in environmental engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo Career turning point: Coming to work at Acco in 1983 Most Influential People: Father, college instructor Rod Kief Personal: Married, four sons Hobbies: Golf, spending time with family, travel Question: When you started at Acco, did you ever imagine you’d be the CEO? Answer: No. I came straight out of college and figured I’d be here for a couple of years. It would be a good place to start my career. Then as time went on I found that the people here were really the driving force. Were you interested in management? Out of the gate I wanted to be running projects and being in management. I knew I would be in a leadership position one day but I never imagined I’d be at the very top. Have your other positions at the company prepared you for this role? It has been a stair-step process. Hopefully it was by design but sometimes you don’t know. I started as a design engineer which allowed me to learn the business, learn the systems, learn the engineering behind what we do and how to apply that. As I moved from engineering into project management, I was taught how to sell, how to market our products and how to be efficient in the installation of those through the contracts and customer relationships. Where did your career go after that? When I became a project group head, I managed other project managers in our Glendale office. From there I went into a chief operating officer position, where I got to learn the processes of the rest of the businesses at Acco, which very much helped. Then I became president of the mechanical construction group after that, which is really the main construction sales from Seattle to San Diego. It was a bigger footprint; I got to know more people and was able to create the internal relationships that are important to a thriving business. What are your plans for the company? One thing about Acco that is unique is we empower people from the very beginning. So everybody on the management team has been involved with the growth of the company over the last 10 years. We are going to continue that growth. That is our plan as a group. We are good at it and we are going to keep going. It’s not like we have a big change happening with leadership. We are going in a great direction; the leadership team helped set that direction and we are going to continue to grow probably at a bit faster pace than we were before. To what do you attribute the company’s growth? We try to hire the best people in the industry. We find their niche and how they can help the company. Doing that all together creates a lot of innovation. Being an entrepreneurial type organization is what Acco is all about at almost every level. We help people achieve their goals and to work hard at doing it. There are lot of accountabilities. I think that together with the right combination of people creates a machine that drives the company. A great market helps, too. Has consideration been given to the future of the company? Even though I am taking on a new role it is important over the next 10 years that we continue and finalize our succession planning for the next generation behind me. So, that in 10 to 15 years they are in place if not sooner to continue the company to the next level. What are the challenges you expect? I follow a guy on this job, John Aversano, who has provided phenomenal leadership for the company for 40 years. He has helped shape a lot of our culture. Being here for 30 some years around that it is going to be easier for me to keep it going. There really is nothing broken here. As we go forward we are going to have to expand our markets and our products. That is going to be a challenge in order to move into different geographic areas as well as take products like plumbing, piping, HVAC and put them in markets we are in now. That is part of the growth, and then trying to find new geographies. Where are some areas you are looking to expand into? Right now, our current focus, even though we have been in the Pacific Northwest for many years, is a higher emphasis on a stake hold in Seattle and in the Portland area. The whole Pacific Northwest is a focus right now both with new construction, service and controls. What is the activity in the workplace that you spend the most time doing? Meetings, reports, answering email? It is really talking to people and finding out how I can help them do their jobs and what they need in order to be successful. It is a lot of conversation. It is more of a one-to-one kind of thing. Not a lot of emails, not a lot of indirect communication. It is more direct, person to person. I travel to other offices and do the same thing there. Our big operation is in San Leandro, which is the San Francisco area office, and then Glendale is the secondary market. I spend time in both those major regions along with going to Sacramento and Seattle occasionally as well. What are some memorable projects you have worked on? Certainly Staples Center comes to mind immediately, as well as the new L.A. Live project downtown. The Utah Data Center in Utah, which was for the federal government, and the Wilshire Grand in L.A. What is it about those projects that stand out for you? These are premier projects in Southern California. Acco has been a leader in performing work on many projects like that. The complexity of them really becomes interesting to achieve in a short amount of time and within budget. Is there anything regarding your career that you would do differently? Interesting question. I cannot say really anything. I ended up in a position where I can add value to the company. At this point I don’t have anything I would have done differently. Maybe I would have done it all faster. I think it is part of a process and the timing in which it all occurred made sense. Is mechanical engineering a popular career choice? We do a lot of recruiting from different schools in the Los Angeles area as well as Northern California and the middle of the state at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Every year there are people attracted to our industry because everything that gets built needs our service. It is a needed role or career. It is very technical in nature. We take a lot of air conditioning and heating for granted because if we feel good in our office space, we don’t think a lot of what goes into that. It is a very practical field unknown to a lot of people. You named your father as among people you admire. Why did you choose him? My dad was born in 1916. He exhibited and demonstrated a great work ethic. He taught me not to be afraid of hard work and putting your passion into it, and then it will work out for you. He was very frugal, which allowed me great skills as a project manager to not overspend. He was a very honest man and very ethical. What I learned from him when I was younger must have fit well because it seems like a natural fit. What about non-family members you admire? I went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Rod Kief was one of my main teachers there and he inspired me. He taught me to think outside the box, to always look for and search for the answers, don’t take for granted what seems obvious and look a little deeper. Of course, there are people at Acco but the list would be so long that it would be hard to parse it correctly. You listed travel among your hobbies. Where have been some favorite places you’ve gone? A lot of tropical places. Maui is something that we pretty much do yearly. Costa Rica, it was a big joy to go there. Australia; Malaysia was another place we enjoyed. Italy is probably another of the remarkable areas that we have gone to. What is on your bucket list of places to visit? I would like to go to Japan and New Zealand. Those would be the next two trips.