Topeka Business Hall of Fame: Steve Briman
Shelley Jensen | Photographer
While his days may no longer be consumed with managing the affairs of one of the fastest growing companies in Topeka, Steve is finding himself taking on a new role in retirement—advocate for the Topeka community. Steve recently served as the President of the Topeka Civic Theatre Endowment board, is Chairman of the Downtown Topeka Foundation, and sits on the boards of the Topeka Community Foundation and Capper Foundation.
Sitting on the boards of multiple foundations allows Steve to focus on one of his true passions—making Topeka the best place for people to live and work. He has always been involved in this endeavor, but, as an executive at Bartlett & West, he never truly had the time to focus on that vision. That desire to become more engaged in the community was one of the driving forces behind his decision to take early retirement in 2012.
“I decided I did not want my job to consume my life completely,” Steve said. “I’ve always had a problem with that because I loved my job so much, I had difficulty separating myself from it, so I set a time to leave so I could go do other things.”
It is a gross understatement to say the decision to pack up his executive briefcase and walk away from a company he had spent his entire adult life working for was difficult. Bartlett & West gave him his first job opportunity— on a survey crew while he was still in engineering school at the University of Kansas. The company then offered him a career path that encompassed the next 38 years and allowed him to evolve from an entry level engineer to eventually holding the offices of executive vice president, chief financial officer and board director.
“I never even considered working anywhere other than Bartlett & West,” Steve said. “I was blessed—lucky. I was fortunate to be surrounded by incredibly talented and selfless people.”
Unwilling to sing his own praises, Steve credits his successful rise in the company to “being in the right place at the right time.” For those who know Steve, however, luck doesn’t really have much to do with it.
Over the years, Steve was instrumental in the company’s sharp upward trajectory. He moved intoa management position and played an integral role when the company transitioned to an employee stock ownership plan in 1986. As a member of the executive committee, Steve helped oversee acquisitions and expansion that grew the company to the more than 450 employees it has today in its 14 offices across the country. His management helped the company see almost continual growth, even through the economic slump in 2008.
Steve says he is both humbled and honored to be included as one of this year’s Business Hall of Fame Laureates.
“I’m not the type to bathe in the limelight,” Steve said. “I just want to keep making a positive difference.”