James B. Pepper Rutland, of Baton Rouge, is the founder, President, and CEO of MMR Group. MMR Group is a leader in the instrumentation and electrical construction industry. MMR Group has the largest privately-owned open shop electrical and instrumentation contractor in the U.S. Clients of MMR include the chemical, energy, petrochemical, industrial, and manufacturing sectors. Under Pepper Rutland’s lead, MMR continues to grow both regionally and nationally with over 20 branch offices throughout the United States as well as in Canada, Colombia, Trinidad, Venezuela, and Ecuador.
James B. Pepper Rutland attended LSU on a football scholarship. During his time there, he was not only the outside linebacker for the team but also served as a defensive captain. Pepper was a member of the SEC Academic Team as well. He excelled both on and off the field during his time at LSU. James Pepper Rutland was a member of the very first graduating class of LSU’s Construction Technology program.
During Pepper Rutland’s time at LSU, his passion for the field of construction was ignited. He built his career in that industry when in 1991 he founded MMR Group. Almost thirty years later and MMR Group is consistently recognized at the top of ENR’s (Engineering News-Record) Specialty Contractors List.
LSU made such a great impact on Pepper Rutland that he became an active philanthropist, putting most of his efforts toward the betterment of his alma mater. Pepper Rutland is also an active board member of LSU’s Charles McClendon Scholarship Foundation, which gives children of former LSU athletes the financial means to get an education.
Besides his philanthropic endeavors and running a successful company, James B. Pepper Rutland is an active member of his Baton Rouge community, an avid LSU fan and summer gardener.
Our Interview With Pepper Rutland
What’s the most important thing we should know about you?
Pepper Rutland: I’m hard headed and refuse to quit or give up. Even sometimes to a fault.
Name the most impactful lesson you learned from failure.
Pepper Rutland: I have learned that failure is a teaching moment, success is not.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Pepper Rutland: The fact that our company, through opportunities and jobs, has helped change a lot of lives for the better. I see it every day.
What did you waste the most time on when you were first starting your career?
Pepper Rutland: Probably worrying about what the competition was doing instead of what we could do better. I’ve learned that focus should be self-directed.
Name a tool you use for work that you can’t live without.
Pepper Rutland: Unfortunately, it would be my iPhone. You now stay connected 24-7 no matter where you go or how many time zones you cross.
What is your favorite hobby and why?
Pepper Rutland: I’m a summer gardener. It’s a quiet time for me, but you get to see daily the progress of your efforts.
What excites you the most about your industry right now?
Pepper Rutland: Because of energy independence, we have more development and projects on the books than ever before. The challenge before us is enormous and that’s exciting. We thrive on challenge.
What concerns you most about your industry right now?
Pepper Rutland: We have such a robust economy right now, but there is a distinct lack of qualified and skilled craft. I’ve never seen it like this before.
What’s the greatest risk you’ve ever taken?
Pepper Rutland: Starting this business 28 years ago, my wife and I committed everything we had to it. We literally bet the farm. If it was a poker game, we were “all in.”
Name one small habit that positively impacts your productivity.
Pepper Rutland: The need to finish every detail associated with a problem or an issue. Too many times we get it 90% done and think that is good enough. The desire for perfection.
What tips do you have for getting a seat at the table?
Pepper Rutland: I always say “make yourself invaluable.” Good management will recognize and see that. It is my job to put the best people in the right spots.
What book has made the biggest impact on your life?
Pepper Rutland: I have two books actually — The Seven Summits and Endurance. These books highlight the struggle and the commitment to never give in or quit even during the most difficult circumstances.
Do you value intelligence or common sense more? Why?
Pepper Rutland: I’ll take common sense. In our industry, I believe more than half of our problems could be solved by using common sense. The most practical solutions are often overlooked because we think we need a complex answer.
What would you consider to be the perfect day?
Pepper Rutland: “A Perfect Day” would be having an instant solution or answer to every problem I see or face.