Thair Khan began his career with PHC Northwest on a frosty December 18, 1989. He was hired as a supervisor trainee at the Bonneville Dam, but never expected he would stay 24 years. His primary goals then were to ”make sure everything is running as it should,” he said, describing what could best be described as his personal mission statement for his long career at PHC Northwest.
He arrived in the United States from Jordan in 1976 to attend college in Tennessee. After three months, he knew the heavy humidity and summer rain there was not for him. He moved to Portland where his family members lived and attended Portland State University and PCC, where he met his lovely Peruvian wife, Lilliam. Soon after, with his wife and baby daughter, he moved the young family to Arlington, Texas, where he attended the university, helped run his family’s business and begin what would be a ten year-year career in hotel management.
Later, after returning to Portland, he accepted the job at PHC Northwest. During those 10 years in hotel management he had learned important management skills the old fashioned way, hard work and experience coming up through the ranks.
“I started out at the bottom as a bus boy and worked my way all the way up to division manager,” he said about his previous hotel management career. “I was in charge of the room division including housekeeping, but I knew the expectations of my managers and I remembered what it was like to be on the bottom.”
That experience in Texas has served him well at PHC Northwest, where he coaches his employees, cares about their development and success, and values the potential of the team he leads. “I love it when I see someone succeed. It’s very rewarding,” he said, sharing that gratuitious attitude with his supervisors, as well, “I’m very blessed with a good staff of supervisors and managers. I give them credit for what they do. They work WITH me and we all work for our success as a team.”
When Thair came to PHC Northwest, he had no idea he would stay so long or find so much personal fulfillment as he has at PHC Northwest.
“I thought, at first, ok, this is a non-profit job, just something to do until I find a new job,” he said, shaking his head, smiling at destiny’s other plan, “but I kept getting more responsibilities and I’m still here.”
Three months after starting at the Bonneville Dam, janitorial contracts with the Air National Guard and Washington County were added to his work load. Soon, additional contracts with police stations, city parks, and adult family services came in. With each additional contract, his personal sense of ownership of his fast growing career took root.
“We got contracts with Washington County, accounting and public service buildings, later in July we got the federal building,” he said. Thair’s smooth operation, positive management style and strong sense of personal responsibility for his workers, became a real asset to the customers with whom new contracts were signed. He was soon promoted to assistant field manager. Five years later, a large janitorial contract with PDX was added to his duties. When he began at the Bonneville Dam, he managed a small staff of six people. Today, he manages close to 100 at PDX, PHC Northwest’s largest contract.
“I’m proud of my people,” he said, reflectively, adding his reward as a manger is to see his people evolve and succeed. “I love to see people develop. You get to see them grow from a shaky person into a very confident person. “
He shared a story about a young man who has been with PHC Northwest for 20 years who started out with a strong determination but few skills. Thair worked with him, customized the young man’s job to help develop his skills, and slowly watched him grow into a confident “go to person.”
“At first you think they’ll never make it,” he said, shaking his head. “Then you see them exceed your expectations. When you see people try hard, you adapt to them. Today that guy is just amazing. I could see his determination. He made a believer out of a lot of people. His willingess and determination to do the job is amazing.”
While there have been those typically challenging days, Thair has always expressed his mind, been willing to agree to disagree with his supervisors, one of whom he fondly calls his “beloved boss.” His current supervisor who has complete trust in him has given him full authority to run his projects completely as he sees fit. Through his commitment to professionalism, strong character and sense of personal stake in the job, mutual respect became the key to his long career at PHC Northwest.
“I speak my mind and there’s always room to differ because there’s a lot of mutual respect,” he said.
In 2003, Thair changed his position to project manager to allow him to concentrate more on the PDX airport contract. His determination to take his job personally and always put PHC Northwest in the best business light has helped his own success and ensured secure employment for his growing flock of employees.
“I take my work personally,” he said. “The contract with the airport is between me and the airport.”
Since that contract employs close to 100 people, he is serious about securing those jobs.
“I have a good team and a great support staff,” he said, typically lighthearted. “It’s a perfect support system.”
His employees and support staff may make him look good, but it’s his commitment that has fueled a strong incentive for everyone’s success, leading to a win-win across the board.