June 02, 2021
During a recent visit to Mizzou Engineering, David Payne ’83 noticed the robust resources the College offers students. Advising services to help them determine which classes to take. Career services to connect them to internships and jobs. And Payne, CEO of PayneCrest Electric and Communications in St. Louis, took particular notice when Dean Noah Manring mentioned that many of these jobs turn into leadership positions. Mizzou Engineering has more than 500 alumni serving as presidents and CEOs of companies across the country.
“It was wonderful talking to the dean about engineering graduates becoming business leaders and CEOs,” Payne said. “Just the awareness that graduates can do really well in those roles.”
Mizzou Engineering played a role in Payne’s path to leadership, too, but it’s safe to say he was well on his way. Payne started working for his father’s electric company at the age of 11, and by 16, he was managing large-scale projects.
Going to college gave him the opportunity to put those leadership skills to practice in other ways.
“The biggest thing Mizzou did for me was it taught me how to figure out things for myself,” he said. “I had to learn to find resources. I learned to ask faculty for help. I learned self-reliance. It was life changing. It opened my eyes to how to get things done and make things happen on my own.”
Payne has been making things happen ever since.
After graduating with his degree in electrical engineering, he joined a company in Charlotte, North Carolina, before joining Payne Electric with a partner in 1985. He was just 25 at the time.
In 2000, Payne led the company’s acquisition of Crest Electric, and by 2010, the company had industrial and commercial projects around the country. Payne’s leadership and successes were recognized with the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2014.
Recently, PayneCrest Electric completed major infrastructure installations at NextGen Precision Health, a 265,000-square-foot, five-story health facility on the MU campus.
So what does it take to become CEO and build up a multi-million dollar company? Hard work and patience, Payne said.
“I promise you, if you work hard, do a good job and have a good attitude, your work will be recognized and rewarded,” he said.
And take advantage of everything Mizzou Engineering has to offer.
“Career services, advising—the college feels really well-rounded,” Payne said. “It was truly amazing being back here. Mizzou was the biggest life-changing event of my life.”