The Culture of Building Better Relationships
“Culture” in Commercial Construction
Most people think of “culture” as being limited to the Human Resources function of an organization. It’s usually very internal, experienced between the management and employees. At Optimum, we have the opportunity to take a broader view.
To us, the culture is experienced as much outside the organization as inside. Because our company is based on a series of specific project-based interactions with clients and subcontractors, it isn’t characterized by a bunch of internal words and measures, it’s got to be more interactional and organic.
We started by zeroing in on our core reason for being. Why we picked this business to start as opposed to any other, and why we run it like we do. We’ve spent a year getting clarity, drilling down to our essence, and the answer that came out was surprisingly simple.
We Exist to Build Better Relationships.
Think about every time you need help with something important, you probably find yourself using your friend network for good leads. Everyone feels that a friend is unbiased, and really only cares about helping you get the best outcome. Great relationships offer you a level of assurance when making large decisions. A friend’s advice feels like something reliable.
If this is how we all behave, then why not become the kind of company that puts that relationship first? Why not be a reliable and unbiased friend to people while also being competent in our field? That’s the best way we can imagine to serve people through our commercial construction business as well as our residential building services. To do this, it means we don’t always recommend ourselves to do the work. In fact, when we are not a good fit, we commit to turning the project down and offering a recommendation of who a better fit might be. That’s what friends do when they value a relationship.
This powerful and simple idea has already dramatically impacted our client relationships, but what about our subcontractors and employees?
That’s simple too. Everyone who works with us is held to the same standard of doing the kind of work that builds better relationships. Doing a half-assed job framing a room is not the way to serve our friends. And it’s not the way to serve fellow workers. It has a trickle-down effect that makes other people’s work harder to complete, and ultimately limits the usefulness or beauty of the final product. So we are just always asking ourselves, “Is the quality of my work helping me build a better relationship with other subs as well as the client?” Every project is unique and all our clients are different. We work with investor-groups to complete change-of-use projects in commercial spaces. We have completed large scale additions to fine custom homes. So everyone wants something a little different, but what they all have in common is a desire to feel valued by us. We can unite under that banner and build better relationships.
So now, we have a company of folks running around trying to build better relationships, and it has changed so much about who we work with, and what characterizes that working relationship. For us, it’s a dream come true, even though we will never stop improving and learning. That’s just how relationships go! It’s actually really satisfying.
An example: “Talk it through”, even on commercial construction projects
From personal experience, and through hundreds of interactions on construction projects, there’s this myth that the owner’s rep on an office build or tenant finish remodel has to have an exact plan in place at the start of the project bidding process. But often, a fit-up is a loose plan with a thousand variables just waiting behind the drywall. Step up a level to where Project Managers and Construction managers for large companies require strict budget plans and timelines. Profits are on the line. While this is helpful in many cases, and allows for more accurate bidding, it has its drawbacks. Both sides of the spectrum can benefit from a simple conversation.
“I have no plan, just an idea”
That is ok. If you just need a block of offices remodeled, we know what basic needs you will have and what key decisions need to be made. Often these kinds of projects are budget driven, and while we don’t like to pick the paint colors, we do know how to be smart as we look for new ways to enhance the finished look of a space while not losing sight of the checkbook.
Our experience has taught us what to avoid and where to put the most energy, but you won’t know that unless we have a starting conversation. We like spending time with great people, and if our knowledge helps even one property manager or owner’s rep get clarity, then it’s time well-spent for us.
“We have this project planned to the last bolt”
The right general contractor, someone who wants to help you succeed, is an invaluable resource early in the process. Their experience has taught them where there are unnecessary money-pits and the simplest ways to avoid them. A good contractor can see the trickle-down effect of a specific architectural feature and may suggest a modest revision to the plan in order to shift budget into more effectual areas. If the designers and architects represent the creative side of the spectrum, a builder should hold the more practical end of things in tension. Having this balance present early in the conversation is an efficient way to create a realistic plan.
Don’t hold too tightly to any plan, despite the confidence of the person who designed it. There are too many variables and so maintaining an attitude of flexibility can be an essential element in helping a project to run smoothly.
Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and just “Talk it through”
As a mostly commercial but sometimes residential general contractor we value the opportunity to provide input early and for us at Optimum, it is a great start to building a better relationship. “Winning business” isn’t important compared to the opportunity to befriend and support people in our community. For us, it’s about having better relationships that build better buildings, and we know we can’t build them all ourselves. We exist to serve the vision of joining our values to the process of construction, and this is one of the simple ways we can do that.
If you have needed help thinking through a project or just want to get to know us better, please ring Kendrick directly at:
We’re happy to take the time, if needed, to visit your project in-person and size it up with you. We like spending time face to face and our preference is to be away from the computer and interacting as much as possible.