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MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Synergy hosted a Construction Forum on July 10-13 at the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for 52 members. This was a two-and-a-half-day session filled with small breakout discussions, a tour of Synergy Member J.M. Brennan, and a special workshop with guest speaker Steve Thomas on “Growing Your Next Level Leaders.”

The meeting started with Wayne Seifert (Archer Mechanical), Justin Harer (J.M. Brennan), and Eric Wos (Baker Group) sharing how their organizations are generating more design build opportunities. The three Synergy members discussed who leads the charge at their company, how they handle the expense of pre-construction, the scope of engineering and design build, and what client development looks like.

After the panel, attendees worked in a large group to develop a list of all the things that are important for a successful project (e.g. safety, scheduling, financial forecasting, contract terms) and then dove in deeper to each step with their small table. In small groups, members shared what's worked for their company, operational changes they made, who takes ownership of each step, and how they execute and measure the work getting done.

"I like the list that was created of all the steps," said Mike Doss (Design Mechanical). "You don't realize how much there is."

To close out the morning, attendees shared new technology that has made a difference and how they're dealing with supply chain issues.

In the afternoon, attendees did the Picasso Challenge at their table. Each facilitator got a drawing and had to verbally describe the image for their table to recreate the design without seeing it.

"This was fun," said Wayne Seifert (Archer Mechanical). "It showed how your words have meaning — you have to be very deliberate when you are explaining something to someone so they understand what you are telling them."

The first day ended with a team activity that allowed attendees to put the morning's ideas of what makes a successful project into practice. Each table was given a real-life project, like an industrial plumbing job or office build out, and was tasked with writing down all the steps that would have to happen to increase the odds for a successful project. After coming up with their list, each table shared what they developed and how they would navigate through some of the more difficult steps with the entire group.

"I really liked how we could discuss the process of the project and although we’re from different companies/backgrounds we have the same thought process," said Thomas Kalsch (Atomatic Mechanical Service).

J.M. Brennan's facility.

TOUR: Attendees got the opportunity to tour J.M. Brennan's facility, led by co-presidents John and Matt Brennan. The duo welcomed the group and spent some time sharing their family history and company's evolution. (Courtesy of Synergy)

On the second day of the Construction Forum, attendees got the opportunity to tour fellow Synergy member J.M. Brennan's facility. Co-presidents John and Matt Brennan welcomed the group and spent some time sharing their family history and company's evolution.

"I really enjoyed listening to the owners of Brennan going over the changes and progress they have made over the years," said Brent Greer (W.L. Gary). "It really provided some inspiration. Although we aren’t at that scale, it definitely gave some great ideas in terms of flow and things to consider for the future."

After the tour, Justin Harer (J.M. Brennan), Quinton Selin (Archer Mechanical), and Tommy Cox (Hardy) shared their quality control process. In small groups, members shared where they struggle, changes they've made, and who handles the responsibilities if they don't have a dedicated QC person on staff.

The second day closed with a discussion on productivity metrics. Synergy members shared what they're measuring when it comes to BIM, prefab, and field installation. In the small groups, attendees also talked about how they're measuring things, how often they measure, who sees the results, and what they do with the data.

"This session opened my eyes on different ways to enhance our company’s daily productivity," said Errick Raner (Triton Mechanical).

Steve Thomas, a guest speaker at the event.

GUEST SPEAKER: Steve Thomas, a guest speaker at the event, held a special workshop on “Growing Your Next Level Leaders.” (Courtesy of Synergy)

The Construction Forum ended with guest speaker Steve Thomas' workshop on how to grow next level leaders. Steve talked about some of the common things that he's seen in working with companies in our industry, which has the second highest rate of suicide of all industries.

"In the construction industry, men believe they have to be strong and can't show weakness," said Steve. "In construction the message is to 'Suck it up' and that 'Big boys don't cry.'"

He explained that because of this mental lens that shapes how we interpret things, we become opinionated because this is all we see. If unchecked, this is what leads to intolerance, obstinance, and bull-headedness, which creates a work environment where people can't be the best versions of themselves.

"If the way you see things — your ‘SEE’ or ‘your mental lens’ — doesn't expand, you will stay in the stuck stage longer," said Steve. "All teams, leaders, and organizations will get stuck eventually. The question is how long will you stay there?"

One strategy Steve shared with attendees to help them expand their SEE was to ask, "Is there any other possible interpretation?" when something happens because it changes your default mode, widens your view, and affects the way you respond.

Steve ended his session encouraging members to build connections and win people over by doing the following:

  • Talk on personal levels;
  • Give your time;
  • Show humility, grace, and mercy;
  • Be empathic and trustworthy;
  • Follow through;
  • Understand their values; and
  • Be genuine.

The session ended with each attendee writing down their action plan of what they want to implement and goals they will accomplish when they return home.