Reflections from the CEO: Lessons from Four Decades at Swinerton

As I embark on my retirement adventures, the Swinerton Quarterly editorial team invited me to share my reflections on the past 42 transformative years. It’s a period marked by immense change and growth, both within Swinerton and in the construction industry at large.

The most significant change, undoubtedly, has been the invention and adoption of personal computers and associated software. Imagine this: summing your construction estimate with a 10-key adding machine; preparing your construction schedules on graph paper, armed with a pencil and eraser; relying solely on a landline telephone for communication; and coordinating Mechanical, Plumbing, Electrical and Fire Sprinkler drawings on a light table with mylar drawings without the assistance of Virtual Design and Construction software.

These methods, relics of the 1980s, worked surprisingly well. And as we stride into the future, it’s crucial not to be attracted to the allure of the latest shiny software that promises much but may not deliver. The focus should also remain on what can help us build buildings faster, better, or cheaper.

Yet, amidst all these technological advancements and seismic shifts in my four decades at Swinerton, one thing has remained steadfast—the importance of our people. People are still at the heart of designing and building structures. I firmly believe that prioritizing our people first will continue to be our greatest competitive advantage. Going forward, I encourage the following areas of focus:

– Hiring: It’s essential to hire with care and thoughtfulness, and not merely to fill seats because you’ve just won a job. Regardless of how challenging a project may be, the right team can exceed customer expectations and ensure equitable returns. Conversely, even straightforward projects can falter with an unsuitable team. The mindset should be “Talent First” and “Project Second.”

– Coaching: Constant coaching, mentoring, and training are paramount. Swinerton’s Builder VI and craft training programs have the company set in a promising direction, yet consistent, day-to-day mentorship of teams is the bedrock of long-term success. Invest time explaining not only the methods but also the rationale behind each task.

– Communication: Strive for clear communication and set precise expectations. Despite perceived clarity, there is always room for improvement. Dedicate time to confirm that messages are fully understood.

– Empowerment: Empower your direct reports to make decisions and effect changes. In doing so, some mistakes are bound to occur, but the enduring long-term growth and productivity of the team will surpass any temporary setbacks.

– Promotion: Whenever possible, promote from within.

– Performance: Swiftly address under-performers, but always with grace and professionalism.

– Rewards: Reward fairly and often. Rewards can take many forms, from acknowledging exceptional performance to financial incentives through Swinerton’s administrative and craft Excellence awards. It is easy to get caught up in and focus on the hustle of tasks; however, it’s crucial not to overlook or forget those doing the heavy lifting. Make the time to reward fairly and regularly.

By keeping people at the forefront of our endeavors, I am confident that Swinerton is poised for even greater success in the next 42 years and beyond.

My best wishes for continued success to you all,