For nearly two decades, I was a member of an elite group of construction entrepreneurs from the U.S. and Canada who came together twice each year to present to each other and share war stories. That group—the Jack Miller Network—was a place where I learned how to streamline our business procedures and got help solving problems from other general contractors who had “been there, done that.”
When Jack Miller passed away in early 2016, I was part of a group of 21 members that gathered in Chicago to plan the future of the organization. It was there that the idea of the Construction Leadership Network (CLN) came to fruition. CLN was formed on the same principles as the Jack Miller Network—bringing together top construction leaders and their key personnel to exchange ideas and share best practices to improve the industry, themselves and their organizations. I firmly believe we become better contractors by learning from others, and our peers become better contractors by learning from us. A rising tide lifts all ships.
In addition to staying connected throughout the year using online tools, members meet every winter to share, learn and build together. We have met twice in Dallas, once in Tampa and most recently in Tucson, Arizona.
In 2017 and 2018, I led a focus group for my peers on Creating a Positive Corporate Culture.
This year's conference opened with a keynote from Jake Wood, recipient of the Navy-Marine Commendation Medal. Many of us in Wisconsin will remember him for the years he played offensive lineman for the Badger football team before graduating in 2005 and joining the Marine Corps to serve our nation. Jake returned from his service in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine scout sniper to become Co-Founder and CEO of Team Rubicon, a nonprofit organization that recruits, trains and deploys military veterans to disaster zones within the U.S. and abroad.
Last July, Jake received the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2018 ESPY Awards for his work with Team Rubicon. Through his military and volunteer service, appearances and writing, Jake strives to answer the challenge that plagues so many companies in our industry, “The world is fast moving and full of uncertainty. How do we build teams that survive and thrive?” His view on leadership and service to others was a powerful message.
In addition to participating in roundtable and panel discussions, I had the pleasure of attending several two-hour focus groups that took deep dives into various aspects of our business. “Relationships Matter: The Value of Client Focus” was a helpful session about strengthening relationships with our clients and prospects. I understand we aren't just building a building for someone, we are providing value and helping to guide our clients through an often-complicated design and construction process.
I also attended a focus group on writing better proposals, which was led by two professors from Arizona State University. Gaining skills in this area is an important part of how we communicate with our prospects and help them visualize what we can offer them.
Next, the tables were turned and I was asked to lead a Sales Peer Group Roundtable for a dozen of my counterparts from across North America. I really enjoy the roundtable discussions. A lot of really great ideas come out of them.
For the remainder of the year, I have joined two on-going peer groups on preconstruction services and marketing that meet monthly throughout the year. We will continue to hone our skills and keep current on the newest trends and best practices.
Attending the annual CLN Conference is a win-win situation, and our membership in the Construction Leadership Network helps us ensure that. I've already put next year's conference in Houston on my calendar!