Photo Courtesy of Gardner Builders
Most companies would describe themselves as operating a little differently than their peers. For Gardner Builders, that mindset is at the forefront of everything it does, from the mutually beneficial partnerships it forms with the builder community to the tireless efforts to exceed client expectations on every project.
Gardner Builders is a hospitality company in the commercial construction business. It is dedicated to building innovative and aesthetically pleasing workspaces while providing clients with a second-to-none experience every step of the way.
The company, founded in 2010, fosters a collaborative working culture that allows all teammates to have a voice and a seat at the table, and strongly supports learning and growth opportunities. This year, the company is even sending all 160 of its team members to Groundbreak 2020, Procore’s annual construction technology conference. Their people-first approach has clearly paid off. Gardner Builders was named to Inc. Magazine’s Best Workplaces of 2020. The recognition is a feather in Gardner’s cap as the company celebrates its 10th anniversary this October.
What Makes Gardner Builders a Great Place to Work?
It’s the company’s dedication to its people and relationship building that help set it apart, according to Jessica Stoe, who heads up Gardner’s marketing team. Gardner teammates do not have official job titles, but are given roles instead.
“If we’re looking at building a team that’s passionate about the work that we do, it starts with taking care of them and making them really excited to be at work every day, then building a network of people who we enjoy working with and having that mutual respect,” says Stoe. “I think everyone benefits.”
Barry Stoffel, Gardner’s integrator and the person who makes sure that founder Bob Gardner’s visions are carried out, believes part of what makes the company a unique place to work is its emphasis on people.
“We’ve got one vision: to have a place to work where people feel valued, where people feel challenged, and where they love to be. That’s the common thread tying everything together. Everything else we do needs to support that true north,” explains Stoffel.
A True Team Effort
Gardner ensures the preservation of its collaborative culture by ensuring every worker gets a say in the company’s direction and priorities year to year.
Part of this mission is through what they call a Vision Traction Organizer (VTO), which Stoffel and Stoe help lead. The VTO helps the company strategically plan out their goals and vision each year. It starts with the leadership team collaborating on what they see as the company’s top priorities in the year to come. Then, they invite the entire organization to weigh in about what matters most to them.
For instance, one of this year’s goals is to “build and inspire great leaders.” Part of accomplishing this involved hosting several all-company meetings focused on leadership training. Gardner selected Procore’s virtual Groundbreak conference for one of these gatherings.
“I’ve been to Groundbreak two or three times, I’ve just been blown away with the amount of value,” Stoe says. “There’s just something for everyone there. The thought leadership tracks were amazing. I walked away with so much energy and inspiration to invest in our culture and see what we could do to create the platinum standard.
“The VTO is just a good way to remind people that our number one goal is not revenue-based; it’s about building the company for the long term.”
“[Groundbreak] is going to help everybody grow, whether it’s personally or professionally. If it helps Gardner, it’s just a side benefit. We want people to learn and grow; that’s the biggest thing,” Stoffel adds.
Overcoming the Challenges of COVID-19
It’s one thing to maintain a strong workplace culture when everyone sees each other daily. Keeping it going when everyone works from home is very different, and yet it’s a challenge that Gardner rose to meet.
“It was a very seamless work transfer for anyone in an office type role. We hosted weekly meetings with Bob [Gardner] to connect with everyone in the company,” says Stoe. “Everyone is invited for an open Q&A-style session where we say: ‘Here’s what we know, and here’s what we don’t know. We’re just in this together and appreciate everyone just doing the best they can right now.’”
Gardner held twice-weekly Zoom calls with the entire staff. “We wanted to keep everybody in the know,” explains Stoffel.
To get a richer understanding of how the rest of the construction community was doing, Gardner reached out to peers and even its competitors to share and learn how they were working through the pandemic and keeping their job sites safe.
“We then had an update for the entire company to keep everybody in the loop,” said Stoffel. “We felt that was important.”