A ten-yard head start isn’t cheating, it’s just “social distancing”…
At EMJ we love friendly office competition, which is why our annual fitness challenge was created back in 2019. The 2020 Fitness Challenge kicked off at the beginning of the year, but it was shortly thereafter put on pause due to the stay at home orders put into place in March.
Although that competition had to be put on hold, our employees have still managed to add some fun and competition to their days, even if that means challenging your co-worker to a footrace in the middle of a Tennessee pasture.
The bet was simple: Patrick Scheele wagered $100 that Billy Kile couldn’t beat him in a footrace, even with a 10-yard head start. Billy proved to be too fast for Patrick to make up those 10-yards before the finish.
This is just a small example of the family-oriented culture at EMJ Construction and the competitive nature of our employees.
Quarantine cookbook is an example of resiliency and determination to remain human, and in contact, while we transition to a digital work environment.
These past few months have been interesting, to say the least. While EMJ Construction was deemed an essential business, and our field teams continued to work on projects, in mid-March the office-based teams started working from home.
While the work transition was seamless, thanks to Microsoft Teams meetings, it took some time to adjust to not seeing teammates in the office. To help feel better connected, the Dallas Preconstruction team had daily touch point meetings with a special theme every Wednesday.
The first Wednesday each member of the team wore a hat and explained its meaning. That’s when Drew Halsey, Vice President of Preconstruction, had an idea – a cookbook. “I was looking for something different to talk about. We wanted something to get people involved and interacting in a personal way,” said Halsey. “We’re all spending time at home and I thought it’d be great to see what everyone is cooking during the quarantine.”
That led to a call for entries sent to Martin Briggs, Assistant Preconstruction Manager, who assembled “Cooking in the Time of Crisis,” EMJ’s own version of a “Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book.” Some of the recipes are serious and others tongue-in-cheek with little golden nuggets of humor sprinkled throughout. Here are some highlights:
321 Rib Method, submitted by Drew Halsey
I firmly believe that you should cook food the way you like it, and ribs are no different! You like your ribs saucy? Put some extra sauce on them (I like using my Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce)! You like your ribs falling off the bone? Follow this 3 2 1 Rib Method. These are your ribs after all. Don’t you let the man get you down. Just don’t.
A Starkes Family Lunch, submitted by Keith Starkes
1. Middle child yells at you during conference call because “they are starving.”
2. Commence with making lunch.
3. Assemble ingredients. Oldest child: make ham sandwich with ham, cheese, ranch, pickles.
4. Yell at kids to get out of pantry: “Can’t you see that I am making you lunch?”
5. Resume step 3.
Quick 1 Minute Oats, submitted by Suzanna Trent
1. Boil water or milk and salt.
2. Stir in oats.
3. Cook about 1 minute over medium heat; stir occasionally.
World Famous Homemade Buttermilk Ranch, submitted by Chris Ross
What You Need:
½ cup whole fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing BUTTERMILK mix
Can always add more if needed
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Paprika (to taste)
1/8 cup of celery salt
1. Mix All together. Eat with anything because ranch goes with everything.
While the cookbook will not be featured on any of your favorite cooking shows, and we can’t vouch for any of the recipes, it did accomplish its mission – to bring levity and camaraderie to a heavy and potentially isolating situation.
“I have been so proud of my team and how they’ve responded to this unbelievably challenging time,” said Keith Starkes, Vice President of Preconstruction, Dallas. “They didn’t miss a beat. This is just one of many examples of resiliency and determination to remain human, and in contact, while we transition to a digital work environment.”
The cookbook is not available on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore, but you can download here.
Burt Odom, President and CEO of EMJ Corporation, encourages us to stay in touch with each other and to be strong and not give up.
The following is a note from Burt Odom, President and CEO of EMJ Corporation, to our Superintendents.
When 2020 started I sure didn’t expect a global pandemic. I imagine it will be some time before we realize its true impact and how it has improved us. But, I can tell you this, it has made me more steadfast in my appreciation for you.
Every organization has a core group of people that make it run – the business end of the company. In the medical industry it’s nurses and technicians. In the military it’s the enlisted men and women. And, in construction it’s you, often referred to as “the field,” which is an inadequate term because it doesn’t fully describe what you do or the importance of your role.
You are the ones away from your families, you are the ones who face the weather to move dirt and rocks, pour concrete, erect steel, hang drywall, bring power to buildings, and give life to our clients’ visions.
During this pandemic you have met trials of various kinds and you have risen to the occasion. I realize how insufficient it sounds, but I want to once again say thank you. I’m proud of you for your grit and determination. You are the spirit of EMJ Construction.
Because of you and your steadfastness, I know that we’re going to emerge from this faster, stronger, and better.
Check out these in-progress photos from the team at the Watercrest job site in Macon, Georgia.
We are so proud of our field staff who continues to be away from home, keeping our projects and company moving. Here are in progress photos from the team at the Watercrest job site in Macon, Georgia.
This project received quite a bit of rain in the first month, but our EMJ team, and respective subcontractors, were able to jump start the shop drawing process to get the prefabricated wall panels going in order to keep things on schedule. Now, concrete is being poured and great progress continues to happen.
EMJ Construction is pleased to welcome Jack Brown, Director of Construction. Jack is based in the Dallas office.
In his role, he will work closely with the Executive Vice President and the Dallas leadership team to build client relationships and pursue new work, while providing oversight and strategic vision on all projects to the operations team, ensuring every client receives an innovative and customized construction experience.
“We are excited to welcome Jack to our team,” said William Mosher, EVP, EMJ Construction Dallas. “His experience, commitment to quality, and client-centric approach make him the perfect addition to our team as we continue to expand into new sectors and regions.”
Jack joins EMJ with over 33 years of construction management experience, including time at Balfour Beatty and CBG Building Company as a leader of Multi-family and Mixed-Use markets. He has a track record of success in growing profitable business units while building and developing operations teams that deliver added value at every level.
“I joined the EMJ team because of the dynamic family-like culture, the relentless desire to serve clients, and the team’s eagerness to pursue diverse project types across a broad geographical area,” said Jack Brown. “I look forward to being an instrumental part of growing the company and helping to further diversify its project types across the nation.
Jack earned a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management from Broward University. When he’s not working, you can find him in his community serving at youth sporting events or in the air enjoying the freedom of flight as a private pilot.
On March 9, 2020, Heather Collins, SVP of People and the IT Department, sent two emails to Sarah Kirby. The first asked how many employees were using Microsoft Teams and what it would take to get everyone fully operational in the event that everyone needed to work from home. Two hours later, the second email asked how fast the team could get it in place.
By Friday, March 13, all EMJ Corporation employees had access to Microsoft Teams and plans were set into motion to allow all of EMJ’s workforce to work remotely. While our field-based staff have worked remotely for many years, the IT team quickly equipped EMJ’s office-based employees with the tools, resources, and support they needed to be able to function effectively away from the office.
“From the very beginning, our IT staff was attentive and extremely responsive to what they were being asked to do in such a short time period,” said Heather.
It might seem like this was implemented overnight, but the quick reaction was made possible because several years ago the IT Department embraced cloud technology, first with Box, then Salesforce, Office 365 and finally Procore. It was all part of addressing the challenge Burt Odom, President and CEO, gave the IT Department to be “Smart and cutting-edge.”
As is the case with most IT solutions, the need didn’t stop with giving everyone access to Microsoft Teams. The IT Department then provided around-the-clock support for field and home-based employees, ensuring employees could remain productive by supporting our clients and our field employees. The group has even continued to onboard new employees to EMJ during this time period.
“I think it’s worth noting how well our systems and infrastructure have held up in a very different usage scenario,” said Chuck Hall, Director of IT. “The remote capabilities we had in place for our field employees are now in use by nearly everyone. Thanks to our preparation and infrastructure, the most challenging part of working remotely might be that many of us have kids that aren’t in school right now.”
The IT Department has risen to the occasion, putting in long hours and addressing issues quickly.
“None of this would have been possible without the groundwork they laid years ago with embracing the cloud, ” said Heather. “Without this important groundwork, there would have been no Microsoft Teams. While it may make us all feel like we’re in the opening credits of the Brady Bunch, it has allowed everyone to work from home relatively seamlessly. This was a great job by the entire group. Their work has been an embodiment of EMJ’s values, selflessness, trustworthiness, and grit.”
EMJ is thankful for our field staff that continues to be away from home, keeping our projects and company moving.
Our field staff continues to be away from home, keeping our projects and company moving. We are thankful for their grit and selfless service.
Heres’s an update from the Watercrest job site in Santa Rosa, Florida. Each Watercrest community is purpose built to provide security, comfort, health, and happiness. Identifying design opportunities to help residents maintain independence such as minimizing travel distances can significantly improve quality of life by helping them engage in social activities more frequently.
On Sunday, April 10, a deadly tornado with winds as high as 145 mph slammed into eastern Chattanooga, damaging many homes and leaving a wide swath of destruction.
The storm hit the homes of several EMJ Construction employees and family members, including the neighborhood of Nestor Praniuk, Superintendent, EMJ Construction.
Nestor quietly took a couple days off work, borrowed a tractor from a friend and, together, they went around the neighborhood cleaning up trees and debris for people who needed help.
“This wasn’t something Nestor broadcast, or even discussed, but others noticed,” said Chas Torrence, EVP, EMJ Construction. “Our purpose is to be people serving people, but we don’t always see it in action. For Nestor and his friends to do this amid the Coronavirus pandemic is a perfect example of what we mean.”
A few weeks ago we shared this blog about Mr. Rogers, who famously said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
We are thankful for people like Nestor and all the other helpers out there who see a need and step forward.
Many of our EMJ families created their own special memories (in quarantine) by continuing some old traditions and even creating some new ones.
Our EMJ team, in previous years, has celebrated the Easter season by hosting the Chambliss Center for Children for a day of Easter-themed fun in our Chattanooga office.
Although we were sad to miss hosting this year, many of our EMJ families, from both the Chattanooga and Dallas offices, created their own special memories (in quarantine) by continuing some old traditions and even creating some new ones.
Here’s a glimpse into some of the fun our families enjoyed this past weekend.
“The Gaiser family started the day with watching our church service online. In the afternoon, Landry (9) and Hadley (7) hunted Easter eggs and made an Easter cake with their favorite Easter candy – Peeps!” – Nicole Gaiser, Vice President – People Department
“We spent Easter weekend outside on the farm; hosting my immediate family for a COVID-19 compliant social distancing Easter picnic, egg hunt, and fishing at the pond. My son is thoroughly enjoying these days at home, as it means more time outdoors and with Mommy.” – Megan Duman, Divisional Controller
“As a family, we played the role of the Easter bunny and hid eggs for friends in their yard. It was a great excuse for us to get out of the house and feel a little normalcy. After Easter lunch, we painted yummy egg cookies.” – Lauren Purdy, Recruiting Coordinator
“The Wadlingtons celebrated Easter at home by enjoying an early morning Easter Egg hunt followed by an at-home bible class and singing that my wife, Sara, led for my boys Clark (4), Peter (1), and me. Our church, Riverside Church of Christ, graciously dropped off communion and materials/toys to help our boys celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. It was different, but an Easter that I will never forget!” – Jacob Wadlington, Vice President of Business Development
In this season of uncertainty, we are mindful of, and thankful for, the front line professionals who are working and away from their families. We hope everyone has a few moments each day to stop and find simple moments of joy.
Burt Odom, President and CEO of EMJ Corporation, encourages us to stay in touch with each other and to be strong and not give up.
These are strange times! Although we live in a world that’s more connected than ever, you may be feeling isolated and have some level of fear. Whether you’re working from home or working on a job site, it’s easy to feel alone and trapped. It has caused me to reflect on how much I appreciate and enjoy working with such a great group of people. I do miss seeing all of you!
During these times, like so many of you, I often rely on Biblical principles to shape my world view. Recently, I was reading 2 Chronicles 15:7. Contextually, this was a time of restoration for the people of Judah. A prophet tells the King, despite their troubling times, “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” As I read that verse there were three things that stuck out to me about our current situation:
Our challenges are not unique to us. Isolation comes by believing that you are going through something no one has ever faced. While the details specific to the Coronavirus may have never happened before, every generation before us has faced major issues. We are not alone. “Be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”
Our challenges are relatively minor. I’m not dismissing our situation, or the severity of the illness. But, think about those who fought foreign wars, lived through The Great Depression, or even survived the Civil War. On balance, I’m thankful for the time and place in which we live. “Be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”
Our challenges will change the future. Not many of us like change because it moves us out of our comfort zone. We need to embrace that our life will be changed by this experience, but I’m willing to bet it will put a clear focus on what really matters in life. “Be strong and do not give up for your work will be rewarded.”
I want to thank each of you for your continued hard work during a difficult time. I especially want to thank our field staff that continues to be away from home, keeping our projects and company moving. I would encourage all of you to remember we are not alone in this and to stay in touch with each other. More than ever we all need to be “People Serving People”.
During these strange times, “Be strong and do no give up, for your work will be rewarded!” Onward!
Burt Odom is President and CEO of EMJ Corporation.