EMJ Construction Recognizes Outstanding Work

The Edgar M. Jolley Awards for Excellence recognize exceptional work. The Jolleys, named in memory of EMJ’s founder, Ed Jolley, Sr., are presented in three categories: Outstanding Performance, Outstanding Servant Leadership and Outstanding Project.

The Edgar M. Jolley Awards for Excellence recognize exceptional work within the EMJ family of companies. The Jolleys, named in memory of EMJ’s founder, Ed Jolley, Sr., are presented in three categories: Outstanding Performance, Outstanding Servant Leadership and Outstanding Project.

“We are proud of our all our employees who work to fulfill our purpose, to serve our clients, partners, and colleagues,” said Jack Bowen, President, EMJ Construction. “It is important to stop and recognize extraordinary achievements and employees throughout the year and celebrate great work. Congratulations to all this year’s award recipients and thank you for continuing the legacy of EMJ Construction.”

Outstanding Performance

 

The award for Outstanding Performance is EMJ’s highest individual performance honor. This award is given to one employee each year. Employees are nominated for this award by office leadership, and a committee selects the recipient. Nominees are judged against the following criteria:

  • Exemplified strong work ethic, performance, and responsibility
  • Modeled servant leadership and developed additional team member
  • Demonstrated initiative and creativity in tackling difficult or unusual challenges

 

This year’s Jolley for Outstanding Performance is awarded to Jon Fair, Project Manager, EMJ Construction Dallas. Jon is the client relationship manager for the CarMax program.

Jon Fair, Project Manager, EMJ Construction Dallas

 

Jon provides an exceptional experience to the client and, along with the team, responsible for successful projects. Jon leads by example and is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. For example, this year he led the way to create a weekend rotation program for the project team, providing relief for the field staff. Congratulations on the well-deserved honor.

Honorable mentions in this category include:

  • Shane Hurley, Lead Superintendent, Chattanooga
  • Rickey Palmer, Superintendent, Dallas
  • Sheree Quarles, Divisional Controller, Chattanooga

 

Servant Leadership

 

The award for Outstanding Servant Leadership is EMJ’s highest recognition of an individual who exemplifies servant leadership as defined by EMJ’s core values. This award is given to one employee each year. Employees are nominated for this award by office leadership, and a committee selects the recipient. Nominees are judged against the following criteria:

  • Lead by example
  • Inspired and served others
  • Exhibited EMJ’s core values

 

This year’s Jolley for Servant Leadership is awarded to Mike Coyne, Superintendent, EMJ Construction Dallas. Mike is the epitome of Superintendent.

Mike Coyne, Superintendent, EMJ Construction Dallas

 

Mike is willing to go wherever EMJ needs him and is relentless with it comes to meeting any commitments. He has moved offices and projects multiple times. Whatever his assignment, Mike is selfless and gritty. Leadership trust him he provides an exceptional experience to the client and, along with the team, responsible for successful projects. He lives out the EMJ purpose, to be people serving people.

Honorable mentions in this category include:

  • Charles Grothe, Project Engineer, EMJ Construction, Dallas
  • Matt Johnson, Accounting Manager, EMJ Corporation, Chattanooga
  • Jonathan Woolsey, Project Manager, EMJ Construction, Chattanooga

 

Outstanding Project

 

The award for Outstanding Project is EMJ’s highest recognition of a project team. This award is given to one project team each year. Projects are nominated for this award by office leadership, and a committee selects the recipient. The team receiving the Jolley for Outstanding Project will meet at least four of the following criteria:

  • Managed the team, schedule, and budget with precision
  • Demonstrated a commitment to safety
  • Delivered an exceptional client experience

 

This year’s Jolley for Outstanding Project is awarded to the Ruby Falls expansion in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Ruby Falls, Chattanooga, Tennessee.

 

Members of the team include:

  • Tina Brogdon
  • Ryan Colbert
  • Taylor Copeland
  • Matt Elliott
  • Katie Haberberger
  • Lance Lindsey
  • John Rudez
  • Cissy Scott

 

Located over 1,120 feet below the surface of Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls boasts the nation’s largest and deepest waterfall open to the public. The site has become one of the most popular attractions in the Southeast, welcoming thousands of visitors each year.

The project took 14 months of meticulous planning and diligent work. With the expansion, visitors enjoy a new entrance lobby and pedestrian mall, as well as updated parking, ticketing, retail and restrooms. Other additions include renovated office space and enhanced observation of the city.

Due to its location and landscape, the project provided some unique challenges including hammering out rock and installing rock drapes to mitigate the risk of falling rocks. Click here to read more about the Ruby Falls expansion.

Honorable mentions in this category include:

  • Graysville Elementary, Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • CarMax, Norman, Oklahoma

 

Congratulations to all the nominees, winners, and employees dedicated to delivering unique, relevant client experiences, and operational excellence every day.

The Keys to Operational Excellence in Construction

There are three universal tenants to ensure operational excellence on construction projects that must be executed and measured on a consistent basis.

General George S. Patton once said that “By perseverance, and study, and eternal desire, any man can become great.” These principles of perseverance, study, and desire are cornerstones of any individual, group, or organization desiring to obtain and sustain success. While some may argue that General Patton lacked the ability to empathize with people, most can agree that the man knew how to move an army in order to achieve operational excellence.

In the construction industry, a need for this same operational excellence becomes evident when reflecting on the final decades of the twentieth century, a time where stagnancy pervaded the industry. Construction companies were under-performing, the expected turnover left much to be desired, and clients often felt the pains of mismanaged projects. These issues revealed a glaring need for a a new model of operational excellence.

Operational excellence encourages companies to enhance the client experience, minimize cost, and cut wasteful processes in terms of managing resources and materials, allowing value to be restored and delivered to clients. Coming out of the Great Recession of the early twenty-first century, adopting this new practice in our industry became necessary in order to meet the demands of the market. In a time where clients had tighter margins and technological advances were happening at an ever increasing rate, it was imperative that construction companies become experts on this new model, have a great desire to learn its principles, and persevere through the slow, arduous process of applying it within all disciplines throughout their organizations.

There are many facets where operational excellence should be applied, but just as General Patton believed in the three principles of perseverance, study, and eternal desire, there are three universal tenants to ensure operational excellence on construction projects that must be executed and measured on a consistent basis. These universal tenants of operational excellence are:

  • Collaboration. In order to achieve and maintain excellence within any successful organization, there must be collaboration. Clients must know of pending changes and issues. Designers have to seek input from contractors in order to provide an exceptional finished product. Contractors must look beyond what they are doing today so they can positively impact the schedule and efficiencies on a given project.
  • Standardization. Far too often leaders are reactive, rather than proactive, when it comes to meeting the needs of those they serve. Processes and procedures found in countless operation manuals are typically the result of a problem that had to be solved, which is why it is critical for attention to be consistently given to improving quality through standardization. When processes/procedures and means/methods of operational excellence are all standard, the improved quality of construction is directly correlated. Standardized tasks become muscle-memory and are easily tracked/measured, saving time and reducing error.
  • Development. There is no doubt that real dollars are tied to the development of team members. However, the importance of investing in staff development cannot be overstated if our industry wants to achieve and maintain operational excellence. Our team members are our most critical resource – the one companies should be continually investing in to grow and retain. The quality of our team members are directly related to the predictable success of our projects. Therefore, providing training and committing to development opportunities quickly produces positive results across the construction spectrum.

 

More than ever, clients want things done right, and they deserve nothing less. Time has never been more expensive, and we can’t retrace steps. A steady focus on the importance of completing quality projects on time while creating strong, positive relationships with those in which we serve has never been more important.

Companies that are finding success today are the ones that made the decision to embrace their potential and move past the old status quo by collaborating, setting high standards, and developing their people. They embraced operational excellence, realizing how critical it was to their organization. They realized that it is the driving force that produces better results in terms of client experience, cost efficiency, productivity and innovation.

A desire for excellence is what separates the good from the great. My hope is that, just as General Patton did, our industry continues to pursue the principles of perseverance, study, and desire so that we can provide our clients the operational excellence and client experiences they deserve.

 

Jason Dunnam provides day-to-day leadership to the construction operations team in Dallas. He has nearly 20 years of experience, including as a senior superintendent. Jason lives in Dallas, but returns home to Seneca, Missouri, every chance he gets. He enjoys the outdoors, hunting, serving his church and community, and spending time with his three adult sons.

 

CarMax in Corpus Christi Celebrates Grand Opening

EMJ’s fourth project to date for CarMax opened last week in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Located on five acres, construction of the 7,500-square-foot store included all site work and installing of a below grade 2,000-gallon fuel storage tank.

“The team’s hard work and client support was outstanding,” said George Heath, EMJ Vice President of Construction. “Their diligence led us to the recent award of two new stores in Denton and Lubbock.”

EMJ’s ongoing partnership with CarMax is what EMJ refers to as programmatic work—performing multiple projects for one client of similar scope and size. This type of relationship enables our team to develop a highly tailored, efficient construction process for the client that supports long-term consistency, accountability and trust.

Look for more updates on the team’s work with CarMax, and congrats to the Corpus Christi team on a job well done!

Jon Fair, Project Manager
Daniel Brantley, Superintendent
Conner Kamps, Preconstruction Manager
Will Morris, Project Engineer
Kathy Griffin, Accounting Manager
Suzanna Trent, Administrative Assistant

Related story:

CarMax in Norman Celebrates Grand Opening

 

The universal principles of client experience 

This August, my wife and I welcomed our third son. After his arrival, I was charged with bringing our two oldest sons to the hospital to see their mom and meet their new brother. Little did I know that it would be a lesson in client experience.

Entering the hospital, I was nervous. It was hot. The boys were tired, and as excited as they were about their new brother, we were worried about how they would adjust to the change. It was a lot to process.

As we passed the reception area, I treated it like we were trying to slip past an old East German checkpoint—act like you belong, walk with a purpose, and don’t make eye contact. We were almost home free, when the receptionist shouted, “Wait, your boys need identification bracelets.” She left and returned with bracelets that said “Big Brother.”

The impact of this gesture was immediate. The boys were ecstatic, and seeing that, I was at ease. Undoubtedly, the hospital staff had seen thousands of weary dads in the exact same situation. They were taught to recognize it and empowered to engage with families to help alleviate stress.

What does this have to do with commercial construction? More than you might think.

Providing our clients an exceptional experience is at the heart of everything we do. By doing the little things, day by day, our employees strive to make the construction experience better and to provide value to our clients.

It doesn’t matter if you work at a hospital delivering babies, or if you’re a superintendent overseeing the construction and delivery of the hospital itself, the principles of a great client experience are the same. It’s as simple as every single employee paying attention to clients, empathizing with their situation, and taking actions to improve their experience.

Learn more about EMJ’s approach, designed to produce significant benefits for our clients and make the experience enjoyable.

 

Deron Smith leads the marketing and communications team in internal and external marketing and communication strategy. He has 20 years of experience as a consultant and in-house communications and marketing professional. Before joining EMJ in 2015, Deron served as the National Director of Communications for the Boy Scouts of America and held positions with notable public relations firms Edelman, Publicis Dialog and The Gooden Group.

More Than a Meal: Small Actions, Big Impact

The Principles of Client Experience are the Same, No Matter How You Slice It

 

Providing our clients an excellent construction experience is at the heart of everything we do. As in every venture and life, challenges and problems sometimes arise that our team must overcome. A true servant leader is someone who understands this and works to overcome challenges by taking responsibility and action, no matter who is at fault.

Recently, an American Airlines flight was rerouted because of weather, stranding its passengers. The pilot empathized with his customers and took action:

Passing out pizzas didn’t solve all the passengers’ problems, but you can bet that giving them a meal made the experience less difficult than it could have been.

We believe taking any action to improve our clients’ experience is meaningful, even if it seems small compared to the problem. In the construction industry, it can be as simple as taking time to talk with a client or trade partner, or assisting an employee with career goals.

By doing the little things, day by day, our employees strive to make the construction experience better and to provide value to our clients. We know by alleviating just one frustration, we are fulfilling our purpose to be people serving people.

We commend the pilot for his exceptional service. Read more about him on CNN.com.

 

Deron Smith leads the marketing and communications team in internal and external marketing and communication strategy. He has 20 years of experience as a consultant and in-house communications and marketing professional. Before joining EMJ in 2015, Deron served as the National Director of Communications for the Boy Scouts of America and held positions with notable public relations firms Edelman, Publicis Dialog and The Gooden Group.

CarMax in Norman Celebrates Grand Opening

Norman, Okla., now has a new CarMax store! EMJ joined CarMax in celebrating the grand opening of its new location on Wednesday.

This marks EMJ’s third project to date for CarMax, and another store is currently under construction in Corpus Christi, Texas.

“This was an outstanding performance by our project team, and they have continued to solidify our relationship with CarMax,” said George Heath, EMJ Vice President – Retail. “They have been a good programmatic client for us and have asked us to pursue three more projects in Texas and Mississippi.”

Dan Swope, CarMax Location General Manager, shares George’s sentiment, “It was fantastic being in our new home today.  We have been looking forward to this for so long, and we wanted to say thank you for the care and attention you put into our facility.  You have been awesome partners along the way!”

EMJ’s partnership with CarMax is what EMJ refers to as programmatic work—performing multiple projects for one client of similar scope and size. This type of relationship enables our team to develop a highly tailored, efficient construction process for the client that supports long-term consistency, accountability and trust.

Look for more updates on the team’s work with CarMax, and congrats to the Norman team on a job well done!

Jonathan Fair, Project Manager
Drew Halsey, Vice President of Preconstruction
Conner Kamps, Preconstruction Manager
Andrew Lackey, Project Engineer
Will Morris, Project Engineer
Rickey Palmer, Superintendent
Brenda Palmer, Administrative Assistant
Sheila Nazario-Thomas, Administrative Assistant
Mary Gross, Project Accountant

 

 

Influence v. Authority: Building Teams to Get the Job Done

When tasked with building a school in time for the new academic year, while knowing the project was already behind, what did EMJ Superintendent Nestor Praniuk do? He was honest.

“This is where we are; this is where we need to be. We’re a team. Together, we’re going to do this,” Praniuk said referring to his conversation with the owner. And, together, they did. Through collaboration and Nestor’s leadership, the team delivered a new lower school addition at Chattanooga Christian School (CCS) just in time for the school year.

“As a parent, I know the importance of starting the new year off right,” said Praniuk. “I didn’t want our work to impact the parents and teachers. To me, there was only one option and that was to open on time.”

On paper, getting the school completed by the August 13, 2018, deadline did not look feasible as various setbacks had already placed it 10 days behind. Through diligent efforts and consistent communication, Praniuk and his team, including Senior Preconstruction Manager Kyle Tippens and Project Engineer Devin Munczenski, aligned all trade partners with their goal and empowered them to make it happen.

Praniuk recalls challenging his trade partners and workers on site to understand the progress CCS is trying to make and the experience the school is aiming to deliver its clients. “I told them, ‘Think like a parent and what their needs are. What happens with their day if construction doesn’t come through on time?’”

Communicating an end goal is one thing. Getting all stakeholders to follow through on their commitment is another feat, one that requires thoughtful leadership and influence.

“It’s all about trust,” said Praniuk. “The key is creating healthy relationships with all involved. Get to know the other person and what’s important to them and why. Determine what you need to do to please them and then do it. You do what you say you’ll do, and you solidify that mutual trust.”

“In my many years of organizational leadership, [Nestor] is in a small group of unique leaders who I believe are critical to the ability of an organization to meet its goals and execute its mission,” writes Chad Dirkse, President of CCS, about Praniuk in a letter to EMJ.

“The core values EMJ espouses are embodied well in Nestor’s leadership. I know he cares deeply for CCS and for EMJ,” Dirkse continued. “He is not afraid to tell me no or challenge something he doesn’t agree with but works hard to meet my needs and expectations. He is also extraordinary at building healthy sub relationships.”

Praniuk’s approach to building great relationships with the trade partners, or subcontractors, on his construction jobs is simple: “Be a leader your subs want to follow, and treat them like you would like to be treated. We are only as good as our subs are. If they succeed, we succeed.”

At EMJ, we talk a lot about our project teams and how they extend far beyond our own employees to include the owner, designers, engineers, and all of the subcontractors that deliver a piece of the intricate puzzle that results in a building. Praniuk lives this. He manages each partner on the site as he does members of the EMJ team, with respect and as a valuable contributor.

“I get to know the workers as people and try to tap into their potential. 99% of their life is work. They’re sharing it with you on this project. Show them you care,” said Praniuk. “My goal is for them to take ownership and pride in the project, just like me. It’s much more than a task to be completed that day.”

Pictured are Director of Construction Gabe Thompson, EVP Chas Torrence, Nestor Praniuk, Kyle Tippens, Devin Munczenski, and VP of Construction Howard Smith.

 

The team’s hard work and strength of character shone brightly on the site.

The lower school at CCS was phase III of ongoing work the EMJ Construction Special Projects team is completing for the school. Praniuk and his team are now constructing an outdoor pavilion on the campus.

“The most rewarding part of our team’s work is meeting the client’s expectations and needs and creating great impact on the life of subs and our clients,” said Praniuk. “It’s more than a project. It’s personal.”

Nestor Praniuk joined the EMJ team in 2015. He has more than 18 years of construction experience, working at all levels from trade partner to site supervision. Earlier this year, he was honored with the Edgar M. Jolley Award for Outstanding Performance.

 

Related stories:

Sen. Corker visits Chattanooga Christian School expansion

EMJ celebrates 23-year partnership with Walmart

Last week, EMJ celebrated the grand opening of its 30th Walmart store, marking an important milestone in our 23-year partnership with the retailer.

The 200,000-square-foot store in El Paso, Texas, is a new prototype with a larger footprint and grocery home pick-up center.

“I am extremely proud of the project team,” said George Heath, Vice President – Retail, EMJ Construction Dallas. “They demonstrated selflessness, trustworthiness and grit and did an excellent job of executing this project and continuing our long tradition of success with the Walmart program.”

The EMJ, Walmart relationship began in 1995, but picked up steam in 2010 when the retailer ramped up their new store construction program. EMJ pursued their work throughout the West Coast and Texas markets and developed a programmatic team to handle the growth.

“We constantly trained new team members, created a rigid compliance and stormwater program to respond to the increasing demands of the Walmart Realty Department,” said Heath. “Our predictable execution yielded six negotiated projects and over $250 million of work in the past eight years.”

This partnership is what EMJ refers to as programmatic work—performing multiple projects for one client of similar scope and size. This type of relationship enables our team to develop a highly tailored, efficient construction process for the client that supports long-term consistency, accountability and trust.

We are thankful for our strong relationship with Walmart and for the many trade partners who support us in our work. We look forward to many more years of partnership.

Congrats to the Walmart El Paso team:

Conner Kamps, Preconstruction Manager
Cody Shulze, Project Manager
Andrew Lackey, Project Engineer
Aaron Scott, Level II Superintendent
Denver Moody, Superintendent
Ashley Turner, Operations Accountant I
Suzanna Trent, Administrative Assistant

Related story:

El Paso Times: New 24-hour West El Paso Walmart to open Wednesday, offer online grocery pickup

 

Why we ask our employees funny questions

At EMJ, we talk a lot about our purpose, to be people serving people, and delivering exceptional construction experiences to our clients. We know we can’t do that without fully engaged employees who are enthusiastic about and committed to their work.

To make sure we’re developing our employees, we partnered with Gallup, a performance-management consulting firm. Through Gallup, we conduct a regular Annual Employee Engagement Survey, which both engages EMJ employees through feedback and analyzes present engagement through a simple, 12-question survey.

“We partner with Gallup because its surveys are backed by decades of research that prove those 12 questions have direct impact on business outcomes,” said Nicole Gaiser, Vice President of People, EMJ. “The survey allows managers and employees to focus on workplace elements they can directly impact and improve, and that help us deliver our strategic plan.”

One of the questions that Gallup asks our people is, “Do you have a best friend at work?” That can seem like a funny question, and we’ve had some lively discussion about it. But, this article from Quartz at Work, Parents need best friends at work the most, puts it in context. Here are a couple of our favorite excerpts:

“Best friends have an impact on employee engagement that no other kind of friend does.

“Managers can help navigate work issues. Spouses can help think through family stuff. But only a best friend at work can do both, with an abiding concern for the person struggling to sort it all out.

“So to spur genuine friendships, concentrate on engagement. Do it for your company—engaged workers are much more productive and profitable. Do it to meet your own goals—people with best friends at work are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work, and get hurt on the job less often. And, maybe, do it for your own social well-being. After all, the best friend relationship you spark may be your own.”

We spend time talking to our employees and asking them funny questions because the answers provide insight into our culture that directly correlates to client experience, productivity and profitability. All of which allows us to deliver unique value to our clients, partners and colleagues.

Click here to learn more about how all of this translates into a great Client Experience. Or, visit our Open Positions page to explore a career at EMJ and how to be a part of our team.

Improving the client experience during school renovation

Students at Graysville Elementary School will return to school next week to an active construction site. Work began in 2017 on the multi-phase school renovation and expansion and will continue through the 2018-2019 school year.

Renovations to the cafeteria, gymnasium and various other areas are complete and will welcome students next week. The renovated section connects the original school to a large, two-story addition that is well underway and expected to open in early 2019. After teachers and students move to the new space, additional demo and renovation will then be completed on the older portions of the facility.

Renovation to active, open facilities requires precision planning and execution to maximize efficiency and minimize disruption to the location. The EMJ team and its trade partners have taken large measures to remove pain points and ensure the safety of the teachers and administrators as they prepare for the school year.

In an effort to engage the teachers and students in the construction process and make the active construction site an exciting part of the new school year, EMJ Project Manager Adam Graves developed a plan to make the experience more enjoyable.

Graves and the EMJ team arranged balloons, brought a cake, requested site signage tailored to the students, and provided the staff with custom hard hats to wear as they were given a private tour by EMJ’s team to answer questions and offer a glimpse of what the updated school and classrooms will look like.


Graysville Principal Kerry Sholl addresses the group.

 

A possible inconvenience for the client was quickly transformed into a fun and enlightening experience thanks to the dedication of Graves and the EMJ team. This commitment to creating an exceptional client experience is the epitome of EMJ’s purpose—to be people serving people.

Congrats to the Graysville Elementary team on a job well done:

Adam Graves, Project Manager
James Williams, Director of Construction
Brad Folsom, Senior Preconstruction Manager
Kevin Fix, Project Engineer
Shane Hurley, Lead Superintendent
Chase Hirth, Level II Superintendent
Neil Forell, Level II Superintendent
Jake Mammen, Project Accountant
Melinda Ogle, Staff Accountant
Tina Brogdon, Senior Administrative Assistant

Keep up the great work!

Check back for future updates on the progress at Graysville Elementary.