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.
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.”
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.
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.
Employees from the EMJ Construction Dallas office spent the afternoon serving at the North Texas Food Bank, a Dallas nonprofit hunger relief organization that distributes donated, purchased and prepared foods. The food bank supports the nutritional needs of children, families and seniors through education, advocacy and strategic partnerships, providing access to more than 200,000 meals each day for hungry children, seniors and families across a 13-county service area.
The Dallas team rolled up their sleeves and dedicated their time there to packing boxes for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which works to improve the health of low-income persons at least 60 years of age by supplementing their diets with nutritious USDA Foods. By the end of the shift, the team filled nine pallets with 432 boxes that will provide 11,050 meals.
“I am grateful to work at a place like EMJ that truly values service and encourages us to spend time giving back to our community. It was both refreshing and energizing to get to serve alongside my fellow employees, knowing that we were making a positive impact on so many people in our community,” said Jacob Wadlington, Vice President of Business Development, EMJ Construction Dallas.
This is the third consecutive year that EMJ has partnered with the North Texas Food Bank in the ongoing pursuit of closing the gap on hunger in North Texas, allowing our employees to live out EMJ’s purpose to be people serving people. Visit North Texas Food Bank’s website to learn more about the organization and the work they are doing.
Angela Lee Duckworth spent over a decade investigating this query among various groups, from West Point cadets to middle school spelling bee champions, and she discovered the common thread between high-achievers is their grit.
“Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals, and working really hard to make that future a reality,” Duckworth says.
In her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Duckworth recounts how various studies and interviews with successful people led her to three components of gritty people: having a purpose in life, being willing to work hard for it, and having resilience when faced with setbacks.
Grit, one of EMJ’s core values and a defining trait in founder Edgar M. Jolley, is a large reason the corporation is celebrating 50 years of service this year.
Jim Self, former Superintendent and Vice President of Construction at EMJ, who worked closely with Jolley, said, “When we started a project, we knew when we had to finish it…and we did whatever it took to accomplish that.”1
Empowered by our purpose to be “people serving people,” the emphasis on working hard to meet commitments remains at EMJ and continues to help our team build strong relationships with clients and partners across the U.S.
“Whether it’s analyzing drawings to identify cost savings for a client or staying up all night to oversee a concrete pour, I see our people going above and beyond every day to serve our clients,” says Doug Martin, President of EMJ Construction.
We recognize and celebrate wins, but we also embrace a culture of growth and persevering through challenges. We promote transparency about issues and lessons learned on projects, improving quality and efficiency on current projects throughout the family of companies.
“I could tell you a story about my first year in construction 36 years ago, when I was working as a project engineer and made such a huge mistake, I should’ve been fired,” says Burt Odom, President and CEO of EMJ Corporation. “Fortunately, my manager gave me grace. I learned from my error and corrected course. I tell that story to new employees as a lesson to never give up…and don’t forget to double-check your spec book.”
Success isn’t about being the smartest or most talented person in the room. Further, grit empowers anyone with drive to be successful, as long as they are willing to work for it and persevere through difficult circumstances.
Tom Rue, Blake Kaylor and Tom Zylstra of EMJ Construction Special Projects are living examples of EMJ’s values as exhibited through their work at the start of the Brookhaven Village project earlier this year.
Brookhaven Village, a retail project in Addison, Texas, required demolition of five buildings prior to construction of the new development. One of these buildings was a daycare with approximately $50,000 worth of playground equipment. Rue, Superintendent on the project, spoke with Kaylor, Senior Project Manager, and Zylstra, Project Engineer, about opportunities for the equipment.
“My first thought was, ‘We need to find someone who can use this,’” said Rue. “I was not going to let something that could bring great joy be demolished in a landfill—if I could help it.”
Seeing an opportunity to serve, the team made it their mission to find a new home for the equipment. Rue called more than a dozen Addison churches before finally speaking with a local pastor, who gratefully volunteered his congregation to move the playground and reinstall it on their church grounds. By the end of the week, the playground equipment had been moved to its new home—saving the client time and money and providing great value to the church.
The team also reached out to the local police department and offered the soon-to-be demolished structures up for training. The Addison SWAT and Special Tactical Unit took him up on the offer.
Rue, Kaylor and Zylstra worked together to coordinate the demo schedule, allowing the SWAT team to use the facility for tactical training. The team used the facility to train on everything from blowing up doors with explosive charges to hostage negotiations.
“At EMJ, we promote core values of grit, trustworthiness and selflessness, and this team is a testament to these principles, serving not only the client, but going above and beyond for the residents of Addison,” said Doug Martin, President of EMJ Construction.
Sometimes, the project at hand is just the beginning. Thank you, Tom, Blake and Tom, for your selflessness on this project and for representing all that EMJ stands for!
Photo by Big Brother Big Sisters of Greater Chattanooga
For as long as anyone can remember, EMJ’s Chattanooga office has partnered with its local Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter. EMJ Founder Ed Jolley was passionate about the cause, and today, we continue the partnership through an annual fundraiser and bowling event.
This year, EMJ’s Chattanooga office raised $46,895 for the local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters through Bowl for Kids’ sake.
Bowl for Kids’ Sake is Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Chattanooga’s largest annual fundraiser and has been ongoing for nearly 30 years. All funds raised through this event go directly toward volunteer recruitment, matching of mentors and youth, and big/little support.
The Chattanooga office divided into eight fundraising teams led by team captains, Joey Barbeauld, Billy Kile, Jacob Mammen, Michelle Parker, Kurt Teasley, Joe Welch, Jonathon Woolsey, and Joe Woolums.
Team 5, led by Senior Project Manager Joey Barbeauld, raised the largest amount at a whopping $19,240. Steve Totzke, Project Manager, was our top individual fundraiser for the entire competition, raising $15,000 for the cause.
“I could not have done it without the generous support of many of the subcontractors we’ve built relationships with over the past year, specifically on our Lidl stores,” said Totzke. “I am grateful that they were so willing to join in for this worthy cause.”
Bowling teams from local companies, community supporters and friends all rolled in to Spare Time Hixson to compete and show their team spirit. Many “Bigs” and “Littles” joined in the fun as well. In all, over 300 bowlers and many sponsors helped make this a record-breaking year, enabling BBBS to support 105 new matches.
“A special thanks to the employees of EMJ Corporation who were instrumental in making the event a huge success,” BBBS officials said.
Way to go, EMJ Chattanooga! You are changing lives in your local community, and thank you for representing the corporation as “people serving people.”
While the EMJ team was instrumental in the success of this fundraiser, we couldn’t have done it without the generous donations from our clients, partners and colleagues. Thank you to the following donors: