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Building Comradery with Steven Winter

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เนื้อหาจัดทำโดย Steven Winter Associates เนื้อหาพอดแคสต์ทั้งหมด รวมถึงตอน กราฟิก และคำอธิบายพอดแคสต์ได้รับการอัปโหลดและจัดเตรียมโดย Steven Winter Associates หรือพันธมิตรแพลตฟอร์มพอดแคสต์โดยตรง หากคุณเชื่อว่ามีบุคคลอื่นใช้งานที่มีลิขสิทธิ์ของคุณโดยไม่ได้รับอนุญาต คุณสามารถปฏิบัติตามขั้นตอนที่อธิบายไว้ที่นี่ https://th.player.fm/legal

Comradery [käm-ˌra-d(ə-)rē] noun 1 A feeling of friendliness, goodwill, and familiarity among the people in a group.

At SWA, comradery is etched into our company principles – friendliness and community have been key parts of SWA’s business since the company was born. At the end of the day, we are all trying to make the world a more sustainable and equitable place. But what is the value in having close working relationships with colleagues, clients, and even competitors?

In this episode, we sit down with Steven Winter (yes, THE Steven Winter), to talk about comradery – both within SWA and the industry as a whole, and how it has helped us remain successful through day-to-day operations, major company transitions, and even a global pandemic.

Episode Guest: Steven Winter, FAIA

Steven Winter

Steven Winter is the founder and chairman of Steven Winter Associates, Inc. He has been at the forefront of the sustainable/green building movement since its inception, helping lead the U.S. Green Building Council organization as Chairman with the launch of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) program and Greenbuild. Steven is still a current Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, where he serves on the sustainable buildings steering industry.

Upcoming Events and Conferences

BuildingEnergy Boston

Online, May 5-7

The BuildingEnergy Boston Conference is an event designed by and for practitioners in the fields of high-performance building and design, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. This year’s virtual format will feature a variety of education sessions and opportunities to earn CEUs. Click here to learn more or to register.

Dylan Martello, Nicole Ceci, Lois Arena, and Lauren Hildebrand from SWA will all be presenting at this year’s virtual conference! Click here to see their session details and schedule.


We Want to Hear From You!

Send your feedback and questions to podcast@swinter.com


About Buildings and Beyond

Buildings and Beyond is a production of Steven Winter Associates. We provide energy, green building, and accessibility consulting services to improve the built environment. For more information, visit www.swinter.com.

Hosts

Robb Aldrich | Kelly Westby

Production Team

Heather Breslin | Alex Mirabile | Dylan Martello | Jayd Alvarez

Episode Transcript

Kelly (00:06):

Welcome to buildings and beyond,

Robb (00:09):

the podcast that explores how we can create a more sustainable built environment,

Kelly (00:13):

by focusing on efficiency, accessibility, and health.

Robb (00:18):

I’m Robb Aldrich,

Kelly (00:19):

and I’m Kelly Westby.

Robb (00:22):

In this episode, I talked with Steven Winter, the one and only. We’ve been talking about having Steven on for quite a while, and we asked him if there was a topic that he really wanted to talk about. He started our company, Steven winter associates, back in 1972. He’s been at this quite awhile. He’s seen a lot of trends and fads in the building industry, and he’s a pretty good prognosticator, but he didn’t want to talk about any of that. He wanted to talk about people, about comradery and community in the workplace. So this episode is pretty different than others we’ve done before. Before we get into it, here’s a quick announcement from Dylan about NESEA’s upcoming building energy conference.

Dylan (01:08):

Hello everyone. This is Dylan Martello, co-producer of buildings and beyond, and a passive house consultant here at Steven winter associates. I just wanted to let you all know about my upcoming session on May 7th at the Building Energy Boston conference. I will be speaking with my colleague, Nicole Ceci about de-carbonizing domestic water heating in multifamily buildings. You can also catch some other great presentations from industry experts, including sessions by Lois Arena and Lauren Hildebrand of SWA. The conference, which is happening virtually from May 5th to may 7th, is presented by the Northeast sustainable energy association, or NESEA. NESEA has become a staple for professionals and practitioners in the fields of high-performance building, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Visit NESEA.org. That’s N E S E A.org, for more info. We hope to see you there.

Robb (02:02):

There’s no question that COVID inspired Steven’s choice of a topic for this episode.

Steven (02:08):

It totally is because of COVID.

Robb (02:11):

Throughout our conversations, Steven refers a few times to our company principles. A few years ago because the company has kept growing steadily, It was determined that it would behoove us to formalize principles that guide our work and guide our company. I’ll mention them very briefly here: be visionary, take ownership, think holistically, improve the built environment, and last but not least –

Steven (02:41):

Foster comradery, or camaraderie – engage with one another to build community. And, and this, this is an important part of our foundation and it’s something we have been practicing, but it’s nebulous thing that’s out there, that lives out there. And I thought it was, it might be something worth spending a few minutes talking about.

Robb (03:10):

Has that been really part of your thinking going way back? I mean, starting the company, building the company, just good relationships with colleagues?

Steven (03:21):

It’s always been that way. We’ve always been from day one. I, and the staff, which were just one or two to start with and then grew over time, we’ve always been friends in addition to being colleagues.

Robb (03:38):

So does it happen automatically? I mean, over the years, how much thought do you give when you’re hiring, when you’re recruiting? Do you pick people based on, you know, I think I’d really like this person, like to work with this person, like to hang out with this person, can you pick people? Is that something that you can judge when you’re, when you’re hiring, when you’re building a team?

Steven (04:05):

Well current HR policy may not agree with this, but, but the simplest answer is yes. Part of the evaluation of an individual, when I was hiring people, I was doing the interviewing, did include an element of their character that was based on how likable they are. I liked you when we were interviewing, and it seems to me that if I found you likable, clients would find you likable. And, and in my experience, companies, potential clients, they don’t hire us only for the technical capabilities that we have, they hire us as people, they hire us because of the people we are and who we are as individuals and characters.

Robb (05:07):

And how about clients? I mean, we’ve all worked with all kinds of clients over the years. Some you love to work with, some you dread just making a simple phone call. It’s like, Oh my God, I got to talk to this person again. Do you pick clients based on good working relationships?

Steven (05:26):

There’s no question about it. Not only the one-on-one business relationship, where we’re undertaking contractual work, but also business relationships at trade shows and conferences. There’s the socializing aspect of those gatherings leads to closer and closer ties and relationships with those individuals even with competitors.

Robb (05:59):

Yeah I had a hard time getting excited for virtual conferences, and I think, you know, some of this is your influence. When I started working for you, I’d go to conferences. And I just go to all the sessions. If there was a session happening, I was sitting in the seat watching, you know, listening to whoever is talking. Now I might go to one or two sessions, and I’m on the trade show. And you know, I’m talking to, I’m talking to vendors, I’m talking to people, I’m talking to colleagues, I’m talking to competitors, like you say. And that, to me, I think you’ve taught me is the, that’s the value, not only do you develop business relationships and generate business, but that’s how I learn. I learned way more, just talking to people on the trade show, trade show floor, then sitting in a seat in a session.

Steven (06:50):

The NESEA conferences that we went to for, you know, decades, is a case in point. You and I were both at those things and look at the relationships that have come out of that. We’ve hired people as a result of those relationships. We’ve gotten our CEO. And you couldn’t do that virtually, but there’s an element of comradery that resulted in those hirings and in those businesses won and lost. It does stem in some measurable part to the fact that we are comrades with those people that we mix with.

Robb (07:37):

One of the other things that I was chewing on was that so many people that work at SWA are almost uniformly pretty passionate about buildings, about certain aspects of buildings, good buildings, resilient, accessible, healthy, et cetera. I think that contributes to the community, to the comradery, do you agree? And even if you don’t agree, how do you find people? How do you attract people that really are interested? And I would say passionate, a lot of us are pretty passionate about our work.

Steven (08:18):

So, okay. A lot of people out there in the world are passionate about their work. In our shop, they’re also passionate about, about their work. That’s cool. That’s good. They’re passionate about the work, but comradery means going one step further, that they are collaborating in their passion, that they are like holding hands, intellectually, in pursuing their passion. And at the same time, they are being friendly to each other, supportive to each other, planning things with each other, that are social as well as business oriented. So it’s passion plus. Passion for the work, plus a feeling of collegiality or friendliness towards one another. That’s the camaraderie part.

Robb (09:14):

But I don’t think they go together to a certain degree?

Steven (09:19):

Well, well, maybe in our shop, I hope that happens, but you can have a dysfunctional company where individuals hate their job and they’re not passionate about their profession, but they have fun together. Right. They have camaraderie.

Robb (09:39):

Well, maybe they have comradery after work, but not during work.

Steven (09:43):

Oh, maybe not, but okay. Let’s agree to disagree. I, I don’t think that necessarily passion for a professional pursuit necessarily equates to comradery with each other. You know, we can talk about that. Like the three of us have been out socially, we’ve been at events where it’s a birthday party for someone in the office or we have empathy for each other when bad things happen and support for each other. But that has, doesn’t tie into the fact that you and you and I passionate about the work that we do. It’s sorta maybe kind of relates, but it’s not a one-to-one relationship.

Robb (10:45):

Okay. That’s interesting. When I started, I was, and I remain just really so appreciative of just amazing expertise that we have at Steven winter associates, you know, technical expertise, people know about buildings. It’s, it’s phenomenal. And it used to be, if I ever wanted to know before, before COVID, when I could walk down the hall and ask people, if I had a question about buildings, I’d walk down the hall and ask somebody about it. You know, I wouldn’t Google it. I’d walk down the hall and ask somebody about whatever I was interested in. And, and I, it occurs to me it’s certainly, you know, shared interests, shared passions certainly doesn’t equate to comradery, for sure. I mean, you can have people that are in the same field that absolutely despise each other, we’ve all read, you know Tesla Edison kind of thing, or, you know, something extreme like that. But like, like an example, like I’ve asked so many people when I’m doing home improvements to my own home I’ll ask experts in our shop about installation details or things like that. And not only do we have like, leaders in the field, but people that are just genuinely happy to help, just friendly and happy to help, it seems like it, it seems like it, it goes together.

Steven (12:20):

Yeah. The happy to help part, as I say, it fits into the comradery part. But just remember the definition that I’m, I’m trying to come back to is that comradery is a feeling of friendliness, Goodwill, and familiarity among people in a group that doesn’t mean like top of their profession. It doesn’t mean really smart. It means, you know, friendly, you know, comrades.

Robb (12:54):

Buddies. I get it. All right. It’s interesting. I was thinking that shared interests and passions can lead to increased comradery, but it sounds like you, you don’t see that bigger connection.

Steven (13:10):

I, you know, we can go back to the framers of the constitution. I was not there when the August group met to determine what our company principles should be, but they came up with fostering camaraderie and, and how they built on that, how they determined, what that would be is, is something I’m not privy to, that the wording they came up with was engage with one another to build community. And our community is our company. And, and I, I guess, but the, but the excellence, the, the, the shared excellence doesn’t sort of equate, I don’t think.

Robb (13:56):

Okay. Interesting. Okay.

Steven (13:59):

Can I, can I share with you some examples?

Robb (14:02):

Yeah, absolutely. Please.

Steven (14:04):

We used to have company picnics. We still have company picnics when we were small enough to fit every employee and his, or her family into one yard. And that was, that was on a Saturday. It was not on company time. No one got paid to be there. And, and they, they did it willingly. They, they went willingly and they, they shared good times. And they that was comradeship. That was, that was that was camaraderie. They go to each other’s weddings. They go camping and climbing and kayaking with each other. They take vacation trips together and we have the occasional union amongst consenting couples here. And that’s, that’s the that’s that familial, familial family type support, and, and reinforcement of each other at the personal level. Within the context of being members of the same company. And I have to tell you what it does do, it results in trust of each other. It, it it means that people will go the extra mile for each other. It, it means that they, they become lifelong friends. We have more alumni friends than we do staff by a factor of 20 or 30. Because those relationships that have been built are ongoing, that they’ve been established and built, and they’re ongoing.

Robb (15:54):

So is it, I mean, in your view, is this element of comradery? I mean, the examples you gave were kind of extracurricular. But not, not during work, not during, not nine to five.

Steven (16:10):

So those were examples that were, that were extracurricular. It’s true. In the nine to five context, there’s not that much time available for comradery to take place.

Robb (16:28):

I disagree with that. Well, I mean, just, just this just great working relationships. I mean, just if you have, if you build trust and you have great relationships, and I think shared interests and passions can be a strong element in, in some relationships, you know, working together to, to meet a deadline, to get a proposal out, to bring the pieces of a project together. There are so many times where I’ve worked so closely with, with folks at SWA to, to put the pieces of projects together in a, in a really concerted focused manner that, that it doesn’t always work seamlessly, but, they want to see it. They want to make it happen. they’re not just putting in, you know, putting in the hours, we have really kind of committed people. And I think part of that is part of that is being professional and doing what they are getting paid for. But part of it is just supporting each other supporting coworkers.

Steven (17:45):

I, I agree that that is camaraderie that, that counts as camaraderie I don’t think that the, the excellence, however, does tie-in. I mean, anyway, look, we’re, we’re counting gnats on the back of an elephant here.

Robb (18:04):

Yeah. Yeah. So, all right, so this, this will be a stretch, but one thing that I wanted to bring up, and one of the other other podcasts team folks brought up was, was I think maybe even during my interview with you quite a while ago, you told me, you know, you give people plenty of rope. If they’re interested in something, if they have a passion to do projects, you know, you give them the bandwidth to go out, get clients, get projects, do the work, plenty of leeway to, to pursue, to pursue interests, to pursue passions based on what you just said. I think you think that’s pretty distinct from an element of comradery, but, but I was thinking about it, like with this podcast, you know, when, when we, I had been chewing about putting together a podcast for a year or two, and there was just something in the back of my head, I listened to quite a few podcasts. And I know we have some fantastic folks here that could talk very intelligently about some pretty important topics. So I remember, I think it was, we after playing volleyball, we have a company volleyball team, or we had before COVID and we were grabbing a beer after a volleyball game and Heather Breslin and Dylan Martello. And I, I don’t know who said it, but it turns out we, all of us and Alex may even have been there. It’s like, we should, we should do a podcast. And the other one’s like, yes, I’ve been thinking the same thing for two or three years. And so this is, I mean, this is an idea that maybe came out of, came out of comradeship. And that’s something that is still going. And that was, you know, we were given the leeway to pursue these interests as a team working together. I, I think, and who knows, who knows what’ll happen to it in the future, but, but it seems, I don’t know, they, they don’t seem distinct to me. There’s it seems like there’s a lot of, a lot of overlap, at least.

Steven (20:17):

All right. I, I’m not gonna disagree with you. Even though I do it’s it’s the, the part that I wanted to focus on in these discussions was the, the part that was not necessarily a passion for the work at the achieving of excellence in the work it was the fact that, that the individuals support each other and nourish each other so that they can continue their professional lives. It’s a subtle difference, I guess, you know if we weren’t friends, the company wouldn’t survive as well as it has. If we, if we weren’t comrades, we wouldn’t get work done as well as we do.

Robb (21:17):

Can you give some examples of when comradeship enabled better work projects, getting done better buildings, bringing work in?

Steven (21:33):

Well, let’s talk about the actual evolution of the company ownership. You know, the company has gone through an ownership transition, and, and I’m gonna suggest a few things, but the essence is that the ownership transition that has taken place and is continuing to take place would not be possible with, without the level of comradery that we have in the company, because without individuals who trust each other and collaborate with each other and support each other, you can’t have the shared ownership and transition of ownership in a company from the get-go. There was trust in the establishment of the shareholders agreement. There was trust in the individuals determining that they wanted to become shareholders and co-share holders with their colleagues. And there’s continuing trust as the ownership. And the leadership has, has changed, has been transferred. Without people supporting each other, trusting each other, collaborating with each other, the transition that is now in place could not have happened. And without it would not have succeeded. Look around at our competitors and like-minded companies, so many of them have failed during transition. So many of them have not been able to carry out a transition and partly it’s because the individuals did not trust or they were not buddies with each other.

Robb (23:34):

So how about, I mean, so as far as the longevity, corporate longevity, point taken for companies of kind of our size and type. What about comradery itself among other companies? Is that something you have any idea of? I mean, it’s, it’s really hard to gauge from outside the company.

Steven (24:01):

Well, we’ve hired people from Aaron Cranson’s office. We know that people from many the companies that we either teamed with or competed with or whatever, and, and it was clear just in informal discussions that there, it just wasn’t there to the extent, extent that we had it.

Robb (24:22):

So you’ve, you’ve gotten that feedback. We hire people that used to be somewhere, and they say, I like the people here better than where I was.

Steven (24:34):

Take a poll around our existing staff. You’ll hear it all over again.

Robb (24:38):

Interesting. Interesting. So do you have a feeling for how that relates to like longevity and turnover? I mean, certainly I’ve been here again 21 years. I haven’t switched jobs in awhile but certainly people have come and gone while I’ve been here, but there’s a lot of people that have been here for quite a while. And I don’t have an idea of how that compares to other, other firms to other companies. Do you, do you have a sense?

Steven (25:10):

And our HR guru Roisin has looked into it. And apparently our retention rate is not much different than other firms. And it seems that in the early years of their careers, individuals don’t really want to stay for a long, long time at any one company necessarily, they would like to explore what else is out there? What am I missing? And, so when people have been here within the first say five years since after graduating school, a lot of them leave just to explore what’s out there, some come back, but most of the departures have been for individuals, either wanting to go to a different part of the country or wanting to explore different types of businesses or different types of professions. Once people have been here a significant period of time, let’s say 10 to 15 years, then they’re more likely to, to be like long long-term. I don’t want to use the word lifers.

Robb (26:26):

I’ve heard it. I’ve heard it used. So, so is that so when you say 10 to 15 years, do you mean, do you meanthey’re kind of 10 to 15 years into their career or like 10 to 15 years after graduation?

Steven (26:42):

And they join or stay for that long or join after that period of time, they tend to say, okay, you know, I found my place in life. This is good. And, and when they do find that place in life, they tend to contribute more. They building they’re like long-term nest.

Robb (27:04):

Yeah. Yeah. I certainly had quite a few jobs in different fields before I started here. But yeah, not everybody there there’s people that have been here 15 years, who this is their first job out of college.

Steven (27:19):

Yeah. Our CEO for one.

Robb (27:23):

Exactly. He’s he gets mentioned a couple of times. So switching gears a little bit, where we have been doing some work, we’ve been focusing more on DEI, diversity, equity and inclusion inclusiveness. And thinking about this is, is pretty new to me. I think it’s probably pretty new to a lot of us. I think about thermodynamics all day, I don’t think about building community so much. But the focus on deliberately being inclusive and welcoming of everybody into the community, into the workplace community, into camaraderie. We’ve talked a little bit earlier about, you know, when you’re interviewing, you try to gauge whether you’d enjoy working with people. But you don’t interview everybody. And, you know not everybody certainly makes the judgment calls like that, or doesn’t do it correctly. How do you foster comradery when people, you know, when people are here, people you’re meeting for the first time, who you may or may not have interviewed, do you have examples of where SWA folks really were kind of deliberately welcoming and effective in new ways, in different ways? Have you done anything along these lines?

Steven (28:59):

No, I have not Robb, but, you know, ever since we’ve gone through the eye-opening experiences of DEI awareness and Keisha, the consultant, has been very helpful in making us be aware and be informed, as a result of that, people have, have become more aware of the differences that different people have in terms of everything, religion, race, background, origin, age, everything, and open their arms to getting to know them much better. So it’s being aware of other people’s station in life and being accepting of this station in life, leads to a stronger cohesive friendliness that, that maybe was not quite as strong before.

Robb (30:08):

Yeah. It’s always a work in progress, I guess, but, but it’s, it’s really interesting to me. I mean, it’s a whole new way of thinking and I’m still working on it, for sure. So before COVID, I mean, we, we are, we’re a firm with three different, well, four offices with a fledgling Boston office. And you know, several business groups, eight different groups with different admin groups before COVID. How do you think we did as far as kind of bridging offices, bridging geography, bridging groups, so that company-wide, there was a sense of community and camaraderie rather than within the, you know, the dozen people who you work directly with day to day,

Steven (31:03):

It was always difficult. And, and those ones who were more remote bore the brunt of it more than others, like Washington always felt like it was a stepchild. Not that not that people forgot about Washington, but there were too many things going on in New York and Connecticut that often Washington was the last thing to be addressed. And, and we did all sorts of things to try to fix it. We tried infusing camaraderie. We had an office meeting that everyone came to, including a social event at the end of the office meeting that people came to. And those parties went on for, for many, many hours. And it was a clear indication that people loved and, and craved that kind of contact.

Robb (31:58):

Other than kind of, I think twice a year, we used to get, you know, we used to get together twice a year.

Steven (32:05):

Right. And that’s all we could do. Everything else was try to visit when you can try to talk when you can try to engage in collaboration, across the telephone or the computer as often as you can. Yeah. But that’s the way it happens with multi offices.

Robb (32:26):

Yeah. I, I found that, and this is something that I could do more of just, you know, trying to organize webinars or just meetings, or just chat sessions to discuss a topic. And it’s interesting now with COVID, everybody’s remote nobody’s with anybody. For, for the large part. I actually go to the office once or twice a week, but, you know, in some ways, you know, I see people on video meetings, I see people from DC more often than I used to because we’re doing visit video meetings so often, which is good. I guess it’s good. I guess it’s makes me a little ashamed that I didn’t do so much before, but, that’s another question. I mean, after COVID, what do you see happening after COVID? Have we learned ways to do this better to bridge divides in our departments or our office locations? Because, you know, personally, I think nothing’s, nothing’s as good as a face-to-face meeting. I go to the office once or twice a week here. We’re talking in the early spring of 2021. Things still are certainly not wide open yet. We’ll see what happens. But, you know, I go into the office a couple times a week, and even if there’s only a half dozen people at the office, just seeing and talking face to face with those half a dozen people is really nice.

Steven (33:58):

I know it’s contact. Yeah.

Robb (34:01):

And both professionally and, and just personally, you know, I’ll, I’ll walk down the hall and I asked Zoeller a question about insulation, you know, rather than Googling it or looking it up. So I guess, do you think that things will change after COVID? Have we learned ways to tie the community together a little bit more?

Steven (34:27):

So just for example, here we are at 125 people give or take, if in three years or five years, it’s 200, 250 people in four or five offices, get your arms around that, you know, people are not going to see each other very often. I mean, if we were IBM, people would never see each other, you know, what everyone seems to hope is that we’ll be small enough where we can maintain the, the camaraderie, the contact the knowing of each other individually yet still have the, the size and the muscle to be able to be a force in the industry and to offer good careers for all the, all the, all the professionals in the company.

Robb (35:26):

Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s a great point. And I, I thought about that. I thought about this when we were kind of, preparing for this, this conversation, but you is, is a close workplace community. Does it only happen in small companies?

Steven (35:45):

I don’t know the large companies, but I don’t think so. I think the comradery more likely to happen in small companies in big companies. There’s not quite the same amount of loyalty is more concerned about money. You know, individuals wanting to make more money and not necessarily wanting to be everyone’s best friend and, and in a smaller company, the comradery is more likely to be a good breeding ground.

Robb (36:15):

So it sounds like you’re hopeful that the company will grow and that when it grows, it will be able to maintain the community and camaraderie that we have had today. But you don’t know how that’s going to happen. I see why you wanted to talk about this topic, Steven.

Steven (36:39):

No, I I’m there to provide moral support and the gray hair and the, and the sense of history, but the dynamics of it has to come from the individuals themselves. We can take that horse to water, but we can’t make it drink.

Robb (37:01):

One more quick question post COVID, you know, people everybody’s been working remotely, a lot of people may want to continue to working remotely. Do you have thoughts on that, on what that will do?

Steven (37:13):

Well, that that’s, that’s gonna make the social part of it more, more difficult, because there’s less opportunity to have a lunch or after dinner social hour. But I, I think people are social animals and they want to get to know they colleagues better. And there’s been such, such great results from the comradery that has taken place, all the different forms of socializing that I, I don’t see how it won’t continue. It’ll be more and more disparate groups, but definitely more groups. And, and you know, it’s part of our principal. And so it’ll be up to management to make sure that it’s enforced.

Robb (38:04):

So that leads me into another thought, you know, I appreciate it. I’ve been with the company long enough that I definitely appreciate the comradery. I have very great friends that I’ve worked with for years. I love the company. I love lots of people here. No argument that there has been great comradery at SWA. But as we grow, it seems to be we’re recognizing we’re camaraderie is really important for us, but are we switching into mandating comradery? And that seems like like, Whoa, that’s jarring to me. It’s like, that’s not kind of how it works. So I know in our company print principles, it is foster comradery. It’s not mandate comraderies. Right. But, but I could still see it kinda rubbing people the wrong way a little bit. You will be friendly. You will be friends with your colleagues. It’s kinda creepy.

Steven (39:17):

I agree with you if it’s forced or if there’s this, this fake friendliness, then, then that could turn around and bite us. But, but I think it requires probably from the more senior people than the, the junior people. It requires going a little bit more out of our way to, to be fair. For example, every new hire, the day they’re hired, I send them a personal note thanking them for joining the company, wishing them luck and looking forward to talking, spending time with them is also a policy that, that manages is supposed to have lunch with you and junior employees on some sort of a frequency basis. And so that was, those are not forced. That’s not forced labor, it’s just paying attention and, and reaching out, reaching out some of the group managers have, have taken conducted boat tours and picnics and events. That’s not, it’s not that they didn’t want to do it. It’s a fun thing. And they do it and, and gladly, and it’s those kinds of reaching out, potluck lunches, the baking contest, which you win every year. They’re all, they’re all small pieces of the, of that puzzle of, of, of of reaching out to try to accomplish comradery.

Robb (40:56):

All right. Fostering it, foster if you will. Yeah. Yeah.

Steven (41:00):

Is that a fosters that you’re drinking?

Robb (41:02):

No, this is a Bissell Brothers Luxe. One of my favorite beers. Absolutely delicious. We’ll see if that makes the cut in the find the podcast podcast audio. Well, this has been great, Steven. And I, I had I had a list of topics and questions and I, you know, you inspired several others. I think I’ve gotten through all my, do you have any, any other thoughts on this?

Steven (41:35):

No. I was gonna maybe touch on some of the cross team collaboration that’s taken place, but you actually did touch on that. The cross selling, the multi-team assignments and that, that collaboration where these days, and I see all the proposals that go out, I see the list of them as they go out. I don’t read the proposals, but I see who writes them and, and the amount of money. And so on. More and more of those proposals have, have included sections from multiple teams, five or six teams, each contributing to a part of that proposal. And that, that addresses the sort of going for greatness, professional aspect of it. But there’s got to be a lot of teamwork and friendship in order to get those proposals to be to be kind of in sync with each other and, and to blend with each other. And that’s, that’s a, that’s a massive accomplishment by, by the teams.

Robb (42:44):

That is really encouraging. Yeah. And as you say, that’s more professional and business than personal feelings, but this brings us back to where we were a while ago. I think they go together. I think people, people sharing passion and interests can reinforce relationships and camaraderie. Certainly not always.

Steven (43:11):

All right. I agree. I give up.

Robb (43:16):

Cool. Excellent. Thank you very much. Thank you to Steven. He mentioned a baking contest that I win every year. That’s overstated. I only win cookie contests, and we haven’t even had them every year. We’ve only had a few. I have won all of them, but you know, it hasn’t been every year. Maureen is the one to beat on the pie front. And yes, this was a happy hour conversation, we were enjoying a beer during this conversation. Do we always drink during these podcasts? No, no one, no one can prove that. Buildings and beyond is produced by Steven winter associates. Our website is swinter.com, S W I N T E r.com. Check out swinter.com/podcast. That’s where you can find all the episodes and show notes and check out our careers page. If you are looking for opportunities, we are definitely looking for help. I just looked at our careers page and counted 15 positions, all, certainly most, if not, all of our groups are looking for people at this point. Thank you, Steven. It was a really good conversation. COVID has probably made everyone think about relationships a little bit. I have always appreciated my coworkers here at SWA. Fantastic and brilliant people. I’m pretty lucky to be here, but COVID, and, and also this conversation has, has made me appreciate folks even more so, thanks to all of my colleagues and a big thanks to the podcast team here, Alex, Mirabile, Heather Breslin, Jayd Alvarez, Kelly Westby, Dylan Martello, and I’m Robb aldrige. Thank you again.

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Comradery [käm-ˌra-d(ə-)rē] noun 1 A feeling of friendliness, goodwill, and familiarity among the people in a group.

At SWA, comradery is etched into our company principles – friendliness and community have been key parts of SWA’s business since the company was born. At the end of the day, we are all trying to make the world a more sustainable and equitable place. But what is the value in having close working relationships with colleagues, clients, and even competitors?

In this episode, we sit down with Steven Winter (yes, THE Steven Winter), to talk about comradery – both within SWA and the industry as a whole, and how it has helped us remain successful through day-to-day operations, major company transitions, and even a global pandemic.

Episode Guest: Steven Winter, FAIA

Steven Winter

Steven Winter is the founder and chairman of Steven Winter Associates, Inc. He has been at the forefront of the sustainable/green building movement since its inception, helping lead the U.S. Green Building Council organization as Chairman with the launch of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) program and Greenbuild. Steven is still a current Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, where he serves on the sustainable buildings steering industry.

Upcoming Events and Conferences

BuildingEnergy Boston

Online, May 5-7

The BuildingEnergy Boston Conference is an event designed by and for practitioners in the fields of high-performance building and design, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. This year’s virtual format will feature a variety of education sessions and opportunities to earn CEUs. Click here to learn more or to register.

Dylan Martello, Nicole Ceci, Lois Arena, and Lauren Hildebrand from SWA will all be presenting at this year’s virtual conference! Click here to see their session details and schedule.


We Want to Hear From You!

Send your feedback and questions to podcast@swinter.com


About Buildings and Beyond

Buildings and Beyond is a production of Steven Winter Associates. We provide energy, green building, and accessibility consulting services to improve the built environment. For more information, visit www.swinter.com.

Hosts

Robb Aldrich | Kelly Westby

Production Team

Heather Breslin | Alex Mirabile | Dylan Martello | Jayd Alvarez

Episode Transcript

Kelly (00:06):

Welcome to buildings and beyond,

Robb (00:09):

the podcast that explores how we can create a more sustainable built environment,

Kelly (00:13):

by focusing on efficiency, accessibility, and health.

Robb (00:18):

I’m Robb Aldrich,

Kelly (00:19):

and I’m Kelly Westby.

Robb (00:22):

In this episode, I talked with Steven Winter, the one and only. We’ve been talking about having Steven on for quite a while, and we asked him if there was a topic that he really wanted to talk about. He started our company, Steven winter associates, back in 1972. He’s been at this quite awhile. He’s seen a lot of trends and fads in the building industry, and he’s a pretty good prognosticator, but he didn’t want to talk about any of that. He wanted to talk about people, about comradery and community in the workplace. So this episode is pretty different than others we’ve done before. Before we get into it, here’s a quick announcement from Dylan about NESEA’s upcoming building energy conference.

Dylan (01:08):

Hello everyone. This is Dylan Martello, co-producer of buildings and beyond, and a passive house consultant here at Steven winter associates. I just wanted to let you all know about my upcoming session on May 7th at the Building Energy Boston conference. I will be speaking with my colleague, Nicole Ceci about de-carbonizing domestic water heating in multifamily buildings. You can also catch some other great presentations from industry experts, including sessions by Lois Arena and Lauren Hildebrand of SWA. The conference, which is happening virtually from May 5th to may 7th, is presented by the Northeast sustainable energy association, or NESEA. NESEA has become a staple for professionals and practitioners in the fields of high-performance building, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Visit NESEA.org. That’s N E S E A.org, for more info. We hope to see you there.

Robb (02:02):

There’s no question that COVID inspired Steven’s choice of a topic for this episode.

Steven (02:08):

It totally is because of COVID.

Robb (02:11):

Throughout our conversations, Steven refers a few times to our company principles. A few years ago because the company has kept growing steadily, It was determined that it would behoove us to formalize principles that guide our work and guide our company. I’ll mention them very briefly here: be visionary, take ownership, think holistically, improve the built environment, and last but not least –

Steven (02:41):

Foster comradery, or camaraderie – engage with one another to build community. And, and this, this is an important part of our foundation and it’s something we have been practicing, but it’s nebulous thing that’s out there, that lives out there. And I thought it was, it might be something worth spending a few minutes talking about.

Robb (03:10):

Has that been really part of your thinking going way back? I mean, starting the company, building the company, just good relationships with colleagues?

Steven (03:21):

It’s always been that way. We’ve always been from day one. I, and the staff, which were just one or two to start with and then grew over time, we’ve always been friends in addition to being colleagues.

Robb (03:38):

So does it happen automatically? I mean, over the years, how much thought do you give when you’re hiring, when you’re recruiting? Do you pick people based on, you know, I think I’d really like this person, like to work with this person, like to hang out with this person, can you pick people? Is that something that you can judge when you’re, when you’re hiring, when you’re building a team?

Steven (04:05):

Well current HR policy may not agree with this, but, but the simplest answer is yes. Part of the evaluation of an individual, when I was hiring people, I was doing the interviewing, did include an element of their character that was based on how likable they are. I liked you when we were interviewing, and it seems to me that if I found you likable, clients would find you likable. And, and in my experience, companies, potential clients, they don’t hire us only for the technical capabilities that we have, they hire us as people, they hire us because of the people we are and who we are as individuals and characters.

Robb (05:07):

And how about clients? I mean, we’ve all worked with all kinds of clients over the years. Some you love to work with, some you dread just making a simple phone call. It’s like, Oh my God, I got to talk to this person again. Do you pick clients based on good working relationships?

Steven (05:26):

There’s no question about it. Not only the one-on-one business relationship, where we’re undertaking contractual work, but also business relationships at trade shows and conferences. There’s the socializing aspect of those gatherings leads to closer and closer ties and relationships with those individuals even with competitors.

Robb (05:59):

Yeah I had a hard time getting excited for virtual conferences, and I think, you know, some of this is your influence. When I started working for you, I’d go to conferences. And I just go to all the sessions. If there was a session happening, I was sitting in the seat watching, you know, listening to whoever is talking. Now I might go to one or two sessions, and I’m on the trade show. And you know, I’m talking to, I’m talking to vendors, I’m talking to people, I’m talking to colleagues, I’m talking to competitors, like you say. And that, to me, I think you’ve taught me is the, that’s the value, not only do you develop business relationships and generate business, but that’s how I learn. I learned way more, just talking to people on the trade show, trade show floor, then sitting in a seat in a session.

Steven (06:50):

The NESEA conferences that we went to for, you know, decades, is a case in point. You and I were both at those things and look at the relationships that have come out of that. We’ve hired people as a result of those relationships. We’ve gotten our CEO. And you couldn’t do that virtually, but there’s an element of comradery that resulted in those hirings and in those businesses won and lost. It does stem in some measurable part to the fact that we are comrades with those people that we mix with.

Robb (07:37):

One of the other things that I was chewing on was that so many people that work at SWA are almost uniformly pretty passionate about buildings, about certain aspects of buildings, good buildings, resilient, accessible, healthy, et cetera. I think that contributes to the community, to the comradery, do you agree? And even if you don’t agree, how do you find people? How do you attract people that really are interested? And I would say passionate, a lot of us are pretty passionate about our work.

Steven (08:18):

So, okay. A lot of people out there in the world are passionate about their work. In our shop, they’re also passionate about, about their work. That’s cool. That’s good. They’re passionate about the work, but comradery means going one step further, that they are collaborating in their passion, that they are like holding hands, intellectually, in pursuing their passion. And at the same time, they are being friendly to each other, supportive to each other, planning things with each other, that are social as well as business oriented. So it’s passion plus. Passion for the work, plus a feeling of collegiality or friendliness towards one another. That’s the camaraderie part.

Robb (09:14):

But I don’t think they go together to a certain degree?

Steven (09:19):

Well, well, maybe in our shop, I hope that happens, but you can have a dysfunctional company where individuals hate their job and they’re not passionate about their profession, but they have fun together. Right. They have camaraderie.

Robb (09:39):

Well, maybe they have comradery after work, but not during work.

Steven (09:43):

Oh, maybe not, but okay. Let’s agree to disagree. I, I don’t think that necessarily passion for a professional pursuit necessarily equates to comradery with each other. You know, we can talk about that. Like the three of us have been out socially, we’ve been at events where it’s a birthday party for someone in the office or we have empathy for each other when bad things happen and support for each other. But that has, doesn’t tie into the fact that you and you and I passionate about the work that we do. It’s sorta maybe kind of relates, but it’s not a one-to-one relationship.

Robb (10:45):

Okay. That’s interesting. When I started, I was, and I remain just really so appreciative of just amazing expertise that we have at Steven winter associates, you know, technical expertise, people know about buildings. It’s, it’s phenomenal. And it used to be, if I ever wanted to know before, before COVID, when I could walk down the hall and ask people, if I had a question about buildings, I’d walk down the hall and ask somebody about it. You know, I wouldn’t Google it. I’d walk down the hall and ask somebody about whatever I was interested in. And, and I, it occurs to me it’s certainly, you know, shared interests, shared passions certainly doesn’t equate to comradery, for sure. I mean, you can have people that are in the same field that absolutely despise each other, we’ve all read, you know Tesla Edison kind of thing, or, you know, something extreme like that. But like, like an example, like I’ve asked so many people when I’m doing home improvements to my own home I’ll ask experts in our shop about installation details or things like that. And not only do we have like, leaders in the field, but people that are just genuinely happy to help, just friendly and happy to help, it seems like it, it seems like it, it goes together.

Steven (12:20):

Yeah. The happy to help part, as I say, it fits into the comradery part. But just remember the definition that I’m, I’m trying to come back to is that comradery is a feeling of friendliness, Goodwill, and familiarity among people in a group that doesn’t mean like top of their profession. It doesn’t mean really smart. It means, you know, friendly, you know, comrades.

Robb (12:54):

Buddies. I get it. All right. It’s interesting. I was thinking that shared interests and passions can lead to increased comradery, but it sounds like you, you don’t see that bigger connection.

Steven (13:10):

I, you know, we can go back to the framers of the constitution. I was not there when the August group met to determine what our company principles should be, but they came up with fostering camaraderie and, and how they built on that, how they determined, what that would be is, is something I’m not privy to, that the wording they came up with was engage with one another to build community. And our community is our company. And, and I, I guess, but the, but the excellence, the, the, the shared excellence doesn’t sort of equate, I don’t think.

Robb (13:56):

Okay. Interesting. Okay.

Steven (13:59):

Can I, can I share with you some examples?

Robb (14:02):

Yeah, absolutely. Please.

Steven (14:04):

We used to have company picnics. We still have company picnics when we were small enough to fit every employee and his, or her family into one yard. And that was, that was on a Saturday. It was not on company time. No one got paid to be there. And, and they, they did it willingly. They, they went willingly and they, they shared good times. And they that was comradeship. That was, that was that was camaraderie. They go to each other’s weddings. They go camping and climbing and kayaking with each other. They take vacation trips together and we have the occasional union amongst consenting couples here. And that’s, that’s the that’s that familial, familial family type support, and, and reinforcement of each other at the personal level. Within the context of being members of the same company. And I have to tell you what it does do, it results in trust of each other. It, it it means that people will go the extra mile for each other. It, it means that they, they become lifelong friends. We have more alumni friends than we do staff by a factor of 20 or 30. Because those relationships that have been built are ongoing, that they’ve been established and built, and they’re ongoing.

Robb (15:54):

So is it, I mean, in your view, is this element of comradery? I mean, the examples you gave were kind of extracurricular. But not, not during work, not during, not nine to five.

Steven (16:10):

So those were examples that were, that were extracurricular. It’s true. In the nine to five context, there’s not that much time available for comradery to take place.

Robb (16:28):

I disagree with that. Well, I mean, just, just this just great working relationships. I mean, just if you have, if you build trust and you have great relationships, and I think shared interests and passions can be a strong element in, in some relationships, you know, working together to, to meet a deadline, to get a proposal out, to bring the pieces of a project together. There are so many times where I’ve worked so closely with, with folks at SWA to, to put the pieces of projects together in a, in a really concerted focused manner that, that it doesn’t always work seamlessly, but, they want to see it. They want to make it happen. they’re not just putting in, you know, putting in the hours, we have really kind of committed people. And I think part of that is part of that is being professional and doing what they are getting paid for. But part of it is just supporting each other supporting coworkers.

Steven (17:45):

I, I agree that that is camaraderie that, that counts as camaraderie I don’t think that the, the excellence, however, does tie-in. I mean, anyway, look, we’re, we’re counting gnats on the back of an elephant here.

Robb (18:04):

Yeah. Yeah. So, all right, so this, this will be a stretch, but one thing that I wanted to bring up, and one of the other other podcasts team folks brought up was, was I think maybe even during my interview with you quite a while ago, you told me, you know, you give people plenty of rope. If they’re interested in something, if they have a passion to do projects, you know, you give them the bandwidth to go out, get clients, get projects, do the work, plenty of leeway to, to pursue, to pursue interests, to pursue passions based on what you just said. I think you think that’s pretty distinct from an element of comradery, but, but I was thinking about it, like with this podcast, you know, when, when we, I had been chewing about putting together a podcast for a year or two, and there was just something in the back of my head, I listened to quite a few podcasts. And I know we have some fantastic folks here that could talk very intelligently about some pretty important topics. So I remember, I think it was, we after playing volleyball, we have a company volleyball team, or we had before COVID and we were grabbing a beer after a volleyball game and Heather Breslin and Dylan Martello. And I, I don’t know who said it, but it turns out we, all of us and Alex may even have been there. It’s like, we should, we should do a podcast. And the other one’s like, yes, I’ve been thinking the same thing for two or three years. And so this is, I mean, this is an idea that maybe came out of, came out of comradeship. And that’s something that is still going. And that was, you know, we were given the leeway to pursue these interests as a team working together. I, I think, and who knows, who knows what’ll happen to it in the future, but, but it seems, I don’t know, they, they don’t seem distinct to me. There’s it seems like there’s a lot of, a lot of overlap, at least.

Steven (20:17):

All right. I, I’m not gonna disagree with you. Even though I do it’s it’s the, the part that I wanted to focus on in these discussions was the, the part that was not necessarily a passion for the work at the achieving of excellence in the work it was the fact that, that the individuals support each other and nourish each other so that they can continue their professional lives. It’s a subtle difference, I guess, you know if we weren’t friends, the company wouldn’t survive as well as it has. If we, if we weren’t comrades, we wouldn’t get work done as well as we do.

Robb (21:17):

Can you give some examples of when comradeship enabled better work projects, getting done better buildings, bringing work in?

Steven (21:33):

Well, let’s talk about the actual evolution of the company ownership. You know, the company has gone through an ownership transition, and, and I’m gonna suggest a few things, but the essence is that the ownership transition that has taken place and is continuing to take place would not be possible with, without the level of comradery that we have in the company, because without individuals who trust each other and collaborate with each other and support each other, you can’t have the shared ownership and transition of ownership in a company from the get-go. There was trust in the establishment of the shareholders agreement. There was trust in the individuals determining that they wanted to become shareholders and co-share holders with their colleagues. And there’s continuing trust as the ownership. And the leadership has, has changed, has been transferred. Without people supporting each other, trusting each other, collaborating with each other, the transition that is now in place could not have happened. And without it would not have succeeded. Look around at our competitors and like-minded companies, so many of them have failed during transition. So many of them have not been able to carry out a transition and partly it’s because the individuals did not trust or they were not buddies with each other.

Robb (23:34):

So how about, I mean, so as far as the longevity, corporate longevity, point taken for companies of kind of our size and type. What about comradery itself among other companies? Is that something you have any idea of? I mean, it’s, it’s really hard to gauge from outside the company.

Steven (24:01):

Well, we’ve hired people from Aaron Cranson’s office. We know that people from many the companies that we either teamed with or competed with or whatever, and, and it was clear just in informal discussions that there, it just wasn’t there to the extent, extent that we had it.

Robb (24:22):

So you’ve, you’ve gotten that feedback. We hire people that used to be somewhere, and they say, I like the people here better than where I was.

Steven (24:34):

Take a poll around our existing staff. You’ll hear it all over again.

Robb (24:38):

Interesting. Interesting. So do you have a feeling for how that relates to like longevity and turnover? I mean, certainly I’ve been here again 21 years. I haven’t switched jobs in awhile but certainly people have come and gone while I’ve been here, but there’s a lot of people that have been here for quite a while. And I don’t have an idea of how that compares to other, other firms to other companies. Do you, do you have a sense?

Steven (25:10):

And our HR guru Roisin has looked into it. And apparently our retention rate is not much different than other firms. And it seems that in the early years of their careers, individuals don’t really want to stay for a long, long time at any one company necessarily, they would like to explore what else is out there? What am I missing? And, so when people have been here within the first say five years since after graduating school, a lot of them leave just to explore what’s out there, some come back, but most of the departures have been for individuals, either wanting to go to a different part of the country or wanting to explore different types of businesses or different types of professions. Once people have been here a significant period of time, let’s say 10 to 15 years, then they’re more likely to, to be like long long-term. I don’t want to use the word lifers.

Robb (26:26):

I’ve heard it. I’ve heard it used. So, so is that so when you say 10 to 15 years, do you mean, do you meanthey’re kind of 10 to 15 years into their career or like 10 to 15 years after graduation?

Steven (26:42):

And they join or stay for that long or join after that period of time, they tend to say, okay, you know, I found my place in life. This is good. And, and when they do find that place in life, they tend to contribute more. They building they’re like long-term nest.

Robb (27:04):

Yeah. Yeah. I certainly had quite a few jobs in different fields before I started here. But yeah, not everybody there there’s people that have been here 15 years, who this is their first job out of college.

Steven (27:19):

Yeah. Our CEO for one.

Robb (27:23):

Exactly. He’s he gets mentioned a couple of times. So switching gears a little bit, where we have been doing some work, we’ve been focusing more on DEI, diversity, equity and inclusion inclusiveness. And thinking about this is, is pretty new to me. I think it’s probably pretty new to a lot of us. I think about thermodynamics all day, I don’t think about building community so much. But the focus on deliberately being inclusive and welcoming of everybody into the community, into the workplace community, into camaraderie. We’ve talked a little bit earlier about, you know, when you’re interviewing, you try to gauge whether you’d enjoy working with people. But you don’t interview everybody. And, you know not everybody certainly makes the judgment calls like that, or doesn’t do it correctly. How do you foster comradery when people, you know, when people are here, people you’re meeting for the first time, who you may or may not have interviewed, do you have examples of where SWA folks really were kind of deliberately welcoming and effective in new ways, in different ways? Have you done anything along these lines?

Steven (28:59):

No, I have not Robb, but, you know, ever since we’ve gone through the eye-opening experiences of DEI awareness and Keisha, the consultant, has been very helpful in making us be aware and be informed, as a result of that, people have, have become more aware of the differences that different people have in terms of everything, religion, race, background, origin, age, everything, and open their arms to getting to know them much better. So it’s being aware of other people’s station in life and being accepting of this station in life, leads to a stronger cohesive friendliness that, that maybe was not quite as strong before.

Robb (30:08):

Yeah. It’s always a work in progress, I guess, but, but it’s, it’s really interesting to me. I mean, it’s a whole new way of thinking and I’m still working on it, for sure. So before COVID, I mean, we, we are, we’re a firm with three different, well, four offices with a fledgling Boston office. And you know, several business groups, eight different groups with different admin groups before COVID. How do you think we did as far as kind of bridging offices, bridging geography, bridging groups, so that company-wide, there was a sense of community and camaraderie rather than within the, you know, the dozen people who you work directly with day to day,

Steven (31:03):

It was always difficult. And, and those ones who were more remote bore the brunt of it more than others, like Washington always felt like it was a stepchild. Not that not that people forgot about Washington, but there were too many things going on in New York and Connecticut that often Washington was the last thing to be addressed. And, and we did all sorts of things to try to fix it. We tried infusing camaraderie. We had an office meeting that everyone came to, including a social event at the end of the office meeting that people came to. And those parties went on for, for many, many hours. And it was a clear indication that people loved and, and craved that kind of contact.

Robb (31:58):

Other than kind of, I think twice a year, we used to get, you know, we used to get together twice a year.

Steven (32:05):

Right. And that’s all we could do. Everything else was try to visit when you can try to talk when you can try to engage in collaboration, across the telephone or the computer as often as you can. Yeah. But that’s the way it happens with multi offices.

Robb (32:26):

Yeah. I, I found that, and this is something that I could do more of just, you know, trying to organize webinars or just meetings, or just chat sessions to discuss a topic. And it’s interesting now with COVID, everybody’s remote nobody’s with anybody. For, for the large part. I actually go to the office once or twice a week, but, you know, in some ways, you know, I see people on video meetings, I see people from DC more often than I used to because we’re doing visit video meetings so often, which is good. I guess it’s good. I guess it’s makes me a little ashamed that I didn’t do so much before, but, that’s another question. I mean, after COVID, what do you see happening after COVID? Have we learned ways to do this better to bridge divides in our departments or our office locations? Because, you know, personally, I think nothing’s, nothing’s as good as a face-to-face meeting. I go to the office once or twice a week here. We’re talking in the early spring of 2021. Things still are certainly not wide open yet. We’ll see what happens. But, you know, I go into the office a couple times a week, and even if there’s only a half dozen people at the office, just seeing and talking face to face with those half a dozen people is really nice.

Steven (33:58):

I know it’s contact. Yeah.

Robb (34:01):

And both professionally and, and just personally, you know, I’ll, I’ll walk down the hall and I asked Zoeller a question about insulation, you know, rather than Googling it or looking it up. So I guess, do you think that things will change after COVID? Have we learned ways to tie the community together a little bit more?

Steven (34:27):

So just for example, here we are at 125 people give or take, if in three years or five years, it’s 200, 250 people in four or five offices, get your arms around that, you know, people are not going to see each other very often. I mean, if we were IBM, people would never see each other, you know, what everyone seems to hope is that we’ll be small enough where we can maintain the, the camaraderie, the contact the knowing of each other individually yet still have the, the size and the muscle to be able to be a force in the industry and to offer good careers for all the, all the, all the professionals in the company.

Robb (35:26):

Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s a great point. And I, I thought about that. I thought about this when we were kind of, preparing for this, this conversation, but you is, is a close workplace community. Does it only happen in small companies?

Steven (35:45):

I don’t know the large companies, but I don’t think so. I think the comradery more likely to happen in small companies in big companies. There’s not quite the same amount of loyalty is more concerned about money. You know, individuals wanting to make more money and not necessarily wanting to be everyone’s best friend and, and in a smaller company, the comradery is more likely to be a good breeding ground.

Robb (36:15):

So it sounds like you’re hopeful that the company will grow and that when it grows, it will be able to maintain the community and camaraderie that we have had today. But you don’t know how that’s going to happen. I see why you wanted to talk about this topic, Steven.

Steven (36:39):

No, I I’m there to provide moral support and the gray hair and the, and the sense of history, but the dynamics of it has to come from the individuals themselves. We can take that horse to water, but we can’t make it drink.

Robb (37:01):

One more quick question post COVID, you know, people everybody’s been working remotely, a lot of people may want to continue to working remotely. Do you have thoughts on that, on what that will do?

Steven (37:13):

Well, that that’s, that’s gonna make the social part of it more, more difficult, because there’s less opportunity to have a lunch or after dinner social hour. But I, I think people are social animals and they want to get to know they colleagues better. And there’s been such, such great results from the comradery that has taken place, all the different forms of socializing that I, I don’t see how it won’t continue. It’ll be more and more disparate groups, but definitely more groups. And, and you know, it’s part of our principal. And so it’ll be up to management to make sure that it’s enforced.

Robb (38:04):

So that leads me into another thought, you know, I appreciate it. I’ve been with the company long enough that I definitely appreciate the comradery. I have very great friends that I’ve worked with for years. I love the company. I love lots of people here. No argument that there has been great comradery at SWA. But as we grow, it seems to be we’re recognizing we’re camaraderie is really important for us, but are we switching into mandating comradery? And that seems like like, Whoa, that’s jarring to me. It’s like, that’s not kind of how it works. So I know in our company print principles, it is foster comradery. It’s not mandate comraderies. Right. But, but I could still see it kinda rubbing people the wrong way a little bit. You will be friendly. You will be friends with your colleagues. It’s kinda creepy.

Steven (39:17):

I agree with you if it’s forced or if there’s this, this fake friendliness, then, then that could turn around and bite us. But, but I think it requires probably from the more senior people than the, the junior people. It requires going a little bit more out of our way to, to be fair. For example, every new hire, the day they’re hired, I send them a personal note thanking them for joining the company, wishing them luck and looking forward to talking, spending time with them is also a policy that, that manages is supposed to have lunch with you and junior employees on some sort of a frequency basis. And so that was, those are not forced. That’s not forced labor, it’s just paying attention and, and reaching out, reaching out some of the group managers have, have taken conducted boat tours and picnics and events. That’s not, it’s not that they didn’t want to do it. It’s a fun thing. And they do it and, and gladly, and it’s those kinds of reaching out, potluck lunches, the baking contest, which you win every year. They’re all, they’re all small pieces of the, of that puzzle of, of, of of reaching out to try to accomplish comradery.

Robb (40:56):

All right. Fostering it, foster if you will. Yeah. Yeah.

Steven (41:00):

Is that a fosters that you’re drinking?

Robb (41:02):

No, this is a Bissell Brothers Luxe. One of my favorite beers. Absolutely delicious. We’ll see if that makes the cut in the find the podcast podcast audio. Well, this has been great, Steven. And I, I had I had a list of topics and questions and I, you know, you inspired several others. I think I’ve gotten through all my, do you have any, any other thoughts on this?

Steven (41:35):

No. I was gonna maybe touch on some of the cross team collaboration that’s taken place, but you actually did touch on that. The cross selling, the multi-team assignments and that, that collaboration where these days, and I see all the proposals that go out, I see the list of them as they go out. I don’t read the proposals, but I see who writes them and, and the amount of money. And so on. More and more of those proposals have, have included sections from multiple teams, five or six teams, each contributing to a part of that proposal. And that, that addresses the sort of going for greatness, professional aspect of it. But there’s got to be a lot of teamwork and friendship in order to get those proposals to be to be kind of in sync with each other and, and to blend with each other. And that’s, that’s a, that’s a massive accomplishment by, by the teams.

Robb (42:44):

That is really encouraging. Yeah. And as you say, that’s more professional and business than personal feelings, but this brings us back to where we were a while ago. I think they go together. I think people, people sharing passion and interests can reinforce relationships and camaraderie. Certainly not always.

Steven (43:11):

All right. I agree. I give up.

Robb (43:16):

Cool. Excellent. Thank you very much. Thank you to Steven. He mentioned a baking contest that I win every year. That’s overstated. I only win cookie contests, and we haven’t even had them every year. We’ve only had a few. I have won all of them, but you know, it hasn’t been every year. Maureen is the one to beat on the pie front. And yes, this was a happy hour conversation, we were enjoying a beer during this conversation. Do we always drink during these podcasts? No, no one, no one can prove that. Buildings and beyond is produced by Steven winter associates. Our website is swinter.com, S W I N T E r.com. Check out swinter.com/podcast. That’s where you can find all the episodes and show notes and check out our careers page. If you are looking for opportunities, we are definitely looking for help. I just looked at our careers page and counted 15 positions, all, certainly most, if not, all of our groups are looking for people at this point. Thank you, Steven. It was a really good conversation. COVID has probably made everyone think about relationships a little bit. I have always appreciated my coworkers here at SWA. Fantastic and brilliant people. I’m pretty lucky to be here, but COVID, and, and also this conversation has, has made me appreciate folks even more so, thanks to all of my colleagues and a big thanks to the podcast team here, Alex, Mirabile, Heather Breslin, Jayd Alvarez, Kelly Westby, Dylan Martello, and I’m Robb aldrige. Thank you again.

The post Building Comradery with Steven Winter appeared first on Steven Winter Associates, Inc..
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