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The Keeper of the Culture

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"You are Brasfield & Gorrie." That’s the message every new intern and employee hear during a two-day orientation held in Birmingham, Alabama, Brasfield & Gorrie’s corporate headquarters. By the time they graduate from the course, each attendee takes to heart this truth: "I know the Brasfield & Gorrie reputation rests on me."

Brasfield & Gorrie, a member of multiple AGC chapters, develops fantastic results for its clients. Proven by three years of extensive client feedback, the 2,600-person firm benchmarks as one of the top five performers among 250 AEC firms measured.
Clients love working with the firm. Architects celebrate how Brasfield & Gorrie is "unlike a typical GC." Employees are fiercely loyal. By just about every measure, Brasfield & Gorrie is winning. 

Of the success, CEO Jim Gorrie says, "My father always said, ‘Start with the right people.’" Regional President Jack Darnall expounds, "It’s a commitment to the client above all — even above profits. From the time I started working here it has been an environment where everyone honors their commitments. Your boss’s bosses are modeling it. I’ve had 30 years of training here. It boils down to honoring commitments, living the golden rule, and putting clients first."

A Culture Set Apart
Many firms talk the talk. Just look at any proposal or industry website, you’ll see a litany of clichés and fuzzy-sounding talk about commitment to the client and exceeding expectations. Unlike many others, however, Brasfield & Gorrie has delivered on its client service promises, and it starts with the company culture. Gorrie says, "Being the keeper of the culture is a very important part of my job and a role I work hard to fulfill. We cannot let that drift." 

Despite its size and reach, a "one company culture" permeates company life. Brasfield & Gorrie strives to create opportunities for peers across the company to interact regularly and build relationships. It also empowers employees to make decisions and fosters a culture of trust that extends to the executive suite. "Our people know they can say anything to me or Jack," Gorrie adds. "We have tried to break down fear and get people truly involved."

An Investment in People
Training and interactive opportunities play an essential role in the company culture, starting with the orientation for new hires and extending across groups and seniority levels. Gorrie notes, "At orientation, we emphasize that we hope new hires will never leave the company. You can be anything you can dream of in the company. Just let us know what you want to do along the way."

Employees have access to leadership training, skills training, soft skills training and civic involvement. Every two years the company selects a class of peers to participate in a leadership initiative. The participants get to know each other in both structured and unstructured activities, and the company is able to more broadly disseminate its vision.

Focus on Feedback
Another crucial aspect of the Brasfield & Gorrie success is its focus on feedback. In addition to regular face time with clients, the company also utilizes Client Savvy’s Client Feedback Tool to maintain awareness of client concerns. Leadership reviews the scores, collected during and after each project, which help the company identify skill development needs and other potential problems. In addition to the information provided, the feedback tool raises awareness and accountability. Since the tool’s implementation and resulting success, groups previously skeptical have become enthusiastic about its impact and embraced it as a resource. 

Looking Ahead
While some might assume Gorrie is ready to rest on his laurels, they would be wrong. He and his leadership team are looking to the future and making long-term plans for Brasfield & Gorrie. Central to the company’s future is its "Vision 2020" plan, which lays out seven strategic priorities including preconstruction services, self performance (labor and workforce development), growth strategy, leadership development, client focus, one company focus, and risk management. Darnall adds, "There are so many different directions we can go. This is the time to focus on growth."

Amid the growth and excitement for the future, one constant remains the same. According to Gorrie, it’s what sets his company apart and what drives the success. "We are committed to people," he says. "Most construction companies are committed to making money. If you change the focus to people, you can make a lot more money. That’s our secret sauce." 

Ryan Suydam is chief experience officer at Client Savvy.


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Associated General Contractors of America
2300 Wilson Blvd, Suite 300
Arlington, VA, USA
Ph: 703-548-3118 Fax: 703-837-5402