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Venture General Contracting

Venture General Contracting battles burnout with 'EQ'

Posted by Venture General Contracting on Jan 17

Read the full Puget Sound Business Journal article here

Written By   –  Staff Writer, Puget Sound Business Journal

Venture General Contracting battles burnout with ‘EQ’ 

Washington’s Best Workplaces: Strategies for attracting and retaining top talent and fostering healthy company cultures

A sign that Venture General Contracting is a good place to work is posted on the wall of the men’s room at the company’s headquarters in Seattle just south of Safeco Field.

It’s a tip sheet about maintaining emotional intelligence, or EQ, the yin to the yang of one’s IQ. The sheet is part of the Employee Assistance Program at Venture, which grew to the Puget Sound region’s 14th-largest general contractor just six years after Matt Parent started the company.

Hiring and retaining top talent is key to building any business, but it’s critical in the building industry, which is facing a labor shortage as construction booms throughout the region. It’s why Venture does things like sponsoring sports teams and ensuring people take their vacations, things that help maintain a person’s EQ.

“I don’t want people getting burned out. That doesn’t help us in any way, shape or form,” Parent said.

Venture’s phenomenal growth has been fueled by both commercial and residential jobs. 

Among its largest projects are a nearly $200 million job for an undisclosed tech company in Seattle and a 650-unit, $132 million apartment complex that Lincoln Property Co. and Daiwa House Industry Co. Ltd. of Japan are developing at Seattle-based Capstone Partners’ 28-acre Esterra Park development in Redmond.

Venture, which has made the Business Journal’s Best Workplaces list for two years, is strategic in its hiring decisions, going so far as to have a full-time HR consultant, Eric Koch. He meets with staff to learn about upcoming projects, thereby gaining insight he can use to decide if someone will be a good match for the company.

From the get-go, Parent and his business partner, Jack Beaudoin, recognized the importance of being choosy in their hiring decisions.

“As fast as we’ve grown, that’s been a challenge,” said Parent.

But, he said, patience in the face of pressure to act pays off in the long run because it avoids having to sever ties later.

“I’d rather do that on the front end than go through the pain and anguish on the back end,” Parent said, adding finding good fits also helps retain talented employees.

It’s this culture that has kept Project Manager Brian Fahl working for Venture even after he moved to Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, where his wife took a job with Boeing nearly three years ago. Technology has made it possible to manage projects from 3,000 miles away.

Mount Pleasant is one of the Palmetto State’s fastest-growing cities, and Fahl has had job offers from construction companies. 

But no one offers the benefits that Venture does. When Fahl and his wife, Lisa, had a baby girl, he was able to take a month off work.

“That’s pretty unheard of with most general contractors from what I understand,” said Fahl.

Venture has grown from 75 employees two years ago to 160 today and plans to add 10 or so employees for 2018 as it works to stay in what the company has determined to be its “revenue sweet spot” of $250 million to $300 million.

Venture did around $250 million worth of work last year and is projecting to be just under $280 million for 2018.

“If we took all the work we’re looking at currently for 2018 we could do $350 million, no problem. Based on our staff and our projected needs for 10 additional staff we feel $280 million would be the right spot to be,” said Parent.

The contracting industry in general is bullish about the future, Parent said.

For example, there are big office projects for Inc. still under construction; work on the $1.6 billion Washington State Convention Center addition in Seattle is poised to start; and Sound Transit is embarking on a massive expansion scheduled to take 25 years.

That means retaining great employees is more important than ever.

Venture promotes from within and supports employees who seek out additional training and education by reimbursing tuition costs.

“Anything we can do to help employees grow just helps us become stronger,” Parent said.

Best practices

Philanthropy can build morale. Last year Venture worked with Make-A-Wish of Alaska and Washington, which helps children with life-threatening diseases, raising $48,650 for the nonprofit, which sent a girl named Penny and her family to Disneyland. Venture invited the family to its office where employees surprised Penny with news of the trip.