Every business these days likes to tout that they are a “people” business. So in order to avoid a tired cliché, we will proudly say instead that we are an “Owner-Architect-Subcontractor-Community Stakeholder-General Public-who-may-encounter-one-of-our-projects-one-day” business, which doesn’t fit on a ballpoint pen or trucker hat quite as easily.
Fine, we are a “people” business. For evidence of that, we present a recent interview with Avrien Veneralla, Site Manager and relationship-builder extraordinaire, for a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to create and cultivate the relationships that turn a jobsite into a community. [Note: Interview has been lightly edited/condensed for clarity.]
BC: What is the best part of working in this construction industry?
AV: Even though you may be a PM or Site Manager or Superintendent, it’s cool that you get to interact people on a daily basis. You build a rapport with this huge construction community of subs, owners and architects. If you’re in the business long enough, you will build this rapport with hundreds and hundreds of people. The great thing is that when you have different projects, you may cross paths again. And you already have that stepping stone of knowing them. Projects become better because it’s like seeing friends when you come to work. You also get to build a building from scratch sometimes, and it’s something that’s hopefully there for a lifetime.
BC: What makes you successful at building relationships with subs?
AV: Talking to people every day, asking them how they are, asking about their lives and more than just construction talk. Showing appreciation for hard work is so important. You don’t want to do like that old saying goes, “you always pick out the bad things but never the good things.” There can be 8,000 good things a sub does but for some reason most of us tend to pick out the bad thing we see and we want to talk about that. When we get out there and tell them good job, like in our Empowerment program, or something as simple as saying “Hey, I appreciate that” or “Man, that looks really good”–it’s just affirmation, but it goes a long way on the job site.
Another BC guy buys popsicles for all his subs on a hot day. Sometimes I’ll buy a bunch of sodas for the guys out here.
BC: IT doesn’t cost a lot but it shows appreciation of their efforts.
AV: Exactly. Like for the holidays we buy all the guys lunch. We will do an appreciation lunch every quarter, like barbecue or hamburgers. We try to do it on days when the most people are out there, because you want to show appreciation to as many people as possible. You’re out here every day with them and you know they’re out here doing hard work.
There are definitely projects where GC’s come out once or twice a day, maybe beginning and end. They check the work and that’s it. There’s no appreciation and they don’t spend the time to get to know the workers. For me personally though, it’s just like anything else: if you put a little love into it or put a little attention into it, the workers respond a lot better. They know their hard work is appreciated.
BC: Especially when teams are working in the kind of conditions we can get in Southeast Texas, and even your home state Louisiana.
AV: Definitely. The humidity is brutal, you add that with heat, add in the documents you have to work from, it can be rough.
When it comes down to it, a particular sub is the expert in their craft. They don’t know everything happening for every aspect of the project, but they know their craft. That’s why we try get them in ahead of time to review and to look over plans so that we can get it done right.
At the end of the day we want to turn over an amazing project, an amazing piece of work to an owner that is gonna last a lifetime, and that may help a lot of people. Like, in this instance, Soccer Shots. There are going to be thousands of kids and adults coming through here to play soccer and to learn and to better themselves and this building will be helpful for the community. That’s why we want to build the best Soccer Shots we can.
Working in this industry, you have gratitude and happiness for the things you’re building that will last a long time, and that people will get a lot of use out of.
Avrien Veneralla has been with Butler-Cohen since October 2018. He hails from the great state of Louisiana, where hospitality and community are in the very air one breathes (along with the humidity). When he’s not buying sodas for his team on a hot day, he enjoys spending time with his family, if not that you can either find him in the woods hunting or on the water fishing. He has worked as Site Manager for multiple projects in the Greater Houston region, including Soccer Shots and Shell Technology Center.