How Benchmark is upping its Game
It was 2012 and as the country began to show the signs of emerging from the recent recession, Mike Callahan, President of Benchmark Construction Company, Inc. set out to make sure the company would be in the best position possible should it have to weather something like that again.
Thus began Callahan’s and Benchmark’s journey to become a different kind of construction company. With an investment mindset, Callahan engaged the resources of a consultant to assist in the development of a Strategic Plan for the fiscal years ending 2015-2017. “The highlights of the plan are summarized in a pocket-sized book that I carry with me at all times as a reminder of what we have set out to do,” said Callahan.
Since the completion of the plan, Benchmark has taken very specific steps to ensure its success. In 2015, as the company celebrated its 30th anniversary, those steps included establishing an internal department responsible for people performance (including hiring a Vice President of Leadership and Culture), the realignment of the organization into specific market segments and a complete website redesign and branding update.
The development of the Leadership and Culture role was a natural offshoot of the work done on the Strategic Plan and Christian Recknagel joined the company early in 2015 to fulfill it. Prior to joining Benchmark, Recknagel had worked primarily as a consultant his entire career.
“I vowed I was never going to work as an employee of a private company again,” said Recknagel. “But after working with Mike and the other members of the Benchmark Leadership Team on the Strategic Plan, I realized I wanted to be a part of this company’s evolution.”
Since joining the company, Recknagel has worked closely with the company’s Director of Employee Growth, Lynda Sherwood, to ensure the right people are in the right roles and that they understand how they can impact company performance. Recknagel added, “We’ve been hearing from applicants that they are impressed a construction company even has a Leadership and Culture department. It’s setting us apart from the competition as we seek to hire the best people in our industry.”
Probably the most challenging change implemented was a realignment of the company’s traditional department structure to one with a market-oriented focus. In varying degrees, it touched everyone in the company. This change reflects a shift in thinking to one that is outwardly-focused by industry, or market, to best benefit clients. Benchmark now has four target markets: Senior Living, Higher Education, Healthcare, and Commercial/Specialty. The senior leadership for each market consists of a Market Vice President and a Market Executive. The Market Vice President has accountability for the ultimate success of the projects in their respective market, ensuring there is adequate business development, and ultimately for overall market group performance. The Market Executive will ensure the team is operating at an optimum level so client expectations are exceeded.
Benchmark has always focused on having the depth of staff to promote from within. The Vice President of the Senior Living and Higher Education Markets is Steve Conway who has been with Benchmark for 15 years and has 19 years of overall experience in the industry. Serving as the Senior Living Market Executive is Stuart Smith. Smith has been with the company for all of his 8 years in the industry. The role of Higher Education Market Executive is fulfilled by Andy Gilburg, with a year at Benchmark and 12 years of overall experience. Robert A. Brandt, III serves as Vice President of the Healthcare market. Brandt has 13 years of construction experience, all of it with Benchmark. The high volume of work Benchmark constructs in the healthcare field necessitated the appointment of two Healthcare Market Executives. These roles were filled by Devin Learn with 12 years of total experience and nine at Benchmark and by Chris Flynn with 11 years of total experience, the last three at Benchmark. The Vice President of the Commercial/Specialty market segment is Richard Gill who has 34 years of career experience, 19 of which have been with Benchmark.
As the company prepared to make this change, the leadership team focused on maintaining consistency in the execution of the preconstruction, estimating and construction disciplines across the markets. Chris Smith was named as Vice President of Operations and is charged with standardizing and enhancing the services these three groups provide. Smith also serves as the “broker” of staff allocation to each of the markets. He has 24 years of industry experience, with 17 of those years at Benchmark.
Finally, Jeff Sturla was named Vice President of Project Development to serve the role of identifying and developing creative strategies and solutions to grow key markets and establish a presence in new markets. Jeff has 37 years of career experience with 25 years at Benchmark.
To ensure the company’s outward appearance and personality lives up to its progressive nature, Benchmark launched a new website and refreshed its branding, adding a new tagline of Built to Achieve. “We got a lot of mileage out of our previous website,” added Callahan. “This is part of our public face and we want to make sure people can look at the site and get a glimpse of who we are as a company and as part of their community.”
2015 was a year of change and growth for Benchmark and while the celebration of 30 years is something they are very proud of, they know that to remain successful they must continue to evolve.
“When I look back over the past year and see all that we undertook, it really seems like a lot,” said Callahan. “But I know they were all the right moves and will lead to even more success, and changes, as we continue into our next 30 years.”