• February 2010

Are You Passionate About Your Business?

Welcome to the new issue of Be Inkandescent magazine. Because February is the month of amour, in this issue we focus on the power and importance of truly loving what you do.

After all, having passion for your business is mission critical, according to Suzy Welch, former editor of the Harvard Business Review and the wife of GE guru Jack Welch. Suzy says: “We are entertained by every aspect of business and we never want to stop working.” And Oprah Winfrey believes: “If you do work that you love, and the work fulfills you, the rest will come.” We couldn’t agree more.

February’s Entrepreneurs of the Month Jim Bognet and Jeff Kaiser are indeed passionate about their firm, Bognet Construction. Their hard work and strong business skills enabled them to build their 1998 start-up into a $50 million company that employs 45 and competes with the biggest construction firms in the region. Don’t miss their inspiring Tips for Entrepreneurs.

And there’s more: In the 14 articles in this issue, our experts provide tips and insights to help foster passion for your business. Our new columnist Paige Rhodes, CEO of the recruiting firm Rhodes and Weinstock, shares the value of getting personal with clients to build lasting relationships. Another new columnist, Roxanne Rukowicz of Behind the Scenes Events, tells us about one of the most romantic museum spaces in DC to host a business bash. Fine artist Philip Brooker uses his talent to create a poster that will inspire people to donate money to earthquake victims in Haiti. And HR expert Sharon Armstrong teaches us ways to conduct stress-free performance appraisals.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Valentine’s Day. In this issue, our Inkandescent staff gives a special nod to Bob Dylan’s ballad “Tangled Up In Blue”, the inspiration behind our featured illustration (at top). It’s from the new book by our Inkandescent art director Michael Gibbs, which is entitled Blue Moons: But all the while I was alone, the past was close behind, I seen a lot of women, but she never escaped my mind, and I just grew, tangled up in blue.

Here’s to your passion, and your success!
Hope Katz Gibbs, owner, The Inkandescent Group, LLC
publisher, Be Inkandescent magazine
president & founder, Inkandescent Public Relations

Bognet Construction Finds Solutions For Customers


Jim Bognet and Jeff Kaiser, owners
Bognet Construction

Article by Hope Gibbs

Portrait by Steve Barrett

Little did Bognet Construction founders Jim Bognet and Jeff Kaiser know when they leased their first office in 1998 for $500 per month in the basement of a Starbucks on MacArthur Boulevard that 12 years later they would be manning a $50 million firm that employs 45 people.

“We love construction, and are relentless about delivering high quality, on-time, on-budget solutions for our customers,” the owners say. “Our goal is to continue to build this firm into a $150 million company in the next five years.”

WHY THEY DO IT: Construction is in their blood
Bognet Project: Metro Park Conference Center (Photo: ING Clarion)

Jim Bognet’s father thought maybe his son would become a doctor. The lad was so good in math and science, it seemed a natural fit. The young Bognet thought differently. The family business was construction, and since he was 7 he had snapped on his little tool belt and headed out on jobs with his dad, Rocco, owner of the general and mechanical contracting firm Bognet, Inc.

As he grew, Jim spent his summers as a laborer and estimator and operated heavy equipment until he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1988 from Pennsylvania State University. One of his professors was a vice president at the George Hyman Construction Company and helped him land a job with Tiber Construction. By 1991, Jim was working for Oliver Carr, and by 1996 he was the director of the DC office for The Leapley Company. That’s where Jim met Jeff Kaiser.

A local kid who also grew up in the construction business, Jeff’s dad worked as an architectural engineer for the federal government. After serving in the U.S. Navy on the USS John F. Kennedy, he began his career in construction as a carpenter while attending Montgomery College in Rockville.

Jeff was an estimator at Leapley when he and Jim started meeting for dinner at Murphy’s Irish Bar and Kilroy’s to talk about how they might go out on their own. After three months of discussions, they went in to talk to Dennis Leapley, “and by the end of the conversation, he wished us luck.” The next day, Jim and Jeff opened their office on MacArthur Boulevard.

WHAT THEY DO: Rebuilding existing spaces — and making them “green”
Bognet Project: Arlington Free Clinic (Photo: Ken Hayden)

Rebuilding interiors at corporations such as Freddie Mac, Chemonics International, and General Dynamics has long been a staple for Bognet Construction. The firm has built George Washington University’s Alexandria Graduate Center, the offices for Visa International, ManTech International, and multiple projects for the General Services Administration.

Bognet Construction also has an agreement with the local carpenters’ union that enables them to perform Union projects in the Washington metropolitan area.

And in recent years, Jim and Jeff have focused on bidding on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects, a standard for “green” building design. Several of the company’s project managers have completed their LEED accreditation — something the owners believe is critical as they move forward.

“We created an incentive for our staff to get the accreditation, for it enables us to provide expertise and guidance throughout the LEED building process and helps us ensure that a project meets the highest green building and performance measures,” Jeff explains. “This is important to us because we understand the environmental impact of construction, and want to do everything we can to be part of the solution.”

A sample of the LEED projects completed to date include: Unite Here Local 25, the Metro Park Conference Center, Brookfield Properties, the Independent Sector, and the Arlington Free Clinic, which has received four prestigious design awards because it fosters a healthy environment and reduces energy use.

FIVE STEPS TO FOLLOW WHEN REBUILDING and/or relocating your office
Bognet Project: Unite Here (Photo: Spielmann Studio)

1. Involve your general contractor early in the selection process. We can help real estate brokers and tenants with negotiating tenant improvement allowances with the landlord. Take into consideration plumbing riser locations, HVAC equipment, electrical service and building accessibility — it’s costly to move those elements.

2. Review space plans. Your architect will create drawings that best utilize the space, determine which existing lighting fixtures can be used, and identify plumbing locations and ceiling systems.

3. Approve construction budgets and documents. A good general contractor will outline an initial budget and modify the scope of work to meet your desired budget without losing the overall intent of the design. This step takes 6 to 8 weeks.

4. Apply for a building permit. Once construction documents are completed, plans will be submitted to the local jurisdiction for review and issuance of a permit — which takes 4 to 6 weeks.

5. Participate in weekly meetings. Once the job begins, the general contractor will host weekly meetings to coordinate with the subcontractors, tenant vendors, and suppliers. Sit in on these meetings to track the progress of your project.

Don’t stop yet! Find out what values keep Bognet Construction on track by clicking here for insights into the BOGNET Way.

The Bognet Way: What Values Keep Bognet Construction On Track?

Article by Hope Gibbs
Portraits by Steve Barrett

On the door of Jim Bognet’s office is a sign that reads: “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.”

William Foster said that. He was a 28-year-old United States Marine who received the Medal of Honor for his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” during the World War II Battle of Okinawa, where he died on May 2, 1945.

Such a sentiment is part of what Jim and his business partner Jeff Kaiser call “The Bognet Way.”

“At Bognet Construction, we are driven by a set of principles that defines everything we do,” says Jim. “It’s our mission statement and our corporate philosophy. Every one of our employees is held to this standard of behavior.”

With the help of strategy consultant and organizational development coach Dave Ramos of the Dashboard Group, Jim and Jeff came up with the idea to create such a statement a few years ago. To accomplish their goal, Dave interviewed dozens of employees and clients to identify the characteristics they thought best summed up what made Bognet Construction unique.

In the end, Ramos, Jim, Jeff, and vice president Jennifer Bognet (pictured below), agreed on six tenets. Ramos made them easy to remember by starting each one with an initial from the company name.


B = Build Long-Term Relationships. We strive to build long-term relationships with every member of the project team. Because we are focused on the long-term, these relationships are a critical element of how we work, how we solve problems, and how we compete. The Bognet Executive team is highly engaged in every project.

O = Operate As One Team. We strive to provide strong leadership to all parties in the job (architect, tenant, construction manager, building owner, subcontractors, etc.), with the goal of working together as one integrated team. Bognet holds our subcontractors to the same standard of The Bognet Way. Only subcontractors who meet this standard will work with us for the long-term.

G = Go the Extra Mile. We are relentless about paying attention to the details of every project and aggressively follow-up (on emails, phone calls, etc.) until the job is done. We do whatever it takes to make the project a success. We also always look ahead to anticipate potential problems. At Bognet, before every employee leaves for the day, they ask themselves, “Have I done everything possible to anticipate tomorrow’s problems today?” This question defines the Bognet culture.

N = Never Stop Improving. We are committed to looking for innovative new ways of doing things, applying the latest tools and procedures to improve efficiency. We work hard to stay on top of industry trends. This includes innovations in LEED building standards, new technologies, and our investment in continuous training for our staff.

E = Engineer Win-Win Solutions. We strive to balance the needs of all parties in the project to find the win-win solution. Bognet works closely with all members of the team, including tenants, brokers, building owners, construction managers, and architects to ensure that projects are delivered on-time and on-budget. We look for creative ways to solve problems and deliver exceptional quality. We strive to resolve conflict in a productive manner.

T = Take Ownership. At Bognet, we will do whatever it takes to deliver on our promise. Our executive team is highly engaged in every project. We are big enough to provide a full range of services and small enough that the executive team is involved in the details. We do what we say we will do, when we say we will do it.

About Jim Bognet, president, Bognet Construction

Jim co-founded Bognet Construction in March 1998. As president, his responsibilities encompass the full breadth of Bognet Construction’s external and internal operations. Jim sets the example of working The Bognet Way.

Jim’s passion is building long-term client relationships, leading all members of the project to work as one team to deliver excellent results. Jim is driven to go the extra mile with each client and engineer creative, win-win solutions. He originally focused on specializing in tenant interior construction and has since expanded to concrete-tilt-up construction, base building renovation and multi-story, steel frame buildings. Under his leadership, the company has developed a loyal client base and has become one of the Top 25 Interior General Contractors in the Washington Metropolitan Area since 2002.

About Jeff Kaiser, executive vice president and principal

As an owner and Executive Vice President, Jeff leads the firm’s estimating and pre-construction phase activities. Throughout the course of his 25-year career, Jeff has been involved with the pre-construction planning and execution of major commercial tenant interior and base building projects. At Bognet, he works relentlessly to ensure that all bids and proposals meet the necessary criteria as outlined on the drawings and specifications. His team is instrumental in defining the scope of work, crafting accurate construction schedules, subcontract negotiations and awards, and day-to-day proposal management.

Jeff is an expert in value-engineering plans and specifications to create win-win solutions for the clients. He is passionate about building long-term relationships with clients and has direct involvement with every project. Under his leadership the company has developed a loyal client base and has become one of the Top 25 Interior General Contractors in the Washington Metropolitan Area since 2002.

To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

My task is really not to change myself but to become familiar with who I am.”

– Maureen Cook

There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”


Traveling is one way of lengthening life, at least in appearance.”

– Benjamin Franklin

The journey is the reward.”

– Greg Norman

A man who strikes first admits that his ideas have given out.”

– Chinese Proverb

If you wish success in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius.”

– Joseph Addison

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.”

– Marcel Proust

If you think you are too small to make a difference, try going to sleep with a mosquito in your room.”

– A wisdomism

You’ve got to be willing to crash and burn. If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.”

– Steve Jobs

Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”

– Robert Frost

Success is the necessary misfortune of life, but it is only to the very unfortunate that it comes early.”

– Anthony Trollope

No matter how difficult and painful it may be, nothing sounds as good to the soul as the truth.”

– Martha Beck, from "Leaving the Saints"

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.”

– Abraham Lincoln

Nurture your mind with great thoughts; to believe in the heroic makes heroes.”

– Benjamin Disraeli

At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”

– Lao Tzu

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.”

– Steve Jobs, Apple, Inc.

The gem cannot be polished without friction; nor man perfected without trials.”

– Chinese proverb

The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. The greatest failure is to not try.”

– Debbi Fields, Mrs. Fields Cookies

Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make Me Feel Important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.”

– Mary Kay Ash

No longer talk at all about the kind of man a good man ought to be, but be such.”

– Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

Destiny is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”

– William Jennings Bryan

Entrepreneurs willingly assume responsibility for the success or failure of a venture and are answerable for all its facets.”

– Victor Kiam

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

– Carl Rogers

You often meet your fate on the road you take to avoid it.”

– Goldie Hawn

As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.”

– Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way.”

– Aristotle

Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”

– Annie Dillard

The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”

– Henry Miller

Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same.”

– Francesca Reigle

Never cut what you can untie.”

– Joseph Joubert

The only dream worth having is to live while you’re alive and die only when you’re dead.”

– Arundhati Roy

The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something.”

– Nolan Bushnell, founder, Chuck E. Cheese's

The only way to compel men to speak good of us is to do it.”

– Voltaire

If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, I know I can achieve it.”

– Jesse Jackson

Ripeness is all.”

– William Shakespeare

Who cares if my glass is half empty or half full; I still have something to drink.”

– Optimism rules

Challenge is a dragon with a gift in its mouth. Tame the dragon and the gift is yours.”

– Noela Evans

Women once had the goal of being Superwoman; I think most of us now simply strive to have a super day.”

– Author, Activist Lee Woodruff

Do you have the desire to create something new; the strength of conviction to believe your creation will be successful, and the reservoir of energy necessary to thrust it into the marketplace?”

– Steven Schussler

‎No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.”

– Charles Dickens

Remove those ‘I want you to like me’ stickers from your forehead
and, instead, place them where they truly will do the most good—on your mirror.”

– Susan Jeffers

You must have chaos within you, to create a dancing star.”

– Frederic Nietzsche

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly,
 what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

‎The biggest flaw in our existing theory of capitalism lies in its misrepresentation of human nature.”

– Muhammad Yunus

There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

– Leonard Cohen

Anything not worth doing well is not worth doing.”

– Warren Buffett

I don’t do very well without fear. There needs to be a part of me saying, ‘That’s going to fail,’ so I can prove myself wrong.”

– Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe

We never know how high we are
 till we are called to rise;
 And then, if we are true to plan,
 Our statures touch the skies.”

– Emily Dickinson

Treat the attainment of happiness in the same way an entrepreneur would approach building a business — with a vision, plan, goals, and a systematic approach.”

– Ted Leonsis

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