• 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.

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

– Benjamin Disraeli

I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than any other ability under the sun.”

– John D. Rockefeller

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

– Mark Twain

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

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

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

– Robert Frost

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

Entrepreneurs are willing to roll the dice with their money or reputation on the line in support of an idea or enterprise.”

– Victor Kiam

If you want to be busy, keep trying to be perfect. If you want to be happy, focus on making a difference.”

– Lisa Earle McLeod

Whosoever knows how to fight well is not angry. Whosoever knows how to conquer enemies does not fight them.”

– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Inspiration and genius — one and the same.”

– Victor Hugo

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

– Chinese proverb

If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.”

– Anna Quindlen

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

– Joseph Campbell

This is the age when magical technologies make more and more radically fun ideas plausible, even easy. You’re only limited by your creativity.”

– Martha Beck

A person who learns to juggle six balls will be more skilled than the person who never tries to juggle more than three.”

– Marilyn vos Savant

Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’”

– Brian Tracy

Ambition is the germ from which all growth of nobleness proceeds.”

– Thomas Dunn

The fixity of a habit is generally in direct proportion to its absurdity.”

– Marcel Proust

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

– Benjamin Franklin

Persist and persevere, and you will find most things that are attainable, possible.”

– Lord Chesterfield

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

– Robert Louis Stevenson

Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them!”

– Madam C.J. Walker

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

– Lao Tzu

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

– Voltaire

Tolerance and patience should not be read as signs of weakness. They are signs of strength.”

– The Dalai Lama

I’ve come to confirm that one’s title, even that of president, says little about how well one’s life has been led. No matter how much you’ve done, or how successful you’ve been, there’s always more to do, to learn, and to achieve.”

– Barack Obama

I was taught at a very young age that you can do whatever you want to, but you have to make it happen — not just talk about it.”

– Kathleen Jo Ryan

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

– Noela Evans

Never cut what you can untie.”

– Joseph Joubert

If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more.
 If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.”

– Oprah Winfrey

The follow-your-gut mentality of the entrepreneur has the potential to take you anywhere you want to go or run you right out of business.”

– Bill Rancic, "The Apprentice"

The goal of Life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with nature.”

– Joseph Cambell

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

– Magical

If you do not tell the truth about yourself
, you cannot tell it about other people.”

– Virginia Woolf

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.”


Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences.”

– J.K. Rowling

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

– Leonard Cohen

By your stumbling the world is perfected.”

– Sri Aurobindo

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

– Anthony Trollope

The world I believed in, back in my most innocent, uninformed, childish mind—is real.”

– Martha Beck

When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”

– Audre Lorde

It is only when the mind is free from the old that it meets everything anew, and in that there is joy.”

– J. Kristnhamurti, The First and Last Freedom

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

– A wisdomism

Almost anyone can start a community, but it takes real talent and commitment to get people to show up and keep coming back.”

– Andy Sernovitz

Remember that it’s okay to ask for help when you’re stumped, because sometimes you really can’t be expected to handle everything alone.”

– Martha Beck

That man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.”

– Henry David Thoreau

A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind.”

– Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

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

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.”

– Thomas Carlyle

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