• 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

FEBRUARY 2010 ENTREPRENEURS OF THE MONTH:

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.

THE BOGNET WAY

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.

We are all of us born with a letter inside us, and that only if we are true to ourselves, may we be allowed to read it before we die.”

– Douglas Coupland

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

– The Dalai Lama

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

– T.S. Eliot

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

When I was younger I thought success was being a star, driving nice cars, having groupies. But today I think the most important thing is to live your life with integrity.

– Ellen DeGeneres

We are perfectionists. We are hungry to work all the time. We are entertained by every aspect of business and we never want to stop working.”

– Suzy Welch

You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing.”

– Maya Angelou

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

– Annie Dillard

History is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside.”

– John F. Kennedy

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

– Robert Louis Stevenson

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. 
Now put foundations under them.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Look at everything as though you were
seeing it either for the first or last time.
Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.”

– Betty Smith

If you do work that you love, and the work fulfills you, the rest will come.”

– Oprah Winfrey

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

– Thomas Carlyle

Don’t wait for someone else to lead you to your right life; that privilege—and responsibility—is yours alone.”

– Martha Beck

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

– Charles Dickens

Letting go of expectations is a ticket to peace. It allows us to ride over every crisis—small or large—like a beach ball on water.”

– Martha Beck

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

Never never never never give up.”

– Winston Churchill

Find somebody to be successful for. Raise their hopes. Think of their needs.”

– Barack Obama

Are you willing to help other people succeed even when it’s not a requirement of your job to be of assistance?”

– Steven Schussler

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.”

– JFK

We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

– Winston Churchill

Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.
Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”

– Ella Fitzgerald

Change is a math formula. Change happens when the cost of the status quo is greater than the risk of change.”

– Alan Webber, author, "Rules of Thumb"

Ripeness is all.”

– William Shakespeare

Instead of loving your enemies, treat your friends a little better.”

– Edgar W. Howe

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

– Virginia Woolf

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

– Mary Oliver

It is easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them.”

– Alfred Adler

The person who makes a success of living is the one who see his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly. That is dedication.”

– Cecil B. DeMille

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

– J.K. Rowling

My job is my hobby. I come to work to play.”

– Uli Becker, president, Reebok International

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

– Maureen Cook

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

– Groucho Marx

Think of yourself as on the threshold of unparalleled success. A whole, clear, glorious life lies before you. Achieve! Achieve!”

– Andrew Carnegie

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

– Benjamin Franklin

That which grows fast withers as rapidly; that which grows slowly endures.”

– J.G. Holland, novelist

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

– Nelson Mandela

The dove descending breaks the air / With flame of inkandescent terror.”

– T.S. Eliott

‎Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.”

– Booker T. Washington

How do you stay resilient? It’s about momentum. Like riding a bicycle. If you stop you fall over. So I keep pedaling.”

– Diane Lane

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

– Brian Tracy

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

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

– John Quincy Adams

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

– Optimism rules

Sometimes the dreams that come true are the dreams you never even knew you had.”

– Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones

The best reason to start an organization is to create a product or service to make the world a better place.”

– Guy Kawasaki

Be Inkandescent Magazine's Back Issues

Don’t miss the great advice our entrepreneurs have offered in the past. Click below to view our back issues.