• 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.

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

– Leonard Cohen

Everyone is a mirror image of yourself—your own thinking coming back at you.”

– Byron Katie

You take your life in your own hands, and what happens?
A terrible thing: no one to blame.”

– Erica Jong

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

It is to no purpose to turn away from the real nature of the affair because the honor of its elements excites repugnance.

– Carl von Clausewitz, On War

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

– Steve Jobs

If people like you they’ll listen to you; if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.”

– Zig Ziglar

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

– T.S. Eliot

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

– Chinese proverb

Confidence is the most important thing you can teach someone… if you can teach them confidence, you don’t have to teach them anything else.”

– Vin Diesel

When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

– Audre Lorde

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

– Anthony Trollope

You don’t love someone because of their looks or their clothes or their car. You love them because they sing a song only your heart can understand.”

– L.J. Smith

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

– Magical

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

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

– Goldie Hawn

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

– Bill Cosby

If you would create something,
 you must be something.”

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

To find what you seek in the road of life, leave no stone unturned.”

– Edward Bulwer Lytton

I may not be able to change what takes place, but I can always choose to change my thinking.”

– Michelle Sedas

Success is about finding a livelihood that brings joy, self-sufficiency, and a sense of contributing.”

– Anita Roddick

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

– Leonardo da Vinci

Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity.”

– Ray Bradbury

My goal was to tell the life side of the story. We have become a nation of voyeurs that expect sensationalism, and that offends me.”

– Kathleen Jo Ryan

I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent.“


– Thomas Edison

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

– Dalai Lama

Our deepest wishes are whispers of our authentic selves. We must learn to respect them. We must learn to listen.”

– Sarah Ban Breathnach

Inspiration and genius — one and the same.”

– Victor Hugo

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"

The music is all around us. All you have to do is listen.”

– August Rush

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.”

– President Calvin Coolidge

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

Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

The quality of your life is directly related to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with.”

– Tony Robbins

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

– Oprah Winfrey

Most people never pick up the phone and call. Most people never ask, and that’s what separates the people who do things from the people who just dream about them.”

– Steve Jobs

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

– Debbi Fields, Mrs. Fields Cookies

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

A man without a smiling face
 should not open a shop.”

– Chinese Proverb

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

– Abraham Lincoln

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

– J.G. Holland, novelist

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"

We need to learn to set our course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.”

– General Omar Bradley

I have spent a good part of my life convincing people that a blank sheet of paper is the greatest opportunity in the world, and not frightening at all.”

– Marty Skler, executive vp, Walt Disney Imagineering

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

– J.K. Rowling

A warrior cannot complain or regret anything. His life is an endless challenge, and challenges cannot possibly be good or bad. Challenges are simply challenges.”

– Carlos Castaneda

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

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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

Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.”

– Leo Jozef Suenens

Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”

– Eckhart Tolle

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.