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February 26, 2020
Ryan Maibach is the President and CEO of Barton Malow, a general contractor based in Southfield, Michigan. Ryan attended Purdue University and earned his degree in Civil Engineering. Ryan is a fourth generation family member at Barton Malow and the third to lead the company. Barton Malow ranks as #40 in ENR's Top 400 Contractors List.
In our conversation today, we talk about developing your emotional intelligence, construction theory vs. practice, the best Will Ferrell movie, and how technology will reshape the built environment.
Eric: Ryan, just wanna get this out up top. We do some research, you know, and we found that you're gonna be the chair on the 2020 Mackinac Policy Conference. Is that right?
Ryan: That is right.
Eric: Is that, like, where you guys get together and decide how many, like, fudge shop should be on the island?
Ryan: Unfortunately, we do not decide those sorts of impactful things. That would actually... I didn't even need to write that down. That would be worthy of consideration, though. I like that.
Ryan: Or a flavor. I mean, if we could just, like, if we could add a flavor, that would be really cool.
Matt: That would be nice. Yeah. Some variety would be nice.
Ryan: Although what they have is pretty good. I mean, it's hard to shake a stick at, but, yeah.
Eric: It's one of the more competitive industries, so I'm not gonna...
Ryan: Fudge and fairies, I think.
Eric: Yeah. That's what they got. Yeah.
Ryan: That's right.
Matt: My parents talked me into going on a road trip with them up there when I was in middle school or whatever and I just would be like, "Man, every single store is a fudge shop."
Ryan: It smells good.
Matt: It does smell good.
Ryan: It smells really good.
Eric: But there's horses too, right? So that you have to mix and match.
Ryan: It's a unique potpourri of sense that you have there. That's right.
Eric: But joking aside, what is that conference?
Ryan: So, it really is a pretty cool gathering of business leaders, of political leadership in the state as well as nonprofit leadership. And it's that collection of individuals coming together to talk about the state of things in the state and how to shape and craft policy and help to really ensure Michigan's relevancy for the years and decades ahead. It's a unique place to go. As you mentioned, you've been there, you understand that kind of once you're on the island, there isn't too much. So, it's like a captive audience. Everyone's there. You're together and there's just some really rich conversations, some great relationship building and it makes all of us a lot more effective as we come downstate as well and helping to build bridges and work more effectively together.
Matt: That's cool. Very cool.
Eric: Barton Malow is a longtime family business. Can you run us through some of the early history of the company and your family's involvement in it?
Ryan: Sure. Yeah. My family goes all the way back to the founding of the company. The company was founded in 1924 by Carl Barton and he was joined several years later by a gentleman named Arnold Malow. And my great grandfather joined the company shortly after Carl Barton founded it. And so he started off as a carpenter and my grandfather was able to join Barton Malow as a laborer shortly after high school. So yeah, my family has been a part of it. Now I guess I'm the fourth generation. And my dad was one of eight kids and actually seven out of the eight different points in time in their life or career were involved in the company in some form or fashion. And so it's something that I grew up around and, fortunately, something I really enjoyed. I thought it was a really cool business and something that as a kid, I knew I wanted to be a part of.
Matt: Do you remember any specificstories that your dad tells about your grandfather or your great grandfather?
Ryan: Definitely, stories about my great grandfather. I was fortunate that my grandfather lived to a pretty old age and so I got to spend time with him and, actually, my kids got to spend a lot of time with my grandfather. And so he was just, you know, larger than life personality, neat, neat man. He was one of those larger than life leaders, but at the same time, man, a very, very strong faith. And at the same time, he was leading the company, he actually was the pastor of a church here just outside of Detroit and part of a national congregation, played a leadership role in that. And so I was able to watch a man that, again, as a kid, I just looked up to in so many ways and watch him be really effective in business leadership and faith leadership and in family leadership. So I feel very fortunate that I get to experience my grandfather firsthand. My great grandfather sounded like just as well a wonderful man and got to spend a bit of time with my great grandmother, but unfortunately never had ability to meet my great grandfather. He actually passed away on one of Barton Malow's projects not from a work-related incident. He had a massive heart attack and, unfortunately, passed away, but passed away doing something that he loved doing. He loved building and I think it's definitely been in our blood for a few generations now.
Eric: Did you get to work at Barton Malow with your grandfather or had he retired when you started working there?
Ryan: He was sort of semi-retired for many years. So, I think anytime he was in town, he liked to be around our office and so he didn't have necessarily a specific role or a specific function. I think his title was chairman emeritus even when I started up in the company. And he would come in, and he enjoyed walking around spending time with people in the company and just took a tremendous amount of pride in the work that we were doing. And so he was very present, not active in the business at all, but certainly present.
Matt: It seems as though your firm is very tied into the community there in the Detroit area. Is that something that was always kind of a value of the firm?
Ryan: I think, yeah, definitely it's been a part of our value and focus for, really, I think tracing all the way back to 1924. And to some degree, it's part and parcel to what we do. By nature of our business being construction, you are impacting the community. I mean, you're directly impacting the community by the facilities that you're building. And so, you know, I think being aware of that impact has been as well a part of our DNA going back decades. And so the way that we like to frame that today is that, you know, we're focused on positively impacting people in communities through the projects that we build. And we're selective. Fortunately, we're in a position we can be selective in the type of projects that we take on. And we want to take on projects where we have the ability to maximize that positive impact. So, you know, directly through the work that we do, indirectly through a foundation and other in-kind work that we do, community engagement has been a part of our business really since inception.
Eric: Do you draw any parallels between being, like, you talked about your grandfather being a leader in the church and then a leader at that company, do you ever think about how those kind of parallel with one another or have some, like, intersection or crossover between, like, business life and church life?
Ryan: Absolutely. Faith is something that's very important to me, and so I as well don't really see them as running down separate paths. I see them running in a very integrated manner and that faith is grounding in so many ways. It helps to really highlight the importance of people and quality and just that, hey, there's a bigger mission that we're all a part of. And so I think it's very much informed my grandfather's approach to leadership in the business, I think, my father's, his siblings as well as mine.
Eric: It's kind of fascinating. I never thought about it this way, but, like, when you say that it's like a church building is like it's a physical building that is then also this, like, communal thing and it's cool to think about builders building places that are then also communities as well. I wonder if, like, that was part of, like, your grandfather's deal is like understanding this dynamic between buildings and communities.
Ryan: Absolutely. I mean, building is a fantastic word. I mean, you can use it as a verb, as a noun, and you can talk about building, from a literal sense, being building buildings. You can talk about building figuratively, building communities, building people. It's a verb of action. And definitely there's...at the start of the question that you started off from a faith perspective as well, and I think there's definitely a tangible correlation with faith as well, but yeah. It can... I'm very fortunate. It's a great business to be a part of. Building is fun. You think about building with Legos as a kid, building in a sandbox as a kid and it's getting to advance from Legos to more robust erector sets to the real, tangible steel and concrete and aluminum and glass and just all that goes into creating the facilities that we create. It's a lot of fun to be a part of. It's very dynamic and it's very rewarding.
Matt: I'm glad you brought up Legos because we were told that you oftentimes bring up Legos and that you're a fan of Legos. Can you tell us a little bit about how you became a fan of Legos as a kid?
Ryan: I think I'm probably not unique or alone in that. I mean, hey, Legos they're great toys. And I was an only child and so I did spend a fair bit of time playing by myself, which, you know, sounds lonely, but it actually was really kind of fun, you know, taking these puzzles and either if you're following the instructions, if you got a new set of Legos or if you then kind of go freestyle and try to create your own stuff. It was just a lot of fun. I mean, it's creative, it's problem-solving and very similar to the work that we do today. In real building, there's a tangible outcome. You get to see what works and what doesn't work and... Yeah, so it was a lot of fun. Fortunately, I have three kids that all really enjoyed playing with Legos as well, so I feel like I got to mess with them too good chunks in life. Yeah, I love Legos.
Matt: When was the last time you bought a full Lego set? Have you bought one recently?
Ryan: Yeah. Oh, boy, I wish I could remember which one it was. I do remember... I mean, my kids are, unfortunately, now outside of the realm of really playing with like the traditional Legos. Actually, I do remember. They got those really complex like cars and stuff like that and so my oldest is a big fan of cars. He's loved this Bugatti, and so Lego had this Bugatti Lego set and...
Eric: Oh, sweet.
Ryan: Yeah. It was really cool. I will admit we got a good ways into it and then I think we screwed up a step, like 20 steps back and...
Matt: Isn't that the worst?
Ryan: Oh, it is the worst.
Eric: My goodness.
Ryan: We put it on a shelf and said we'll try to problem-solve and we have yet to get back to it. We will one day.
Matt: I have a 10-year-old and who is big into the Star Wars Legos. So, we have, like, every major... He has a shelf of just the Millennium Falcon and every Star Wars vehicle that there ever was. And those things are insanely expensive.
Ryan: They are expensive.
Matt: You ask him what he wants for Christmas and he says a Lego set. So you start looking around and, "You have got to be kidding me."
Matt: But, hey, they keep them busy for a very long time. And it's phenomenal.
Ryan: They do keep them busy. They're a lot of fun. They're fun to build. They're fun to play with once they're built. And I mean, it's funny you say Millennium Falcon because I think if there was one that I really would have loved to have had both as a kid and then, you know, I would have loved to have found a way to get my kids was the Millennium Falcon and I never pulled the trigger I think probably because it is so expensive, but...
Matt: Oh my goodness.
Matt: Hard to justify.
Eric: Okay. So, going back to your childhood with regards to the business, do you think your dad was, like, giving you Legos to be like, "Oh, I'm gonna train my son to be in the family business and to be a builder and this is, like, all part of my plan?"
Ryan: You know, I don't think so. I will say... I really feel like I hit the lottery with my parents. I mean, both my father and my mother were absolutely wonderful. And I think they were very, very balanced and outlining, you know, pros and cons around what it would mean to engage in the business. And so said differently, I think they were very, very open to whatever my interests would be and whatever that would lead. And so I never, never once from either of my parents felt pressure to engage in the business. But that said, I think, now as I look at it like with my kids, of course, you're gonna derive a sense of satisfaction if your children do have interest and do want to engage in your life's work. And so as my dad and I have talked about it, since, you know, I do think that he enjoyed it and has enjoyed it, he does still enjoy it, but to his credit, never pressured, never pushed. To the contrary, pushed to make sure that I was walking into it eyes wide open and had thought about other alternatives, other options, other careers, but, again, just the way that you'd want a parent to lay out a balanced set of options.
Matt: So, what age did you do your first job at Barton Malow? How young were you?
Ryan: So, I think I started with the company when I was actually...I think actually I was 17, which I pause, because I'm pretty sure that would have been legal. But it was the summer after my senior year, I graduated at 17 and that summer before I headed off to college, I worked not in a project site but worked in our yard, which in a construction firm, that's typically the place where you keep your tools and your equipment and some of the materials and stuff. And so I worked in our yard operation for that summer and it was a great experience.
Eric: Do you remember ever going to a job site that was at Barton Malow job site as a kid and you remember thinking, like, "Whoa, this is cool that we're building this?"
Ryan: Absolutely. Visiting job sites, driving by job sites. Our colors at the time were orange and black and I remember just even as a kid, you know, as a really young kid driving by seeing a Barton Malow job site sign, seeing a project trailer and just taking a sense of pride and ownership in what the company was doing, and whether that was building a school or building a stadium or building whatever it was. It was really exciting. And the thing that I do remember, again, even as a kid is that, you know, the reality that if you drove by again in another month, it would look different. That was really appealing to me. Just that there's always progress, you're always moving forward, and there's tangible outcome from the work that you're doing.
Matt: Have you ever driven around town with your dad and have an impromptu drop-in on a job site on like off-hours or something?
Ryan: I don't recall as a kid ever doing that, but definitely, driving around and seeing active work or even, again, work that had been finished and just hearing stories about, you know, back when we were building the Silverdome, the Pontiac Silverdome, you know, the, "Hey, this thing happened," or just hearing, again, stories about just the people, the technical aspects, whatever it may have been. I mean, it was always enjoyable and usually driving by that, again, tangible facility, it usually triggered some pretty good stories.
Eric: With that type of experience and upbringing, did you go into college knowing that that was kind of the path you were gonna go down?
Ryan: So, I chose Purdue University and knew that I wanted to get a degree in engineering, knew that engineering would be a great basis for engaging and starting up in the construction industry. So, definitely, you know, college selection, major were very much focused on an end outcome of coming into the construction industry. And while I was very committed to wanting to do that and someday wanting to work at Barton Malow, I really did not have an expectation that I would end up in the role that I'm in today. Again, I went into it really enjoying the work that we do, really enjoying the project-based aspect of it. And early in my career, I, fortunately, worked with a number of gentlemen that were just outstanding builders and they really weren't interested in taking on additional leadership roles. I mean, their true passion was working in the field, working on projects and building buildings. And so I thought that was really pretty neat. And I saw myself doing that for many, many years. And so the set of circumstances that opened the door to move into the role that I'm in now I wouldn't have really planned, it wasn't a real planned transition, but a long-winded way of saying, yeah, definitely, went into college, focused on construction and really saw myself doing project work for many, many years.
Matt: So, here's the question. When somebody from a construction family and a storied construction family goes to a construction engineering program, do you ever like sit in in class and you're talking about a topic and you're like, "Well, back when my family business built the Silverdome, this is what happened?"
Ryan: Yeah. Fortunately, I think I got coached by my dad and others to not do that. And so I don't ever recall at least intentionally doing anything like that. I will say I did sit in class a few different times, you know, listening to some professors talk a little bit of theory and thinking, "I really don't think it works like that." But that's all right. It's always helpful to have sort of the theoretical as well as just some practical experience too.
Eric: That's diplomatically said.
Ryan: I tried.
Matt: It's okay. Do you remember sitting in class thinking, "Oh, this is actually really great information and I'm learning a ton from this?" Can you talk about a story from college like, "Hey, this is really preparing me for real-world working in construction?"
Ryan: Absolutely. And the first class, actually, that comes to mind really isn't construction related. I graduated in '96. And I think, you know, early '90s through the mid-'90s, there was, I think, more of an understanding of just intentionality around teams and team dynamics and just understanding the much more intimately human dynamics. The first set of classes at Purdue really came out with some of that sort of content. And so I definitely remember thinking, "Wow. Gosh." I showed up at Purdue thinking, "We're all kind of the same," and just really having the...much more of an understanding of how differently we all think and seeing the value in all of that diversity and background and perspective and thought and... So, definitely, the straight-up engineering classes, I mean, gosh, thermodynamics and statics and dynamics, they're hard. And it's really theory-based, it's hard to see some of the practical applications. But definitely some of the...more of the psychology classes were really much more tangible and practical and quite, frankly, even things that I think back to, you know, today.
Eric: Do you have a specific example of team building from, you know, some of those psychology type ideas that has really resonated with you?
Ryan: So as I think back in college, some of the psychology classes coupled with a gentleman, his name was Bob Tenor that I think was just one of the most emotionally intelligent individuals I've interacted with. He was a mentor. So, classes to Bob Tenor to... I ended up in a fraternity and was fortunate to be able to serve as president of the fraternity for a year and then serve as the interfraternity council president for a year and that opened up doors to engage in some other leadership honoraries, working with the president of the university at the time. So, all of that to say that it was really helpful seeing how teams should work in an academic setting, but then being able to experience it in my fraternity or having some insight into the university and how the university ran. It was really, really educational. It was a terrific experience both in the classroom in Purdue, but then a lot of the out of class experiences were really fantastic for me.
Matt: Do you remember the first time you tried to maybe apply some of those principles at Barton Malow?
Ryan: Definitely, remember the first time trying to apply some of those principles at Purdue and that was actually really interesting, just, you know, identifying a purpose and trying to codify values and just, you know, what does that mean? And trying to align behaviors. And trying to do that on a project site at the time once the career started was a little bit difficult. I do remember one direct application on my first project wasn't so much team-based but there was a professor that talked a lot about, you know, quick media utilization and cycle times and put this terrific spreadsheet together on how you could monitor productivity and equipment and stuff. And so, you know, we were doing a bunch of site work on the project and it was just me and a superintendent before the balance of the team ended up on site. And so, you know, I spent about an afternoon kind of mapping out cycle times for the scrapers and the dump trucks that we had on the site because it was pretty significant mass excavation and earth movement that we were doing. And I remember, like, going and showing them like, "Hey, wow, check this out. If we just did this and this and this, you know, think about how much quicker it could go." And yeah, he really wasn't impressed. And mostly tied to just not understanding some of the limits around equipment availability and stuff like that. Yeah. But still, just looking back, I mean, Purdue was a great experience, great understanding of some of the theory and the basis. But I think you do spend a bit of time refining that, rounding off the rough edges as you start up in your career. The practical application of some of those concepts and some of those theories aren't exactly the way that it's depicted in the classroom.
Eric: Do you have a best Bob Tenor story?
Ryan: Boy, that's definitely...that's taxing the memory banks a little bit. It wasn't so much a seminal moment or a great story, but it was more about, you know that adage, people don't remember so much what you say, they remember how they make you feel. And this gentleman that is a late-teen, early 20-year-old, you know, you go into your advisor's office and your problems are astronomical, and he always had time, he never diminished any of the issues or the problems that you were bringing to him and he just was super encouraging and uplifting. So, as I just, again, think back on this gentleman that just would more often than not, you know, just lend an empathetic ear and just coach and, "Have you thought about this?" or...never directing necessarily what you're supposed to do, but just more kind of offering the bumper post to help you bounce around and figure out the direction that you ultimately need to go.
Matt: So, yeah, you've kind of touched on it, so I'll jump into a series of questions here. You list one of your favorite books as "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman.
Eric: So we have a couple of questions about EQ. Did you feel like at some point in time you had to develop your EQ?
Ryan: Yeah. I'll say that I think it's still developing. I mean, I don't know that you ever really fully arrive. And I think, you know, it's one of those things where you have to have a measure of self-awareness, but the crazy thing is, you know, you as yourself evolve and change over time and not so much the core of who you are, but experientially or from a responsibility, a role or function standpoint or a family dynamic, life changes each one of us. And so, you know, I think over time, your understanding of self has to evolve, and then certainly, how that ever-changing self engages and interacts and relates with those around you. Again, I don't know that you ever fully arrive in achieving that high level of EQ.
Matt: Surely in your work life, you've run into people with really poor EQ and it's detrimental to the team. Have you ever had to point that out to somebody and given them tips or tricks to work on?
Ryan: Absolutely. I think one of the more painful things is when you're a part of a team and several people on a team see something in someone and despite candid conversations with that individual, they're just not able to see it. They're not able to have that level of self-awareness or they're just looking at either themselves or the circumstance through just a materially different lens. And I think our approach is, you know, we want to try to... Candor is kindness. We care deeply about everyone and, you know, a very broad sense of team in Barton Malow, but as well, you know, those that we work closely around. And so you care enough to be candid. We wanna make sure that it is clear and that if there are gaps in self-awareness that they're pointed out. But, again, we're all really complicated beings. And our biases or whatever it may be that impedes our ability to have that self-awareness, it's really painful when that gap is very large. And unfortunately, we have had to agree to disagree and part ways with a number of folks in leadership positions when that gap is too large.
Eric: Do you have any tricks that you personally use to help people see some of that stuff when you run into a roadblock like that?
Ryan: I think each case, each circumstances is unique. And we have definitely as an organization done an awful lot to train on how to have candid conversations because a lot of times they are uncomfortable. And I can say for myself, I mean, that's definitely been an area of growth over time at least, again, for me, you know, having those difficult conversations especially, surely, after I moved into the role that I'm in now nearly 10 years ago, they were really hard, hard to have. And there are ways to structure conversations to make them more effective, ways of being self-reflective, to try to understand what you may be bringing to some sort of a disconnect or some sort of a challenged interaction. But we've actually also brought on a PhD psychologist that has been with us for many years now that has helped us either in specific circumstances working with specific individuals, trying to help structure teams to be more effective, and then certainly working individually and just helping many of us self-included in leadership positions better understand ourselves and how we relate and engage with others.
Matt: So, along those lines, if you had a younger guy who just asked you, "What should I be doing to prepare myself to go into the work environment?" what would you tell him as far as, "Hey, go read this book or take this course or learn about EQ?" If you only had one piece of advice to give him, what would you tell him?
Ryan: I don't know that I would be able to point to one specific resource, but I would just say, "Hey, get ready for a lifelong journey in self-awareness." And I think that there are fortunately a growing number of tools that are available to folks. I mean, we just did something that is readily available to everyone and then a relatively simple tool called Strengths Finder. We just did that as a leadership team. And it's certainly not the deepest assessment or analysis that we've done as an organization, but it's just very interesting to understand, again, your strengths and your peers' strengths and how they can be very complementary, and at times how they might cause a little bit of friction with each other. And so I think, again, back to, I guess, that one piece of advice is just know that it really is, I think, a lifelong pursuit. I know when I graduated from Purdue and started in the business, I don't think I was arrogant, but I definitely felt like, "Hey, man, I think I got this figured out," and I was open to learning, but I think the degree to which I didn't have it figured out and, in particular, the degree to which I needed to understand a lot more about just the complexities of human interaction was definitely eye-opening to me. But as I look at most of our challenges and issues that we have to deal with as an organization, very rarely are they solely technical in nature. There's always some form of human dynamic that's in play, and the more that you understand it, the more that you understand the human dynamics, I think the more effective you'll be in leadership.
Eric: Do you think you got interested in this idea of emotional intelligence and EQ because you were uniquely good at it or because you were deficient in it and you felt like you needed to improve it?
Ryan: I don't know that it was binary. I don't know that I would say that I was really good at it or that I was really deficient at it. I think one of the best experiences that I had back at Purdue was being president of my fraternity. And we had about 100 guys living in our house and it was a really big fraternity on campus. And none of them are paid to do any jobs like making sure that there's food on the table or that the place is clean or that we don't burn the place down or whatever. And so, you know, trying to figure out in an environment like that, like, "Hey, wow. How do you get everyone kind of aligned and on the same page to work towards common goals and common outcomes especially when, again, it's not a job, no one is paid to do it?" And so I certainly wouldn't say that I did it perfectly or great. I wouldn't say that I did it terrible, but it was so educational knowing there were things that we had to do just to make the place work, pay bills, etc., etc. Getting people aligned on common objectives. It was such a great experience and I think that was really what opened up my eyes to, "Wow. There's really something to this, and the more that I understand it, the more effective that I'll be really in life."
Matt: Do you think that's in contrast to an older school take at business, work culture where it was kind of like a little bit more hierarchy driven as opposed to self-reflective, self-awareness driven?
Ryan: That's a good question. I have not experienced what "old school" was going back, say, 40, 50, 100 years ago. There's certainly paradigms around how business worked, how leadership worked, how teams, how hierarchies worked. But, you know, even still I think, as you scratch a little bit below the surface, some of the really effective organizations, some of the really effective teams were ones that just, you know, did that really, really well. And I was actually just a part of a class at Harvard Business School just last week where we were actually studying the two teams that were in the race to put their flag at the base of the South Pole and just... This is what? About a century ago, you know, understanding the team dynamic and how the individual respective leaders motivated and demotivated their teams and some of the strategic choices. There are definitely some good examples of really effective team leadership, team management and emotional intelligence that I think transcends time, you know, even just connecting back to our comment earlier on faith. I think there's some outstanding leadership examples and emotional intelligence examples going all the way back to the Bible. So, to a degree, you know, I think we've evolved in our understanding, but the realities of who we are, who human beings are, what it means to be human are relatively innate and they've been there for centuries.
Eric: That's good stuff. Going back to a little bit more of the chronology, so, do you remember immediately out of college, entering the workforce, what exactly...what were you doing and what was kind of your outlook? You said you thought, "Hey, I..." You walked out of college thinking, "I understand all these things," and then you kind of were thrown into a little bit more of the reality of work world. Do you have a good story from that area of your life?
Ryan: I, 'fortunately, had some really good internships before I started up at Barton Malow. And I worked for a really large concrete contractor in Orlando, Florida working on the Orange County Convention Center. And I was actually the first intern that they had had. And it was a really great experience. I was really excited to get down there. And I remember showing up at this meeting that they were having up in Ohio. I mean, this is a national contractor that they were actually based in Ohio. And so I got invited to go to this leadership meeting that they had. I was really excited about it and thinking, "Man, this is, like, corporate America. I gotta blow the dust off the one sport coat and tie that every college kid has in their dorm room." And so threw that on. I was excited to drive over to Ohio, be a part of this meeting, and meet my future boss and my boss's boss and meet the whole leadership and they're all wearing jeans and boots and t-shirts and... So, I mean, as quick as you're trying to shed the jacket and tie, you know, you can't get rid of the khaki pants. And a guy put his arm around me and he's like, "Oh, boy, we're gonna have a lot of fun in the summer." And they did, but they were great experiences. I mean, first day asking, you know, "Hey, how are we gonna pay you?" And I'm thinking, "Man, I don't know. Is that a trick question? I don't know. I don't know. Pay me." And he's like, "Are you salary or hourly?" And I'm like, "Well, salary sounds pretty good. It sounded kind of sophisticated."
Matt: That's more, right?
Ryan: You would think. And so, you know, everyone goes, we're gonna figure it out that no matter how many hours I worked, I got paid the same thing. So, next thing you know, I'm showing up at 3:00 in the morning to turn the lights on for our big concrete pours that day and come 3:00, 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon I'm the last one spraying off the cure and turning the lights out or shutting everything down to head out and it's like, "Wow, I'm kind of watching these guys show up and then leave and there's like a later crew showing up and leave." So, I mean, just, you know, fortunately, there were just some really great experiences like that, that just over time you gotta learn. That was definitely an education around the differences in pay structure. So, good experiences along the way.
Eric: Personally, how do you decide what dress code is for various construction events? Because there's a time for a suit and then there's a time for job site attire.
Ryan: It's a great question. And honestly, I mean, as I say this, you probably think I lived a pretty difficult life. But I mean, trying to figure out what to wear any given day is actually one of my bigger challenges in the morning because, you know, you show up at community meetings and you're there with bank CEOs or other leaders in the community and certainly they're wearing a suit and tie.
Matt: And probably nice ones, probably expensive ones.
Ryan: Very nice ones. They look good. And, again, that's totally necessary for their line of work, but there's no way that I'm gonna be stopping off at a job site on the way to or from said set of meeting. So, on more than a few occasions I'm usually packing a second outfit or something like that in the car as well. But, yeah. From a specific dress code around our business, you know, we are fairly casual because we wanna make sure that it's comfortable for all of our people to be very present in the office and that involves a little over 1,000 trades that they're wearing their jeans and boots and shirts to work every day. A lot of times if they're coming into the office after being on the job site, they got some mud on their boots and we wanna make sure the environment in the office is very comfortable.
Matt: Yeah. So, you did a couple of internships and some stuff outside of Barton Malow. So did your dad encourage you to do those or was that by choice?
Ryan: Actually, really more by direction of Purdue. So, the program that I was in had a requirement for three internships. And one of the rules was you couldn't work for a business that your family was a part of. And so I'm really thankful for that. I mean, it was...not that I was trying to not work with family at all, but just it definitely forced you to look around and look outside. And first experience was assigned by Purdue and it was actually working for Los Alamos National Lab in Los Alamos, New Mexico. And I mean, it was a great experience. It was just a gorgeous part of the country and really interesting work that was being undertaken in the mid-'90s. So, it was fun to be a part of, but it definitely helped to clarify what I liked doing, what I don't like doing, and then it was the second summer where I more sought out this concrete contractor and went and worked with them and just had a materially different experience. I mean, very, very beneficial, very valuable experience, but something very, very different than the lab.
Matt: Doing concrete in Orlando in the summer sounds hot.
Ryan: It was... I gotta say I was probably about the best shape that I ever was in my life. I mean, I actually really wanted to just be on a concrete placement crew. And so it was great experience, great to be able to be out there raking concrete and helping do these really large slab pours and just really be an intimate part of putting a building together. So, yeah, it was a great experience. Definitely hot but well worth it.
Eric: So then what was your first job at Barton Malow?
Ryan: I was a field engineer on the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center. It was a design-build project. We were responsible for the design and the execution of this small to medium-size arena on Eastern Michigan's campus and it was a great project. It was very impactful. The university was very excited about it. It was... From a technical construction standpoint, it had cast in place concrete and structural steel and precast and it just touched a lot of the different types of materials that we use, so it was just a fantastic experience to start off the career.
Eric: What were your thoughts coming in as the boss's kid on your very first job? Did you run into any difficulties with that?
Ryan: I think I'd grown up around the business and got pretty used to knowing when to introduce myself as Ryan or when to introduce myself as Ryan Maibach and figured out that it's probably more advantageous than that than just to say, "Hey, I'm Ryan." And so there are certainly are people that knew. I mean, the team that I was working on definitely knew, but, you know, I think when you approach it the right way, you kind of become one of the team pretty quickly, because the nature of our business, I mean, it's a rare circumstance where you have too much time or too much money or not enough issues to wrestle the ground. And so it's a fast-paced business and the team has to figure out how to focus on getting the job done. And so, fortunately, that team all gelled really, really well and it really didn't become much of an issue.
Matt: At any point in time in those first couple of jobs out of school, did any job site veteran tried to knock you down a peg?
Ryan: Absolutely. There's this nebulous tool in our industry called a skyhook that a lot of people will jokingly ask folks like me when you have no clue what you're doing, like, "Hey, man, I gotta get a skyhook. Go get me one." And so, you know, it's like that rabbit chase you're trying to find. You're going around the job site, "Hey, man, you guys got a skyhook?" And [inaudible 00:40:50] and after like, you know, the first few people start laughing and you start kind of putting two and two together... And so I mean, no question, there's always those sorts of experiences. And again, fortunately, my dad was really helpful and just not, like, coaching deeply around, "Hey, here's the do's and the don'ts of what you got to do and what not to do." But he was really good about just making you think about how you want to present yourself and how you wanna engage. And I actually had a buddy that I went on this internship with, this concrete company with and he took a bit of a different approach, a little bit of a harder edge and it was... I mean, his lunch box would get filled up with concrete, his boots would get filled up with concrete. I mean, he just... There's kind of, at least at that time, I'm certainly a bit removed from it now, I don't know how much it's similar or different, but, you know, things kind of take care of themselves. You take an approach that isn't gonna be welcome, you're probably gonna feel it.
Eric: Did your dad ever drop in on you on the job site in that Eastern Michigan job?
Ryan: On occasion. It's one of those things I remember both my dad as well as others in leadership how infrequently they would be out on projects and how notable it was when they did come and visit projects. And it's definitely something that has stuck with me and I'd love to say that, boy, that was so impactful that I make it a point to be very active and present on projects, but I do try, but I would probably say I try and fail because, you know, I'm sure that there's plenty of people through a lot of our projects that probably scratch their head and say, "Man, what the heck does he do all day?" And back to your question. You definitely remember having a lot of pride when my dad would come out and, you know, whether it was my dad or really anyone, but there's this innate pride around wanting to show off what you have put in place because no matter where a project is at at any given point in time, there's a story and there's typically a lot of difficulty that you've overcome to get the project to where it's at. And so you're naturally very proud to show anyone that comes and visits where you're at and explain some of how you got there.
Eric: Those first couple of years at Barton Malow or maybe a couple of years following those when you moved into some management positions, did you ever make any, like, major mistakes and you just kind of went, "Oh, no?" What was that first major mistake you made?
Ryan: Oh, gosh. I mean, that's... We could probably fill up the balance of the podcast. There's the first few that come to mind. I don't know that I even really want to talk about, but, I mean...
Matt: No, those are the most fun because they matter so much to you at that time and it's gut-wrenching. You're like, "Oh, I wasted that much."
Eric: Well, and everybody does it, right? So, it's good to know that people have done it before you and it's okay.
Ryan: Absolutely. And they then become folklore. I mean, we were just...had a retirement not all that long ago for a gentleman that I worked for out in Baltimore, Maryland. And for... Gosh. I mean, it's probably been 16, 17 years ago, probably 18 years ago that I made a recommendation and strongly defended this one particular mason contractor, that this guy needed to be awarded the job. And needless to say, it didn't go well. And so for years, you know, Bob would, like, hold it over my head and even, again, brought it up in his retirement speech. And so I don't know that I would go back and do anything different because on paper, this guy was the right choice. But again, with experience, you just see how things pan out. I mean, there were technology solutions that were coming online. As I was starting to enter my career, there was one company in particular that I was, like, "Man, we've got to use this product. We've got to invest in the company." And actually, I was able to convince our chief technology officer at the time to invest, you know, not a significant sum but actually, you know, invest some money in the company and they went under a couple of years later and it's just like, "Man, how do you miss it?" And so there's definitely a long list of those stories.
But for me, one thing that was really helpful to understand there was... I'm a part of this multi-year program at Harvard Business School and there's one professor in particular, the gentleman's name is Das Narayandas, just an awesome guy. In one of the early classes that I sat through, he asked, "How many engineers are in the room?" And I raised my hand and I was pretty proud thinking, "Oh, gosh, this guy has figured out that us engineers we've got it nailed." His thing was, you know, "You guys are really probably gonna struggle in business because for most of your academic career, it's been binary. There's a right answer and a wrong answer. And the reality of business is there is no right or wrong. There's ethics. There's right and wrong around ethics, but there's just different outcomes based on the business choices that you make." And that was super, super helpful, just a really pretty minor comment in an overall class that he was giving, but it was like, "Wow, you know, I never really thought about it like that." And so I think even in those couple of examples that I gave whether it's the mason or the technology investment, were they right? Were they wrong? They were what they were. They didn't pan out maybe as intended, but definitely there's tremendous learning in the process, and I think learning individually and then learning as an organization as a result.
Matt: So, how do you take some of that stuff that you're learning at Harvard Business School and go back and apply it to your company? Or how do you get people at your company on board with some of those ideas?
Ryan: Well, first couple of years, you know, I came back super excited and, "Wow. Hey, guys, what do you think about this? What do you think about this?" And I had a really long list of ideas and thoughts and, "We gotta try this now." And, you know, the strong sense of urgency. And I think... I'm actually in... It's a nine-year total program. I just finished my fifth year. And I think my approach now is a little bit more thoughtful that, hey, maybe rushing in with a strong sense of urgency isn't the best approach. And just over the last couple of years have pulled a few others into participating in some programs at HBS so that they're able to experience a little bit of what it's all about so it makes it easier as you're talking about either concepts or just even the classroom experience, they're able to relate better. And as well, we try to find ways and have found a couple of ways of bringing Harvard into the company a little bit more whether it's direct engagement of some of the faculty or through some of the other programs the school offers to be able to do leadership development and create some experiences for the team members in your own organization. So, I think I'll tie it into a consistent focus on continuous improvement and how do we grow and get better and stay relevant as an organization. And fortunately, we're doing all right at that.
Matt: Is the program mostly case studies?
Ryan: Pretty much all case studies. A couple of lectures usually each week that we go, but mostly that case study Socratic method. And it's really interesting that way because you're learning through the experiences of others and as you're reading the case, but then also learning from the experience of others in the classroom. And it's just very eye-opening, the range of different perspectives. And again, back to that point that Dr. Narayandas made, it's not as though any one of them is right or wrong. They're just different. And just understanding some of the differences in perspective it's really enriching.
Eric: Any case you find yourself repeating particularly often?
Ryan: Definitely, the case that comes to mind as you asked that question is there was a case, and of all things, teeth whitening, that I remember thinking as I'm reading it, it was actually a really short read and I just remember thinking, "This is ridiculous. I don't see anywhere where this goes." And it's about the two entities early on, the creative teeth whitening products and how they went about doing it and how they were directly competing really in a pretty unhealthy way with each other. And the questions in the case and a lot of the direction as you're reading the case was around, "Okay. More or less, almost how do you do bad or more effectively?" And I just remember thinking, you know, at the same time I'm thinking, "I don't understand exactly why we're reading this." I remember thinking, "Man, let's just go to the mattresses. I mean, you gotta find a way to take this competitor down." Harvard did just such a great job. In any of these classes, you walk in thinking one thing and you walk out with just a materially different understanding. And in this case, the different understanding was that at the onset, both of these companies that were creating these products viewed the market as this multi-billion dollar market, and the reality after all of this unhealthy competition, the market was only a fraction, I mean, less than 10%, a single digit percentage of what they had anticipated the market could be.
And so the professor's whole point was, so who really wins? And no one wins. And the reality is, you know, there's times that you have to find ways to compete and competition can be beneficial and healthy. There's times that you have to look out at the broader industry and say that, "Hey, we got something here. And how do we not collude or antitrust or anything like that? But just how do we make sure that we don't compete in an unhealthy manner that ultimately destroys value for everyone, including a consumer?" And it was just this, like, "Wow. Man, I just never would have got there, never would have really thought about it that way." For each one of us it goes back to, I think, a comment a little bit earlier about, you know, we gotta make sure that we're understanding ourselves, understanding what's happening in the world around us and really pushing ourselves to make sure that we stay relevant. And HBS has been really helpful for me in that regard.
Matt: You're an avid reader. Do you have any, like, a recent book recommendations that you give?
Ryan: Oh, boy, I actually just picked up a book, the title is escaping me, but it's a professor, a faculty at HBS, Mihir Desai. I believe the title is "How Finance Works". And as I assess my skill set, it's one of those areas where I would say I wish I was better at and I wish I understood more. And so I think he's just an outstanding teacher, just an outstanding individual. And he put this book together with, I think, really me and many others like me as a target audience. And so it really helps to simplify some of the complexities around finance. So, I'm working my way through that right now. And it's actually really good.
Eric: Okay. So let's go back to how you moved up through Barton Malow a little bit. At what point did you start working side by side with your dad or did you ever work side by side with your dad?
Ryan: I mostly worked on projects probably through the early to mid-2000s. And I was set to go and work on a project at University of Michigan. The University of Michigan was gonna be expanding The Big House, their football stadium and was a part of the team that had won the work for Barton Malow, but then the university put the project on hold for a period of time as there was an effort to save The Big House and they needed to hit the pause button on the project. And so I needed to find another place, you know, myself and really the balance of the team. And so found a business unit that was kind of a redheaded stepchild in the company at the time and was fortunate to find a role that I could play over there. It's actually where our yard is. And so it kind of brought me back to where I was working as a teenager. And I think it was really fortuitous. There was just an outstanding team of people over there that maybe weren't given all the opportunities that they could or should have. And so, you know, I might have opened up a couple of doors and, you know, just some really great things happened.
At the same time in the late 2000s as the economy was becoming more challenged and as our industry as a whole was really being impacted, that team, that business unit over there, I mean, we grew. We grew our revenue, we grew our profitability, and just really expanded the type of work that we were doing. And it opened up doors then for future leadership opportunities for myself as well as a lot of the key members of that team and it ultimately led into moving into the role that I'm in now back in 2011. And by that point in time, my dad had stepped back. There was an individual that had run the company and was president and CEO of the company between my father and myself. So, you know, my dad had definitely diminished his role by that point in time. So, all that to say, we didn't work really close together side by side, but definitely as I moved into my role, you know, my dad definitely got more engaged and from that point on, took on a role of just being a great coach and mentor and really probably for me and many of us on our team, probably our biggest cheerleader and biggest fan, biggest source of encouragement both when times are going well and offering some perspective when maybe times aren't going so well. And so very fortunate that when he's in town, he comes into the office every day as well. It's great having him here.
Matt: So, when somebody else kind of stepped into that position between your dad, and you, what was your thought process going through that? I mean, had stepping in as the president ever been on the back of your mind? Did your dad have a conversation with you about it or did it just kind of naturally happen and you guys kind of moved on?
Ryan: I was really happy when the gentleman moved into that role because I think I shared a little bit earlier, I was really happy working on projects and I figured at some point, you know, maybe there would be an opportunity for me to play a leadership role in the company, but my wife and I were starting a family and I don't think we were in a big rush to try to take on that sort of a role or all that goes into that sort of a job. And so very grateful for this gentleman who actually came in from the outside. He wasn't a part of the company previously, but stepped in and really did provide some very good leadership for the company for a period of a number of years. It definitely was a lesson as well, though, in that there were definitely some cultural differences that made it difficult for him and difficult for Barton Malow to fully embrace him and ultimately that's what resulted in him leaving relatively quickly and unexpectedly.
And so I remember coming into the office on a Tuesday morning thinking it was no different than any other Tuesday, but getting called into my dad's office and he showed me the letter that this gentleman had given him, notify him his intent to resign and leave. And we had an outside board of directors for the enterprise at that time and sort of in an ad hoc way that group gathered relatively quickly and decided that I should take that role. I remember it was quite a shock, quite a surprise, and certainly not how I anticipated going home that night. And obviously, I mean, it was a pretty late night that night and a bit of mayhem in the days that followed. But honestly, looking back on it, though, I don't know that I would have had the transition happen any other way.
Matt: If you can go back and think about that moment, do you remember thinking, "I'm not ready," or, "I'm totally ready. Let me at it?"
Ryan: Gosh, there's a lot of different emotions that run through your mind. I mean, certainly, thinking, "No, I don't think I'm ready but yet that's not really much of an option." This one, where the company was at at the time, there weren't as many options as there should have been. I should not have been the only option. And I think it's definitely a lesson around how to cultivate leadership in an organization as well. But I'll tell you, going back to the comment about faith earlier, my wife and I had actually just had some conversations the evening before as well as in the days and weeks before that also offered a bit of comfort that there clearly were things that have been happening over the last few weeks that more personally made us ready to embrace and absorb something as significant as that transition was. So, again, it's a range of different emotions. Definitely not feeling like, "Oh, hey, I got this." I mean, I think any overconfidence that I might have had coming out of college into my career I think I'd pretty well lost by that point. And so thinking like, "Wow, this is kind of a big deal," but also feeling very comfortable that it was what's meant to be and happening for the right reasons and let's try to figure it out.
Eric: So, you're 36 and you have a young family and you take on this new role that's gonna clearly take a ton of your time and energy and travel and some of those things. Do you remember... How old were your kids at this time?
Ryan: Yeah. They must have been I think six and four at the time.
Eric: Okay. And then do you remember, like, having to balance family, nights, kids getting up in the middle of night, and job requirements, and how did you strike a balance there?
Ryan: Yeah. I don't know that I would say that I struck a balance. I think there was definitely times where the teeter-totter was falling more to one side and times where I was falling probably a little bit more to the other side. And it was definitely challenging at times. And I think looking back on it, you know, I would definitely give myself at that age some advice that I probably wouldn't have listened to in all honesty, but it is hard. And whether you're in a CEO or a leadership role or really any role, I mean, life is so dynamic and there's so much more complexity in the world that we're navigating today comparative to, you know, 15 years ago or 30 years ago or 45 years ago. It's no easy task for any family to try to achieve balance. And we're definitely in a much better place as a family today than we've ever been, but it's definitely and still a very much an intentional conversation about how to try to figure out how to make it all work.
Matt: Yeah. That's good. We have a couple of other kind of quick, rapid-fire type questions for you. So if you're okay with that, we'll ask you some of those.
Matt: All right. What's the most underrated Will Ferrell movie?
Ryan: Jeez. Underrated or my favorite. I mean, I think "Talladega Nights" is awesome.
Eric: If you're not first you're last. That is a great move.
Ryan: Shake N' Bake. Shake N' Bake. Yeah. I mean, fortunately, we actually had the opportunity to work on the Daytona Speedway along with a handful of other NASCAR facilities. And I'll tell you, they nailed that movie. No doubt about it.
Eric: The quotes were flying on that job site?
Ryan: Definitely a lot of analogies and probably more stickers on that job site than any other that we would have, but, yeah, it was a cool project, but, man, super funny movie.
Matt: What stickers are on your hard hat?
Ryan: Boy, I actually just got a new hard hat, so I don't have any stickers on my hard hat right now, which is kind of disappointing, but I need to get a new Purdue sticker because on my last hard hat, there was an American flag, a Purdue sticker, and a Manitowoc sticker. Manitowoc is a type of crane and I always...just cranes are cool and always thought that was about the coolest brand.
Eric: Okay. Is the stickers like you put some on, take them off type of thing or you pretty much just rocked those three for a while?
Ryan: I'm kind of a loyal guy and I don't change stuff up like that all that much, so, yeah, Purdue, it's kind of go back to your roots, and back to probably favorite brand and construction besides Barton Malow would be either Carhartt or Manitowoc.
Matt: Okay. How many hours do you sleep every night?
Ryan: That is rarely a consistent number. I think last night probably about four and the night before probably about six or seven. It really varies. I don't say this with pride nor would I endorse this for many people, but I'm very fortunate that I can get by on that much sleep.
Matt: Yeah. Some people can just get by on less sleep. And do you find yourself you're one of those people, you can function with four to five hours of sleep?
Ryan: Probably people can question how well I function, but somehow I can be awake and go here on not much sleep.
Eric: Now, executives of companies never look at their company's Glassdoor rating on that website. But you happen to have a very high approval rating. Do you have any comment on to why executives have high approval ratings or low approval ratings or why yours happens to be so high?
Ryan: So, I will say I have no idea what my rating is, but I will say as well, though, I definitely have spent some time on Glassdoor more because some of the comments are really fascinating and it's just... I think when you get to a certain position, there's times where you really cherish unfiltered feedback. And unfortunately, it can be hard to find especially if you're in a role for an extended period of time. I mean, there has to be a measure of intentionality to really seek out totally candid feedback. And so Glassdoor is actually a pretty good source of that. You certainly don't want to go into a day or a week or for us as an organization to say, "Boy, how do we make sure that we don't hit the mark for, you know, said person?" you know, whomever it may be on your team? So when you read some of those reviews and you read about some of the experiences that people have, it's like, "Wow. Gosh. Obviously, we really did miss the mark." And it keeps you humble and keeps you motivated to keep trying to figure out how to do it better.
Eric: So you have a Burner or a Glassdoor account? What's your profession in your Burner account?
Ryan: What? I don't think it's a Burner. I'm pretty sure it's me. So I...
Matt: So Glassdoor is like, "Hey, your review was recently read by a CEO."
Ryan: Maybe that's why I get hit up by recruiters. Actually, those are fun phone calls when the recruiters do get connected up and keep telling you about this great job [inaudible 01:04:55]
Matt: Great opportunities. Yeah.
Ryan: Yeah. Maybe it ties back to Glassdoor. I don't know. Yeah.
Eric: They don't understand that it's a family business and you've been there because you're a fourth generation.
Ryan: There have been a couple of times where it's been kind of fun to play along for a little while, but...
Eric: Yeah. It's a funny thing.
Ryan: We've done a lot of research on you.
Ryan: Really? That's awesome. What did you find out?
Matt: What are the websites you check every single day? Do you have any of those weird hobby websites that you check that nobody knows about?
Ryan: Oh, gosh. Weird hobby websites. So, I mean, I like news so I check out local news, Detroit News, Free Press. That's probably not what you're looking for. But actually, I really enjoy the Drudge Report, and mostly because it is such a fascinating smorgasbord of stuff. There's very much current events and politically driven content as well as there's just some really unique, interesting technology and sort of state of humankind type content as well. Every now and then you'll see article from The Smoking Gun or something really crazy, or there's aggregation of content from truly all over the globe. I would say that's probably the best go-to site.
Matt: That's a fascinating answer. We talk around here sometimes about like, mainstream news and, you know, it's an aggregator of content, but it all has to fall kind of in a pretty narrow band of what is acceptable or what is, you know, newsworthy whereas a site like Drudge Report is like, one guy's curated interesting things and you get this wide range of content, but that is specifically curated by an individual as opposed to, like, the aggregation of a bunch of people's like mainstream opinions, and it's the diversity of news like that to be a fascinating thing.
Ryan: Oh, it is. And, you know, we do this process in Barton Malow where every Tuesday leadership gets together. It's a really tight meeting. We forecast our state of the company in about an hour's time and at the end of it, we talk about business environment and we bring in content about what's happening in the world around us. And I would say that either articles from Drudge or articles from The Economist are probably two things that I bring to that group, you know, as much as anything because, I mean, it's just, again, fascinating from those two different vantage points, certainly one a little bit more buttoned-up than the other. You can get a really great sense of the state of the world and the state of the economy from both of those perspectives.
Eric: If you had to think of a single like lifestyle technique that has allowed you to do your job better that you've adopted over your career, what is it?
Ryan: I can say, I can't imagine what it would be like to try to do my job absent technology. I have some really maybe trade answer but, I mean, just, you know, use of an iPhone, it just opens up so many doors and the ability to be untethered to a specific location or your desk or a landline or what have you. So, back to the question about balance a little bit earlier, my daughter's got her final swim meet over middle school swim season this afternoon at 4:30. And it's great to be able to go there, be a part of that and still stay a little bit current. Fortunately, I mean, it's a swim meet, so...
Eric: You got a lot of downtime.
Ryan: You got a lot of downtime. But you can still, again, stay current and then be able to go home and catch up on some things if need be or... We got to find better ways to create some boundaries and some buffers. And you certainly don't want people to have it on 24 hours a day. I certainly would not endorse or encourage any of our team members to do that. So, we all gotta operate with some measure of boundaries, but it provides just so much flexibility to live a more effective life.
Matt: You're a fan of innovation in the workplace and construction. What kind of ideas and innovative ideas or future technology in construction get you really excited?
Ryan: Definitely, the bigger and the more bold are the ones that excite me. I think, while, hopefully, you've picked up there's a lot of passion around our industry and what it does and what it means and where we're going, in just the type of facilities that we create it's very, very clear that we have not changed anywhere near to the degree that we need to over the last 10, 15, 20, 30 years. The time that it takes to build 100-bed hospital isn't dramatically different today than it was 15, 20 years ago, the cost basis. Our industry is ripe for efficiency. And so I think that somewhere out there, hopefully, ideas cultivated inside our four walls, but whether coming from us or coming from the industry at large, there's gonna be a fundamental reshaping of how we go about creating the built environment. I have no doubt that it's gonna happen in my lifetime and during the course of my career. And I think society will be better for it. And it's gonna be really exciting to see it happen because I think it's gonna open up just a lot more potential for our communities at large to create better environments, better spaces, and it'll be very disruptive, but it'll be exciting to watch.
Matt: Do you guys do anything at Barton Malow to try to stay ahead of that curve or stay on the forefront of those changes?
Ryan: We have a definition of innovation that's very broad. And coming from Webster's it's really innovation is any new idea or concept or tools that's brought to bear. And so we've bracketed innovation into three areas of focus. You know, one is continuous improvement where as we like to say, any team member that's ever been frustrated has the opportunity to innovate because if you're frustrated, then you naturally are inclined to think about, "Wow, there's got to be a better way." And so, you know, continuous improvement applies to everybody. Innovation can come in the form as well of things that you look to bolt on to your core business, your core offering. We're fortunate in an organization like ours to have some really entrepreneurial folks as well that are interested in trying new endeavors or creating some sort of spin-offs. And so we look to stoke and encourage that. Then the third category is business transformation which is just the blank sheet of paper, the blue sky, the fundamental redesign of the traditional boxes and lines of the hierarchy or structure of our business. And I like to spend a fair bit of my time there. And we've made a couple of investments in some technology that I think has opportunity to do just that, to really transform how our businesses is done. I'm not naive to say that what we're working on or what we've invested in will be the sole source of innovation or the sole source of truth around a fundamentally redesigned construction experience, but I definitely think we've got some really good ideas in play that I'm excited to see how they pan out.
Matt: I read a thing about comparing the cost and time to build a subway station in New York City from 40 years ago to today. Most things in our world get more efficient, cheaper, better with newer technology, better processes, but back then they could build them in half the time for half the cost and today it's like crazy, more expensive. Do you sometimes wonder if, like, the built environment it's not necessarily follow the same technological curve as other things and as things get more complex they actually get like more costly and more difficult to build?
Ryan: Yeah. I think that there was definitely a time where I would have said that it's the lack of technology being embedded into what we do that's probably the reason why, as the rest of the world is moving towards things being faster and cheaper and higher quality, where, and at least in a couple of those regards, it may be taking us longer, it's costing us more. I think we're still delivering on an equal quality level that we have. But I think as technology is embedded and embraced more and more and more in our industry, I think it's way more than technology that will get us to a state of disruption. It's really connecting the dots between, you know, how technology can be used to drive a different business model and how we can embrace some of the advanced manufacturing techniques that we see being so effective in so many other industries, you know, coupled with a collection of tools that can help augment the workforce and make the workforce that exists today more efficient and more effective. So, it's really... I think disruption and construction is gonna come in the form of the convergence of those four things that will, again, result in just a fundamentally different, you know, approach and business model.
Matt: That's great.