Construction Management: Building and Designing Sock Drawers

February 4, 2015

Managing construction and sock pairings are more similar than you'd think.

Mike Rhinehart, VP of KBD Group

KBD Group's Vice President Mike Rhinehart

Design-Build professionals aren’t necessarily known for their style. I’m no different. Each morning, I wake up early and get ready to start my day. While others spend time debating their attire for the day, I shower, grab a suit or KBD Group polo from my closet, and then, effortlessly grab a pair of socks. For me, there’s no need to fumble through a variety of colors or piece together mismatched socks. In fact, I don’t even have to look in my sock drawer – all of my socks are black.

Designing my sock drawer in this fashion might seem a little odd, but it has given me great clarity in life. I can pick out socks in the dark, if that was ever necessary, and I always know they match. I’ve seen some interesting styles of socks out there, but I’ve never been drawn to add them to my collection. Black socks are simple, and they go with all my suits.

As Vice President of KBD GROUP, each decision I make is equally as simple and straightforward. Just as with my socks, there are no gray areas when it comes to business decisions. If you are true to your morals, making direct decisions becomes second nature and wavering is never an option. Being a leader in KBD Group and in the industry comes with great responsibility. I never compromise my integrity for anything, which is why to me – answers are always black and white. In the business of sales, sales people can be susceptible to stretching the truth to gain prospects. In the construction industry, many of us have seen corrupt contractors go to jail for doing just that. As I’ve grown professionally in the industry, I’ve been exposed to my share of people choosing the “gray” route, but I knew that was not an option for me.

“Construction” or “sales” is not the business I decided to be in years ago, but rather “trust.” It was an easy decision because like my commitment to black socks, I made a commitment to myself to make decisions based on no gray areas.

Managing construction projects and contacts could have challenges. A little more than 10 years ago, I was offered a special deal to “win” a county government project. On a late night phone call from one of my prior friends, I was directed to assemble specific team members from other smaller companies and submit a proposal for an approximate $65M project. I was told after the pricing and interview process, we would be awarded the project. Although the potential monetary reward may have been enough to sway some, I could have made the decision in the dark. Honoring my prior commitment to my sock drawer, and myself, I didn’t even have to think about it. I vehemently declined.

Building my career in trust, as I continue to do, I was still curious of the outcome of that project, so I tracked the project and waited to see who would win. Sure enough, one of my competitors assembled the same team I was supposed to assemble, and they won the project. Approximately 15 months later, I was watching the evening news and was surprised to see the individual that gave the late night call offering the special deal was being investigated by the state. The news reported that a number of awarded design and construction contracts were being investigated. Eventually, three people, including my former friend were tried, convicted and sentenced to prison terms.

Each morning, when I grab my black socks, I think about that commitment to no gray areas. It’s something I apply in my everyday life and throughout each project. Thankfully, it’s not always as scandalous as the under-the-table deal above.

Bidding on a new construction or design project or forming relationships with potential clients, I look to KBD Group’s Mission and am reminded of the high standards the firms expects. I’m instantly able to answer when asked seemingly challenging questions such as if we want to use sustainable materials or would rather use more affordable supplies.

Being able to easily choose socks or make decisions doesn’t mean I’m less likely to consider others’ points of view. At KBD Group, we thrive on collaborations and input from team members. Being a comprehensive provider of construction services allows the whole team to work together to complete a project from design to operation. Also, KBD Group is part of a network of companies under the Kajima Corporation, which allows us serve our clients across the globe.

Leading a life of integrity is a must in any profession, but especially in design-build, because we’re creating environments for our clients, in which they have opportunities to succeed. Would you want to take a shortcut or make a gray decision with someone else’s success or failure on the table? Me either.

The next time you have to make a decision and you’re weighing the options, think of the sock drawer. If you’re contemplating leaning toward gray, just remember – with a sock drawer full of black socks, you’ll never question your decisions moving forward or looking back.

- Mike Rhinehart, vice president