Building Culture: The Foundation of 8020 Builders

We have been talking about culture a lot lately at 8020 Builders. 

It means different things to different people, but it’s equally important to all in my opinion.  We’re all feeling the pinch of the shortage of skilled employees in our industry and I believe culture is what is going to make 8020 successful in overcoming that challenge. 

So, what does culture mean to me? 

The ideas are many and they’re interrelated but here’s a quick summary:

First, culture is part of every company, whether it gets talked about or not.  This means it can be great, terrible, or somewhere in the middle. If you think culture is not important at your company I would suggest your culture is less than ideal and it’s affecting your success.  Employees, through their words and actions, define your culture.  If they’re not satisfied and fulfilled, challenged and allowed to breath, given a voice and heard, not only is productivity affected but loyalty, attracting new talent, customer service, problem solving and innovation is weakened.

myth: money and rewards motivate people to work

Second, culture, more than processes, defines the success of a company.  We are a construction company so we have processes; it’s absolutely a necessity.  However, processes are only as good as the employee’s willingness to implement them.  Making it simply a condition of employment works at first but that energy fades in time if culture is lacking.  Your culture effectively defines the “why” to your employees about your company’s success. Having a power-with model with our team, our subcontractors and our clients is an intentional focus of our culture strategy.

Motivation comes from building confidence, providing encouragement, challenging people to put forth their best efforts, and attaining unfeigned commitment to do the work.
— Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins

Third, culture and leadership are inextricably linked.  Strong leadership is required to maintain a healthy culture or change a poor one.  Leadership styles vary across and even within companies but the consistent trait that strong leaders have is that their employees would say they have their best interests at hand when they make decisions.  This relates to the “why” mentioned above.  This type of leadership creates a strong culture because the employees believe in the purpose of the company as articulated by leadership as they grow. What that creates is consistency of message and buy-in to values and cause.  It means employees share a common sense of purpose in their daily work life and they naturally tend to look out for each other.  That’s a strong culture.

Finally, at least for now, I believe a huge part of culture is trust.  At 8020 we trust our employees and we hold each other accountable not to abuse that trust.  This trust allows us to give our employees more freedom to be creative.  Creative in how they work and even where they work.  We focus simultaneously on supporting employees with proper training and feedback so, when things go wrong as they always do in this business, we ‘fail fast’, learn, and move on.  Our processes are robust enough to give us the professionalism we need while maintaining this creativity.  The 8020 Method, after all, is about focusing on the early part of the process where means and methods are most fluid and creativity has the greatest impact.  Without this trust we don’t find the unique solutions.  We don’t build a culture of creativity and execution.  

Leaders need to see themselves as mentors not task managers. Their focus needs to be on transparency and simplicity and improving systems and processes.

We are still growing this company and its culture continues to evolve along with it.  These are my high-level thoughts on what it means to me.  As we build we are developing specific components that support these ideas while being fluid to evolve with us. 

We provide all our employees with unlimited paid-time-off.  Everyone gets an annual stipend to use toward any sort of learning experience they wish, work-related or not.  We have an employee culture document rather than a stodgy manual. We allow everyone the ability to work remotely as much as practical.  Our team contributes to the growing culture.  What the future holds for this team and this company is the truly exciting part for me.




Trust : From the perspective of a General contractor


In one blink of an eye we decide if someone is friendly enough to take one step forward together. And in the second blink we decide if they will be able to accomplish something with us. This isn't trust, but simply the beginning of building something great together. At 8020 Builders it isn't enough to build great things. For us to be satisfied with our performance we need to establish trust and strong, meaningful relationships with all of the people who help us bring projects to life. 

Can you remember a first hand shake with someone you wanted to do business with? 

Photo by skynesher/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by skynesher/iStock / Getty Images

Most likely a sense of hope was wrapped in that first handshake and a desire to learn more about the details of what it would look like to work together. Before you knew it a contract was in place and you were off to the races feeling like you had a relationship that was strong enough to not only weather tough times but to overcome any obstacles that challenged the project's success.


Engaging early in the life of a project gives us both an opportunity to get to know each other and appreciate each other. Ideally, the foundation of trust is built early in a project's life.

Pre-construction is:

The process of defining parameters, identifying hazards, and bringing solutions to the table so that we can begin to build trust through the actions we take together.

At 8020 Builders our goal is bigger than building projects, our goal is to do the right thing at the right time for the right reason. Before we set out to build we declinate our compass to your vision and prepare for the challenges that every project inevitably throws at us. 

Pre-construction is a bridge building opportunity that takes us from a superficial relationship to trusting relationship before ground breaks on a project.

By building trust in pre-construction we can avoid many of the situations that keep people in superficial, low trust relationships. ***HOW?***

In contrast, consider this example of  a project that was procured hard-bid style to illustrate how unexpected issues can become trust breaking problems:

The project is awarded to the lowest cost bidder and the lowest cost subcontractors. These team members have been brought together by one common factor-their proposals were the least expensive. This could mean they have some incredible cost advantage in the industry or it could mean they already screwed up and will be looking to be made financially whole throughout the project. As an Owner, you'll never know until it's too late. One thing you do know, however, is that you have NOT been brought together based on your common interests, shared vision, project delivery philosophies, or your moral and ethical standards - building blocks for establishing trust. This is your choice, but be prepared for the resulting relationship...

Workers start digging and encounter a differing condition than what they expected when they put their estimate together. Here is how the conversation unfolds:

  • Sub-contractor: We didn't anticipate the amount of work it's going to take to accomplish this task. We didn't include the upgrade cost of the equipment or the labor time required to work through this surprise in our estimate. The equipment and manpower required to work through this unexpected issue will require a change order.
  • General Contractor: Well, we gave you all the drawings before you bid this project...
  • Owners or Developer: We thought we were clear about the conditions and our expectations...

and the trust in the team erodes. unforeseen issue by unforeseen issue.

Destroying trust doesn't always end relationships. We may continue working with people and companies we don't trust. Doing business together isn't typically an accurate measure of loyalty or trust. It can sometimes simply mean we have a superficial relationship with a team who is at least competent enough to complete a project. Think about how many loyalty cards you have in your wallet for discounts at the grocery store. Are you loyal or do you simply enjoy the discount you receive on your favorite brand of coffee?

How can you tell if you are in a low trust, superficial relationship? When trust is destroyed we may end up more connected to the idea of how right we were and how wrong the other person/company was. You can imagine the dialogue in your mind, can't you? 

  • "If they would only take responsibility."
  • "So and so is such a bear to work with."
  • "Don't they even understand what this is doing to the budget/timeline/relationship?"

At 8020 Builders we understand there is a middle space between a conflict presenting and the meaningful resolution of said conflict where trust is built.

We don't expect perfection in our projects or our people.  Mistakes and unforeseen issues are inherent in our business.  Internally we focus and train our team how to respond when things go awry; how to engage in that middle ground to build trust. How we choose to navigate creative tension, surprises or unforeseen conditions on projects, and conflict, either builds trust or destroys it.

The 8020 Method is based on a solutions focused, growth mindset culture. Solutions either build trust or they don’t. The ones that do super-charge our relationships.

We know emotion can run high in this process. Our people expect that. We don't view emotions as negative things to be managed, controlled or mitigated. but as valuable insights into how we can engage to care for the relationships involved in solving issues before they become problems.

Our people appreciate that it is this work that builds trust and we embrace it.  

Reflection Questions:

How does doing business with someone who isn't resourced or capable of navigating conflict affect the outcome of your projects?

What are the unforeseen costs associated with doing business with people you don't really trust?

How has a superficial relationship cost you in the past?



8020 Builders: A General Contractor Building Denver's Assets with Investors and Developers.


Building is what I love doing. Beginning with an internship in college I deliberately pursued a career in the industry and have never questioned the choice. The past 25 years afforded me experience on just about every type of construction. My skill set and accomplishments in the industry have helped me develop my reputation as an expert and  leader in our industry today. 

My path took me to integrated models of delivery and gave me valuable knowledge about the design and development side of the industry as well.

I will always be driven by the prospect of creating great spaces through creativity and integrity while maintaining a growth mind set within a team environment. 

In 2014, I brought this unique set of skills along with an intense desire to build a culture to the new venture of 8020 Builders.

We are creating a company focused on excellence in construction, a holistic approach to the entire life cycle of a project, and a company culture unrivaled in our industry. We look forward to the challenges new projects bring with confidence that the team we have can meet them successfully.
— Steve Rogers, founder and president

Shawn and Caleb are our field experts. They are out there orchestrating and building project teams with all of the craftsmen who work to deliver your project. ProCore allows us to better communicate field details with our team and our clients. 

Tami, Gabe and Cincy are working the details of your project from start to finish.  Our goal is to establish trust through communication. We do this multiple ways. One cool thing we dig is our real time reporting of all of the important information about the progress of your projects. Including cost projections. In real time.

Brendan is a dedicated and tireless communicator of strategic initiatives. Translating strategy into accomplishable objectives; empowering individuals to create positive change is totally his gig.  As the VP of Operations and General Manager he manages the development, operations, and financial aspects of the organization's services.

We're in this together.

We bring our experience, knowledge, and creativity together to deliver on our promises. Not only to our client’s, but to our sub-contractor partners, and the team at 8020 Builders. 


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Inevitability In The Construction Industry

 "The precision with which we plan and track our projects now is truly impressive.  What we can’t change is that the vast majority of what we do is still hand-built, custom work."

"The precision with which we plan and track our projects now is truly impressive.  What we can’t change is that the vast majority of what we do is still hand-built, custom work."

“Oh snap! What are we going to do now?”  You just don’t make it very far in this business without thinking this.  In the moment it can seem like the proverbial end of the world.  The project is at risk, your job may be at risk, you find yourself thinking how did I screw up this badly and what happens next?  Years later it’s simply a great story over a beer.

After nearly 25 years in the business I have uncovered a trend that was disturbing at first.  Now it’s comforting.  Every project has its “oh shit” issue.  Some projects have more than one (ouch).  Instead of seeing this as a continued failure some would say use each one as a learning experience.  I support that notion entirely so I’m going to assume if you’re enlightened enough to be reading blog posts about our industry that you’re already attuned to the idea of learning from your mistakes and instead focus on something else.  Inevitability.

Construction is a messy business.  Sure we like to think we do it pretty well most days and I have to say I’ve seen advances in technology and college instruction create efficiencies over the years that are simply amazing.  The precision with which we plan and track our projects now is truly impressive.  What we can’t change is that the vast majority of what we do is still hand-built, custom work.  The pieces and parts may have become more standardized or controllable with advances in machining and the like but we still trust Joe the Plumber (couldn’t resist) and all his counterparts to put it all together by hand at some point in the process.  This means shit happens sometimes; it is inevitable.

Take heart though for there’s something else.  Just as mistakes, big ones, are inevitable so is progress.  The project will get done.  This is not to say it won’t hurt or it won’t cost money you weren’t planning, but it will get done.  Except in the rare cases, at least here in the US, where a project is simply abandoned, somehow or another the work needs to get completed and everyone involved knows it and is ultimately motivated to that end.  What I’ve found is that this fact many times creates unlikely partners and even creates greater results through necessity and innovation.  We all have the war stories to prove this is true but we may not always see the results for what they are.

The successful navigation of these moments requires leadership for sure.  While completion is inevitable, getting there relatively unscathed is not.  I have discovered over time that the key to providing this leadership is the calm approach that only comes from the acceptance that the shitstorm you’re standing in was always inevitable.