Here I am, on an island off Portland, ME in the home of one of my fellow network members. There are three BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines networks representing thirty-two businesses in total, and our network of ten is in full attendance. Some of us have come alone, some of us have brought significant others, and others their business partners or key employees. My wife Tova is with me, and she fits all these descriptions. This gathering is following-up a conference call from earlier this summer - we all felt the need to meet again, to see each other in person. We've all come to learn and to share. We'll spend a short day getting to know each other better, and each business will spend 45 minutes presenting to the group. The nine businesses, other than my own, hail from Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts. They include an architect, several design build contractors, and two non-profit organizations. In some ways we run different businesses and yet, in many ways we're similar. We have the same problems and questions. All of them want to help me, and all of them want to help each other. I get great advice from the others, and I'm able to listen and make suggestions to the others. I don't know all the answers and haven’t had all their experiences, but I've made some of the mistakes they're trying to avoid and solved some problems they're facing, and I want to help the others succeed. We have become very close in a short period of time.
Tova & Steve Greenberg at a Plan Bygg gathering.
Steve Greenberg, Rick Ames, and Paul Eldrenkamp talk quality of life (selves, families and employees) in addition to our quest for excellence in our craft
Our mentor, Paul Eldrenkamp, has come to this gathering. He is both the facilitator and a member of the group. He helps to guide us, by sharing his experiences, his wisdom, and his sympathy and advice. We also return the favor. As a business owner, he has questions and wants suggestions from us. No one in the room knows it all and everyone would readily admit that they need help and welcome advice. But this network is not just about the "profit" end of the business. We talk about our quality of life, both for ourselves, our families, and our employees. We talk about our professionalism and our quest for excellence in our craft. We feel the need to benefit our community as well as the environment, and to build and practice sustainability. We support each other, but we don't just sing around the campfire either. We don't beat each other up, but we take it very seriously. It's about our livelihoods, we want to succeed and we want the others to succeed too. We want to Contribute, not just take. We want to be able to walk the talk. I want to grow my business, provide for my family, build or renovate homes that are sustainable and beautiful, and pass the businesses on to my son (not too soon). We're a true family business with unique challenges that the other business appreciate learning about, and wish to help with. Outside of our gatherings in-person or on the phone, many questions, comments, answers, and suggestions are discussed on our online forum. Some things stay within our network, some involve the entire group. Some things get resolved, other things take on new perspectives and evolve.
Plan Bygg en route to Peaks Island
We are preparing for our September "in-depth" meeting. We'll meet for dinner to socialize and catch up, and the next day again spend an hour or so with each member going over our "homework”. Then it's on to spending the entire rest of the next day focused solely on the business of our first host, Mary Quigley of Quigley Builders. We have already determined what specifically she wants help with and have begun the process of identifying how we can help her reach her goals. We'll meet and interview key employees, past clients, vendors. We'll look at the "books." operating procedures, and key documents—all with the goal of trying to help better that business. She'll leave that gathering with her homework and present her solutions and progress at the next official gathering. In between meetups, we will continue our ongoing process and growth together. Over the years, I've hired consultants and paid for seminars. Moving forward, I will still attend NESEA events (especially the Boston conference), as well as JLC (Journal of Light Construction) and other trade shows and educational seminars. However, I don't think the experience, expertise, and overall goals of BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines and it's approach to a Whole Business Network can be matched or found elsewhere. I intend, eventually, to give back more than I received.
Learn more about what the Bottom Liners are building here.
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NESEA advances sustainability practices in the built environment by cultivating a cross-disciplinary community where practitioners are encouraged to share, collaborate and learn.