Jeff Gouveia | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Jeff Gouveia

Background:  

Suffolk Construction is a building construction firm behind some of the nation's most visionary construction projects, including the Boston Opera House and Miami's JW Marriott Marquis.

The Mistake:

I made the mistake of thinking it was about building buildings and not about building the right teams.

I founded a construction firm with the intention of building really great buildings, and the primary goal was to get them built and get them built well. But I soon realized that in order to do so, you needed a great team. Some 15 years ago, I had that aha moment when I was building a project that was not going particularly well.

I woke up very early one Sunday morning because I really couldn't sleep thinking about this project. I went down to my kitchen table, and I was trying to think about why this project wasn't going well. I took out a pad, and I drew a line down the middle. And on the left-hand side, I wrote down all the projects that I had been involved in that had gone really well. It was a subjective feeling that the project had gone well and was a good project. And on the other side, I wrote down the projects during my career that I felt had not gone well, that didn't feel like the final result was what I had hoped for or strived for.

So I looked at the left and the right. I was trying to find a common denominator between those. As I looked, I couldn't really find a common denominator until it finally hit me that the projects that had gone well were the ones where the people on the team got along really well. They complemented each other, and they supported each other.

And on the ones that hadn’t gone well, the team was disjointed and folks didn't particularly get along. So what it really came down to was trying to match personality with personality, rather than skill with skill.

It's not always just about a skill set or what a person can bring to a particular project.

The Lesson:

It dawned on me that if you can build a team of highly qualified technical people who actually want to work as a team and support each other, that's the secret.

It's not always just about a skill set or what a person can bring to a particular project. People that get along well together simply work better together. If you can build teams of folks who get along really well with each other and those teams are focused on supporting each other, then those teams are building buildings.

That's one of the major factors of success in these projects, and realizing that was the big shift for me. That's what it's about: It's about building people and building teams.

Follow Suffolk Construction on Twitter at @SuffolkBuilds.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Gouveia

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