Empowering our crew to innovate

Last month the leadership team snuck away for a two-day retreat to define our goals for 2019 and lay out a roadmap for how to achieve them. Even though it can be tough to set aside this time, we’ve made a priority of having these retreats since starting the business and every year we reap the rewards. A few years ago, we wrote our vision statement at a retreat, “We will help build a resilient, sustainable community by bolstering the local economy and embracing innovation. We will do this by creating permanent, livable-wage employment in Bellingham; by working almost exclusively with local manufacturers and vendors; by collaborating with small local businesses through peer groups; by serving as board members on local non-profits and by relentlessly pursuing the science and art of building higher quality buildings.” This vision statement has become a guidepost for our annual strategic planning and this year, it led us to decide to renew our focus on trainings and make a company-wide goal for 2019 to ‘infuse training into everything we do.’

Why focus on training

For us, training is a way to support our crew and invest in their future, whether their future is with Chuckanut Builders or not. We prioritize company culture because we know how fun and inspiring it is to in an environment where folks are fired up about their work. We also know that even in the best of circumstances it can be easy to lapse into the mindset of routine and familiarity. And while we totally get that there is a place for routine, time honored practices (especially in our line of work) we also want to make sure we encourage folks to question these practices, which is one of the key elements of innovation.

Conferences and trade shows

In recent years, we’ve attended (or are looking forward to attending this year) many conferences and trade shows including: the International Builders Show, the Journal of Light Construction Conference, Built Green, the Northwest Green Building Summit, and the International Living Futures Unconference. All of these conferences present big ideas and new techniques, provide opportunities to learn from industry experts and innovators, , and spark creative problem-solving that we can bring back to our work here in Bellingham. . Attending conferences also helps us to figure out whether  we’re on the right track, it can help our crew build confidence and affirms (and reaffirms!) that our work is important and necessary in the fight against the effects of climate change.  

Toward Net Zero project we completed in late 2017, where we held a few in-house trainings.

Local training opportunities

Luckily, we also have a handful of great local organizations who put on conferences and hands-on trainings. Small Planet Supply is a Washington-based company that regularly coordinates trainings focused on building performance and efficiency. Sustainable Connections and the Building Performance Center, both based in Bellingham, frequently collaborate on conferences and seminars. These local trainings also offer the added benefit of being able to network with other local builders and trade contractors.

Beyond the nuts and bolts (nails and screws?!) of the content of these trainings are the other, less tangible benefits, like having fun and getting out of our normal routines! Taking a break from  the daily checklists gives folks a chance to see their work with a fresh set of eyes, which offers a much-needed recharge and renewed energy to dive back in.

We’re excited about the energy that’s been growing behind this idea since we shared it with our crew. And even if we can’t catch everyone right away, we know that every time we make an investment in one employee it becomes an investment in entire crew. Our hope is that this year’s focus on training will open new doors, welcome in new ideas and continue to help us reach toward our goal of being the best green builders in Bellingham.