Give People Ownership to Activate Growth with Brent Gibson at Construction Simplified

Beyond responsibility, you have a state where people feel like owners. This does not require financial ownership like profit sharing or options. I have seen powerful benefits when you give people ownership. Today’s guest is Brent Gibson, President at Construction Simplified. Inc Magazine ranked his company #1392 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. Construction Simplified provides construction and consulting services to the residential and commercial markets. Brent shares the benefit when you give people ownership. He will provide you with uncommon insights that you can use to align your employees. When you give people ownership, you connect to their hearts and minds.

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Brent Gibson: The Transcript

About: An entrepreneurial construction professional who creatively blends industry talent and strong personal drive to provide and achieve a superior business of building. Brent Gibson is a first-generation constructor who takes great pride in the industry and surrounding community, loves the creation of the built environment, and pursues mastery of business. His experience is defined by various leadership roles in multiple types of construction projects, with projects valued up to $40 million and totaling over $500 million. With an innate entrepreneurial spirit, he chose to move past the standard business modeled firm to create a company which provides an environment for those driven in the industry to naturally deliver innovation, expertise, and excellence to their client partners.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Brent Gibson: [00:00:00] My belief is if we bring somebody on and people face fear, and you know, head-on, we’re going to do more revenue. It’s a, it’s a very simple person with a bigger, better, stronger team. The year-over-year increase of income, the potential continues going vertical. And only with that and hard work does it work

Intro: Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett: We look at the structure behind ownership for one particular company. Our special guest today is the founder of construction simplified. They were number 1392 on the Inc list in 2021. And we have Brent Gibson, Brent and I looked at. How he thought about the beginning and really where that came from. And really, to be honest with you, it came from the same place that a lot of our ideas come from. It was the kind of agreement that he wanted to have when he was a young go-getter at about [00:01:00] 28 years old. But the company you worked with didn’t see it the same way. So he created a business model that would serve him and his younger days. And he’s been able to grow his company incredibly fast because of that. You’ll enjoy tuning into exactly how he structures that, but also why he structured it that way and what it does, and the impact that makes across the organization. We get a little bit into the culture of it, but he said, we don’t have to talk about culture because we live it. This is who we are. And I really love the beautiful leadership elements inside of today’s episode with Brent.

Now, if you’re thinking about your own journey as leaders and love to get you to pause for a second, are you truly leading as powerfully as you know you can, If you answered that question and you’re not quite sure, or you don’t have an answer, then I’d love to invite you to a conversation. That conversation is not to sell you anything. That conversation is truly to give you a chance to talk about what you really want to create, and that can help you see what’s getting in the way a lot of people just get caught up in the day-to-day work. They don’t see what really is getting in the way, and I could actually help you zero in on it. I’ve been doing this [00:02:00] for a decade and I’d love to help you. Figure out what it is getting in your way of growth and being a more powerful leader and creating the kind of company you’ve dreamed about. All you have to do is go to Genehammett.Com schedule your call. We’ll chat. We’ll get to know each other and I’ll serve you as powerfully as I can. I won’t sell you anything. I promise. All you have to do is go to Schedule your call today. Now here’s the interview with Brent.

Gene Hammett: Hey, Brent, how are you?

Brent Gibson: Good Gene. I’m doing great today. I’m looking forward to our discussion.

Gene Hammett: Well, Brent, we’re going to have an incredible discussion about ownership and what that really means for your company and the impact that has before we get started. Tell us a little bit about construction simplified.

Brent Gibson: Yeah. So construction simplified is a multi-phase construction executive team. As I referred to it. We do three main services, the first service, which is about a third of our business. So what we call the owner’s representation that’s essentially representing clients from inception through completion and operations but bringing a very simplified and understood approach to construction the middle third as we often refer to it. Well, we call [00:03:00] our typical standard construction management, where we’re actually holding contracts of some contractors and building buildings. And then our final third is what we call development partner development partners, where we are earning equity for fee or for actual legal equity in developments for either ourselves and our client. So it really blends the owner’s mindset with the builder skillset and brings it into one as a development.

Gene Hammett: I haven’t heard of this actual business model. Is this something you created or did you learn this from somewhere else or just saw a gap that needed to be filled

Brent Gibson: Kind of a little of all three. So as a rising vice president of operations at a previous company, I want to own stuff. I’m really good at building. I’m very creative. , knowing that working for a man has, we may refer to it. It doesn’t get me where I wanted to be. I figured there had to be a better way to, to work on owning real estate. Every in my normal course business. But I also knew you had to be very good builder guys that develop real estate, usually having a good builder, and that’s also giving away a profit margin.

So we looked at it doing blending those two. And then also the [00:04:00] owner’s rep is you have to understand what it’s like to be an owner. You have to feel what it’s like being an owner, whether that’s writing the checks, delivering the bad news, dealing with the bad news. , so we kind of a blended services profile. And then that you’ll find out God blended with a business profile to say, does it all make sense? And does it work for a busy.

Gene Hammett: You said a sentence in there that I think a lot of entrepreneurs have uttered before. I don’t want to put a highlight on it. There had to be a better way. , I’ve said this sentence probably millions of times. You’ve said it in, in the birth of this company. I really appreciate you coming here to talk about this and really looking at the leadership style that would you have brought to the table here. You’ve got a small team, but you guys have grown relatively fast, you know, making the ink list at number 1392 last year pretty impressive.

Brent Gibson: Thanks for that. It’s, it’s been an interesting road, especially with Inc magazine. , what started my entrepreneurial journey over seven years ago, eight years ago. , I was an inaugural member of an ink business owners council. , we had councils in, I believe it was Miami New York, LA grand rapids, Michigan through some [00:05:00] personal connection. My very first night, we were at a Thursday night pre-event, I guess you would say with bill Rasmussen, the founder of ESPN. And that was really my, my deep dive instantaneously in the entrepreneurship with 12 individual business owners in West Michigan spent three hours with bill, a fun fact. He started and don’t quote me. ESPN. And I think he was 56 years old. So it kind of gave me this idea that anything’s possible. At that point. I was probably early thirties, a lot of wantrepreneur if you will. And I said I’m going to do this. And that’s what started the journey.

Gene Hammett: I love the story here Brent when our team gets some research on the company and about what you guys do, what we discovered was some of you guys really believe in actually giving people. And I know this probably isn’t something that every company can do, but when did you start giving people equity in your company?

Brent Gibson: So from day one we give we’ll call it false equity from day one, because there certainly is a grace period of getting to know one another, making sure the business model fits for each of us. But the pushes no sooner than a year, but very [00:06:00] quickly when everyone is ready to give legal equity what’s unique about that is the current partnership group that’s onboard gives away a portion of their equity for that new partner joining the team. So not only is it, Brent Gibson, giving away equity, I gave away the first 25% of the first partner. It’s everybody thereafter giving away their share to bring a new team member on. And what better way to build a great team from day 1.

Gene Hammett: That is pretty interesting. It’s not just that, you know, because equity is limited. We can’t just go, you know, make more of it as our government does. And with dollars and whatnot, you have a hundred percent that has to be always in balance. You started, so you own the company, your first partner is 25%, and then now you have nine people. So everyone is considered a partner at this level.

Brent Gibson: That’s correct. And give you a little bit of the mathematical background. Those guys who like spreadsheets and math. There as when I was the only owner, there was essentially two owners. There were construction simplified holdings, which was 50%. And then there was Brent Gibson partner, number one, who owned 50%. When I brought on the first partner, I gave away half of my personal [00:07:00] equity, 50% to 25%. The big plan for construction simplified is 10 offices across the country. 10 partners.

That’s a hundred individuals. And I would share equity with all those 99 partners. That’s 49 and a half percent. I retain 0.5% plus construction, simplified holdings, 50%. So we have a majority. And the plan at that point is I checked my box. I built what I wanted to build. We actually turn it over to the 99 partners. They double up on equity. I make my exit and onto my next thing. So a lot of math went in. But it’s a, it’s a, it’s a conversation that’s had almost daily in the office. It’s a spoken plan. It’s a vision and everybody is on board with,

Gene Hammett: I know that was pretty simplified for you. And when I asked you to repeat it again, just a little bit so that we can get it in a simplified way.

Brent Gibson: Construction simplified holdings owns 50%. Brent Gibson personally. I’m going to talk at full capacity, 99 partners. Plus Brent has owned one-half percent and 99 partners own 40, 49% of I’m sorry, 49 and [00:08:00] apart it’s 49%. So it’s 49 and a half percent owned by partners and Brent’s owns a half plus fit.

Gene Hammett: Okay. That makes it sense. It makes sense to me now

Brent Gibson: That the internal mission is for construction simplified for me to create a company that I ultimately want seven years ago. And how can I own something with a team that I want to work with and have true ownership and effect in growing the business? And that was kind of my mathematical way of doing so.

Gene Hammett: Now I’ve talked a lot about creating a place where people feel like owners and you don’t have to give away equity. I mean, it does help for sure, because you know, a financial document that says I own this piece. And you show up to meetings in a very different way. You solve problems a different way. Why did you feel like equity and ownership was such an important piece to the scale of the well,

Brent Gibson: Gene is, as you would get to know me, I am a hard worker and I believe that everyone has the utmost responsibility and responsibility to their team members. It’s hard for me to sometimes I’ll say play I would rather trade my, my requirements, my expectations of them for something that look at them and say, you own part [00:09:00] of this company. And that set that set a lot, or that’s communicated a lot. It works. They feel completely entitled to the company as well as I know that they own it. And it’s, it’s not Phantom stock. It’s not golden handcuffs, whatever these poorly cultural terms that float around there. Sometimes these guys own it.

Commentary: This whole episode, we’ve been talking about, gives people. But I want to put something out on the table. You can actually create a sense of ownership without people having formal equity, but you do have to want to lead more powerfully. There’s some core elements that I’ve discovered inside of all my research and the conversations I’ve had here. And you’ve got to get a few things, right. And if you have some of the missing. It’s gonna take away from that feeling of ownership and what I when I mentioned what these are, I’m just going to go through them very quickly. But if you want to find more information about it, there’s plenty of episodes about ownership inside this podcast. All you have to do is reach out to me. I’ll point you into the right direction. And those elements look like this one is a mission. You want to make sure people are, understand the mission and they’ve really bought into it. The other one is inclusion. They [00:10:00] have to be included in the ideas around how we’re going to move forward, how we’re going to overcome things in the decision we’re making. You want to make sure there’s a transparent component to what you’re doing and creating. It’s not just financials. It’s about the conversations you have. Empowerment has to be there. If you want to create a place where people feel like owners, you have to empower them really well. There has to be growth. There has to be a chance for people to improve on their experiences and talents and skills. Inside the organization. And finally, the last point of this is the mindset. You have to have a mindset that they really do want a sense of ownership, and they’re not just showing up to get a paycheck, all of those things in place. And I can show you what they are if we had a chance to talk. But I just wanted you to know that you don’t have to actually give up equity. You can actually create a sense of ownership just in the way you lead and create a culture around that back to today’s episode with Brent,

Gene Hammett: I’m kind of curious. A lot of times as entrepreneurs have these ideas for concepts. And this is a little bit different for me. I’ve never heard it playing the way you’ve done it before. Did anyone tell you that [00:11:00] you’re kind of crazy? You’re making this complicated, maybe it was the legal team or maybe the accounting team. I’m not sure your legal team for sure. Said this is not wise right?.

Brent Gibson: They were the first ones that said exactly what I said, just this is what I want. We can draw it. So and they did. And now seven years later, they I would get a very similar reaction to people as people see it working, we’ve done nearly 20 million this year in revenue. It works. We have our big distribution event tomorrow night to all the partners. And it’s, it’s mathematical there’s no personal drink gets to assume, well, this guy did a little bit hard to work than the other it’s a straight line. It’s, it’s exactly what I wanted, where I had a problem before.

Gene Hammett: I love that the concept of it I’m a math person, but I also love that when, you know, you’re bringing people in trust and I heard something in there that I think is really powerful is every time a new person. Everyone is giving up a little bit of their stakes to make sure that that relationship is solid and we’re going to move forward. They’re going to make it work for board. Is there any lessons learned inside of that? Just hiring new people and giving up that equity

Brent Gibson: A tree of Adam and hire the right people. [00:12:00] Certainly we’re getting better at that. , everyone operates differently. We know that a great team is made up of different personalities and different strengths and weaknesses. We know, we all know that this has really just reinforced the team. There’s a lot of fear that some may have if they’re giving up equity. And we did the same amount of revenue next year, as we did this year, ultimately they would be losing income. My belief is if we bring somebody on and people face, fear, and you know, head-on, we’re going to do more revenue. It’s a, it’s a very simple person with a bigger, better, stronger team. The year-over-year increase of income, the potential continues going vertical. And only with that and hard work. , it doesn’t work

Gene Hammett: Well. I want to dive into a little bit of the other aspects of leadership inside this company, because it’s not just equity, you know, situation and whatnot. How would you describe your leadership style? Brent.

Brent Gibson: Direct continuous. We just finished, a book by Patrick Lencioni, the five, a Scotsman. I give him a shout-out. It was leadership at the team. I’m having to bring a brain slip here. There was a statement in there and I highlighted it so I can re-discuss them book [00:13:00] club that only the brave and I’ll, I’ll, I’ll bring this short, only the brave will continually address people and say, let’s do this. Let’s make it better. Let’s chase continuous improvement. Let’s work as a team. Only brave managers will do that. And I highlighted it for my team because I often feel that. When delivered too many times, even if it’s delivered perfectly, people can start to say, man, it’s never enough. And I brought that up openly to say, Hey, I know I deliver a lot of continuous improvement thoughts, but it, and it is a lot, but it makes us better. And I wanted to have that open, direct communication. And it seems to work. And again, it’s who I am. It. Luckily I built, I started a company as myself so that culture is created.

Commentary: Brett has talked about only the brave seeking continuous improvement. I really do believe that your business. We’ll continue to grow, or it won’t grow based on your ability to accept continuous improvement. And this doesn’t mean just you. This means the entire organization. It has to be a central part of what we’re doing. We have to have values that really help us go beyond where we are today. That’s how [00:14:00] we continue growing. We don’t get stale. Now I bring this up because I want you to really think of this. Are you leading as powerfully as you need to, to create that continuous improvement across the organization? Or do you put your head down and just get to work? Do you focus on what’s right in front of you and ask everyone to do the same? I know what it’s like when so many things are going on, but if you’re not always improving on the systems and the processes that you have, it makes it that much harder to create the predictable growth that you want to as a leader, back to Brent.

Gene Hammett: When you look at, you know, your evolution as a leader. You were an entrepreneur, you know, just for seven years. I’ve I feel like I’ve been an entrepreneur for all my life. Did you have to unlearn some things, about business and how to create this kind of place that you live in now?

Brent Gibson: Yeah, I think every day is, is something new, right? I look back even though I might’ve only started with business under this current flag seven years ago, I look at when I was 10 years old, I did very entrepreneurial things. I think very entrepreneurially. Why did I have a challenge? Why did I rise up at my old firm, but also in the same respect, hit the glass [00:15:00] ceiling multiple times? It was those entrepreneurial tendencies. What did I have to change going into this really understanding that people, you have to find the good in people and then Polish that good? And you’ve got to ask them to work on their parts that could be improved, but also respect the part that’s excellent about them. And I think for me, I’ll say mentally, I need to slow down and really work at being, becoming a better leader and appreciating, but pushing. And that sometimes it’s very, very delicate.

Gene Hammett: I would assume all the people that you’re hiring you would also want them to think entrepreneurial as well. Is that true?

Brent Gibson: That’s correct. We often debate. Can you teach hustle or hunger or is it learn? And we try to find ways to do that, but ultimately. Our summary is always, you have that or you don’t have it. And can you explain it? is one thing, but if you’re not born with that gene, with that desire, sometimes it’s really hard.

Gene Hammett: Yeah. I think I would lean toward the side of things like that are innate. Some people are just naturally hungrier than others. And just so we’re clear with the audience, we don’t mean actually hungry cause I have a 14 while he’s always hungry, but I will say that [00:16:00] the, you know, it’s really hard to motivate someone to drive. As a leader. And I really don’t know if it’s even possible to the level at which we really want them to. So you’re looking, you’re, you’re looking for that person. That’s already got the hustle and hungry. And how are you determining that in your hiring and vetting process?

Brent Gibson: So we have a lot of examples. We’re just, now I’ll say getting ready to this. This is good timing. We’re really looking to bring on more partners and hopefully expand throughout the nation here in 22, opening an office in Florida, that’s going to push us and really vet how good are we at hiring? People, especially when we might not have day-to-day control or influence over that culture or who they are, or that market. So the test is ahead of us. , we have a lot of, we have a couple of different matrixes and rubrics that we have created over the years that really define, we look first for an eight-plus project manager. And what does that mean? We then have what we call a partner performance, matrix. That really takes that A-plus project manager and exposes them to the business side. So how do we really vet those ideas and validate it and get [00:17:00] good examples from those individuals?

Gene Hammett: What have we not touched on here, Brent, that you feel like is important for us to understand how you guys work and operate and create the growth that.

Brent Gibson: I, I, I started this company with hustle, with a plan, very good mathematical plan, a belief in people. I believe that most people are very talented, but fear stops them. I was one of those individuals. If you looked at Brent back in high school, he’s not Brent today. I moved to where I, where we live in the business. I started knowing nobody. So I look at it and sell people, get out there and meet people, have this conversation with Gene, see where this takes.

Isaac Newton had it right. But energy towards something and something will happen. So we’re constantly testing that theory to see what happens next. The beauty is we always have a decision at that next moment. So I’m a believer in good things will always come if you work towards it and trying to push that in the business sense. For me, the only way to make that sink in is to give people ownership because it’s a never-ending try this net let’s do that. And all my prior experience said everyone [00:18:00] plateaus and stopped somewhere along that line. And that’s okay. It’s just not the company I want to build.

Gene Hammett: I want to wrap us up here with this. I kept thinking when you talked about giving people ownership and I do believe in this, and I really appreciate you giving us insight into your business. Do you guys have to talk about culture? Do you have to talk about the things that a lot of companies struggle with because everyone is an owner or do those things just kind of work naturally in your favor?

Brent Gibson: I would say we don’t talk about it as much because we naturally feel that every day, a lot of companies obviously put it on the walls mandate stuff. We live it. And I think that’s what the that’s the when you’ve reached your Zen, right? You’re living your culture. That sometimes it’s not the culture that Brent envisioned on day one. Absolutely. I can also control that culture. I can influence that culture. So, but we just had our Christmas party Friday night and we looked around the room and we said, we’re a good looking company both in physical form, but also just our skills and our personalities and who we are. We love who we are together. And I think that’s a testament to the team, always recruiting the best, wanting to work together. It’s a really good [00:19:00] feeling.

Gene Hammett: Well, it’s a beautiful story. So I’m glad that you had a chance to share it here on the podcast.

Brent Gibson: Thank you, Gene. Appreciate that.

Gene Hammett: Brent has just given us his perspective on, you know, giving people ownership instead of a company and what happens. We went through the mathematical formula, so you can look at it. It’s a little bit different than what most people do. But what I’m really hearing here is someone who cares about a company and scaling the right way. Not afraid to give people. Equity and inviting them into something really special. And I think that’s really a strong part of the leadership that hopefully, you can learn from today.

If you have any questions about where you’re going next as a leader, here’s my offer to you. I have a chance to meet, sit down with a few people each week where I can sit down and look at what’s really going on in the business. What’s going on in leadership what’s missing and help you give, get some insight around this, some wisdom so they can move forward with clarity to know how important that is.

Absolutely. All you have to do is go to and schedule a call. I offer this to you because if you’re listening to this, this deep end of the interview probably want to be a better leader and I help people become [00:20:00] more powerful leaders, inspire a sense of ownership within their company that can do that for you to just go to and schedule your call.

When you think of growth, think of leadership, think of Growth Think Tank. As always live with courage. We’ll see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.




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