by Rob Danforth, Principal.

I’ve been with FSi since it’s infancy, and now retirement is one of those objects that “may be closer than they appear.” This seems like a perfect time to reflect on my gratitude for the experience of building and growing a successful company.

A long time ago, I worked with an engineer that had an entrepreneurial spirit. He left the firm, started a new company, and talked me into joining him. That decision changed a lot about me and my life, having a much bigger impact than just my career.

We had some pretty big upheavals at the beginning, and that led us to get a business coach. Coaching became an integral part of FSi, and as a result, it became an integral part of who I am, too. Larry Ransom has been our coach for decades, and as we’ve had people retire and others assume positions of leadership, the culture of coaching has stayed consistent. It has contributed to FSi’s evolution, and the evolution of myself and my colleagues.

Sometimes, coaching leads to unexpected results as people become truer to themselves and their own needs. I will never forget the time when the company founder came back from 4 weeks of vacation with a big change in mind. I said, “How are you doing?” and his reply was simply, “I’m done.” He had taken a close look at himself and decided it was time for him to leave the company for other pursuits. It was a real surprise, but in the end, I was grateful to him for making the choice that best served him. It allowed the company to grow in different ways. In the end, it turned out to be the best thing for everyone.

Another impact of the coaching culture is that I learned the power of intention. We set intentions, and they feel very different to me than goals. There’s another level of power to them, and I’ve seen it happen at company and personal levels. We started by being intentional and putting sales numbers up on the whiteboard. Sometimes, one of us would set an audacious intention that would raise eyebrows around the room.

There’s a power in audacious thinking. It’s not necessarily that those big numbers get hit, though sometimes I’ve seen them get doubled. Even when they don’t, there’s still power because other things come about that would not have happened without that initial, bold intention. There’s also the opportunity to declare a breakdown, which is what the rest of the world calls “a problem.” A breakdown is just a difference between an intention and an outcome. At FSi, we acknowledge the gap between our intention and the current reality, and then we go on to figure out the best way forward. I think this is one of the reasons our clients really trust us; we don’t cover up things that didn’t go according to plan. We say what is so, and then get back on track. That’s a direct benefit that comes from our coaching work.

One thing I think is important to mention here is the sharing of tasks and responsibilities. We share our work and roles. This has many benefits, not the least of which is that I’m still happy to come to work after 35 years, because the weight of the entire company isn’t resting on just my shoulders. It also gives staff at every level the chance to take on new things. The simplest way to put it is that the leaders don’t hoard responsibility or skills.

FSi is an important part of my life. I helped to create it, and I’ve helped to shape it into a dynamic, forward-thinking company that is a great place to work. The way we have embraced the benefits of coaching gives me the confidence that FSi has a long future as a company and a strong player in our AEC community.

Read about what Principal Ben Roush is grateful for.

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