From Burnout To Breakthrough: Reigniting Passion And Preparing The Next Generation In The Family Construction Business | Ep. 249

COGE 249 | Family Construction Business


Working for a multi-billion-dollar construction or a small family business has pros and cons. But what is the difference between these types of companies? In this episode, Joel Lipsky, the President of Lipsky Construction, brings light to reigniting passion and preparing the next generation in the family construction business. He also shares how he integrates Virtual Construction Assistance into his business. One of the large organizations Joel works with caused burnout, which led him to a breakthrough in his family business. As he dives deeper into the conversation, Joel shares tips for fighting burnout. Tune in to this insightful episode with Joel Lipsky today.

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From Burnout To Breakthrough: Reigniting Passion And Preparing The Next Generation In The Family Construction Business

What’s the difference between working for a multibillion-dollar construction company and a small family business? You may not know the difference because you’ve never experienced that but there are pros and cons to both types of companies. My guest is Joel Lipsky. He has deep experience working for one of the largest contractors in the world. He is the President of his own third-generation family construction company, Lipsky Construction.

In our discussion, we talk about how he was brought up in the construction business, went off to college, got his own Construction Management degree, and the wisdom of his dad in not bringing him immediately into the family business. Also, the challenges of working in large organizations, the things that he learned in terms of processes and other approaches to managing safety, budget, and schedule, and how he burned out in one of those large organizations. He went to Hawaii for a few years and then came back into his family business.

It’s a wide-ranging conversation that I think you’ll find extremely interesting. We end the conversation talking about his other business which is Virtual Construction Assistants and how he used Virtual Construction Assistants in his own business. As a result of that, he has started his own company helping other construction companies to delegate and outsource some of those tasks that consume overhead, but don’t necessarily add a bunch of money to the bottom line.

Enjoy my conversation here with Joel. Feel free to share it with other people. In the end, Joel shares some real insights into how to choose a business coach for your organization. Full disclosure, Joel and I are not working together. You’ll get a perspective from a construction company owner that is very vital in terms of choosing a business coach for your construction company. Stick around at the end for those insights. Thanks for tuning in.

Joel, welcome to the show.

How are you?

I’m doing well. It’s interesting. I was having a chat with one of my clients and their family business is going through transitions from one generation to the next and lots of challenges associated with that. I’m using that as a setup. I’d like you to begin by introducing yourself to our audience. Give us a little bit of background on you, your career, and how you got into construction.

Thank you for having me on the show, first of all. I grew up in Long Island, New York. I lived here all my life. I come from a family of contractors. My grandfather was a residential builder in Levittown. My father and uncle developed it into a commercial construction company that services a Long Island area. Since then, me and my brother have taken over the business. Before joining the family business, I went to college and received a Construction Management degree.

I had the opportunity of working for a very large design-build firm while I was down in Florida called the Haskell Group. They are one of the industry leaders and pioneers of design-build. After I graduated with my Construction Management degree, I had the opportunity of going back to New York and working for Turner Construction and the city. That was an experience within itself. Turner puts you through a meat grinder. There’s a lot to learn. They have a very large company and a lot of resources that they pull from. There’s a tremendous amount of learning during those five years.

Can I take you back here a little bit? In your mind as a young man, as you begin to think in your teen years, 16, 17, or 18, did you always consider yourself as someone who’s going to get into construction? Was it a challenge for you? How did you go through that process being someone who was brought up in the business?

More of the vision my father had for us is that there was always going to be a successor. My father was the oldest boy in his family and he succeeded the company with my uncle. Me being the oldest son on my father’s side, there was a vision for me to succeed in the company. I naturally gravitated to construction because I happened to be pretty good at it. I was better at construction than Arts and Accounting in college. It was an actual transition.

Were you okay with your dad’s vision? Was that something you embraced? Was it something you struggled with? The reason I’m asking you is because I know a lot of people who are reading own their own companies and they’re thinking about their kids getting involved. I’m interested in that dynamic.

Ebbs and flows, different times in my life had different visions for myself. I wouldn’t trade where I am for anything. I’m very fortunate to be where I am. I have a great business partner, my brother, that I work with. I feel like at different times at one point, I was in Hawaii working for the Department of Defense after Turner. I was like, “Should I be a scuba instructor?” I was doing scuba every weekend or, “Do I go and make a career as something?”

I remember specifically in Hawaii at the time, we were taking out people from Oracle on these scuba trips and some large California tech companies. I was like, “They all own house houses and assets. If I was going to be a scuba instructor, I would have a cool job but I would probably be renting for the rest of my life.” At some point, you need to determine what is your career versus what your hobby will be. I was able to make that distinction. I still have my hobbies but I have my career and I’m very fortunate for that career.

Having been brought up in a construction company, and if you can’t think of anything it’s fine but what advice would you give to fathers in terms of how they mentor their sons or daughters into the business?

Three big things come to my mind when you ask that question. Be open-minded and listen to what their vision is as much as what you want their vision to be. Be patient with them. The third is to seek professional help or coaching to some degree because it’s a rocky road working in a family-dynamic company. There are going to be times when it’s very testy and there are going to be other times when it’s going to be an amazing experience to work in a family company. Having a business coach or a mentor, and I know that’s a service you provide, is a key component in that process.

I appreciate that. You go to college and get your CM degree. I know Haskell is a relatively large regional builder, and Turner is a behemoth. Give us a little bit of insight into what it’s like working in corporate construction versus a family-run business.

When I went to Turner and Haskell for that matter, it was very processed and procedure driven. They had checklists. For example, something I haven’t seen ever prior to walking into Turner is that before they even pick up a bid, they have a go-no-go, which I know is something that people like you preach to your clients. It is to evaluate the project prior to you committing your resources, which is a valuable commodity in our industry before they do it.

Turner has it down much to science where every line item has points. Literally, have you worked with this client, it might be plus 2 points versus minus 2 points. You fill all this out without any emotion very factually, almost like an underwriter evaluating insurance and they’ll spit out a green, yellow, or red summary. Red means, “Absolutely, not. We’re not going to do consequential and liquidated damages if we never worked this guy.” Green meant this is a good opportunity for the Turner Corporation. Yellow meant you had to get an executive override from a project executive or someone higher up and Turner to turn that into an opportunity. You had a sell it before you commit to the resources.

Something as simple as this 2 or 3-page checklist before they even commit their resources was something much different than how my father operated. The comical thing about my father at that time prior to me walking in was, “You never say no. You bid on every opportunity.” From a generational business owner, that was something that you don’t ever turn down work or an opportunity ever. It could be something as small as a dormer extension or a window replacement to a full-blown house.

You never turn that down whereas the bigger companies I was seeing turned down work. They don’t do change orders unless it is an improved change order, for example. There is a lot more process and procedures in a big company. I tried to bring some of those practices and principles back to the smaller company when I transitioned into my family company.

Why didn’t you start in the family business?

This is where I have to give a lot of credit to my father. He’s an extremely smart entrepreneur. He is the patriarch of the family in many ways. I think he was playing chess. He recognized that I would never get past what he has set up for himself and my uncle unless I was exposed to something much larger and I brought that knowledge back. I have to credit my dad for almost saying, “You’re not going to work for me.” He pretty much turned me down when I want to go work for him except in the summer. I’m schlepping brick from the job site. He refused to take me on it first until I had some experience working for a much larger organization. I have to credit my father for envisioning that.

If you can think of two different categories, and you described one about the processes, which is tremendous, but what did you reject from the larger corporate entities that you’re saying, “That’s not fit for the way that we do business?”

I talked about some of the good things, processes, procedures, and manuals. When I first got back to Lipsky Construction, my dad had four project managers and all four project managers used a different subcontract. It was like, “Let’s standardize this guy. Let’s have our attorney review one subcontract and let’s all use the one subcontract that we agreed to.” Those are some of the positive things that I brought back.

Some of the things that I felt were too big for a small organization. Lipsky Construction at that time was going too far into the weeds on the go-no-go. I also feel that some of their processes and procedures, if we had followed them to the degree that they fall them, it would take a lot more overhead for us to do those things. The company is like Haskell and Turner. It has divisions for everything. As you win a war, it goes to purchasing. They buy it out, then they hand it off to their execution project management team, then they have a closeout team. They have divisions for everything whereas, in Lipsky, we have one project manager who when he gets the job runs it through closeout and starts estimating for his next job because to me you can only do so much for four project managers.

Tell me about your own personal experience because I see when you’re working with Turner that you were a field superintendent. Was that an intentional decision on your part to be a super as opposed to a PE or PM in Turner?

I believe that Turner has a good understanding that you need field experience. You could say that you understand it on paper, but there’s a difference between seeing duct work on a drawing versus duct work going up in the field and how that clashes with your fire sprinklers or voltage electric wires and what is a fire-rated smoke damper in the field versus what it looks like on the drawing. Turner has a good policy of throwing everyone in the field at first because they want you to understand. During the recruiting that I do for my team, I’m focused on how much time they spent in the fields just as much as how much time they spend in the office as a project manager.

There's a difference between seeing ductwork on a drawing versus ductwork. Throw everyone in the field to understand. Click To Tweet

As you were in the field, you had your CM degree and all that stuff, when you were working with your dad through high school and stuff, did you get experience in the field at that point?

Yes. I’m a very visual learner, which is why I like a lot of subjects. I talked about scuba diving. When I first went to college, I thought I was going to be a marine biologist but then they start talking about the cells that make up phytoplankton that you cannot see and I’m lost. I was like, “This is going to be a hobby. Where do you swim with the dolphins? That’s what I want to do.” When you go to school for Construction Management and they’re talking about CMU block and mortar, it’s in my head. I had huge forearms during the summers. I envision exactly what they’re trying to explain in the textbook. I’m not a textbook learner. I’m a visual person. When they talk about structural steel, mechanical, or CMU block, I knew exactly what they were talking about during my college degree.

What advice would you give to someone who’s fresh out of college with a CM degree? They’re joining maybe their first company. They’ve had a couple of internships. What advice would you give to a fresh graduate in terms of establishing their credibility in a company as quickly as possible?

I would gravitate to the field and network as much as possible. Any organization that you can join regardless if it’s a quarterly happy hour of emerging construction professionals in the city. I know the AGC or Associate General Contractors in New York has a Construction Leadership Council. I would highly encourage those types of networking events as much as getting yourself exposed to the construction field. You’re going to learn a lot by doing those two things.

COGE 249 | Family Construction Business
Family Construction Business: Get yourself exposed to the construction field. You’re going to learn a lot.


You worked for Turner for a few years and I heard burnout. Is that what happened? How did you get to Hawaii?

Fortunately for me, I had a good friend in in my college years, Amos, who was pretty much a big brother and mentor to me who ended up working for STRYKER Medical. STRYKER Medical is like the Turner of medical devices. He was already out in Hawaii and I went out there for his beautiful wedding. When I was working for Turner, the field is a grind. I was on the 446 train to Manhattan. I wasn’t getting back to about 6:00 or 7:00 at night. I was a nighttime superintendent. I was working probably close to 80 hours. This is when Bear Stearns went under. JP Morgan took over Bear Stearns and we were renovating all the trading floors. I went up doing cost. Cost in Turner was probably the biggest light bulb where I was like, “This is how they run a business.”

I was able to do a risk assessment and value each project. I was reporting, not only to the cost division leader but also to the VP of New York, Charlie Murphy. The only Three things that Charlie asked for quarterly were, “How’s the safety? Are we on a budget? Are we on schedule?” Everything else was white noise for other people to delegate out and deal with. I saw what he was looking for and I was like, “Let’s pretend he’s the business owner of New York,” which is essentially what he was. I got a good understanding of much higher up in the food chain, in the organizational chart what these people look like. At that time, when I was working in cost, I didn’t have my own cubicle. I shared a cubicle with another cost engineer.

My friend, Amos, called me up and he says, “I have this good opportunity for you in Hawaii. You could be a superintendent project manager doing these operating fit-outs. I need an answer right now. Otherwise, I’m calling somebody else.” I was like, “You put me on the spot.” I looked up and I was like, “In five years, I have my own cubicle. In ten years, I could have another office. In 25 years, maybe I get a corner office if they haven’t asked me by then.” To summarize inputs to this, I was like, “I’ll see you in a week.” I walked in and resigned. I picked up the job offer to go to Hawaii. I spent one year in Hawaii doing operating fits-outs with my friend Amos.

Any regrets about that decision?

Absolutely not.

Why not?

It was a time for me when I had a lot of burnout. I was not happy and overall nasty. I think that something that we’ve recognized, especially in New York, is that mental health and construction are completely overlooked. One of the things that I try to preach to my employees is, “We have to maintain mental health at all times regardless of whether that means you need a break.” Sometimes in the office, I’m like, “I don’t know what’s going on with you.” He’ll tell me. I’m like, “Go to Topgolf and take this person with you. Forget about this job for a bit. Refocus. Come back tomorrow and let’s charge through this problem together.” Something that a lot of the bigger companies do overlook is mental health.

Let’s talk about that because that’s interesting. How do you distinguish as a business owner, which you are between those who need a break like you described and people who are not willing to ball out and grind through the challenges that come up in construction?

That’s something that you’re going to learn over time. There’s a difference between someone that could use a break versus someone that is not capable of doing something. My uncle has this phrase that I like and I bring up in my interviews, “I can teach you everything but motivation. If you don’t have the motivation and you’re not bringing that to the table, that’s going to be a problem for me, and probably within 30 or 60 days, I’m going to shake your hand and say, ‘Best of luck. It’s not working out.’ If you can bring that to my team, you can commit yourself, grind through this, enjoy the good moments, and work through the bad times, then we can work very well together for a number of years.”

Everything can be taught except for motivation. If you don't have motivation and you're not bringing that to the table, that will be a problem. Click To Tweet

You gave one practical thing which is a little break in terms of mental health. What are some other things that business owners can do in construction to help their employees with their mental health?

Take them out for coffee. I try to take one of my employees out every quarter. I try and do quarterly coffees or lunches. I’m like, “We’re going to grab lunch.” What I’ve noticed is that when I do those things, they tell me things that they don’t tell me. Maybe something personal in their life that’s affecting them or something else, and I can get ahead of that as opposed to reacting to something very dramatic in their life and then affecting the project that they’re on then I have to do something about it as a reaction.

I try and go around the office and, “Now I got to grab John and take him out to lunch, and then maybe after two weeks, I’ll grab Adam and we’ll grab a coffee.” It’s one hour. It’s $50 that you can get ahead of these problems by caring about the people that you work with, whereas maybe the older generation is like, “Keep your problems to yourself and work.” Me and my brother try and care about our well-being, not only inside the office but also outside of the office.

I remember this one time I was going through a hard time in my career and my productivity dropped. I was working for someone else at that time. That guy put his arm around my shoulder and supported me through it. After a while, I came out of it. How do you draw the line between someone who’s going through a moment in time or a seasoned in their lives and someone who doesn’t have their act together in their personal life and it always is affecting you in your business life?

It’s unfortunately case by case where if you feel that this person is a valuable emerging rising star in your organization and they’ve worked with you well. This is a glimpse and you can get through it together. That’s one thing. Normally, if someone is not capable of doing something, maybe it’s teamwork. They’re not a team player and consistently show that they don’t get along with people. Those are certain things that are going to come up. When it’s time to make hard decisions on letting people go, those are the people that are going to be like, “Unfortunately,” because you can’t help those things. You can send them to all the training that you want. If they have this block that they can’t get along with people and they’re always right, that’s a problem for any organization regardless if its construction or not.

COGE 249 | Family Construction Business
Family Construction Business: You can send your employees to all the training you want, but if they have this block that can’t get along with people, that’s a problem for any organization regardless of its construction or not.


You’re out in paradise. You are scuba diving and having a good time in Hawaii with your good friend and then as we’re talking to you now, you’re back in New York. What happened there?

My father needed me post-Hurricane Sandy. We see construction picked up a lot of work doing storm recovery. It gave us a high revenue source of income and a lot of work for a few years post-disaster. All of a sudden, he needed his team to grow so I came back. I remember sitting on the beach, North Shore Hawaii with the Corona and I was like, “This is the best and most relaxed my life is going to be. As soon as I go back, everything is going to change.” We put the grinder again but I think I was ready.

I caught up on my sleep during that past year and gave my body a chance to recover. I went back and tried to put my best foot forward on helping my father, brother, and uncle grow the business to where it is now. It challenged my own employees. When I bring someone a new one, I was like, “I want to know what you see that’s not working out in my organization because you’re a fresh set of eyes.”

That’s almost like a project manager that goes visits the job site once a month. He’s like, “Why is that piece of wood there with the nail in it?” The super is like, “I pass by 30 times a day and never even saw it.” They get laser focus. When I came back to Lipsky, I saw some things that were working out well like my father was able to get a lot of government work, but I also saw a lot of things that were not working out well. I tried my best attempts to help transition the corporation into more processes and procedures. They tried to bring their overhead down because we’re growing and our overhead was insane at that time.

How was that received by your family? Here you are, you’re at Turner then you go to Hawaii and then you come back in and you’ve got ideas.

The older people didn’t wish to change. They’re stuck in their ways. I remember this one project manager who didn’t understand Procore. He wants to know where the cloud was and I’m like, “This is not going to work. I’m trying to explain how Bluetooth works.” Slowly, what started happening is that I was a project manager when I first came here. My job was way more organized. I was able to manage more projects than anyone else.

I remember at that time, I had bought Procore because when I asked my father to buy it. He’s like, “I’m not paying that.” I bought it and then he comes in and goes, “How are you able to manage all these jobs?” I was like, “Because I’m using Procore.” He’s like, “How do we get everyone else to do it?” I was like, “You can reimburse me for the money I laid out on Procore.” He reimbursed me, then he writes this email that everyone has to use Procore for any new project going forward.

Something as simple as that because he saw the benefit of using a standardized system and policy. If you’re imagining four project managers, you need some consistency with how you do your data filing and change orders. If everyone is doing different things, it’s chaos for a big company or a small company. I made it big attempt to standardize some of these procedures and practices.

COGE 249 | Family Construction Business
Family Construction Business: You need consistency with how you do your data filing and how you do your change orders. If everyone’s doing different things, it’s chaos.


That’s interesting that you took the initiative to go out and get Procore for yourself. That’s pretty cool. You came back to the family business. Describe how that transition happened between you coming in as a project manager and now being the owner and the president of the company.

Fortunately, I have my brother, Alex, who’s a great partner to work with. We were able to get in sync. We made a deep connection and we seem to be having a nice rhythm where we are solving problems together, which is a big part of it. We’re not butting heads. We’re spending money on the coaching. We’re getting the coaching and picked up traction. We have a VTO. We’re working through these together. That’s a big part of it as opposed to one person is stuck with the big problems of how to figure it out. I like how the teamwork and synergy between the two of us. Transitioning from my father and my uncle to me and my brother, I feel that my dad and through my tenure at Turner and some other company, I became a very skilled project manager.

I’m pretty talented at that. As far as running a business, it’s a different story. I’m starting over with my learning process. I could tell you exactly the means and methods on how to bring that brick wall up to the chord shell and caulk the windows or anything. As far as running a business, I’m making a joke of this that my dad is like, “Here is the key for the car. It needs an oil change. Good luck.” That was our transition into the corporation. I oversimplified it. It was a little bit better than that, but we didn’t plan too much on how I was going to transition into that role. It’s been a challenge.

You’re now in a place of ownership and leading a company with your brother. What are some of the biggest challenges that you’ve come across and how did that lead to this whole project of yours as another business of the Virtual Construction Assistants?

As a project manager, you see your project profitability or PL statements. The company PL and overhead are like a myth or this unicorn that you don’t get to see until you enter that role as a business owner then you’re like, “This is crazy overhead that we’re spending.” One of the big things that I saw was how much money are overhead was costing us. I always think of myself as solutions-based, open-minded, a very creative side to my brain on, “How can I fix this? There’s got to be different ways to fix this. I guess we could get rid of Procore but what’s the ROI on that versus what we were doing?” Something like Procore wasn’t negotiable.

An understanding was, and this is way before COVID, “I don’t need certain people to be here in the office to do the jobs I’m asking them to do.” For example, someone that analyzes and manages all my subcontractors’ insurance certificates. As long as you know how to use Excel, you can read a PDF, and you are organized, you are qualified. In New York, for me to get someone that’s an insurance manager just managing Insurance certificates, you talk $75,000 a year plus all the New York State overhead and paid family, leave now, and all this other stuff that New York rams down your throat as an employer.

Once I realized that, “I don’t need to have that person here sitting in this office to do that,” which means I’m not looking in a 25-mile radius around my office, the pool of talent got much bigger. If you think like, “Do they even need to be in the United States at this point?” The answer is no. They just need to be qualified for that position. You’re talking about your talent pool is almost infinite. What I was able to do was get my first virtual assistant in the Philippines to help me with managing insurance. That was Leona. She has been with me for many years. She’s a consultant to us. She has tasks and deadlines. She’s very responsive. I think of her as a very valuable part of our organization. I was like, “That worked. It click. What else can I do?” I know that you had on your show this estimator named Melvin.

Melvin was talking about how he has this 80/20 rule where he has to quantify 80% of these widgets that only equate to 20% of the bid and it’s completely true. You have to go around and count fixtures and fire sprinkler heads and quantify those. The estimator is worth the highest. Paying him $150 is costing the company $200,000. I walk down into my estimator. He has different highlighters and coloring in. I was like, “What am I paying this person for? That’s not a good use of his salary, time, or resources.”

I challenged him. I was like, “I’m going to get you an assistant that is more than capable of quantifying a lot of these things for you. I want you to focus your efforts on on-site logistics. I want you to do better buyouts. I want you to find out how we going to get that edge over the competition that’s beating this while this guy Melvin is quantifying everything, our second virtual assistant, behind the scenes.” It started once. I was like, “Two of them worked. I looked for any opportunity to take certain positions.” As those people left Lipsky and worked for my father, I was like, “I’m going fully remote with some of these positions.”

How do you handle the immediate pushback you get from people like, “If I can’t see them, they’re not working?” That’s the negative side. The positive side is how we build company morale with one another as a result of being remote and all that stuff.

That’s how Virtual Construction Assistants, which is a separate company I own came into fruition. It worked so well for me. When the drywall subcontractor that I value, I was like, “Why aren’t you give me bids?” He’s like, “I’m overwhelmed. I can’t get the bids out on time.” I was like, “Why don’t you try this idea?” I didn’t work for him and I started doing it for the other subcontractors. That business took off and I finally registered it with the state and all that stuff. Through good business coaching, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are believers and resistors of this idea. Unfortunately, it’s the primary age where they’re not open-minded. If you’re in your last five years and you’re about to retire, you’re not going to make a change or Cardinal change in your organization.

You’re not grinding out that last five years, how you know it’s worked, and then you’re going to retire. I’m looking for me. I’m looking for the sons or the people that are entering organizations decision makers that are looking to better change for the long-term of their organization. In Virtual Construction Systems, we have over 50 clients. We are in three countries. We have over 100 virtual assistants working for us who work for those clients. These are people anywhere from 25 to 45 that understand how to delegate at this point.

COGE 249 | Family Construction Business
Family Construction Business: Virtual construction systems have over 50 clients. We are in three countries with over 100 virtual assistants working for us.


You are saying 25 to 45 in age.

Over 45, unfortunately, they’re not tech-savvy and are not open-minded to new ideas like this. Going back to, “If I can’t see it can’t work.” You must not like Bluetooth because that’s another one that you can’t see, but it does work.

Let’s say you have a client saying, “I want you to find me a virtual assistant to do X,” and you’re like, “Don’t do that. Don’t delegate that to a virtual assistant. That’s something that you have to do in-house.” What is that?

That’s Melvin. That’s your chief estimator. I do not suggest or recommend replacing your chief estimator in any capacity. I am not here to replace your project managers. I am here to support those people. The key people in your organization that are getting burnout which is what I went through and are working 68 hours a week and could delegate some of these mundane repetitive tests out are the people I want to support.

You can think through as an owner of your business, “What’s the highest and best use of my project manager’s time, my estimator’s time, even my project engineer’s time?” Take a look at that. One of the pushbacks you get sometimes is, “You’ve got to pay your dues and do all that stuff.” To me, you are doing all that mundane tasks work. That’s not paying your dues. Maybe going out into the field, learning how to talk to a foreman, going through issues, getting yelled at once in a while, and making mistakes in terms of things like the schedule, the budget, or something like that are things where you’ve got to pay your dues and learn but this these little tasks and stuff, that’s not the place to pay your dues.

The schedule or the budget are things where you've got to pay your dues and learn, but these little tasks and stuff that's not the place to pay your dues. Click To Tweet

You just need to know how it works. How to put an RFI together for New York State is very cumbersome paperwork. You have to use their forms and their letterhead, and you need to back up. If you know what it’s supposed to look like, you can get that RFI and PCO out so that you then can go in the field and see what’s happening on the fields. Maybe you can put a better payment requisition in or you might be able to learn something that you would never ever learn if you were never in the fields like how the fire sprinkler is going to hit the fire smoke damper and you need better coordination drawings.

Tell us how people can get in touch with you and learn more about Virtual Construction Assistants.

Our website is super easy. It’s I bought the URL. That was before I even opening up the company and backed into that. You can email me at [email protected]. Whatever needs that you feel that you guys can delegate to others that are too expensive, virtual construction assistants overseas are more than qualified and is much cheaper than someone here in the States.

Do you provide your clients with any guarantee? How does that work? Are they testing you out? Tell me about that.

There are two parts to our fee structure. We have our one-time fee for our recruiting efforts and then we have a weekly rate. The average weekly rate is $400 for a full-time consultant that works for you. It’s a full-time estimating assistant, a submittal manager, and a CAD drafter. We are able to provide that one-time fee with a 30-day guarantee. If within 30 days, you’re not happy and you’re like, “This is not for me,” I’ll give you your one-time feedback.

The weekly rates go to the virtual assistant so we cannot give that back. I’ve had other people say, “This is a great idea. It’s the right seat but the wrong person. Can you swap it out?” I’ll swap it out at no additional cost to that client. There’s another statistic that I enjoy is that over 50% of our clients, eventually call back within the first three months asking for a second or third virtual assistant.

It’s one of those things where it’s like, “I don’t want to do it. I try it. Why didn’t I do this earlier?” Last question I have for you. You work with your brother. What advice would you give to siblings working together to help them to navigate that sibling dynamic, have a positive relationship with each other, and a way of growing a positive business?

It’s difficult sometimes to separate your business partner from your brother like it was difficult for me for many years to separate my father from my employer. Sometimes, I’m like, “I’m their employer, but I love you as my father.” I cannot emphasize coaching, especially if there are no problems between the two of you. It’s a great time to start that coaching because you have a level playing field. Don’t start your therapy or coaching when there are too many problems and you are beyond repair.

If there are no problems between the two of you, it's a great time to start that coaching because you have a level playing field. Don't start your therapy or coaching when there are too many problems beyond repair. Click To Tweet

Start at an even access so that your business coach can see what it looks like before and then maybe he can help you through the problems, the good times and the bad times. There was a tremendous ROI on how the synergy between me and my brother since we started our coaching, and then also retreats. Go away and do a big-picture corporate retreat between the two of you guys where your phone is off, the daily to-do list that you should be working on is on freeze, and you’re thinking big picture. It’s a Traction type of stuff.

You’re referring to the book Traction by Gino Wickman. Let me go back to the coaching. For the record, I don’t coach Joel. This is not a self-serving question. Joel, tell the audience what should someone look for in a coach and specifically someone in construction.

You want to have someone that understands the industry at the very least. You don’t want to go into surgery with someone that is a dentist doing your shoulder flap. Usually, you get it through a referral. You’re not necessarily looking for this. It’s a referral of someone through a networking event. When you first meet any coach, it’s a two-way interview. As much as they’re interviewing you to see if you’re a good fit for them, you should be interviewing them to see if they’re a good fit for you and maybe go over why you feel that you need coaching and can this person help.

How often do you meet with your coach?

When we first met, it was weekly. We probably should have done higher than weekly. Because of good synergy, we’re doing our homework and we’re getting back, Alex and myself are at a bi-weekly meeting with our coach. I think that’s a good pace for us.

I want to say this. If you’re going to invest in coaching and no good coaches are cheap, you must commit to the process and the homework because it’s not enough to just show up for the calls and chit-chat a little bit. You must do what you say you’re going to do if you’re going to make progress.

I also like that we did group and then individual. We kept coming back. That’s important because there are certain things that you wish you could say but you don’t say because someone is in the room. That coach will help bring those two things together in a positive way as opposed to a very negative way.

I’ve done that and do that with my clients who are in partnerships. We do it together and then separate. That’s an excellent idea. Joel, I appreciate you coming on. Last question. If I’m out in New York, what’s the one restaurant I should hit if I’m in the city? I know there’s a lot. I put you on the spot. Tell me the one restaurant to hit.

Go to Brookfield Properties. Check out The Bean and all they have to offer. There are some good places in Brookfield Properties. In New York, you can get the best mac and cheese at one place and the best slice of pizza somewhere else. I love steakhouses. Any good steakhouses are good like Morton’s, but there are also some mom-and-pop ones that are good as well.

I appreciate your time. Thanks for being generous with it and I do wish you the best.

You as well. Thank you so much for having me.

My pleasure.

Thanks again for tuning in for my interview with Joel. You should check out his website, Before we pass away, let me give a quick heads-up in terms of a coach. One thing that Joel said that is important is you should be getting a coach for your business before the fire subside. I know I am not fit for everyone and I am not cheap but if you’re looking for someone who has worked with construction companies for decades and understands the nuances of running a business and if you’d like an outside voice that can help you to the clarity on some of the big issues that you’re facing and how you can overcome those issues, reach out to me.

Let’s have a short discussion about if or how I can help you. As I said, I’m not fit for everyone and I’m not cheap but with the right companies and issues, I can be a tremendous fit. Go to and put on your details. I will contact you within 24 hours to set up a short ten-minute conversation to talk about if and how I can help you. Thanks again for tuning in. I wish you all the best.


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