Below the Surface of Success

Keith Brubacher

I enjoy seeing the wide-eyed, hopeful wonder of interns and new hires as they observe the skills and success of our construction professionals. Sometimes, it is sparked by seeing an excavator operator use incredible finesse grading stone at the bottom of a double-stacked trench shield in a narrow ROW, being part of setting a new production record, or observing a supervisor diffusing a sensitive situation. They see the success of others after years of dedication, practice, mistakes, and learning. They wonder if they’ll ‘get there’ someday, if they and their co-workers have the patience or even the ability to achieve that success. They may even wonder ‘Is there a better way? Are there short-cuts? How can I learn faster?’

I enjoy the privilege of recognizing team member service anniversaries like those noted below. As I think about how they and others started out and have grown over the years, I have often suspected today’s newer folks would likely be surprised and encouraged if they knew how their respected co-workers started out at Brubacher. In fact, it is healthy for all of us to remember that NONE of us were born knowing what we do today about our industry and our roles in it!

If only they knew that the now-successful people around them…

  • Had a job at Brubacher arranged for them by their dad after horseplay got them fired at their first teenage job
  • Came from jobs in convenience stores, pizza shops, truck body manufacturing, the lumber yard, teaching, feed mills, the military, and a myriad of other backgrounds
  • Graded a spillway 1’ higher at one end than the other and had to remove and replace all the sod to correct it
  • Misread the tenths on a footrule and pushed a few extra truckloads of stone down the street and back again
  • Under-estimated the flotation of machines and buried them to the top of the tracks
  • Needed to go back, apologize, and mend strained relationships after losing their cool
  • Missed a plan detail in the bid that created stress for the project team in meeting budget
  • Accepted responsibilities they felt (and in some cases were!) unqualified for and then worked hard to learn and became very successful
  • Or, in the case of Ben Brubacher, was told by his second-grade teacher that unless he paid more attention in school, he’ll never amount to anything other than a ditch-digger. P.S. He became an excellent one at that!

Whether you’re the skilled expert or new to the industry, here are a few important principles that help us succeed as a team:

  1. Remember that no one was born knowing what they know today.
  2. Be alert to what you’re naturally good at and find a role that includes it.
  3. Hard work and diligence pay off. Don’t give up just because it’s hard.
  4. The next generation doesn’t need to (and shouldn’t!) learn everything the way you did! No one should experience hazards that were acceptable 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Coaching and mentoring, technology, AI, automation and ‘How to…’ google searches have a valuable place in doing our jobs safer, faster, and better today.
  5. Look beyond the surface to help others uncover and see their potential, even if it leads to the realization it may not be in this part of the industry or even at Brubacher. We all need someone who can see beyond who we are now to what we have the potential to be.

It’s easy to look at others around us and see the results from years of practice and hard work. You may feel admiration, maybe a bit of envy, or feel inadequate, wondering if you’ll be that competent someday. I encourage you to review the five principles above and follow them. You’ll be surprised at the results of applying them over a few years. I will guarantee you’ll have a few stories to share about your own journey…if you’re brave enough to share them so others can learn from the outcomes!