Building With the Future in Mind Since 1955

Succession came to pass on July 1st, 2017, ten weeks ago. A-1 Builders, Inc. is now A-1 Builders, A Design/Build, Worker-Owned Cooperative!  My former employees are now my bosses! For the time being I’m helping the new team deal with marketing on a part time basis; my hours worked per week since July 1st has been on the order of working 1/4 hour a week!  Can’t really call this ‘part time’; I think I’ll call it ‘microscopic time’.

Perhaps in other businesses or organizations my change from boss to employee would imply significant changes to the relationships in house, but this succession has felt so smooth, and I believe this is all about the word ‘cooperative’.  The fresh air of feeling like those around me care for this mother ship, at a time when our political climate is insanely divisive, allows me to know that our transition into a worker-owned cooperative has been, and is, the right path to travel.

Already the 5 new co-owners, or members, have blown through what used to define success around here.  They need help with marketing like I need a new fulltime job!  NOT! I adore watching this team rock ‘n roll.  And they’re already surpassing thresholds that it took decades for me and us to achieve.

Our founding co-owners, or ‘KOWNERS’. Left to right:  Bobbi Plata, Justus Peterson, Patrick Martin, Shaw Serdahl and Maggie Bates.

Some evidence of this:

Under my watch, during the past few years, our design team of 3 designers maintained a waiting list of perhaps 3 to 6 clients on our waiting list for design. Since July 1st this waiting list has grown to a high of 20 clients waiting for active design. And that’s with four designers now instead of the three during my watch… and one is a licensed architect, someone relatively new to our operation.

Because of this lag time in design, our client base tends to be better planners; they’ve got to wait! [Frankly, they’re willing to wait for the best.]  This strips away urgent projects, which, in any endeavor, promotes rushing and its first cousin:  Urgency in construction sucks. Let’s use our heads, take the right amount of time, and do it right the first time.

Here’s another important threshold we’ve utilized to help us know we’re on the right path: how many production hours are sold out ahead? In other words, how much actual construction work, in person-hours, is already sold but not yet underway?  Our imaginary ‘traffic light’ would turn yellow when this fell below 2,000 hours [simplistically, this is the productivity of one person working for one year].  Between 2,000 and 4,000 hours out ahead felt like third or fourth gear… we were coasting comfortably. And this 2,000 to 4,000 hour range best described the company during my last year.  Now, however, they’ve surpassed 7,000 pre-sold production hours, a number unheard of during my watch!

This… in ten weeks!  Proof that it was time for me to get out of their way.  Proof that I had hired and groomed the right team to pass and surpass my lead.

Most amazing amidst the changes goin’ on around here, though, is that the new co-owners [called ‘members’ in cooperative jargon] have normalized their compensation so that each of them make the same amount of dough.  Clearly, the 5 co-owners [or ‘Kowners’ as we’ve nicknamed them] have more fully embraced the cooperative model than I imagined after a mere ten weeks!

Evidently, it was time for me to step aside… for us to step aside.  Proudly, Cindi Landreth – my wonderful wife; co-owner of the prior company; manager of Adaptations, our design division; one of its designers – and I have left this team of Kowners a structure of cooperation that is already serving them well.  But it’s not just about them, defined as these 5 people. Their achievements will empower the other 17 employees here who are not yet eligible to earn the Kowner badge. The achievements of the entire staff will then empower other organizations in town to explore the cooperative model to perhaps surpass their own past thresholds of what it meant for them to be successful.

Said empowerment will then trickle down to help our community thrive, a community that includes our town, our county and beyond… encompassing our ultimate mother ship. Mother Earth needs new models because, frankly, what’s out there now is simply not working.  She’s hurting, big time, because of an infinite growth model disconnected from the reality of the natural world.

I feel like my career here has birthed a group of humans who may help to redefine what could work towards a healthier world.  Working together on a journey to align human law with natural law; designing and building structures with the future in mind; treating one another as peers, equitably, fairly. Where ‘one another’ includes everyone and everything.

I feel so proud to get out of their way. Letting go has felt so healthy because cooperation has served as our design intent.

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