Building Brent Darnell International: Brent Shares His Decade of Experience

February 13, 2013

What were YOU doing 10 years ago at this time? It may be hard to recall or even harder to realize that 10 years have passed so quickly. For business owner and emotional intelligence expert, Brent Darnell, this past decade has been a life changing journey toward pursuing a dream, learning the raw truths of growing a business from scratch and gaining a deeper appreciation for balance in all aspects of life. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Brent Darnell International, Brent candidly answers 10 critical questions about this memorable journey:

Give us the back story. Where did you work and what did you do before 2002?

Brent Darnell: I graduated from Georgia Tech with a Mechanical Engineering Degree and worked in the construction business for 20 years before starting my own leadership development firm. I was a program manager for a leadership development program for Skanska and loved the work so much I decided to go out on my own.

What exactly is Brent Darnell International – what do you do?

BD: We teach people skills to technical people and train them like athletes. We use emotional intelligence as a foundation for all of this training along with physical peak performance. My wife, Andrea Robbins takes care of the physical side of the program.

How were you inspired to create this business – What was your “Aha” moment?

BD: I saw a huge need in the industry. Most of these technically excellent people had trouble with the “people” side of the business. This was the missing piece for them. Over time, we added the physical component because we saw the tie in between the emotional and the physical. Also, I noticed that many of these folks were overweight and under a lot of stress. That ultimately affects performance as well.

What was the best piece of advice you were given when you first started this business?

BD: Business is all about relationships.

Was there ever a moment in your childhood or early on that you knew you might do something like this for a living?

BD: It’s strange, but it seems like I’ve used all of my experience and combined it into what I do now. I quit construction and became a full time actor and writer for three years. Those experiences have served me well. We use lots of improvisation for learning, and my experience as an actor helps me with training and facilitation, and my writing experience has helped me with the books I have written.

(Want to try some improv with Brent? Click here for a special upcoming event!)

What has been one of your most rewarding moments?

BD: I don’t know how many times people have thanked me for their experience in these programs. One man told me that he is not only a better leader and a better superintendent, but he is a better husband and father. But being named one of the Top 25 Newsmakers by Engineering News Record for 2011 was the most rewarding moment.  They told us at the awards banquet that statistically, you are more likely to win an Oscar than a Top 25 Newsmaker Award.  I was so humbled by being a part of that.

(Click here to watch Brent’s acceptance speech for the ENR Newsmaker Award.)

What is a significant obstacle you had to overcome?

BD: My second year in business, the work totally dried up. I rested on my laurels after the first year and did nothing to create connections and relationships. It was a hard, but good lesson for me.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

BD: I think everything I did, including all of the mistakes, has helped to make the company what it is today. You have to go through those setbacks to learn—and without them—you don’t grow.

What is one piece of advice you wish you could tell all other new business owners?

BD: It’s all about relationships. And don’t give up on your dream!

Now with 10 years under your belt, where would you like to see Brent Darnell International in the next 10 years?

BD: My aim isn’t to grow. It’s to deliver great service to a limited number of clients. My wife, Andrea and I also want to keep an eye on our life balance. We don’t want to take on too much work. We want to continue to make a difference. We are looking at ways to deliver this work to more people through webinars, more books, and larger groups. Technology is allowing us to explore those options.

In just 10 years, Brent has built an impressive business while still maintaining the healthy work-life balance that he has helped so many others to reach. With this experience and wisdom, it’s safe to say that Brent has graduated from “new entrepreneur” to a seasoned business owner in his own right. Congratulations Brent! There are so many companies and individuals who also wish to offer you their sincere thanks for choosing the path you did and helping to change their lives! Here are just a few…

“I think we have saved a couple of valuable employees for the company, but more importantly their home and personal lives as well. Well done my friend.”
-Jon H.

“Thanks for helping me change my life.”
-Tom W.

“Thanks for helping me change my life.”
-Tom W.

Read more testimonials for Brent’s work here.


What Lies Ahead: How Leaders Can Seize Opportunities by Focusing on the Future

December 6, 2012

Future Shock:

futureThink about the future of construction.  What if you could build a 6 story building in 24 hours and assemble it with a minimally skilled work force?  How about a 15 story hotel in six days?  How about a 30 story hotel in just six days?  What if there was a 3D copier that copied large architectural elements without any form-work for use on buildings?  What if a brick paving machine eliminated the need for paving masons? What if industrial robots built walls and eliminated the need for brick masons?  What if you could construct a building that had net zero energy usage?  What if I told you that all of these “what ifs” are realities today?

Imagine a future where contracting has changed so drastically, that you don’t even recognize it as contracting.  Imagine a future where there are no retail buildings, no education buildings, no banks, no bookstores, no music stores, no malls, and no commercial offices.  Imagine buildings that don’t even look like conventional buildings.  Imagine mega-structures, sustainable communities, mile high buildings, and construction methods that can only be dreamed about today.  Imagine a completely different process of procuring, executing, and delivering work.  Fasten your seat belts.  It will be like nothing you have ever seen.

Ch ch ch ch changes . . .

Our society is transforming itself.  Much of what happens during the day is virtual.  This trend will continue and accelerate.  There are fewer face to face meetings.  There will a declining need for office space, retail space, movie houses, warehouses, schools, prisons (due to a decline in inmate populations), and dormitories.  Our virtual world will affect construction like never before.  People will do most of their business online from shopping to banking.  They will work from home and go to school via the internet.

And as those project opportunities decline, others will be growing. Some areas to look for are data centers and other support for these virtual worlds, package delivery and pickup locations, hospitals and healthcare facilities for our aging population, senior living facilities for the baby boomer retirees, and more entertainment venues including sports arenas, casinos, leisure destinations, and hotels. There will be a focus on adapting the home for virtual work and play.  There will be a focus on smaller, customized manufacturing facilities.  You will also be repairing our crumbling infrastructure and transportation services that will include more roads and bridges, more airport and rail work, more port work, and water and waste water projects from treatment to distribution.

Look for more prefabrication, modular construction, 3D copiers that can replicate large, architectural elements, machines that can build projects, paperless projects, instant buildings, and innovative construction methods that cut the time of construction by up to 90%.  Virtual simulators will be able to build the entire project virtually and you will be able to literally “walk” through the project before it has begun.  You will see more dimensions added to BIM so that technology will be able to build the entire building and identify all issues before anything happens on a site.

The estimating process will become so automated that everyone will be pricing the exact same thing. There will be more focus on energy efficiency, sustainable buildings and communities, integrated design, minimizing waste, and net zero use buildings that use no outside utilities.  There will be more collaboration and alliances among all stakeholders in the industry from owners to architects to designers to contractors to subcontractors to vendors and suppliers.  Big companies are already swallowing up smaller companies, and projects are getting bigger and bigger.  More and more of these large projects will be bid with strategic teams utilizing different sets of expertise along with local presence.

There will be more creative ways to finance projects, more creative delivery methods, more innovative construction methods, and more creative ways to make buildings last longer and be more efficient.

How can you solve these future issues?

It is a fact.  Things are changing and changing fast.  Contractors are all looking toward the future.  There is a lot of talk about “the new normal”.  What do you need to know to prepare for the future of contracting?  What areas do you need to focus on now to be competitive in this brave new contracting world?  How will you lead your company into this future?

Currently, the industry focuses on how to improve traditional construction processes and methodologies to try and squeeze out a few more dollars to the bottom line from the traditional bid, build, and deliver method.  You look at productivity.  You look at the workforce and do our best to attract and train more skilled workers, lamenting the fact that there are no more skilled tradesmen.  You look at technology.  But you are looking at all of these problems through the lens of traditional construction processes.  Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Contractors have a ton of knowledge and expertise, but their focus is on that narrow window of bidding, building, and turning over a project. Think for a moment about the entire construction process from the idea in the owner’s head until the end of the life of that project. We are in the information and knowledge age, but most contractors fail to capitalize on that knowledge and information that they possess.

The contractor of the future will address the entire construction process.  He will be extremely adaptable, knowledgeable, and tech savvy.  He will focus on education and the latest methods of construction and building maintenance.  He will be able to work virtually literally from anywhere in the world. He will understand the global nature of construction and be able to see that big picture.  He will embrace diversity and find ways to bring more women and minorities into the workforce.

The contractor of the future will learn creative ways to finance and launch projects, going beyond traditional bank loans and Public Private Partnerships.  He will learn to monetize this vast knowledge that contributes value to the entire construction process.  He will be a true master builder that knows every aspect of a project from start to finish.  The contractor that comes out on top will be the one that can add the most value to this process.  Pricing will become irrelevant.

Are you ready for all of these changes?  It will take strong leadership and a willingness to change.  All stakeholders in the construction process must take a look at these trends and educate themselves and their workers on how to capitalize on them. They must work on the skills they will need for the future including being an expert on creative financing, cutting edge technology, the latest construction methodologies, effective and seamless facilities maintenance, world class education, and relationships, alliances and collaboration.

Construction leaders who serve on AGC Georgia’s Board of Directors are working together to answer some of these questions, study new trends and contemplate a different future. Efforts to better understand the contractor of the future are critical to ensure AGC Georgia stays relevant to the changing needs of its membership and a changing construction landscape. Equally important are the implications of these changes for your company. Are you looking toward the future?

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This article was written by Brent Darnell and published as a feature article in Georgia Construction Today, Fourth Quarter 2012. For more information about this publication or the Georgia AGC, please click here. For more information about Brent Darnell, owner of Brent Darnell International, visit: http://www.brentdarnell.com.


Thursday’s BDI Buzz: Stress Management, Time Management & Life Balance for Tough Guys

August 4, 2011

We’re still buzzing over the Tough Guy series! This week looks at a book that addresses three of the industry’s most common obstacles that lead to burnout and weigh on an employee’s health and happiness.

Continuing with the Tough Guys series, this particular book offers some of the most immediately applicable advice. Construction workers endure physically and mentally strenuous work environments. In addition, they’re often working on a tight deadline that keeps getting tighter regardless of project set-backs. Throw in finding time for family, eating healthy and getting enough sleeping and there just aren’t enough hours in the day. So you can see how easily stress and poor habits can easily get out of control…

What this book successfully provides is a no nonsense guide to exactly what’s in its title: stress management, time management and life balance. The book really gets through to even the “toughest” of readers by first examining what your stress is doing to your mental and physical well-being. There are some great testimonials from people who didn’t know their sluggishness, headaches and other health issues were actually related to a completely non-physical cause, stress (all testimonials can be found at http://www.brentdarnell.com). By heeding to Brent’s advice in this book, we can all learn to better identify and manage stress, make better use of our time and find a balance between work, family and what we are most passionate about.

Buy it here!


The New BDI Blog

August 1, 2011

Welcome to the NEW home of the Brent Darnell International (BDI) Blog. Formerly found HERE, you can now follow and stay up to date with all the BDI Blog’s postings on Word Press. Comments & ideas are always welcome additions to the discussion and we hope to hear from you soon!

COMING SOON….each Thursday will feature a review and sneak peak of one of Brent’s newest books. Be sure to check back this Thursday for the review of Stress Management, Time Management & Life Balance for Tough Guys!”

And as always, you can browse Brent’s entire book collection, including the best-selling People-Profit Connection, right here.