Digital Builder

How Successful Construction Firms Build Trust 

construction builds trust

Trust: The DNA of Construction Success

Can you put a price on trust? As it is in our personal relationships, trust is an invaluable asset in our offices and jobsites. It’s difficult to assign an exact dollar amount on the significance of trust in construction. However, companies who build high levels of it could potentially save millions of dollars annually from benefits that include lower turnover rates, fewer missed schedules, and more repeat business, according to a new report from FMI and Autodesk. 

The report, “Trust Matters: The High Cost of Low Trust,” surveyed over 2,500 construction professionals globally to examine both the benefits and cost of trust in the industry. While it found that 93% of construction professionals report above-average levels of trust within their organization, only 37% achieved very high levels of trust. And trust us, this distinction matters. To learn more, download the report here

So that leaves us with a big question: For “very high trust” companies, is there a secret to their success? How do they define, build, and maintain trust both internally and externally? Although the report identifies the specific benefits of trust in construction, we wanted to hear experts chime in on the how. Below, we’ve gathered insights from several construction professionals in a few key areas. Use the menu or scroll below:

Defining Trust

How do you define trust? Trust has a lot of different meanings across industries, in companies, and even within teams. Here are how several top construction professionals define trust: 


Elio_Perrazzino“Trust builds confidence and a sense of ownership. Trust shows transparency and is essential for team building.” – Elio Perrazzino, Canam, Director of Project Management


“Secret ingredient to success”

Bianca holtier“Trust is a coveted, shared value that is infused at every point in a project that shapes and bonds teams, from preconstruction to facilities management. It is essentially the foundation for the construction industry and a very necessary component to growing, expanding, and evolving. Trust has the power to pull project teams into a state of high-performing cohesion or it can drive a project directly into a mode of despair and disarray. It’s that secret ingredient to success. Having and sharing accurate information, clearly communicating, and providing feedback in a continuous rhythm creates a solid, functioning jobsite. It is one of the key pillars that is established early on and runs its course throughout the lifecycle of project and beyond. It is deeply representative of a company’s brand, the spirit of its people, and the services and solutions.” – Bianca Holtier Coury, Eagle Point, Construction Technology Manager

Report Highlight: Construction companies with the highest levels of trust are 2X more likely to have managers share consistent feedback. Learn more.


Wally Kirchoff“To me, trust means being able to rely on someone to get the things done that need to be in a timely and correct manner. They do what they say, when they say they will.” – Wally Kirchoff, Carpenter’s Training Institute, Southern MN Regional Coordinator

Jason Waddell“Trust is something that is earned and requires someone doing what they say and can be counted on.” – Jason Waddell, Batson-Cook Company, Director of Construction Technology


The Foundation

“It is the foundation of a team. Money alone does not hold a team together. It takes trust. With trust as a foundation you can then build strength in an organization. When it comes to clients, they demand trust.” – Chris Brown, Samet Corporation, Virtual Construction and Design Manager

Tobyn Celler“Trust is one of the most important qualities on the job site. Every day we trust others to perform quality work safely. The construction industry, is one that relies heavily on relationships and a large part of that is trusting each other to get the work done and to be able to communicate effectively.” – Tobyn Celler, GCI General Contractors, Project Engineer, LEED® Green Associate™

Industry Challenges in Establishing Trust

Building trust is easier said than done. Here are some of the top challenges that construction professionals identified as barriers to creating high levels of trust: 

Surpassing the Unknowns

Melissa Schulteis“One of the biggest challenges to establishing trust in the industry today is surpassing the unknowns, especially in the world of technology. The construction world is straying away from the ‘way we have always done things’ and moving to ‘trying new ways of doing things.’ Technology has disrupted the industry and has tested the way we used to create trust. Hopefully, we can all get past this, because technology can enhance how we can gain trust in my mind.” – Melissa Schulteis, Miron Construction Co., Inc., Virtual Construction Specialist


Michael Lambert“The biggest roadblocks [to trust] right now are getting the right information the first time and the many conflicts that become evident after comparing the different designs and specs against each other. This includes making sure CAD files match the approved plans and this is our first step in our VDC workflow.” – Michael Lambert​, Chasco Constructors, VDC Manager


Tobyn CellerLack of trust in the industry leads to a lot of micromanaging, which can be exhausting for all parties involved. One of the biggest challenges in establishing trust is how different the process is from project to project. We work with such a diverse set of personalities and management styles, that it is sometimes difficult establishing trust with individuals you have not worked with before.”Tobyn Celler, GCI General Contractors, Project Engineer, LEED® Green Associate™

A Generation Gap

Ryan Maidrand“I believe that the biggest challenge in establishing trust in the industry today is that there is a large transition of generations right now between the established leaders of the last 20 or 30 years that have spent decades building relationships, and the younger generation that is coming into the industry out of college. Younger generations, which I am a part of, are coming into a world that may be harsher and less forgiving then they are used to. They will need to adapt and build these relationships. I believe that colleges and schooling, in general, does not prepare individuals on how the world works, and I believe that there will be a rather large sink or swim moment in the next decade or so with the younger people.” – Ryan Maidrand, Walsh, Project Engineer II

Lack of Connection

James Robinson - April 2 2019 - MVH site (2)“We live and work in a fast-moving world, with increasingly faster projects every year. We need to find more time to have personal interactions and conversations with people on various teams that are involved in our projects. This is just as important on our own teams, it is often a challenge to find time to simply talk and connect with people. After all, we are all in it together, and establishing connections on our teams helps us all connect to what we do on a deeper level.” – James Robinson, Stantec, Architect & Contract Administrator


Eliseo Estrada“The biggest challenge in establishing trust in the industry today can be the lack of communication between project team members. Communication is key to building trust.” – Eliseo Estrada, Granite, Project Manager

Report highlight: Construction companies with high levels of trust are 2X more likely to be explicit about requests. Learn more.

Benefits of Trust

As we mentioned above, lower turnover, fewer missed schedules, and more repeat business are just several of the benefits of building high levels of trust. Learn more about the specific benefits of trust for top firms:


Mark Hood“Being able to trust those around you in safety and trade competence allows the individual to focus on their respective scope of work and add to the overall “culture” of trust on the jobsite.” – Mark Hood, M.B. Kahn Construction, General Superintendent

Holistic Benefits

Rick Wood“Three main benefits are: Repeat business from GCs, as they see that they can trust you and want you on their next project. The company’s culture improves, and you attract trustworthy people. Finally, profits go up when we all trust and work together.” – Rick Wood, J&J Acoustics, Field Superintendent

Report Highlight: In high trust companies, 4 out of 5 projects are for repeat customers – potentially increasing gross margins by 2-7% annually. Learn more.

Reduces Stress

“When efficiencies unearthed and executed proficiently, it makes everyone’s jobs easier. The more we can trust someone else’s work, the more unnecessary stress is reduced, and the less of it we have to endure at our jobs.” – Alex Oriel, LEX3 Engineering, Sr. Structural Technologist

Eliseo Estrada“Projects simply become more enjoyable to build. Trust puts everyone at ease, knowing that we are all working together to build a project safely, within budget, and on schedule.” – Eliseo Estrada, Granite, Project Manager


How to Build Trust

It takes work to establish trust. Read how construction companies are putting in the work to develop a high trusting work environment for their employees, partners, and clients: 


Cristian_Fernandez“Building trust in the construction world is about being honest, working hard, asking for help when it’s needed, and being transparent when things are not going well.” – Cristian Fernandez, White Construction Company, Project Manager

Stephen Kennedy“To build trust, we provide a clear line of sight from strategic initiatives to individual goals and ensure that actions match words. Building trust is about being transparent with where we are and the issues we are facing. It’s having open discussions about the issues and opportunities that build trust between individuals and organisations.” – Stephen Kennedy, MWH Treatment, Head of Digital & Innovation

Putting People First

Sheila Ohenberg“At Sorella Group, we believe in supporting each other. When someone is ill, has a family illness, bereavement, births, we all step in, and help out. We do not want anyone on our team to feel as though they cannot take the time for important life events. Everyone should have the trust that projects and task will be handled in their absence. Clients should feel comfortable knowing if one person is out someone else will step in, and their projects will be taken care of.” – Sheila Ohenberg, Sorella Group, President

Ryan Maidrand“My company builds trust internally by working closely among our team members, mentoring younger members of our team by some of the more experienced members, and by establishing responsibility on experience so as someone grows, they are also creating trust. Some of the ways that we build trust with our partners/clients include being very transparent with our decisions and work, and having close relationships with the PMs and CMs that we work with every day.” – Ryan Maidrand, Walsh, Project Engineer II

Report Highlight: 56% of construction companies with the highest levels report good (low) turnover rates – potentially saving them up to $750,000 annually. Learn more.

Open Door Policy

Mike Adams“For partners and clients, I tend to have open platform meetings to cover anything that needs talking about and make it a fault-free environment. This allows the team to get to the root of the problem so we can address it. A few successful sessions like this builds a ton of trust among the participants.” – Mike Adams, ZGF Architects, BIM Coordinator


Shih-Chi Liu“Our company holds a lot of events and training. We also have team building activities like watching sport games, hiking, etc. The most effective way to earn trust from partners/clients is to deliver what we have promised. And we are good at this.” – Shih-Chi Liu, Hathaway Dinwiddie, Pre-construction Engineer

Report Highlight: High trust employees go above and beyond, with 49% routinely exceeding expectations in their work. Learn more.

Technology’s Role in Trust

Technology is a tool that can potentially build trust when properly executed. Here are the top ways technology can add to a team’s trust: 


Sheila Ohenberg“Technology helps us share information with each other. Anyone can step into a project from anywhere in the world and be able to pick up on any details, notes, and activities.” – Sheila Ohenberg, Sorella Group, President


Report highlight: 66% of construction companies with the highest levels of trust have a single source of truth for project data. Learn more.

“Ultimate unifier”

Bianca holtier“Technology is the ultimate unifier. It alleviates potential heated emotion, which also tends to cloud judgement. It can get everyone on the same page, while simultaneously reducing costs, improving coordination, and enhancing accountability. It can mean less change orders, less re-work, less accidents on the jobsite. Tech in construction is the connective tissue with the capability to harness the strengths of many. We’re seeing a lot more participation and engagement from the field, bringing in the end users with the experience and knowledge to share what’s working and what improvements can be made. I’ve also been observing that construction firms are making great strides to invest in not only the latest technologies but in the people powering those tools. Contech, in general, is a great conversation starter.” – Bianca Holtier Coury, Eagle Point, Construction Technology Manager

Single Source of Truth

Melissa Schulteis“Technology can help build trust in projects by creating a single source of truth for drawings and other documents. Without technology, different people could be working on different versions of project documents. This will create problems on the job.” – Melissa Schulteis, Miron Construction Co., Inc., Virtual Construction Specialist

Share Your Thoughts on Trust 

We’ve love to learn how your company defines and builds trust in the industry. Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Grace Ellis

Editor in Chief, Digital Builder Blog, Autodesk

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