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Mike Janssen, Making “Old School” Construction Techniques New Again

Mike Janssen may be relatively new to the Georgia division, but he’s certainly not new to the industry. With three decades of experience under his belt, serving as superintendent for many complex projects totaling more than $1 billion in value, Mike’s leadership is already moving mountains in the field. His personal commitment to safety and track-record for consistently delivering superior results are what make him the perfect addition to our general superintendent ranks. And when you read his interview you’ll see it was a natural fit.

First things first. How did you get your start in the construction industry?

Construction, for me, started as a summer job serving as a laborer to earn money for school; I was attending Dakota State University at the time. I enjoyed the challenges, saw a career opportunity, and never looked back! I’m proud that now, almost thirty years later, I’m trusted to manage the construction of multi-million dollar high-profile jobs like Alta Midtown.

What projects throughout your career are you most proud of prior to coming on board with Balfour Beatty in April 2016 and since? 

Tough question! The projects I’ve worked on have all been challenging in their own right, but East Lake Golf Course stands out because it was such an incredibly tight schedule. We were completing renovations and additions just prior to course hosting the PGA Tour’s final tournament of the year in 2007. The golfers were coming, the sports stations were coming, and we had absolutely NO time to miss the delivery date. Russ Brockelbank (project executive) and Justin Killen (assistant superintendent), both now Balfour Beatty employees, were on that job too – it’s funny how our career paths cross in this industry.

Everyone has their own personal reasons why they continue to work in construction. What’s your favorite part of your job?

I know this is the obvious answer here, but that doesn’t make it any less true – it’s the reward of turning over successful projects to owners. There’s something really special about seeing something go from a pile of dirt or a hole in the ground transform into a world-class building. I also enjoy the diversity of my job. In my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to cover the whole spectrum – building everything from high-rise office buildings, hotels and apartments to religious temples and malls. The nice thing about our industry is it’s always different.

How do you promote a safety culture on your jobsites?

Without your health, you have nothing – which is why safety always comes first. And I mean that literally. Never walk by something that needs to be taken care of, address it first. Start every meeting with safety. Keeping it in the forefront of everyone’s minds means we can minimize mistakes.

The construction sector has been through quite an evolution over the past few decades. What are some of the changes you’ve seen, and how do you adapt to our rapidly-changing industry? 

I’m trying to impress on people that the construction attitude of many years ago has changed dramatically. In the old days, it was a lot of yelling and generally just “bossing.” Today, we see more of a partnership between team members. We’re all in this together for one common outcome – a successful project delivery. It’s all about being a mentor and developing good builders. However, there is one area where I might call myself more “old school.” As technology advances, we have to be careful that we don’t forget the basis of what we’re building – it all comes down to the basics of construction and building a great foundation. We can’t lose focus on what we’re really doing as builders, which is BUILDING. At the end of the day, if you don’t know how to do things like count post-tension cables, check rebar and understand details within the drawings, then all you’ll end up doing is documenting how someone made a mistake.

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