Notes of Gratitude

Notes of Gratitude

It’s that time of year again when people take a moment to reflect, express appreciation and give good old-fashioned thanks. Here at VPCS, we have a lot to be thankful for – individually and as an organization. In the spirit of the season, we asked our team to share a few words about the things they’re grateful for and have included some of those thoughts here. We wish all of our friends, families, clients and colleagues a joyful Thanksgiving, overflowing with all the things that matter the most.


HOLLY MADDOX: I am grateful for the willingness to try for better things tomorrow. I am grateful that my blessings are bigger than my problems. And I am grateful for those, good and bad, past and present, who are a part of my journey, and those who invited me to play a part in theirs.

ANGELITA SANCHEZ: I am thankful for many things: I am alive, my kids and family are all healthy, I have a job and love the people I work with, and I have a five-minute commute. I am currently working on the VPCS project at the Terra Linda High School, which means I get to see my 15-year-old son every day – and sometimes twice a day!

THIDA CHHIT: This holiday season, there are many things that I am grateful and thankful for. I have been blessed to have supportive and loving family and friends, who have been my guiding light through life. I’m thankful for my wonderful daughter who has not only brought me so much joy and strength, but also new meaning as a mother. This year has also blessed me with positive changes in my career and I am so grateful for VPCS for the opportunity to begin a new chapter. I am especially thankful for my manager (Kelli) and my colleagues (Mony, Brian and Cesar) who have been instrumental in supporting me.

NIKKI UNGER: I am thankful to be able to work at a wonderful company and have such an amazing boss who has encouraged me not only to do my best with my team, but to pursue passions I never thought I could. Eric Berger is truly an inspiration and an A+ mentor.

KEVIN SMITH: I am thankful for my lifelong friends and my new friends. These are all people who have become part of my tribe, and who make me feel welcome and loved as part of their family. They are all responsible for keeping the holiday spirit alive in my heart, and I am thankful to them every day.

BRIAN CAMERON: This year, I am especially thankful for the support of my family and friends, including my VPCS family. I am also thankful because I feel I have grown as a person over the last year and I know I have great people in my life to support me when I need it the most.

ERIC VAN PELT: I am thankful that I work with such an impressive group of professionals who take our responsibility to the communities we build for as seriously as I do.

KELLI VAN PELT JURGENSON: From a work perspective, I am thankful for my male colleagues. In this day and age, that may seem strange, but the vast majority of the men I work with show me respect and treat me as an equal . . . from the job site to the office. It gives me hope that the tide can change. From a personal perspective, I am forever thankful to my family for being my anchor of love, as I work daily in very tough industry.

MIKE VAN PELT: In the last few years, VPCS has grown considerably. During that time we’ve had the opportunity to hire several new employees. I am thankful for all of our long-standing employees and their enduring loyalty, and for our new employees and their fresh attitudes. The VPCS family helps me to sleep well at night, knowing our projects are in good hands.

MARK VAN PELT: I’m thankful for our clients, new and long-standing, who put their trust in VPCS every day in this complex business. I’m also thankful for our employees who put in the long hours and dedication it takes to make this machine run. And a special thanks to their significant others who support their efforts.

November 21, 2017

Building Connections with Clients: The Business Case for Camaraderie

Building Connections with Clients: The Business Case for Camaraderie

We’ve all heard the adage that you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure. This is certainly solid advice in certain contexts. But I believe there’s great value in building professionally appropriate personal relationships with clients. It’s the kind of intangible that can measurably benefit both sides in any transaction.

Making an effort to get to know clients on a human level is not just good for business; it’s good for business people. It forges stronger work relationships while making the process of doing the work more enjoyable.

Some tips:

Be accessible. The most important element of building client relationships is accessibility. My brother, Mike, and I have always made it clear to the people we work for that when they call, we’ll pick up. We hear from clients all the time that our availability and responsiveness is one of the things we’re known for. From that foundation of professional accessibility can grow a sense of trust – valuable in business; invaluable in human interactions.

Build communication into the routine. I make it a point to check in by phone regularly with clients – including those with whom we have active projects as well as those we haven’t worked with for years. These outreach calls might only last a few minutes and may center on things other than business. But they’re personal touch points; they remind my clients that I’m thinking of them and that I care about what’s going on in their lives (not just in their jobs).

Honor the boundaries. At VPCS, the majority of our clients work for public agencies and are bound by certain rules and regulations that limit their ability to accept gifts or favors. As such, some of our clients won’t even let us pick up the tab at lunch. But true relationship-building doesn’t require material objects; it requires time and attention.

Model this behavior. Mike and I learned this business from our father, who actually built decades-long friendships with numerous clients. He was genuinely interested in getting to know the people he worked with and for. Building relationships happens easily for Mike and me because we grew up watching how it’s done and we model those behaviors for the next generation of VPCS leaders. It’s part of the DNA of both our family and our firm.

Make connections at every level. I’ve become a fan of the Project Partnering concept that elevates problems to the next level of management and helps maintain relationships that have developed. It aligns neatly with the subject I’m talking about here because it’s built on the same premise: when people are connected on a deeper level, they tend to make a deeper effort with one another. In other words, fewer conflicts arise between professionals who share a personal rapport. The fewer the conflicts, the fewer the potential headaches, delays and risk for everyone concerned.

Get more out of your work. It’s true that positive client relationships can make projects go more smoothly. But it has the power to yield a much more important benefit: a roster of people who are part of your career and your life.

By Mark Van Pelt