• Nancy Popkin

Shapiro CM Promotes a Healthy Workplace Culture


There are no vending machines. We don't have a cafeteria. And it's often "Bring Your Dog to Work Day" at Shapiro CM's Far Hills, NJ headquarters. We all eat lunch together every day. On a nice day, like today, we sit outside around a regular backyard umbrella table. Today, I snapped this butterfly who showed up to join us. Just one of the perks of working in a non-corporate culture, and one of the reasons we love coming to work here. Sometimes I think it's like working from home without the distractions of laundry and repairmen.

The conversation at lunch was about healthy "kid food" until it turned, as it often does, to work. The discussion was not focused on one of several new projects or the challenge of migrating to new team software or how we were going to get a computer from one New York City office to another.

As I attempted to "capture" the butterfly without scaring it away, or allowing visiting dog Angel to chase it, we laughed and brainstormed about the best way to capture this "non-corporate" environment and infuse the culture throughout the whole company.

Jay Shapiro founded the company 16 years ago having worked within large corporations. He picked a location near his family home to eliminate a commute. And, he created a family atmosphere for his employees. That atmosphere is one of the things that attracted me to work for Shapiro CM. And now, it's part of my job as Human Resources and Marketing Manager to make sure we maintain it, even as we grow to take on more projects.

Jay's vision is to provide construction management services from a family culture instead of a corporate culture, putting a high value on personal relationships in a way that is beneficial to both our employees and our clients. We're agile because we don't have layers of management. Everyone's opinion matters and is heard.

One of my favorite examples of that is a recent one. We were planning to lease a larger office space in lower Manhattan so that a couple of new project teams could work in the same space as our downtown project team. Project Manager Nunzio Petraccoro said, "If we're going to get another office in Manhattan, how about near the train station. That would be more convenient for commuting from New Jersey or Long Island." The next day we were searching for office space in midtown and within a week we had a lease. When I told Nunzio we had acted on his suggestion, he was very pleased to have been heard.

Some of the best ideas about extending the culture to our many offices in New York and the DC Metro came from our newest corporate hire, Office Administrator Julia Schuchardt. After lunch, she began work on an employment anniversary date recognition program.

In the fall, we plan to kick off a Healthy Workplace Initiative, host a cultural diversity training and potluck and organize an event along the lines of a hiking outing that was popular in early summer.

Business Manager Holly Fisher, who is Jay's middle child, helps keep a balance between Jay's desire to have as few official policies and procedures as possible and the need to have the structure of a business that operates in multiple states.

Our project teams that work embedded in client offices or from field offices don't have the luxury of eating lunch at the umbrella table in the backyard or getting to know fellow employees working at other locations. We want to facilitate those connections and to recruit new talent on a personal level. To that end, our employee website profiles include how we spend our leisure time. The Shapiro CM quarterly newsletter highlights company sponsored outings, trainings and events that emphasize our culture. If only we could figure out a way to send Angel to make office visits. Then every Shapiro CM team would feel like they work at home, too!

Angel sitting on Nancy's lap because she was frightened during a spring thunderstorm.


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