Construction company puts premium on making work enjoyable LAKEWOOD RANCH — Welcome to the Hotel California. Employees with lengthy tenures at Willis A. Smith Construction tend to return to work part time. “You can check out any time you like, “But you can never leave!” So concludes the lyrics to the Eagles’ big hit, “Hotel California.” That’s one of the ways Peggy Kronus describes the environment at Willis Smith. The family atmosphere brings people back after retirement, the public relations coordinator says. Barbara Shaver never really left. For seven years, she stayed on for three days a week. Now, she’s on the job one day a week. After 31 years, she knows the place better than anyone, from the day when just seven employees took care of business and now today when 90 work on construction projects. She has been office manager, executive assistant and contract billing, just to name a few of her responsibilities. “Barbara is one of five or six people who have retired and continue to work in some part-time basis, which we a take as a huge compliment,” said David Sessions, the CEO, president and 30-year company veteran. The key to that loyalty comes from the top. “I was ready to go,” Shaver said, “and I said can I work one day a week when I get close to retirement and he (Sessions) said I could do anything I wanted.” So she does. There is a literal team atmosphere at Willis Smith. “I know that being in public relations,” Kronus said, “being on a team is very important and I always say on a team everyone achieves more. The concept that we have is family.” The family concept extends to sponsorship of teams in kickball, running and bowling as well as yoga classes, cookouts and monthly birthday luncheons. “It brings all of us together, to work together and to play together,” Kronus said. “If enough people come in and say they’re interested in something, I will listen and give it a try,” Sessions said. “Let’s face it,” he said, “you spend a large part of your life, your day in a working environment. We certainly strive to make that as enjoyable as we possibly can.” Kronus, who joined Willis Smith four years ago, backs that up. “I don’t want to work anywhere else,” she said. “They care about our families.” Julia Marie Smith, the assistant marketing coordinator, appreciates the personal connections. “Everyone knows everyone, their background,” said. “I think that’s really important to feel they want to know you and you’re not just working for them.” Willis Smith also promotes community service. Each year, employees volunteer at more than 30 local, not-for-profit organizations. Ten volunteer mentors joined the Dive into Reading summer program for the youngest students in the Manatee County School District, with each one spending two hours once a week working with individual kids. “The history that we have as a company is incredible because it’s about our community,” Kronus said.
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By Chris Wille Business and Real Estate Editor Posted Nov 6, 2018 at 6:29 PM Updated Nov 7, 2018 at 10:37 AM