People are Much Different Than Your First Impression of Them

Chairing the board of any influential industry association takes commitment, vision and leadership. Meet the new chairman of GBCA, Michael Armento, Senior Vice President of Torcon, Inc. Mike is responsible for the company’s growth and operations for the Philadelphia office, including $2BB in projects. In addition to GBCA, he is active in the Subcontractors Association of Delaware Valley, Carpenters’ Company, and the ACE Mentoring program. He was the recent guest of GBCA’s Coffee Chat, geared towards young professionals in the construction industry.

What do you see as the value of connections and networking?

I place a heavy value on relationships. I encourage people to take the time to get to know our clients, designers, and contractors. We often form an opinion of someone by how they look, the way they speak. Get to know them and you will find that people are much different from your perception. Good relationships are vitally important to successful business.

What does an employer want to see in an emerging professional?

I look for someone who shows some level of loyalty. I want people who have a passion for what they do. They also need energy and the ability to stick to it, regardless of the obstacles.

We’re seeing a generation gap in skilled labor. What do you think is the best approach to attracting more people to the trades?

We need to do a better job exposing students to skilled trade construction, so they have a better understanding of the various trades. I think it will take going out to the schools and talking to students early in the middle and high school levels.

What character traits make a good leader?

First you must be honest with people even if it means delivering news they don’t want to hear. Second, you should understand that they have issues going on in their lives just like everyone. Before you decide or provide direction, ask yourself “Am I being as fair as possible to this individual?” If the answer is no, don’t deliver the message yet. Once you do, stand behind your decision.

Where do you see the industry going post pandemic?

Torcon focuses on healthcare, higher education and life sciences. Higher education has been badly hit and my guess is that the market will never be the same. Healthcare will remain strong. Life sciences is the growth sector. A lot of boutique companies are taking office space and converting it to lab space and now we’re hearing about larger businesses needing to convert 200,00 – 300,000 SF of space.

What do you see as the new normal of work?

Despite everything we were forced to deal with in the pandemic, we have found a way to make it work. We’re pretty tough people, and we know how to lean on one another to get things done. I think the future involves a hybrid model with some time in the office, some at home and maybe some at satellite locations. The downside of course is that the personal dynamics will be missing; you can’t read body language in a video.

Discuss the value of work life balance. Is there anything you would have done differently?

When I was just starting out in my career, I was leaving at 5 am and not coming home until 8 or 9 pm at night. I missed a lot of time with my kids when they were young. I would encourage you to find a 50/50 balance. That’s not easy when you’re building your career and when you’re under the pressure to perform, it’s hard to say no. What you don’t want is to get to the tail end of your career and say, “I wish I had devoted less time to work and more to family.”

How can you retain talent, and what can employees expect of employers?

Compensation is important to everyone as it should be. More importantly, people need to see a clear path for moving up the ladder. We also engage the younger employees in our community work, and they appreciate that.

How did you gain the respect of others as you progressed throughout your career?

Someone once said to me ‘you’re doing great, you’re really progressing and I’m happy and proud of you, but don’t get too full of yourself.’ I try and follow that advice.