Connecting diverse disciplines like architecture, engineering, and surveying across multiple locations in Benton Harbor, Portage, and Allegan has proven to be a unique challenge for Wightman and Associates. However, over the years this dynamic has bonded its employees together creating a special culture that invigorates the professional and private lives of everyone involved. “We have a lot of resources in our firm, and they all have to learn how to work in a collaborative team environment. We need to know our coworkers and be able to call them up to get stuff done. It’s been critical to our continuity as a team across offices and specializations to be able to do that,” says Alan Smaka, director of the Portage office.
One of the solutions to this problem arose organically. “A unique event has pulled us together that started early in the history of our company,” explains Smaka, “At one point, we were in three main houses and had satellite offices throughout; we had very hard working team, and we would get to Friday and need to let loose and have some fun. It started as a small group having drinks at a bar, and then grew and evolved as people got married and had families.”
Today, coworkers from every office gather about twice a month during the summer for a company-wide event. “Different people host every time. And gosh, the attendance has grown. You could have anywhere between 70 and 100 people,” says Smaka. Every team member, along with their entire family, is encouraged attend. The gatherings promote a culture where even the youngest members of the Wightman family know the names and faces of employees working across southwest Michigan.
Such a unifying, positive culture has allowed Wightman to accomplish great things together. For instance, team members cooperate to cultivate a single community garden with shared plots and responsibilities. Last year, the annual harvest produced enough tomatoes and peppers to make plenty of salsa to share with clients and family.
This same model has allowed Wightman and Associates to expand its business, synthesizing the work of diverse employees to complete incredibly complex projects. “Regardless whether it’s for the clients or the staff, a lot of it what we do is just about people in general,” says Smaka, “Everything we do, it’s about the people. And I think when you focus on people it’s easier to do the right thing.”