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What is Beyond the Plan, and Why is it Important?

Have you ever read a company tagline and thought, “Ok, so what?” Yeah, us too. So, we thought it was time to explain the meaning behind ours — Beyond the plan.

When Obernel rebranded in 2020, we wanted to incorporate a tagline that fit our internal and external culture. We went through the process of identifying what is important to us as teammates and what we strive to be for our clients. What kept coming up time and time again was the idea of service — customer service, mentorship, partnerships, strong project relationships — it was all wrapped around something intangible and beyond engineering. And so, beyond the plan was born.

In our external messaging, we often talk about how we can do this for our clients by being trusted partners, guides, friends, and customer service orientated while delivering high-quality engineering. Internally and externally, we often talk about one of our core values that wraps into beyond the planWe Care. And because we care so deeply for our team members, trade partners, owners, stakeholders, communities, and our projects’ successes, we strive to go beyond the plan.

Don’t get us wrong, all of that is true, but it’s the short version — the condensed and tailored language for external messaging purposes. To understand what beyond the plan really means, we wanted to share it from our team’s perspectives who live it every day.

We asked everyone at Obernel to tell us what it means to them or to share stories of a time they went beyond the plan. What we got back knocked our socks off. We received stories from project fixes to internal accolades and from all levels and positions of team members. So, please sit back and enjoy learning what beyond the plan means to our Obernel team and how it benefits us internally and our clients externally.

Though I don’t work directly with external clients any longer, the employees of this company are my clients and I think beyond the plan means to always do what you can to go beyond expectations. So often people do the minimum to get by and we see it in so many aspects of our lives in retail, restaurants, etc. To me, the key to being successful is to make an effort to do that extra that will help people accomplish what needs to be done. Put yourself out there, be reliable and trust will follow. And it’s important to do it, not for the kudos and recognition, but because it’s the right thing to do. Good things can reap rewards without even asking for them.

I often get asked how to find old projects and files since I’ve been here since the dark ages. It’s not in my job description, but the people coming to me for help are looking to me for my experience and they wouldn’t be asking if they didn’t need help. It takes so little time to share my knowledge and it provides a big benefit to them and their ability to accomplish the task they had been given.

— Mike Anderson | IT Manager

Last year when COVID started, I received a call from one of my healthcare clients early on a Saturday morning. The owner was worried they did not have enough Negative Pressure Patient rooms to accommodate the expected COVID surge and reached out for our help on the best way to create more in their facility. Knowing this was a time-sensitive matter, Ned and I worked throughout the entire weekend, and by Sunday night, we had a complete permanent design in place. On that following Monday, we held a meeting to get the contractors up to speed on the project, and by Tuesday, construction started.

— Jake Braaten, PE | Mechanical Engineer

Beyond the plan is working with clients and the architectural teams to make sure everything is done right, not just getting it on the sheet and walking away.

— Hannah Pietron | Mechanical Engineering Technician

Going beyond the plan means to go above what has been asked of you. Reaching outside your comfort zone to do what is right and helpful without being asked or expected to do so. This is also something that we can do for our fellow coworkers and others in our lives, not just our clients.

An example is at Bethany Homes 42nd facility (nursing home), the client was having issues with occupancy sensors not operating properly. The contractor wanted more money to do this even though it was in the specifications. I went through the whole campus to reprogram all the occupancy sensors to operate correctly. This was done to make Bethany Homes happy with their new facility.

We’ve received several client comments that our team provides clean drawings.

— Derek Gooselaw, LC | Electrical Designer

Providing complete customer service and effective communication is what goes beyond just the design of a project.

Showing up on-site at a construction project while on vacation is a good example of dependable customer service that happened recently. We met with the contractors to keep the project moving and the owner’s building on schedule.

— Joel Peck, PE | Mechanical Engineer

As we look back at what has shaped our organization in the past several years, it is all about what is done outside our daily job. There are many good engineering companies with intelligent, technical employees in almost every metropolitan location across the US. So, what makes us different? We care.

We have always returned to this simple mantra as the way we live our lives, both at work and home. We have seen people in our community gone for months dealing with personal challenges that didn’t allow them to work. At the same time, the Obernel family stepped up and made sure the community members’ families were cared for. We have seen employees go to a client’s house and help them move. They have roofed, hauled sheetrock, sandbagged during floods, and the list goes on. We attend our client’s family functions, both happy and sad, as we live life with them. When they need help on their homes or businesses, we are the experts people call when something is not working.

Why does all this happen? The “plan” is never just to produce good, sound engineering design. That is the beginning. It is about living out our values, showing that we care. It is about going beyond the plan.

— Jeremiah Christenson, PE, Legacy LEED AP | Principal

We go beyond the plan because we care — we say that quite often because, in marketing, it resonates with us.

As a marketing coordinator, I wear many hats, hats that I never expected to be wearing. Whether it’s supporting internal project teams with communication and graphics, going the extra mile when assisting client requests, or helping our business development team reach new clients — you name it, and marketing is here for it. We’re here for our teams and our people.

I strive to go beyond the plan because I care about the success and well-being of my coworkers, our clients, and the organization as a whole. Going beyond the plan isn’t just something we do; it’s a mentality by which we live and work.

— Lucy Dolinsky | Marketing Coordinator

Mike Anderson and our IT group have impressed me with their implementation of best practices. I recently talked to someone who works on IT security in the finance industry, and he shared how difficult it was to persuade bankers to adopt two-factor authentication. He was amazed when I shared that our engineering consultancy had already implemented two-factor authentication, and it was now routine. Our clients entrust their information to us and expect us to take care of it — many of our projects require non-disclosure agreements. The fact that this care of their information carries through our network systems is another way we go beyond the plan. Kudos to Mike and the IT team!

— Mark Bradby, PE | Director of Operations – Minneapolis

I don’t interact with our project clients, so my clients are everyone in the company. Beyond the plan means interacting with clients and projects in an intentional way that shows we care. It means we work with integrity and as if we were working on buildings that we owned or operated. We want to be proud of our work and want our clients to know that they are not just a paycheck but a valued part of our community.

— Jake Wynia | HR Assistant

To me, going beyond the plan is exceeding expectations and providing exceptional service to our clients.

I took a phone call from a client this last Easter weekend and proceeded to help him resolve a problem for most of the day. I got a big thank you from the client the following week.

— Dave Vig, PE, CEM | Principal

To me, it often means to address the unarticulated need of the client during the design phase. They don’t know what they don’t know and rely on our experience and expertise to guide them or offer up solutions they may not be thinking about.

During the CA phase, it’s imperative to maintain a solid relationship with contractors, in my case, the electrical contractor. I’ve found if you develop a solid working relationship early on, the construction progresses more smoothly.

— Chris Hacker, BEE, MBA | Electrical Project Manager

Going beyond the plan in marketing is providing support to our internal project teams with a hospitality mindset. It’s helping with everything from a project team’s client request to prepping for a conference presentation to helping write an article for a publication to supporting a local foundation with an open mind and caring attitude. It’s taking an idea when a team member comes up to us with, “I think this would resonate with our clients, but I’m not sure how to pull it together,” and turning those ideas into realities.

And as much as we’re an internal resource, we’re also an external resource. We work with our client’s marketing teams to pull proposals together. Because we’ve walked a mile in their shoes, we do what we can to make their lives easier. From working within their branded templates to providing specific engineering verbiage to helping proof and edit the document, we strive to be an extension of their team to help us all win work together.

— Maria James | Marketing Manager

What it means to go beyond the plan for the Accounting department is to do whatever it takes to support the company’s operations so they can focus on serving our clients. The more we can take off the project managers’ plate, the more they can concentrate on the engineering our clients have hired us to perform. The end goal should be to give our clients the best possible experience so we can earn their business in the future.

— Jim Oliver | Controller

Now in my mid-forties and have worked in the consulting world for 23 years, I know that my job responsibilities leverage who I am as a person. I tell people that “I have never worked a day in my life.” I do not see coming to the office as work, but rather living my life to care for others the same way I do for my family. My inner drive is to treat all people with the same grit, compassion, and care to better their lives.

To succeed in the A/E/C industry, you need to have a servant mentality and know that we are not entirely in control of our destiny, but we control how we react. Beyond the plan means providing a service to this industry with the same passion and perseverance as I do with my family and friends. As I write this, I think about how most of my friends are the people I work with — now that is pretty cool!

— Brent Wavra, PE, LEED AP | Principal

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