The work goes on. They build. They renovate. It is just that today, knee deep in the grips of a global pandemic, commercial construction professional have to figure out different ways to get the job done. It is unlike anything that Lu Sacharski has ever seen. After nearly 35 years in the hospitality side of the business, she is like everyone else—each day brings a new lesson, a new lead and new challenge to face.
Sacharski, while still working on proposals for InterServ Hospitality, is as anxious as anyone to see what the future holds. Over her storied career, she has worked on multi-million dollar renovation projects on 4 and 5-star hotels, and a project that was honored with an International Hotel Group PIP Renovation Award for “incredibly innovative and highly complex work.”
Wherever she has been and whatever she has done always has been in step (and beyond expectations) with what the job required. Over the years, Sacharski has served two terms on the State of Wisconsin Dwelling Codes Commission, and played an instrumental role in spearheading the restoration and catastrophic management efforts on nine properties devastated by hurricanes in Florida. We sat down with her to get her insights on what to make of today’s pandemic-defined industry and why tomorrow is a day worth waiting for.
Give us a snapshot of the construction market today? What are you seeing out there?
The construction industry at this time is very mixed. GCs that had projects approved along with funding in most cases are moving forward with the projects. This would be a great time to be able to complete parking lots upgrades, swimming pools (new and upgrades), paint exterior of buildings, window replacements, elevator upgrades. All of this depends on available funding.
How did you get started in the industry? What is your story?
I had my first position at the beautiful Pfister Hotel and Tower in downtown Milwaukee. I loved the fact that no two days were ever the same. Getting the great experience of the operation side of the hospitality world would play a very important role with becoming a project manager/VP of Operations.
What are some of the biggest changes you have seen over the past few years?
Technology is forever changing. Skilled trades crew available to work. Quality workmanship.
If I had to do it all over again, I would reach out into the trades—painters, plumbers, welders, electrical, HVAC, glazing and equipment operators. Work is ready when you are.
Name some of the opportunities available for women in the industry?
If I had to do it all over again, I would reach out into the trades—painters, plumbers, welders, electrical, HVAC, glazing and equipment operators. Work is ready when you are. Also, I would look into becoming an “expert” in the ADA world. The rules and regulations are changing almost daily.
What challenges remain?
Being able to return to work, and to be safe and healthy are going to take longer than what most of us think to make a “comeback.” Businesses are closing every day that were at one time very successful.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
I had a superintendent I was working for tell me that you can always judge how well a project is running by the condition of the job site. It is so true. If the project is a mess, so is the job. You can see it in the daily documentation, production and attitude of the team.
What is the advice you would share with women just entering the industry?
Network, network, network. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Take time for yourself and family. If you do not love what you do—move on.
What is the biggest lesson the past few months have taught you?
I started out worrying about not finding another position. As of today, I have sent more than 165 resumes out, resulting in 35 interviews and no offers. I took a few steps back and had to regroup my thoughts. I am giving it my very best. I have the knowledge and great experience; I have not reached the right company as of today. But tomorrow is another day, so I just keep placing one foot in front of the other, step by step.
What is the biggest item on your to-do list?
To stay healthy not only for myself, but for my friends and family.
What is the first thing you are going to do when everything gets back to normal?
Normal will never be the same as it was. I am looking forward to the “new” normal and completing some great renovations.
What is one of the biggest lessons you learned over the past four months?
I am so grateful that I married my best friend. This is the first time in our 34 years of marriage that we have been together this long, day in and day out. Usually I am on a plane going to another project, and he is either taking me to the airport or picking me up from the airport. Home for 72 hours, and then back out on the road. It is wonderful getting to be together. It is just that our “to-do” list keeps getting longer.