As a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, Benjamin Brannon knows a thing or two about leadership.
Out of high school, Brannon joined the Marine Corps. He was honorably discharged four years later, in 2015. He went on to become a foreman for Venice-based general contracting firm J2 Solutions that year while also enrolling for a civil engineering degree at the University of South Florida. In 2017, he was promoted to superintendent at J2. Two years after that he graduated from USF and was promoted again, this time to project manager.
Now the health care operations manager for the firm, he says the transition from project manager to operations has been the toughest challenge he’s had yet.
“You are no longer just solely in charge of your project,” he says. “You are responsible for other people’s work.”
With his military background, the toughest part wasn’t necessarily being a leader. Instead, it was having to learn how to balance being a fair leader while still holding people accountable.
“I would say stern at first, with my military background,” he says of his leadership style. With some advice from his mentor Jess Fronckowiak, the company’s president and founder, Brannon was able to adjust in a way that allowed him to have a bigger impact on employees.
“Even though what I’m saying might be correct, there’s a way to tone it down and not be so militaristic,” he says of his new style. “It’s transitioning to a more friendly approach. You can’t let everything slide.”
Fronckowiak, who was also the youth leader of a church Brannon attended from age 12-17, was instrumental in the direction Brannon chose to take his career.
“He’s given me enough rope to carve my own path,” he says, Fronckowiak has never fed him answers on how to accomplish something, rather he let Brannon figure it out on his own. “(It) didn’t always seem the most efficient way to do things, but looking back, he kind of shaped (my) problem solving.”
That problem solving came in clutch when Brannon had to decide between staying in the field or switching to an office job. While working on the Sarasota Memorial Hospital expansion project at its University Parkway campus, Brannon got to do a little of both. The project was a two-story addition.
“It was really challenging connecting a new steel and concrete frame building to an existing older building,” Brannon recalls. He spent a lot of time onsite receiving some mentorship from the field staff while also working under a senior project manager at the mobile office set up onsite. During the nine-month project, Fronckowiak really pushed him to choose the path that he most enjoyed “because it’s going to be a long career,” he says. “Having that opportunity really helped.”