Benjamin Sparks is a prominent commercial construction consultant for Encore Group, as well as a dispute resolution professional based out of Dallas, Texas. He graduated from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In his youth, Benjamin was captivated by the great books of Western Civilization, and they affected the development of his worldview immensely. Always a problem solver, Benjamin would utilize his gifts to analyze and think critically as he became a consultant for various firms throughout the country. Throughout the course of his career, Benjamin has provided consulting services for companies in a wide variety of industries, such as public affairs and business leadership, and was once even retained by the owners of an oyster farming company.
When not at work, Benjamin Sparks leads an active lifestyle, including daily exercise and playing sports. He is also a lover of fine wines, multiple musical instruments, and he still reads voraciously, just as he did in his youth.
Where did the idea to work as a construction consultant come from?
I’ve always been fascinated by project management. From an early age, I loved the idea of having a tangible, finite project with an end date and lots of moving parts—managing people, plans, and material to bring a large endeavor together and create something real. With construction, you can touch and see the fruits of your work for decades after the work is finished. Also, I had family members that got involved in construction consulting, and that helped to pique my interest.
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
I always get up early to allow myself plenty of time to prepare for the day ahead. I don’t like to rush. I like taking time to read, calibrate, and start the day on my own terms. I also check my calendar to make sure I stay on top of both work and my personal life. Throughout the day, I continually update a to-do list and reference it, prioritizing the items on it in order of importance.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The first step is to brainstorm. I like to write down my ideas during the creative process. The next stage is usually to develop an effective plan of action. I also visualize what the end product looks like, as I believe that is of tremendous value. I frequently ask colleagues, friends, and even friendly competitors in the industry for advice. It’s important to know that you never have all the answers and you never know everything. It’s vital to have as many sounding boards as possible.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Definitely the hybrid work environment, which is fallout from the COVID pandemic. Tragic as COVID was, one of the silver linings was that it produced was a trend toward hybrid workplace environments. I don’t think working exclusively remote is effective because it, in my opinion, stymies personal relationships and collaboration with your colleagues and clients. It creates unnecessary communication gaps which can cause stress and inefficiencies in the workplace. But a hybrid office model—having three days a week in the office and two days to work at home on your own terms—gives people a chance to take care of other aspects of their lives and results in them being happier. And that, in turn, makes for happier clients.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive?
Allowing yourself time for meditation, whether at work or at home. It gives you the chance to reflect and question yourself about what kind of person you want to be. Even five minutes a day is enough. For example, whenever I drive somewhere, I take five minutes to contemplate what kind of person I want to be, where I’m going, how I’m going to get there, and so on. After that, I turn on the radio or listen to an audio book for a little while before I give myself another five minutes to reflect again before arriving at my destination. “Why am I doing this? What do I want to accomplish? What kind of person do I want to be when I get there?” Those kinds of questions. This enables you to act with intention, as opposed to reacting to what happens.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Listen more and talk less.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
There is no such thing as objective “right or wrong” (or if there is, no one actually knows what it is, so the point is moot); there are just different perspectives.
What is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Taking time to acknowledge what you’re thinking. Acknowledge a given situation from your perspective, as well as the perspectives of others. Most important of all is to be present instead of being lost in your own thoughts. I think that’s a skill that everyone could use.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Intense preparation always tips the scales in your favor. Any kind of daunting project or issue can be overcome if you prepare well enough.
What is a challenge that you have had as a consultant?
I think every manager deals with failures the best they can in the early days of their job. Specifically, there is usually a feeling of distance between themselves and their employees—you think that your people should do what they’re supposed to do just because you told them to. But, frankly, the correct way to bridge that gap is to constantly talk and listen to your employees, make sure they’re fulfilled and that they have what they need to do their job effectively. Also, it pays to ask them for feedback, as opposed to treating them like automatons or functionaries.
What is one business idea that you have?
A wine pairing app for everyday food. It doesn’t matter what—fast food, cheese sticks, or hot dogs. It would allow more people to appreciate the simple pleasures of wine and food. The Italians say the only difference between a meal and a feast is the wine; this would allow every meal to be a feast.
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
An annual subscription to Blinkist. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s an app. After I deleted all social media, because I was wasting too much time with it, I subscribed to Blinkist, which is an app that takes nonfiction books and condenses them into about fifteen page cliff notes. So, whenever I’m on the go, say, waiting for a pizza or in a waiting room, I have this app that dispenses little nuggets of wisdom from larger works, and it turns what would be dead time into productive time.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
It’s the little notes app on my phone. Whenever I hear a good quote, have an idea, or what have you, I can simply whip out my phone and write it in there before I forget about it. I read somewhere that 90% of good ideas are lost into the ether, forgotten within a few minutes by the people who thought them up, and this helps me keep my ideas before they’re lost.
What book do you recommend that people read.
How to win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
What is your favorite quote?
“Gratitude is a skill to be cultivated.” — Unknown.