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Get to Know Sonny Russano

Sonny isn’t like most new hires. Before joining GSD, Sonny co-owned a construction company with his family in West Palm Beach for 41 years. He was living his dream. But life happened and Sonny’s plans changed along with it. In a short period, Sonny found himself unexpectedly alone at the helm of the company.

Suddenly faced with unprecedented pressure, Sonny knew he wanted to step down. But he refused to abandon his employees or clients. He wanted to be sure everyone’s livelihoods were protected. So Sonny continued running the business until he could find a suitable replacement.

Luckily five of Sonny’s trusted employees approached him with a proposal  to buy the company. While they couldn’t afford the full amount upfront, Sonny worked out a deal to give them five years to pay him out. These colleagues were like family to him and he couldn’t think of better stewards to run the business.

With a succession plan in place, Sonny was free to walk away. He was set for the retirement he thought he needed. But construction lives at Sonny’s core and he wasn’t ready for a life of golf carts and bingo nights just yet.

Back in the Game

After a 1-year sabbatical, Sonny was bored. He quickly took a position as Director of Operations at a local contractor. But allmost just as quickly as he started, Sonny realized he wasn’t interested in the pressure that came with the job. He wanted to work as a Superintendent again.

Luckily, GSD Contracting found Sonny just in time. When GSD’s owners heard Sonny was in the job market, they immediately hired him as a Superintendent (SUP) to manage some of the company’s largest projects.

Sonny’s first project was Postal Center International (PCI), a 278,000 sq. ft. industrial warehouse in Fort Lauderdale. The scope of work required Sonny to oversee extensive electrical and mechanical services, while strategically selecting the subcontracting team. Sonny’s second project was a 3,745 sq. ft. ground-up build of a Chase Bank in Deerfied Beach. In both cases, Sonny supervised the teams that executed these projects on budget and on schedule.

Sonny brings a lifetime of experience. But he also brings a proven philosophy of organizational structure and team building, which he later implemented to transform GSD’s operations.

Reinventing Business as Usual for GSD

A short time after Sonny joined GSD, the company was acquired. The new owners saw Sonny’s resume and quickly shifted his role from SUP to Director of Field Operations.

Today, Sonny oversees contracts and change-orders, while managing the intricate process of bidding for projects. Once bidding concludes and the deal is signed, Sonny directs all personnel in the field to ensure the project runs according to plan.

This used to be a job for the project managers (PM). But when Sonny stepped into the role, he helped reinvent business as usual. He quickly developed standard operating procedures (SOP) for his job as well as Statement of Work (SOW) field manuals for superintendents and PMs to follow.

Under this system, GSD’s project teams followed the same forms and guidelines regardless of the scope. They also started having weekly alignment calls where they defined the who, what, and where. Budgets were clear and materials were being tracked and schedules were updated accordingly. Using Sonny’s procedures, things became more organized and manageable.

“This system of uniformed control transforms to profitable dollars and accountability” said Sonny. And he was absolutely correct.

But Sonny doesn’t work in a vacuum. As an experienced leader, Sonny knows it takes buy-in from the entire team to make organizations’ changes successful. So when he started, Sonny enlisted the feedback of every PM and Superintendent to understand their needs first. In the process, Sonny found that some SUPs were better suited for ground up construction, while others were a better fit for tenant improvement projects. He adjusted the roles accordingly.

With new systems in place, and personnel in the right seats, Sonny was ready to start enhancing GSD’s scheduling process.

“Scheduling is the bible of commercial contracting”

According to Sonny, scheduling requires close coordination between the SUP and the PM, along with proper training to ensure both parties understand the project’s requirements. But sometimes they still have conflicting perspectives. That’s why Sonny ensures both parties agree on a scheduling plan before proceeding.

“Project managers and superintendents should be seen on the same level, wearing the same jersey, and part of the same team working together to get the project done,” said Sonny.

Eyes on the Prize

That’s Sonny’s philosophy. He doesn’t believe in 1-man teams. He believes in cross-unit coordination and checking egos at the door. Sonny’s not looking for accolades. Above all else, he cares about his team and its success.

“Sonny has been a huge asset for GSD.  He works hard to make sure all the Superintendents have what they need and is there to provide the support and guidance to help bring projects in on time and on budget. He goes above and beyond his call of duty to help others as well,” said GSD Executive Vice President, Jason Bates.

Sonny embodies GSD’s values of trust, loyalty, and work ethics first. In 35 years at his company, he never took a vacation. And after suffering major tragedies, Sonny thought about his crew before himself. Now as part of the GSD family, Sonny wants to continue building the trust of his colleagues along with commercial clients across South Florida.