Responsibility before leisure: You can’t really enjoy your time off fully if you know you haven’t finished your work obligations.
Think about goals rather than steps: I can’t tell you how many times we have simplified or improved how we do things by thinking about the end objective rather than just the process.
I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Warren Braithwaite. Warren is experienced at all phases of general contracting and construction, with special emphasis on Project Development, Carpentry, Electrical, Drywall & Plaster, Paint and Surface Finishing, Stonework and Masonry, and Flooring.
Warren has always loved building — growing up on construction sites and learning the trade from his father and other pivotal mentors as a young boy, he quickly learned the importance of a disciplined work ethic and keen attention to detail that adds to both the efficiency and beauty found in all of his projects. Warren’s “leave no stone unturned” mentality has allowed him to adjust to the fast-paced technologically and environmentally conscious future by designing and creating “no compromise” sustainable and eco-friendly homes. In fact, Warren believes that the products, tools and techniques for sustainable building represent the biggest opportunity in the next wave of exciting new home projects.
Warren’s personal story is just as inspirational as the grand homes he builds. Having defied the odds by beating cancer, Warren works out, works hard, and never takes for granted the important things in life, like his family. Up at dawn, home at dark, Warren’s determination to do well by doing good is inspiring a new generation of environmentally responsible and resource-efficient construction throughout a building’s lifecycle: from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and even demolition.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I started life with my family in Guyana, South America, eventually moving to New York. Growing up back in New York in the ’80s, well, it was a different world. I had a loving family who taught me about responsibility and hard work, and those lessons have never stopped paying off for me.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was young, I worked with my Dad on his construction projects and I took a liking to it. I was renovating and working on homes, buying homes from auctions and fixing them up. Seeing the whole transformation of an old home into a new one through renovation really made a huge impression on me. I’d go to school all week and then renovate all weekend. In high school, I joined a program that allowed me to alternate between workweeks and school weeks. My father suggested I use that time to work for the Department of Building so I could learn about the permitting and inspection process. I kept renovating with my parents on weekends, and I loved every minute of it.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I have a lot of stories, and most of them involve the strange things we have found opening up walls. I guess people think it’s the perfect hiding place, because what we have found in there is just amazing. Personal financial papers, mementos, even small numbers of valuables. I think the oddest was when we opened a wall and found an old stash of corroded guns. We turned those into the police of course.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Most of the mistakes I see in the building aren’t really funny but usually start from trying to take a short cut. The reason we have so many building codes and rules is because people count on us to do things right every time, because once a pipe is in a wall, or electricity is running to a switch, it takes a lot of time and money to open things up and look at it again. Over the years, as I have renovated past construction, I have found dozens of times people tried to put an extra wire into a junction box or bypass the
requirements for a vent stack. The lesson I learned is one I try to pass along. The right way is the right way for a reason. What seems like a shortcut is always a longer route.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I just finished a project in Calabasas in California, one of the most in-demand areas to live right now. As a result, people are enlarging their homes and making them into showpieces. We are just wrapping up a major addition and top to bottom remodel on a home that is honestly totally transformed. I’ve been doing this for a long time, but I still get excited when I see something new and amazing emerging from an older home.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Everybody brings to the work they do the experiences they had growing up, the people they had around, the things they did. Being African American I have a unique set of cultural and other experiences and I’m excited to bring that energy and those ideas to the work I do. I’m excited about the building industry’s movement towards diversity and inclusion; it’s bringing new energy and new ideas to construction and remodeling.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1.Responsibility before leisure: You can’t really enjoy your time off fully if you know you haven’t finished your work obligations.
2.Think about goals rather than steps: I can’t tell you how many times we have simplified or improved how we do things by thinking about the end objective rather than just the process.
3. Look at people you respect, and build their character traits in yourself: My Dad was up at 4 AM daily to get a head start on the day, and so am I.
4. Walls exist to show you how badly you want something: The late Randy Pausch said this, and he was so right. Obstacles are simply a test of your own resolve.
5. Watches only run in one direction: Time never stops. If you waste an hour, it is gone forever.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I work out every day to get my blood pumping and blow off steam. If I have a tough day, I work out again. There is something to me that’s deeply therapeutic about exercise. And I try to find space to leave work behind in the evening. Sometimes you just can’t. But even if it’s an hour, you need to have a time and place to clear your head and heart.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I am becoming more fascinated by the promise of sustainable and eco-friendly building and renovation. Of course, using materials that are good for the planet and renewable is very important for its own sake. But the further I explore, the more I am discovering exciting new products, tools and finishes that are changing the way my projects look for the better. Imagine a world where one of the largest uses of our natural resources, building, has been redefined to be in harmony with and good for the planet, while being
even more exciting in quality and appearance than we ever have delivered before. That’s the influence I’d like to have.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m grateful for my grandfather. I grew up in Guyana, and in the summertime, my mother would send me to the countryside to stay with him. He owned a lot of cattle and sheep, and a farm with coconut trees and I would always be by his side working with him. He had a store in front of the house, and here he, as my Dad did later, instilled a strong work ethic in me. He taught me about business, and he showed me how to sell. He watched me to make sure I got everything right. When my father started to teach me these things in construction later, I already had the instinct and experience of how to work hard.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. If you want to make changes in your life, you’ve got to start by changing the way you act, because life won’t bring you what you want on its own, you’ve got to be the change. Be proactive.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.
Well, if you know Barack Obama or Halle Berry, I can definitely clear some time on my calendar.
How can our readers follow you online?
They can find me at my LinkedIN page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/warren-braithwaite-0677221b5/%209X!Eq3/
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!