…Implement physical spaces that allow people to take time for themselves. That could be smaller private rooms for phone calls or clarity breaks or a game room for a mental break via foosball or ping pong.
As a part of my series about leaders who integrate mindfulness and spiritual practices into their work culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Todd Sachse. He is the Founder and CEO of Detroit-based Sachse Construction. Sachse is a commercial construction management firm recognized as one of the most trusted and respected construction partners in North America. Under Todd’s leadership, Sachse has successfully completed millions of square feet of commercial, multi-family, institutional, and industrial projects for clients such as The Taubman Company, Tesla, Fifth Third Bank, Quicken Loans, The Forbes Company, Whole Foods, The Related Companies, Versace and more. He has owned and operated several businesses related to property operations and maintenance over his 30-year career and is a licensed builder in all 50 U.S. states.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you please share your “backstory” with us?
It all started with a small window washing business when I was 16. I’d knock on doors, ask for business, and come back every couple of weeks. I was doing really well with it, so much so that I continued on with that business through college.
Over time I added more cleaning services and team members. By my mid-20s, I had graduated from the University of Michigan and owned two offices employing up to 50 people to wash windows and 30 people to clean houses.
Along the way, I invested in an apartment complex and decided to take a shot at overseeing the construction. By 1990, I sold my window washing and cleaning business and started a new business operating as a general contractor. This eventually led me to start Sachse Construction in 1999. The rest is history!
What role did mindfulness or spiritual practice play in your life growing up? Do you have a funny or touching story about that?
I started doing pottery when I was 10 years old. That has become my mental escape over the past 40 years. When I’m in the studio working with my hands, my mind is clear and relaxed. I’ve learned to channel that feeling into a calming mental state when I’m preparing for bed or looking to relax. I simply picture myself in the studio working, and it gives me a sense of peace.
How do your mindfulness or spiritual practices affect your business and personal life today?
My personal experiences with pottery and finding that positive energy for myself has driven me to help others in my office do the same. Knowing I get to go home to my studio at the end of the day provides something to look forward to after a long day at work.
That energy looks and feels different for every team member, but giving them opportunities to connect with themselves mentally, physically, or spiritually throughout the workday has reaped great results. We offer office yoga and meditation to allow team members to mentally and physically take a “clarity” break, refocus and decompress, and get recharged for the workday. It’s been well received thus far.
Do you find that you are more successful or less successful because of your integration of spiritual and mindful practices? Can you share an example or story about that with us?
Our Sachse team members are happier when they get a chance to mentally disconnect from work and everyday mundanity. That, in turn, has led to happier and healthier work culture. When people enjoy their environment, they do better work. It’s as simple as that.
A great example of how our company puts this into practice is through our 10-year sabbatical policy. After a team member has been with Sachse Construction for 10 years, and every 5 years thereafter, they are required to take a four-week sabbatical. That means four weeks where they are required to unplug and disconnect from work completely and enjoy paid time off however they please. The only requirements are: it must be 4 weeks consecutively, you’re not allowed to communicate with work whatsoever, you can’t use the time off for health reasons — such as a major surgery — and you must write a personal letter to me directly afterward about your experience.
This policy has been in place for over 10 years at Sachse, but the letters I receive as a result will never get old. I get notes describing life-changing experiences, letters from spouses thanking me for the time to accomplish things they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to with their families. The feedback is unbelievable. Team members come back ready to take on new challenges and get refocused into their work. All the while, I get to thank them for their service and dedication to the company.
What would you say is the foundational principle for one to “lead a good life”? Can you share a story that illustrates that?
I have this philosophy called the three-legged stool. Choose the three things in your life that drive you every single day. For me, that’s family, work, and community. If you can organize your time and energy into thirds, you’ll live a more balanced life. Beware of the stool with many legs, too much on your plate or energy spread too thin means you can’t really split up your time in a way that gives you that balance or satisfaction required to live a healthy lifestyle.
Can you share a story about one of the most impactful moments in your spiritual/mindful life?
I remember being 14 and having dinner with a family friend by the name of Alvin Spector. He was a successful businessman, an amazing chef, and a creative artist. Alvin inspired me to commit to my pottery at a young age. That night, he commissioned me to create a 7-piece set of serving dishes, 120 dishes in total. It took me 10 months to complete that project. This story stands out to me because I was so inspired to dive in and find my passion and mindfulness that night. If it weren’t for him believing in me, I’m not sure I would be so committed to a pottery like I am today. Thus, finding that work-life balance at an early age may not have ever happened for me.
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?
In 2002 I met Geno Wickman who introduced me to the Entrepreneurial Operating System. My company has operated under its systematic approach to business for over 15 years. One of the biggest “tools” he provided that stands out to me for the context of this interview is “the clarity break.” This is the best practice he recommends by encouraging people to take a 10–15-minute break during the workday to clear their mind. Leave the office and walk around the block, go grab a coffee and sit for a few minutes, but ultimately, remove yourself from the action of work for a little while. This concept has proven to be extremely valuable to me and in turn, at Sachse Construction. You think better and more clearly when you walk away from something and return to it.
Can you share 3 or 4 pieces of advice about how leaders can create a very “healthy and uplifting” work culture?
1. Create an opening. Give people real tools and opportunities to take care of themselves mentally and physically during the workday. That could be sabbaticals, massages, an unlimited PTO policy, meditation, free healthy snack options, or just an overall supportive work environment. Don’t just talk about it, actually do it and encourage people to take advantage of it.
2. Implement physical spaces that allow people to take time for themselves. That could be smaller private rooms for phone calls or clarity breaks or a game room for a mental break via foosball or ping pong.
3. Rethink your work culture to be more inclusive towards mental health. Everyone has their own issues or challenges in life where they can and should seek extra help to work their way through it. We provide access to resources for team members to support their mental health needs at any time when needed.
You are a person of great 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’m a big fan and implementer of Corporate Social Responsibility. Companies should make it a priority to leverage their power, time, money, and efforts towards causes they are passionate about and that have a withstanding positive impact. Put a physical plan in place to give back throughout the year and get your team members on board. That could be taking a workday to volunteer as a company to clean up blighted lots, plant trees or package food, or hosting a charity event like a golf outing or silent auction.
A great example that Sachse Construction has implemented over the last three years is our annual Sachse Skilled Trades Academy. We invite 500 Detroit area high school students into Eastern Market for a day of hands-on learning from over 30 different skilled tradesmen. This event was created to give back to our local Detroit youth by providing education around the jobs available in the skilled trades, and to provide resources like scholarships and apprenticeships for those interested in pursuing a career in the skilled trades after high school. All the while, it also helps combat the talent shortage happening across the nation in our industry.
How can people follow you and find out more about you?