Dan Wisk’s passion for construction began when he was a child. He often helped his father, an engineer at General Motors, with building projects, including a garage for the family home. “My dad would think things through very carefully, and he would draw out multiple options. I would sit with him, and he would explain to me how he arrived at his end solution,” Wisk says. “I got a lot of that analytical approach from my dad.”
Much like his father, Wisk is drawn to developing the most-efficient, most-effective solutions. In his 30-year career, he has worked in wide array of industries, but his goal has remained the same: to improve the performance of his organization and the skills of his colleagues. “The fundamentals of construction are applied consistently across all the different formats and industries,” Wisk says. “If you have an open mind, you’ll find that those skills that you acquire and the challenges that you overcome will be applicable to new challenges that you’ll find.”
Now, Wisk is applying his experience to his role as senior vice president of construction and facilities at In-Shape Health Clubs, a California-based health club network with more than 70 clubs throughout the state.
Understand the Logic
Soon after joining In-Shape in 2017, Wisk completed a technical review of the club’s prototypical building with the internal construction team and a team of design professionals. In a six-hour meeting, they considered every mechanical, structural, and material element. “We challenged the design professionals and consultants at every single level—not because we didn’t think they had arrived at the right decision but because I wanted to understand the logic behind the decisions,” Wisk says.
In 2018, his team planned to complete a similar operational review, examining the size allocations for spaces within the building, from group fitness studios to weight lifting rooms. One of Wisk’s goals for these reviews is to create a consistent design across the network. “We’re going to exercise a lot more discipline and rigor around that process,” he says. “The goal is always to deliver the optimal experience for our members.”
Take it One Step Further
This continuous review outlook proved beneficial in Wisk’s previous roles. When he joined Kohl’s Department Stores, the process of opening a location—from identifying the site to opening the doors—took 18 months to complete. By reevaluating and reengineering the process, Wisk and his team shortened the process to just under 12 months. “Six additional open months for a retailer is huge,” he says. “Increasing the efficiency, making us smarter about how we did things—that was a huge achievement, in my mind.”
When Kohl’s acquired 38 stores from a competitor, the company’s CEO challenged Wisk’s team to open the new locations within six months. They worked collaboratively with architects, contractors, and building officials, and because of these strong partnerships, they opened the new locations on schedule.
Reviewing the technical and operational systems will help In-Shape stay to competitive, but not all external partners were excited about this process at the beginning. To win their partnership, Wisk was transparent about his goals and objectives. He focused on building for the future and developing productive relationships and emphasized collaboration as the key to finding the best solutions. “In most of the companies that I’ve been at, once we get that rapport and we build that relationship over a number of months, people are more comfortable and open to bringing new ideas to the table,” he says.
Benefits of Continuous Review
Wisk applies the continuous-improvement approach to his team as well as to his projects, building the skills of those he works with to make their collaborations more productive. He invites coordinators to attend staff meetings with principals and executives to give them exposure to, comfort with, and a better understanding of how the organization works and how they can add value to it. “If people function in silos and only see the work they are asked to do every single day, then they don’t have a great understanding of how their work impacts other people in the organization,” Wisk says. By creating an inclusive environment and cross-functional understanding, Wisk empowers team members to consider how they can improve the process.
Wisk also meets individually with his team members to determine how he can help them improve their performance by maximizing the work that engages them and reevaluating the work that doesn’t. “At the end of the day, this is really about making a positive impact on the bottom line—both the company’s bottom line and the team members’ bottom line,” he says. “If they’re feeling more engaged and more satisfied, they’re going to perform better.”
Most of all, Wisk continues to find new opportunities for himself, his team, and In-Shape. “Every single opportunity that you encounter in your career is an opportunity to learn,” he says. “When you stop learning, you stop growing.”
Photos: Daniel Blue, Albert Benichou