When Mike Chicoine led construction on buildings at power and treatment plants, each project came with an asterisk. Every time he broke ground on a facility, he needed a new blueprint and a different set of equipment than the last. So, after he discovered that Drive Shack Inc. was hiring a head of construction and project development for its golf-leisure businesses, he took a swing at the opportunity and never looked back.
“When I saw the opportunity to go into this hospitality design and construction [role], the goal was an aggressive growth model for our new venue concept, Puttery,” Chicoine says. “I had never built the same thing twice, and that intrigued me.”
For Chicoine, it was a hole-in-one. However, once he joined Drive Shack in 2020, he ran into challenges that stood in his way. While the grass was indeed greener on the other side, he had to navigate the chaos of supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic. He and his team sourced materials and equipment that would not arrive until 12 months into their construction and design projects.
Chicoine knew if they were going to roll out multiple brick-and-mortar Puttery locations, it would require ensuring that materials and equipment remained available during the construction schedule. So he partnered with manufacturers to scope how those items fit into project layouts. Then he adjusted the design process so those packages were safe.
The result? Chicoine and his team operated with active procurement time clocks for close to 90 percent of each design period.
“We’ve taken a lot on ourselves, as far as prioritizing design on our procurement to help ease that,” Chicoine says. “Still, along that way, you take on risk, because typically all that is pushed through the contractor. That’s really where they earn their business.”
On top of leaving a drastic impact on supply chains, COVID made it harder for Chicoine to grow his team. He faced a handful of obstacles when trying to recruit construction and design talent in an industry that lacks it.
“I’ve tried bringing people in from other industries like myself, and that has been difficult because it’s very fast-paced—we are now promising four-month builds,” Chicoine says. “There’s really not much time to learn by fire.”
If hiring candidates from his own network is not a winning formula, then what else could Chicoine do? As it turns out, he keeps a few tricks up his sleeve.
“We have done a bunch of targeted recruitment and then targeted, hands-on head hunting,” Chicoine says. “But also in our application process, we’re very detailed in how we vet the applicants to make sure that they are skilled and knowledgeable enough in this specific industry to be able to come in and hit the ground running.”
Even if Chicoine deals with talent acquisition woes, he paints a vivid picture of what his current and future members should expect. Despite being pressed for time, he cuts through the nonsense and doubles down on the details. He understands that developing leaders on his team not only opens doors for their careers but also delivers measurable results across their projects.
“There’s a lot of upfront communication about what needs to be done and then continual follow-up and verification,” Chicoine says. “It’s basically [to] over-communicate, empower, [and] trust, but verify and make sure they’re on schedule. If they’ve got any issues, you’re always there to be an asset so that as soon as they get experienced enough in the program, they’re proficient [enough] to take the projects entirely and run with them.”
Beyond finding the most efficient solution, Chicoine takes pride in his craft. He cares about what he creates because he is a Drive Shack customer. And he welcomes the challenge of developing a user experience that his family enjoys.
“What I didn’t realize is how much fun it would be on the user experience side,” Chicoine says. “Whether it be I enjoy it as a client or when my family comes to town and we go have fun in these venues, the happiness it brings people is a different type of gratification.”
Congratulations to Mike and the Drive Shack team on their success! We are excited to be a part of their growth and thank them for the opportunity. Benchmark Group, Inc. is a nationwide, full-service architecture and engineering firm. We are committed to quality work and excellent service for all clients including large national chains, small local businesses, developers, and owners. Our project experience includes new construction, remodels, tenant improvements, and prototypes (development and maintenance included). Benchmark Group is your A&E Project TEAM-OF-CHOICE.