The Executive Minute Ryan Grams, Principal, GIS International Group

1. Where do you believe GIS has a distinct advantage for growth over its competition?
In part, one advantage we have is that we would rather turn a new client or project away if we are not able to meet their expectations. We have found that “forcing it” to make a project work seldom does. While we have the skill and experience to design, develop and build just about anything, not every project makes sense. We are excited to continue to grow, take on new clients and projects; we’re just being more selective today to ensure positive outcomes. We are a believer that you get what you pay for — in context, we need to get out to your site, engage experts, include our staff and work through the complexities that each project and site pose. There is an opportunity cost associated with every project we consider. As we welcome new opportunities, we apply the lessons of the past and spend a lot of time making sure we are the right fit.

2. How has Covid-19 had a positive change on the way you conduct business on a daily basis?
Covid-19 shook my family, and I am sure it’s had a significant impact on everyone else. One silver lining I see is that people are paying a lot closer attention to their hygiene, and handwashing standards have elevated considerably. I also like the fact that people are no longer going out and spreading sicknesses as commonly; that is good for everyone. It seems like we are all living more purposefully with our time, whether at work or in our personal lives. I think we are asking each other, more frequently, open-ended questions like, “How are you doing?” And we’re genuinely wanting to hear their long-winded answers. Mental wellness has been given more attention in the recent past. We choose to take the challenge of Covid-19 as a motivator at work by getting PPE, and through dedication to our team, and at home through exercise and more Zen-like planning. We’re also enhancing this effort through our design as well, as we need to be sensitive to different views about germs, sanitation and accommodating our clients’ new expectations in the way their homes now need to function.

3. What do you believe is truly unique about this region compared to other markets?
Washington state, specifically the Pacific Northwest, is deeply engrained in me to the point that whenever I fly home, the smell of sea air, trees and jet fuel still somehow smell better than anywhere else I have ever been. Our sea-to-summit in roughly 45 minutes makes us unique. It also describes the challenges that many in our industry avoid — the sites we seem to flock to, sites with steeps slopes, water, wildlife, unstable soil and so on. These conditions equally provide for views, privacy, peace, clean air, and some amazing natural landscaping features. Our clean air, water, the green and the people here, plus our stunning scenic views, are what make it truly special here.

4. Who has had the most profound impact on your career?
I can think of four people off the top of my head that have really challenged me to reach out and up, and get into what I like to call the “unknown zone.” My late mother, who, without hands, had a better signature than anyone I have ever met. She used to speak at schools and inspire people through her grace, accomplishments, and funny way of telling her version of how she grew up, learned to drive, write, type, have kids, change diapers, etc. My father-in-law always had a vision for my talents — his constant encouragement and mentorship are appreciated. My ‘uncle’ Pete, my dad’s best friend for stoking my entrepreneurial spirit and showing me the way, was also very influential. Another key figure in my life was my manager, Randy, when I worked for Verizon Wireless. He believed we need to constantly challenge ourselves to get better. I was uncomfortable with him standing behind me, for example, when I was working, so he did it on purpose, all the time, until I got over myself. Then he looked for another “thing” and we would work on that, and so on. I practice this method of challenging myself and encourage the practice in others daily.

5. What do you do in your spare time (assuming no COVID-19 restrictions)
In my spare time I equally enjoy the outdoors and spending quality time with close friends. My favorite thing to do in the past few years is backpacking. Camping is also a great way for me to reset and ground myself, connect with close friends and just shut off technology to breathe and appreciate nature. Running, biking, even just walking outside have been central to me in the last several years. Sometimes we take serious personal conversations and tough work conversations alike, on foot, as it seems to help with the flow of thoughts.

The Executive Minute

Ryan Grams, Principal, GIS International Group