President of GMB Architecture and Engineering David Bolt has worked with the company since 1999. He began as an intern and became president in 2015.
Like GMB, David Bolt also “believes in generating more for the world, by working with communities to equip students for lifelong learning.”
In 1999, David Bolt finished his degrees in business and communication at Calvin University. After that, he earned his Master of Architecture degree from the University of Michigan.
As GMB president, David Bolt worked really hard to establish a “human-centered workplace.” He wants to transform GMB into a “Team of Teams.”
Likewise, David Bolt is focused on inspiring, leading, dreaming, and providing an environment for “teams to learn, grow, and give.”
David Bolt has received recognition from the business press, including the 40 Under 40 from the Grand Rapids Business Journal and the Holland Young Professionals Leadership Matters Award.
With David Bolt at the helm, GMB has also been named one of the Best and Brightest Company to Work for in West Michigan from 2018 to 2020.
Crane’s also named GMB a Cool Place to Work in 2018. That same year, GMB was also named one of the Michigan 50 Companies to Watch. In 2019 and 2020, GMB was also recognized as the Best and Brightest in the Nation Company to Work for.
Everyone can control their own destiny when they are in a system that provides maximum opportunity. David Bolt, GMB Architecture and Engineering
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
David Bolt: We’ve aligned our belief system into our company purpose — to help communities invest in the future by creating learning ecosystems and providing opportunities for all, with our internal systems of company organization, ownership and empowerment.
Everyone can control their own destiny when they are in a system that provides maximum opportunity.
Education can do that for learners everywhere, regardless of what phase of life they’re in, and so does our company for our employees and clients alike.
Jerome Knyszewski: Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
David Bolt: Too many of our leaders are shaped by an old, classic “hero” model.
I think the worst advice I ever received was that someone told me that early on as president I was going to have to make an example of someone in order to show that I wasn’t someone to be messed with.
That’s terrible advice — I became so worried about finding that situation, and how I was going to have to act. It’s so in-authentic to who I am as a person and a leader.
The whole thing bombed greatly and burned capital with those around me rather than actually building it.
I now know that the best way to gain respect is to create trust through vulnerability — basically the exact opposite of the advice I received.
Too many of our leaders are shaped by an old, classic “hero” model.
Jerome Knyszewski: You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Empathy. One advantage I have in my position is that I have worked my way in the company from intern to president.
I have done every job in the company from delivering blueprints to contractors and filling up cars with gas, to designing buildings, leading project teams, dealing with clients, and ultimately president of the company.
Because I know what it is like to be in each part of the organization, I can empathize with many of my coworkers and understand what they are thinking and feeling.
- Future thinking. I really tend to live in the future. I get so excited by new technologies and future possibilities.
The fact that I’m dreaming half the time about what is possible, helps me to get beyond the moment to imagine what is coming next.
- Humility. It feels strange to put this on a list, but I truly believe that humility has allowed me to be successful.
In wanting more for others than for myself, it was easier to have a team that works together and balances all our strengths and weaknesses.
I’m just a single part of a whole team, and I just happen to play the president role, but this is not anything that I could have accomplished on my own.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
David Bolt: Two things that I do to keep things “fresh.” First, read lots of books. They give you so many new ideas to think and dream about.
Whenever I’m feeling stagnant, I try to read something new.
It’s not always the ideas in the book that are great, but it gets the wheels spinning and makes me excited again for the future.
Secondly, whenever I start to think that everything is hopeless and too much, I look at the people I work with and remind myself that I truly want to make life better for them.
I imagine all the great things that they will be able to do to change the world, and it inspires me to keep going, to give them that platform to be change makers and learners in our world.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
David Bolt: Focusing way too much on the minutia and not enough on the vision and dream that got them started in the first place.
It’s easy to get dragged down into the day-to-day issues and lose sight of where you’re going, thinking that you can put it off until later.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
David Bolt: Giving and receiving feedback is one of the hardest and yet most valuable skills that a leader can have.
First, read lots of books. They give you so many new ideas to think and dream about. David Bolt
Jerome Knyszewski: You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
David Bolt: I think revolutionizing education is our number one priority.
When you think about the amount of brains, energy and ideas that are untapped in this world because too many people haven’t had the opportunity to learn and grow and contribute, it’s a cause worth fighting for.
Education creates opportunity, and opportunity inspires growth, creating a better world.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!