August 15, 2023

Principal Spotlight: John Sadlik

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This August marks eight years in business for J2H Partners. To mark the occasion, we sat down with Principal, John Sadlik, to learn more about his career, what led him to start J2H Partners, and what helps him recharge outside of the workplace. Learn more about John below. 

Let's start from the beginning. Can you briefly talk about your experience before J2H and what you learned on the owner’s side?

I actually started on the contractor side of the business and later transitioned to working on the owner’s side. I learned that there was a lot more behind a project than I had seen while being on the contractor's side. It was one of the reasons I had shifted to the owner’s side – as a contractor, I used to see drawings come out with flaws, and I would think, “I wish I could have fixed that before it got to this point.” On the owner’s side, you have the opportunity to do that. You can make sure that things are correct from the get-go. I also learned that you must work collaboratively with multiple departments, including Leasing, Property Management, Network/IT, Telecommunications, and Move Services, not to mention Finance and Accounting - the list goes on, which all involves working with many different personnel. I learned what is required from the owner – that there are many moving parts to manage but also many exciting challenges to navigate.

What led you to start J2H Partners, and what excited you the most about starting J2H at the time?

I was looking for something new, and I always wanted to start a company. In my last role before J2H, I was working for a developer in more of a management role, and I wasn’t involved in the construction side as much as I wanted to be. I couldn’t stop thinking about just rolling up my sleeves, getting back into the construction details, and providing that value to the clients. Throughout my years, I learned a lot about the industry from working as a general contractor, tenant/end-user, and developer  - I’d seen all the different components that went into a project and learned a lot through those experiences. There also seemed to be an industry shift around that time. Companies wanted to reduce their overhead costs and reduce in-house staff, so there was an opportunity for more third-party services where you could hire on an as-needed basis that would be of better value. As I said, the most exciting part for me when we started J2H was rolling up my sleeves again and getting back into doing the hands-on work. 

Describe your role at J2H in your own words.

I am a Principal, but I wear many hats since we are a smaller company. My day-to-day focuses on business development, marketing, and operations, but I'm also involved with client relations and mentoring/supporting our project managers as needed. No two days are ever the same, and I love that.

If you could go back and give your younger self career advice - what would it be?

Go into finance. If I could go back in time, I would get a finance degree in addition to whatever else I was studying. I say that because everything you do in a business revolves around finance. It doesn't matter how high up you are in a business or what you do – you always report to finance. If you are working in the real estate industry as a contractor, architect, or owner, having a finance background is hugely helpful. I would also tell my younger self to spend the high school summers learning different construction trades; that way, after college, I would have come out with a better array of experience and background. 

What do you enjoy most about working in commercial real estate and being on this side of projects as an owner’s rep? (vs. what it was like being on the owner’s side before.)

For me, it goes back to providing value to a variety of different clients and projects. Growing up, I was very good at drawing and math; the two combined led me to architectural engineering. I have a good eye for design and can offer an opinion on design and color. I also fully understand the construction side, so it's that added value I can provide to clients of all types. Compared to being on the owner's side in one specific industry or sector, this role allows me to work with all different types of owners. From a daycare center to a cannabis facility, the variety keeps things interesting and enables me to continue learning. 

What is your favorite part about leading the J2H team and what have you found most rewarding about your job? 

My favorite part about leading our team is teaching. I've been in the industry for 36 years and enjoy teaching my team what I have learned. It's rewarding to see them take what I've shared and use it to improve the company and their careers without my ongoing involvement. It’s rewarding when they teach me things, too! Knowledge and experience can increase in that way, and it's fulfilling to see it happen.

What has been your favorite project to work on and why? 

Some of my favorite projects to work on are in the cannabis industry. The cannabis industry is new and different, presenting challenges I haven't experienced before. So they are fun. One of my favorite cannabis projects was a Detroit Grow and Process Facility. It was a grow facility, processing lab, and dispensary, an all-in-one and ground-up build. I love the immersive aspect of those types of beginning-to-end projects. 

Another favorite is one of my first-ever projects at J2H. A friend asked me to help with her office, Washington Wealth, and we were just starting in business, so I had time to get more involved. I helped her imagine what we could do with the space. She was looking for a modern industrial look, and I sent her examples of what we could do and then directed the architect accordingly. The project came in under budget because of our choices – I helped with the design, so we didn't spend too much on architecture, and we worked with the contractor to choose more economical versions of materials. It was on schedule, it was fun, and it all came together. The client loved it. 

What challenges have you faced in your 8 years in business? What is your biggest lesson learned? 

The biggest challenge is probably continuing to keep getting work, as we’re always looking for the next project. We've been fortunate that we've had good people that have come to work for us, and we've found and retained good people. So, creating the right core team hasn't necessarily been a real challenge for us but finding new clients and continuing to retain our current clients – it's hard to carve out time for business development when you want to be as hands-on as possible with client projects. 

The biggest lesson I've learned, especially when I look back, is the importance of networking. You have to start networking at a young age, getting out there, meeting new people, and continuing to focus on networking throughout your career. Learning that lesson will pay off. When you fast forward 30 years of networking, it helps in terms of business development and sales. 

What are your goals for J2H in the next five years? 

I have one main goal - to grow J2H to such a successful point so when it is time for others in the company to take over, they can continue to grow it based on the solid foundation we have built.

When you retire one day, in two sentences or less - what does your legacy look like for those still at J2H?

I want people to think we created a great company that values relationships and integrity. That we were upfront and honest with everyone we dealt with. I often tell the team now, "Just be upfront and honest and do your best work and you will be rewarded in the long run." 

If you were to advise anyone looking to start a new business or someone who already owns a business, what would it be? 

Take your time to learn what you need for the company and get everything set up. Don't fly by the seat of your pants, so to speak. Understand all the different components that go into a business - the type of partners you will need - accountants, business development, lawyers, marketing - think through everything that will come into play and get some of that set up ahead of time. Also, make sure you go into business with people you trust. People that have similar values but also different perspectives. You don't want everyone to have the same answer, but having the same values is important because it'll affect everything from day-to-day operations to significant decisions and overall strategy. 

When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up? Do you remember why?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a lawyer, probably because I was pretty good at getting myself and all my friends out of trouble with our parents. We always had a good defense built up. 

How do you like to unwind after a long day of work?

I love to come home and take my dogs for a long walk through the park, meeting new people, stopping at the plaza for an ice cream “Pup Cup,” and just enjoying the day. 

What is something your colleagues don’t know about you?

When I was at Penn State, I was in their annual Ice Capades Show. When I chose one of my PE classes, I chose an ice skating class in an effort to learn how to skate backwards. At the end of the semester, the class was asked to ice skate to a choreographed song that we would put on during the Penn State Ice Capades performance. The show would include Bronze medal Olympians and State Champion skaters that would come and do their routines as well. Interestingly enough, the Penn State hockey team also put on a comedy routine, and they needed more people, so they asked a few from my class if we wanted to join them. It was a hilariously choreographed comedy routine where for example, they would go to throw someone and then not catch them. (Fun fact - I wore a hockey helmet and jersey but was also dressed in a pink tutu, so as the lights came up, we began our performance with Tchaikovsky's famous waltz, which then became a running joke in class with a professor that attended the event.) "I can’t get the image of John Sadlik skating in a pink tutu out of my mind." So if I ever make a career change, you'll know where to find me…

What is one of your biggest pet peeves?

I tend to be a perfectionist, so I don't like errors. I pay close attention to the details – everything from a simple email to a client proposal. I take pride in paying attention to all the little things and value others doing the same. 

What inspires you outside of the workplace? 

I think being able to help others, along with building relationships, is what inspires me. As many people know, I looked after my Mom for several years, which was obviously family. But I like helping others and connecting with people as well, whether it's finding a job, a place to live, or just giving them information about something or someplace. “A friend of mine is a friend of yours.” And, of course, anything to do with pets - whether helping someone with their pet or trying to raise money for pets. I just get inspired by being able to help people and bring people together. 

What’s the weirdest/most unique thing we might find at your desk?

Probably my construction sandbox. I have a sandbox with several pieces of construction equipment that includes trucks from some of my construction colleagues. For example, I have a Pizzano truck and a Clark truck. I’m hoping to expand the lineup over time!

If money were no object and you could do anything - what would it be? 

Most likely, buy an island and rescue dogs. 

Who has inspired your life the most? And why? 

My family. When I was younger, my Dad and his work ethic inspired me – he worked very hard almost every day at a steel mill to make sure that we had a roof over our heads and food on the table, which was an inspiration. Blue-collar work ethic. In addition, my brother was very knowledgeable and taught me many things throughout life that I still think of and pass along to other people today. And last but not least, my mother – her faith in God and religious ways have been an endless inspiration for me. 

What is your favorite quote or saying?

I’m not sure that I have a favorite quote, but my brother always taught me “There are two sides to every story.” I find that to be true way more often than not; hence, you’ll hear me say it a lot. You’ll also hear me say “Things happen for a reason, and the best is yet to come.”