My Cleveland Bridge Builders Journey: Broadening My Horizons

I’m often asked how the Cleveland Bridge Builders (CBB) program is going, and seven months into the program, there are two words that spring to my mind – enlightening and transformative!  Since the kick-off retreat in September, I’ve dedicated considerable time to the program, between sessions, workshops, small team meetings, but I can already see the pay-off for years to come.

First, the relationships that I have built with the group has made the experience so amazing. We’ve totally gelled and transformed from being a group of strangers to a family of friends.  What I particularly like is that it’s a diverse group – full of people from all walks of life from the public sector, private sector, for-profit and non-profit.  It’s unlikely that I would have encountered most of these people if it hadn’t been for the program.  This has opened my eyes to varying perspectives which I’ve found thought-provoking and which at times have forced me to challenge my belief system – all leading to good and healthy growth!

It’s also been enlightening to meet and listen to community leaders discuss challenges they are facing.  What has been quite unique is that we’ve got to hear the honest perspectives of CEOs, directors, public officials rather than the sanitized version you might hear elsewhere.  Their openness and frankness to discuss their true feelings have been so refreshing.  We’ve also had the opportunity to hear different perspectives on the same issues, whether it’s infant mortality, parenting, getting kids to graduate from high school – we’ve heard it from both from the public and the non-profit viewpoint.   It’s been an eye-opener to see how organizations can often operate in silos and we have been thinking about ways how we, as young professionals with a passion for change, can help champion greater cohesion and connection.

My LAP project with Cleveland Kids in Need has given me further insight into the challenges non-profits face.  Interestingly, we’ve had to retool our focus due to a merger, earlier this year, between Kids in Need and Shoes and Clothes for Kids.  As a team, we’ve worked extremely well together to get a greater understanding of both organizations and their goals.  We’re now primarily engaged in helping them create a more systematic approach to their volunteer process.  This will help them capture information on their volunteers and then establish a mechanism for engaging and communicating with volunteers so that long-term relationships can be built.  It’s been great collaborating with a team and getting to create and drive this initiative.  We’ve still plenty of work to do on this and other pieces are still likely to come out of this.

Some of you might remember from an earlier post that as part of the program that we’ve been challenged with meeting everyone in the Class (that’s 60 people!) over coffee, lunch or a beer.  So how am I doing?  Well…… I won’t bore you with the figures and I can’t deny that it’s a struggle to fit everyone in but I am still determined to do it.  Ultimately, this is what I see as the best part of the program. With everyone I’ve met with so far, it’s been great to get to know them better and it has been a wonderful opportunity to understand their aspirations, their motivations for change and learn from them.  I can honestly say they are an amazing bunch and totally inspirational!

So, with less than three months of the program remaining, I’m as enthusiastic and charged about the program as I was back in September.  It’s an amazing process and one that I think other financial planners and mid-career business professionals should take advantage of.  It’s already had a lasting effect on me and given me a totally fresh perspective on community issues.  I know I want to spend more time at a personal and professional level making an impact.  How this will happen I just don’t quite know yet but these are things I’m working to figure out.  I’ll keep you posted!

Thanks, Brian!  We look forward to your next installment.

Brian Marino is a Partner and Financial Planner at Skylight Cleveland