World Champion Speaks to Safety and Productivity All-Stars –
 Keep Raising the Bar

by / Friday, May 08, 2015 / Published in Motivational & Inspirational Speaking

Kevin was blasted over 300 feet in the air and over a 2-story building, with severe injuries that left him paralyzed from the chest down and confined to a wheelchair. But that wouldn’t keep him from FINDING THE CHAMPION WITHIN.

I recently had the honor of being invited to deliver a keynote speech for Garney Construction in Kansas City, MO. Garney specializes in water and wastewater construction projects, as well as special construction for industrial clients. They have continued to grow and attain higher levels of success as a 100% employee-owned company, with a formula that is best represented by 3 promises: “Ownership. Opportunity and Retirement Security.” It’s an impressive company, and it’s clear that all Employee-Owners are active participants in meeting their goals for Safety, Quality, Profitability, Service, Career Fulfillment and more.

Kevin Speaks on Safety and Productivity at Garney Construction

Kevin raises his hands in Victory with Employee Owner retirees who helped lay the foundation for the 1st 50+ years of Garney’s success. Mike Atkinson, Blaine Eldreth, Jerry Parish, CEO Mike Heitmann and Steve McCandless, who represent the next 50 years continual improvement at Garney.

After speaking to approximately 400 Employee-Owners at their Annual Field Managers Workshop, I was so impressed by their energy and enthusiasm. They told me they were fired up and couldn’t wait to return to their crews so that they could share my message with them and lift them up to new standards for excellence.

Coming back on the flight, I reflected on the importance of learning from others, whether they are mentors, bosses, friends or random strangers who impart a lesson or two. We all need to be open to learning so that we can continue to improve the quality of everything we do, and set a standard for those around us.

Kevin Saunders Speaks at Garney Field Managers Workshop
Garney Construction Crew has an excellent safety and productivity record

Kevin speaks about how the Wildcat Goals for Success – WGFS can help Garney Employee Owners reach even higher goals on the job, raising the bar for safety and productivity.

The Employee-Owners at Garney Construction were particularly moved when I spoke about the following topics.


This is something that you can hear nowadays and not even bat an eye, because you’ve heard it before. But no matter how many times you’ve heard it, chances are you’re not practicing this bold, trusting attitude in every area of your life. Training yourself not to fear failure will open many doors to success. You get more courageous and become better prepared, you realize that the “scary stuff” isn’t likely to happen – and if you suffer a setback, you get more opportunities to get back up and try again.

Kevin talks about the Wildcat Goals for Success


I’ve had the privilege of working with the K-State Wildcats football program, where Head Coach Bill Snyder has instilled the 16 Wildcat Goals for Success (WGFS). Just like a Division I football team, the crews at Garney recognize that they need to be fully committed to their responsibilities, to the quality of the work they do when they’re “on the field” to ensure success, safety and productivity. I spoke about the following WGFS and how they relate to Garney Construction:

  1. Commitment – To our Goals and Philosophies
  2. Unselfishness – There is no “I” in Team
  3. Never Give Up – No matter how tough it gets, keep giving all you’ve got! All Employee Owners commit to courage, determination, dedication and perseverance in NEVER GIVING UP in the pursuit of team goals.
  4. No self-limitations – Expect more of yourself
  5. Don’t accept losing – If you do so one time, it will be easy to do so for the rest of your life
  6. Leadership – Everyone can set an example
  7. Continuous Improvement – Be better today than you were yesterday…as an Employee Owner and as a person
  8. Responsibility – You are responsible for your own performance.
Kevin Saunders Speaking on Stage

Steve McCandless, Kevin Saunders & Mike Heitmann [left] Between 350 to 400 Garney Employee Owners watched intently as Kevin Saunders gave his presentation to them about “FINDING THE CHAMPION WITHIN”

Like I talk about with the athletes for the Kansas State University Football Team, I stressed the following commitments.

Health & Fitness – One goal during my presentation was to help cultivate a stronger sense of personal responsibility for health and fitness amongst these Employee Owners. In fact, during their two days in KC, everyone was going through a live health assessment. I reminded the audience that even though my disability prevents me from walking, maintaining my fitness level through exercise and diet were critical in allowing me to travel around the United States and throughout the world to speak. Being healthy allows me to be with the K-State football team for months at a time season after season. Your own health will play a role in your success in life. You’ve heard the saying, “Healthy body, healthy mind.” Maintain your body in optimal health and you’ll have greater mental clarity, energy and focus: key ingredients for achieving your goals.

Safety First – Garney operates in the heavy construction business, in a highly hazardous part of the industry. It’s no mistake that Safety is Job #1 for every single Employee Owner, on every project. To sacrifice safety is to endanger lives, resources, productivity, profit and the Garney Construction legacy. The crews at Garney operate across all 4 timezones, so they may spend a winter in Green Bay, WI running pipe in freezing temperatures, or building a water treatment plant in Phoenix, AZ where the summer heat can reach 120 degrees F at mid-day and drop to 12 degrees below zero at night. In most cases they work with heavy industrial equipment, which makes it a requirement that all Employee-Owners are focused on maintaining safe working conditions at all times. Their excellent safety record speaks to their dedication.

Keep Going for the GOLD! – Much like a football team, Garney Construction has its share of super star players, those who make everyone around them better. However, the team’s success cannot be sustained without the contributions of so many others. These Employee Owners are the ones that practice their craft without a crowd of 50,000 fans cheering them on to Victory, nor do they have TV or newspaper coverage. But they must still strive to be the very best they can be, without the faintest expectation that their hard work and talent will be recognized. They shine at their jobs for the internal satisfaction. They know when they do their best, and that is what matters most. They are Garney’s linemen, special team players, underclassmen/second teamers and practice squad players, and they all have a critical role. They want to reach higher, farther and faster than ever before all while keeping production higher and the work place safer than ever before. And they’re ready to give the 200% required so they are ready to go into “the game” when their number is called.

Field Manager Workshop Attendees
Kevin Takes Photos with Attendees

Garney Employee Owners after Kevin’s presentation on “Finding the Champion Within” [left]; Kevin takes pictures and signs autographs for Garney Employee Owners.[right]

The equity you can contribute through hard work in sweat equity and knowing you gave your very best to make Garney more successful by raising the bar for safety and production every single day!

Jeff Anson, an Employee-Owner shared this message after he returned back to his work site & team:

“Kevin Saunders has inspired me on a personal note – as well as a professional note – like no one has ever done so in my life. I am inspired enough that I will be making a plaque for our office with a few of his quotes from the managers meeting. This plaque will represent Kevin and how he inspired us. This will be the first thing you see walking into our Val Vista team headquarters. I think this would be good motivation for this team.”
Jeff Anson, Project Engineer & Employee-Owner
Garney Construction
Jeff Anson, Project Engineer and Employee-Owner

Garney Construction: Keep Going for the Gold!

I wish everyone continued success in everything you do! Remember being a success at whatever you do at work or in your fitness regimen a responsibility not a right! It is up to all of us to keep raising the bar and reaching higher levels of success than ever before! Keep Going for the Gold in all you do!

Keep Going for the GOLD! Never Give Up!
Kevin Saunders, motivational speaker
Kevin Saunders

Kevin Saunders is a World Champion Paralympian, motivational speaker, athlete (with multiple gold medals) and author. Kevin Saunders was the first person with a disability appointed to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness Sports (only 20 people are selected for this nationwide) by the President of the United States. Kevin Saunders was first chosen to be appointed to the prestigious Council by President George H.W. Bush and was the only person reappointed by to this Council by President Bill Clinton and he was reappointed again by President George W. Bush as a constituent expert to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports. Learn more about Kevin’s story and accomplishments.