Now that 1998 is upon us, I want to take a moment to see what progress has been made on our 1997 resolutions. A half century in this tough, competitive industry has taught me there is always a better way. We are always trying to improve. Therefore, let’s reflect on our 1997 resolutions and find out how to improve for the future — because we know yesterday’s solutions won’t solve today’s problem. Use all of this logic to help you decide what you need to try new in 1998 and beyond.
1. Make a serious commitment: Did you stick to your commitment to keep the resolutions? Did you add any of your own? Go ahead, attach this resolution to each month on the calendar. Come January 1999, you’ll be glad you stuck to it.
2. Make a life, not just a living: Did you keep promises to your spouse and children? If not, why not? You really need to start making a life for yourself, not just a living. Take some time to smell the roses, and you’ll feel better. And it will help you continue to provide in the future.
3. Wear out that TQM phrase “partnering”: Last year proved that some of the owners, construction managers and general contractors used those TQM partnering words as a smoke screen to bilk their subs and suppliers. You still want to surround yourself with true partners whose word is their bond!
4. Recruit, recruit, recruit and recruit: Most of you suffered a craft shortage in 1997, and you can easily see that it will be worse in 1998. You must maintain that “best job in town” image and spread that word.
5. Initiate and maintain a continued in-company training and skill certification program: You should sit down with your team coach (general superintendent, general foreman or whomever you have responsible for building your team) and count the actual number of in-company training classes you conducted during 1997. I hope there were more than a baker’s dozen or one a month. You might also check every craftsman’s skills inventory to see how many new skills they have attained. It will help you see how many new skills they have attained so you can set some realistic goals for 1998.
6. Go for the Gold: If you have not experienced Gold (employees more than 50 years of age or light duty comp cases) mentoring your Green employees, you’ve already missed the boat for 1997. Programs like this will ensure industry improvement in the future. Without dedication and commitment, we are going to have a difficult time competing against other industries for talented workers.
7. Use your 3-M’s — Motivate, Measure and Merit: Simple mathematics will show you the bottom line difference between a 110 percent work force and those 60 percent twilight zoners. You also need to closely examine what difference it actually makes on each individual employee’s paycheck.
8. Delegate every task to the lowest paid employee who can perform it effectively: Surgeons do not empty bedpans. Doctors do not usually give injections. Lawyers do not type letters. Architects and registered engineers do not draw blueprints. Does your estimator do menial takeoffs or parts and pieces counting? Do your project managers type letters and make run-of-the-mill phone calls? Does your jobsite foreman have a clerk or is he one? Do you have common laborers to do grunt work or is that assigned to apprentices and craftsmen. Brick and block masons do not build scaffolding or carry material or mix mortar. They delegate those menial tasks like true professionals. Did you ever wonder how many bricks a mason could lay in one day if he worked like the plumbers? Good help is becoming so scarce that you can longer afford to waste that valuable knowledge and experience. Make 1998 your year to turn pro.
9. Value engineer every project: This is an especially profitable win-win-win situation. By using your experienced jobsites personnel and management team’s know-how to redesign every phase of every system, you can make more money, the customer gets a better project and the design team has far less headaches.
10. Prefab, pre-assemble and bag and tag as much material as possible for every project: If you did this 1997, you don’t need to be reminded how great it worked.
11. This is always a better way: Get this message down thorough your entire management team. I hope you also have some form of communication mechanism in place to gain that valuable input and feedback from your bottom level employees. Suggestion box rewards or one-on-one meetings to capitalize on what they see and what they think would be better for both you and them.
12. Raise your prices: All of you know that we are in a labor intensive business. You also know that our craft crisis has already increased our cost of buying good help and it is getting worse, not better. Business Management 101 begins with very clear economic survival — you must sell your product for more than it costs! Stop competing with nonprofessionals and pass those cost increases on to the consumer.
13. Try something new: I’d like each of you to examine what you tried new in 1997 and weigh what it costs vs. the impact on yourself, your employees, your customers and your bottom line.
I carry two quotes in my briefcase that I copied from posters I read on a contractor’s bulletin board. Both show why change is necessary in your company. The first says, “If you continue to do what you always did you will always get what you always got.” The second quote says, “If you want something different you will have to do something different.”
For any who didn’t make those resolutions or did not make a commitment to follow through, I’d like to ask you a three-letter embarrassing question — Why? None of my recommendations should cost you more than they should produce. None of them are painful to you, your employees, or your customers. These are all win-win-win situations that are essential to build and maintain a proud and competitive profit-making construction company.
I’d like you to compare your organization to any one of the complete mechanical systems that you install. Every single pipe, fittings, valves or controls must be the proper size and must operate efficiently or the entire system will not function. Each and every little item has an important role in that operation. Likewise with all of these little resolutions that we are recommending for operating an efficient and very profitable business in 1998.
Last year is history, but all of the problems and challenges that you faced are not. We still have lawyers and bureaucrats trying to ruin free enterprise. We still have unfair customers who try to shop and chop our prices and refuse to pay. Above all else, you will still be facing a severe craft shortage that definitely will not be finished by this time next year. Is this a great business or what? Happy New Year!