The Power Of A Pickup
A client and I were driving from Orlando to Melbourne, visiting one of his many jobsites. On the way, we passed one of his competitor's brand new pickup trucks with decals on the door.
"That's what I call drawing power!" John commented.
Since I was driving and watching the road, I really didn't pay attention to the truck, so I asked, "I didn't even notice if it had a ball hitch on the back bumper. How can you tell how much it will pull?"
"Not that kind of pulling power," John laughed as he continued. "I'm talking about the drawing power that attracts and keeps those critical company men you always rave about. Wasn't it about 20 years ago that you explained what having a good company man on every job means to a company?
"And what really impressed me, even though I totally disagreed at the time, was your statement that good company men drive good company trucks," John said. "Thank God it didn't take us 20 years to find out you were right!"
John also agreed with me about ignoring accountants trying to prove we should not give company trucks to employees.
"I enjoyed your comment about how many key jobsite employees were never attracted to a construction company because of the accountant or tax-saving procedures," John continued. "We've hired quite a few who quit working for our competitors just because of the accountant."
John was a plumber by trade, and spent quite a few years in a pickup truck traveling to remote jobsites. What prompted his comments was the noticeable amount of new or well-maintained company trucks on the highway.
"I think today's craft shortage is waking up some of those contractors who were listening to their accountants instead of their superintendents," John said. "I don't disagree it would be cheaper for us to let our foremen drive and insure their own vehicles, but I told my accountant to compare those savings to what we would lose if employees began driving a competitor's truck. I emphasized what you preach about the cost to replace those good company men."
Keep On Truckin'Neither John nor I had driven a company pickup in many years, but we both could reminisce over the pride we enjoyed having one to take home. Everyone knew companies did not give trucks to just anyone! You had to earn it, and only the good guys got them.
I explained to John that he shouldn't put all of the blame on those diligent, dollar-chasing accountants. Everybody needs to realize the majority of today's middle and upper managers are not craftsmen.
Most of them spent four years learning construction in college rather than serving a jobsite apprenticeship. They don't even know about, let alone understand, what we call the "pride of a craftsman." A good percentage of these white-collar managers have never even ridden in a pickup truck let alone want to have one.
Back in the good old days, upper management consisted of company-minded craftsmen who worked hard to earn those positions. They knew the value of their jobsite employees' pride, and were always anxious to enhance that pride with a company truck.
I reminded John that we never faced any signs of a craft shortage back then. It is some pretty good food for thought for any readers who cannot find or keep good company men. Providing Company trucks will definitely not solve all of your jobsite manpower needs, but it will surely help! I don't recommend merely giving good employees a truck. Instead, give the option. There are some who prefer to drive their own vehicle and get a mileage allowance.
We also have many contractors and top managers who came up through the crafts, but unfortunately revoked their policy of using company trucks simply because someone abused that privilege. What is really tragic about that whole scenario is that they did not establish written do's and don'ts. Plus, they took away the privilege from all of their other company men to punish a single offender.
As a result, some of these company men quit and found other jobs. As most of you "old-timers" know, the others stayed on the company's payroll, but quit being company men.
Set Up The PrivilegeYou may wish to sit down with your jobsite management team and accountant to analyze what all of this costs in actual company dollars. If you use my decision-making comparison of "what will it cost" vs. "what will it produce," you will surely consider giving all of your key men the proud option to drive home in one of your company trucks.
Keep in mind, as you compare these costs, you only provide company trucks to key employees, those who need them for company business on their jobsites. They transport tools, materials and paperwork as well as other employees.
Allowing them to take a company truck home saves them the costs of buying, maintaining and insuring a personal vehicle just to get to your shop. These savings are worthwhile to your employees, and really cost you very little. You have the vehicle regardless. You can negotiate the personal portal-to-portal expense, since they must declare that as extra income for tax purposes.
The trucks don't have to be brand new or big and fancy, but they definitely need to look sharp. You can repaint an older truck to look good with your company decals on the side. You should also put an extra decal on the tailgate, advertising for career opportunities to attract those ever-so-valuable company men we all need.
You can imagine how effective that drawing power would be for any potential employee to see your company truck with that decal parked at the home of one of your employees. That help wanted sign will also be very effective on the highways and sitting on your jobsites.
Rules Of The RoadDo not overlook the critical importance of written rules. You need to discuss and
- Who is allowed to drive the vehicle.
- Absolutely no booze or drug usage, as well as parking at taverns, or other objectionable places.
- Traffic violations.
- Defensive driving and the use of seatbelts.
- No riders in the bed of the truck.
- No hitchhikers or unauthorized passengers.
- Cleaning and washing at least on a weekly basis.
- Oil changes, maintenance and repairs.
- Toll charges, fuel purchases and other related expenses.
- Logging travel mileage to and from home, along with personal use.
Your company owns that truck, and you have a right to dictate how it will be used. You also have an obligation to clarify and document what you expect. These rules are necessary to insure your company men maintain that driving privilege.
As John and I discussed how cost effective these company trucks are for contractors, I slowed down to just below the legal speed limit.
"You want to see if that guy actually has a draw bar," John laughed. A few minutes later, a bright and shiny company truck passed us. Sure enough, it had a durable ball hitch, as well as those extra springs needed for that other brand of drawing power.