There are practical answers and solutions for each of the following conditions that, unfortunately, are not easily adapted to different or even similar situations.

Can you imagine how many times I’ve heard those remarks during the past 25 years while I’ve been conducting construction seminars and convention workshops?

“No one can help you if you don’t want help,” is my simple response. Naturally you want to get good advice from someone who knows what they’re talking about. You also need to listen carefully to whatever advice they offer and sort out what applies to your individual situation.

The perfect solution for a one-man plumbing shop may not work for a contractor with 15–20 employees. Jobsite paperwork requirements for a residential plumbing foreman cannot be compared to a foreman working on a large commercial project or a government job with prevailing wages. You also face major differences between using union craftsmen and open shop employees. We have many problems just trying to hire and keep good employees but those problems are multiplied when we need employees to travel and live on jobsites away from their homes and families.

There are practical answers and solutions for each of these conditions that, unfortunately, are not easily adapted to different or even similar situations.

Broken Promises: But sorting out the right solutions for your company will be of no value if you don’t follow up with a commitment to do it! I have personally witnessed thousands of very good systems and company policies that were initiated, but soon fell by the wayside as the company got busy.

Those employees involved or affected by those “broken promises” soon lose respect for their companies. Their disheartened response is, “Oh yeah, that is our company policy, but nobody does it!”

It’s not always necessary to hire a consultant. If you already know what to do and it works — keep on going! You can stay abreast of new, innovative methods, tools, equipment and materials by reading your trade magazines, going to trade shows, attending seminars and convention workshops and talking with your peers. You can hold one-on-one “employee feedback” meetings with each employee or use a suggestion box awards system to gain their valuable input.

When all of your employees are motivated to give you that extra effort every day, and are now bringing their friends to fill out job applications, you probably don’t need a management consultant. Likewise with your profit spreadsheets, your taxes, depreciation, collections, legal situations, safety and workers’ compensation modifiers, etc.

Even if one of those critical items does start to slide off the track, you can gamble with a couple different solutions that may or may not work. If that gamble is not too costly, you can continue trying different efforts until you find one that works. After all, being a gambler is what got you into this business in the first place. If you lose a chunk of money because of a bad estimate, poor management of a job, an owner or general contractor that won’t pay you or some major OSHA violation, you can probably make that up on your next job.

The only gamble you cannot afford to make is one that will demotivate any of your employees or cause a good employee to quit. As some of you may have already discovered, most employees who quit will find another job and leave your company. There are also those who just quit working but stay on your payroll! They are the ones that are really costly.

With today’s skilled craft shortage, every construction craftsman knows they are in demand. They know very well that they can get another job tomorrow and in most cases for more money. Most union locals now have plenty of work and a shortage of members, so they are actively recruiting open shop craftsmen and foremen. They talk with your employees on the jobsites, in bars and at home. They are telling them what they want to hear and when that doesn’t work, they will get the “money motivated” message to your employees’ wives. That does work!

But the unions are not alone in this recruiting or proselytizing your employees. We have many contractors who are behind schedule and desperately trying to attract any craftsman from any company with whatever kind of offer it takes to get them. But money isn’t the only incentive that’s being offered:

  • If you are still working 5– to 8–hour work days from Monday through Friday, your competitors need only offer flex-time options. With 4–10’s, 3–13’s, early or late shifts and variable work hours, your employees can make a full paycheck and still enjoy a full personal life!
  • If you do not monitor and keep a “scorecard” or record of each individual employee’s performance, your employees probably feel that they are not being paid fairly. The real productive workers will run to another company that pays piecework or will stay with you if their extra productivity shows up on their paychecks.
  • If you are not doing after-hours in-house task training or precertification, your competitors can easily steal all of your helpers or apprentices. If none of your employees show up for after-hours training, your negative peer pressure is in control. I hope you already have a data base skills arsenal in place to expedite that training.
  • If the company morale is low and your employees don’t have fun or enjoy coming to work each day, you will become an easy target for any motivated company.

Can’t Please Everyone: In spite of everything that you do right, there is still a strong chance that you may lose some of your good employees. You certainly don’t want to gamble on a management mistake that could increase that possibility. When you smell any sign of employee dissent or dissatisfaction, you need to act or react as quickly as possible. If you already know how to handle that situation, do it! If you are not sure, ask someone who knows. This is definitely not a time to gamble! Whatever it might cost for that advice would surely be less than what it would cost to replace a good employee.

Not all, but surely a majority of our readers face everyday situations, sensitive decisions and even confrontations with immediate family or relative in your business. Here, again you do not want to gamble on a mistake that could cost you an employee, but you certainly do not want to ruin your relationship socially or at home.

Nothing could be more complicated or difficult than bringing the boss’ kids into the business. There are some very simple basics that will make that transition feasible and fun. Without those basics, that boss’ kid can create total chaos in the company, as well as in the family. Three–fourths of all my consulting business has been dealing with family succession — boss’ kids on the jobs and relatives of old-time company employees.

As we stated earlier, getting a consultant’s advice is useless if you don’t follow through with your commitment. You need to sort out all of your options and take action. If some part of that action is not working or even seems to be off the track you need to again check with your advisor to be certain that you are actually doing what they recommended. If that does not work you may need a second opinion to eliminate any possible irreparable damage or circumstances.