Protecting your company from costly problems can be as simple as one, two, three, foreman.

I hope you all shared last month's cost saving Pro-Active measures and pre-planning techniques with your entire management team. I'm certain that your jobsite's working foremen would also appreciate being in that loop. Organizing their routine will help them save you time and money along with eliminating personal frustration.

Murphy's Law -- when something can go wrong, it will -- unfortunately still exists, so you will need your team to be reactionary. We don't have space in this column to cover all of the everyday problems that occur on our jobsites, but we do want to focus on the in-company procedures that can best prepare your team to handle problems.

Foremen who have received first aid and CPR training will automatically call 911 first and then proceed with whatever medical or emergency procedures they had learned relative to that situation. Sometimes the 911 rescue team will arrive in minutes, but there are still critical steps you may need to take to save someone's life or avert serious injury.

Mediating Business Emergencies

I highly recommend initiating similar in-company 911 procedures for non-medical situations or even simple options. You can establish which of your office staff they should contact before buying a new tool or additional material, renting additional equipment, signing extra work authorization tickets or talking to the news media and legal representatives.

You can also select which of your jobsite supervisors they could call for help or for basic decisions, such as working crew overtime to complete a critical task. They could also handle problems when one or two key employees don't show up, vandalism/theft occurs on the jobsite or value engineering turns out to be the best option.

Depending on the size of your company and the type of work you do, establishing an "in-company 911" call team can be quite easy or quite complicated. Any of your management staff who consistently makes good on-the-spot decisions could certainly help a doubtful foreman. Some of my clients will even use their service-techs to help answer these in-company 911 needs.

Possibly the most effective reason for calling this in-company 911 is to create that critical sense of "Do Something Now!" We want your foreman to consider any problem just as important as medical emergencies. Our jobsite language is "Stop the Bleeding" and "Save the Ship!"

Things To Consider

There are several basic questions your jobsite supervisors should consider before reacting to any situation:

1. Is it a safety or life-threatening situation?

2. Does it need to be done immediately or can it wait for directions?

3. Will this affect our reputation or image?

4. Will this affect our employees?

5. Will it comply with our contract, codes or permit?

6. How much will it cost and who is going to pay?

To assure a reasonable answer to that last question, the company should use my written Cost vs. Results comparison. Writing down each option you're considering, along with the cost, automatically makes the company analyze more possible solutions. Write down how much each tentative reaction would save the company, or how much it would cost if the company didn't do it.

You can easily understand how this little exercise will help your foremen make better decisions. You will also have a written record of how and why that particular decision was made.

Eager To Please: Naturally some of your foremen are much better at making these decisions, but some are either not capable or not willing to stick their necks out.

Generally, your foremen are out to please you. Their wages, job security and personal pride all depend on your satisfaction with their performance. They carefully study how you react to any of these critical jobsite situations so they can do likewise. Anytime you vary from your basic reasoning, you need to explain your reaction to assure them of your consistency.

Possibly the most common example involves working overtime. A contractor reviews his monthly spreadsheet showing labor cost overruns -- mostly due to excessive overtime -- brought about by trying to maintain job schedules without enough help, but adamantly rules out all overtime.

His foreman is installing a 6-inch sanitary sewer line in a 10-ft. deep ditch and could finish the job if he worked his crew a couple of overtime hours. The forecast calls for rain that night so there's a strong possibility that the ditch will cave in. By spending that overtime money, he could send half of his crew to another job the next day -- where they are badly needed -- and could also send the rental track-hoe back to the rental agency.

None of his supervisors are in the office so he must make the decision. Unfortunately, he is concerned about his boss's adamant position about overtime, not realizing that the circumstances would certainly justify bending the boss' rule. This bad decision could have been prevented!

You probably have more personal experiences with trying to do what your boss would have done, but we are not mind readers. These unusual decisions need to be discussed and explained. With a company of any size there would surely be someone available on your in-company 911 network that could help that foreman prevent any costly screw-up reaction.

The Meter Is Running

As I travel throughout the United States and Canada, I'm amazed at the number of contractors with a "bean-counter" accountant who will not allow their foremen to buy anything they might need to keep their job running without calling the office for a P.O. number. What kind of decision or positive reaction could they make?

You need to write down and analyze how much company money each of your foremen spends and controls every single day. You should open a company charge account at supply houses accessible to each of your projects and give each of your jobsite supervisors a company credit card.

Naturally, you will have complete accountability for whatever they purchase whenever the monthly bills come to your office, but if you can't trust that individual for a month, you certainly should not have them running one of your jobs.

For those readers who have never actually been in charge of a jobsite crew, I want to stress the fact that these costly reaction decisions happen every day and sometimes every hour of that day. Your foreman needs all the help you can give him to react both timely and effectively.

The most negative thing that any boss can do is called "Monday Morning Quarterbacking." You must back up your foreman's decision, especially if other people are involved. If you chide him or give him all of those "should haves" or "could haves," you will simply prevent him from making future decisions.

All of these jobsite reaction situations can also be applied to your entire management team including, your office staff. Construction is a very competitive, profit-making industry and time costs money. I've always liked John Wayne's statement to his cowboys, "We're burning daylight," or you can also use the taxi driver's warning, "The meter is running."

My preference today is still, "Call 911 and stop the bleeding till they get here!"