Ten profit-making tips from fellow contractors.

In all my seminars, we share new profit-making ideas being used successfully by innovative contractors throughout the United States and Canada. These profit-oriented team-building strategies were unheard of back in the “good old days,” but they surely would have made those days a lot better!

1. Flex-time. Construction employees worked from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The only innovation that some contractors used was changing to 7:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. during the summer months.

Today's innovative contractors now offer flex-time options to all of their employees on their jobsites, in their fab shops and in their offices. They are using outdoor temporary lighting and portable tents to increase productivity and permit work in inclement weather conditions.

2. In-company training. This begins with human relations training for every foreman to assure proper development and motivation of jobsite employees. They learn cost control, time management, planning, scheduling, and the critical importance of accurate and on-time paperwork. Foremen also need the required OSHA training for first aid, CPR and a 10-hour OSHA course.

OSHA also requires that each employee receive haz-com training to recognize hazardous materials and utilize your jobsite MSDS sheets. You also need to train a competent sales person for trench safety, a competent scaffold builder and certified forklift operators. All employees must be trained to climb ladders, work on scaffolding and work safely in trenches. Naturally, you need written proof of this OSHA training.

3. Data-based skills inventories. Today's solutions to the skilled craft crisis require faster and more effective craft training than the traditional four- or five-year apprenticeship. Contractors need these skills NOW! With standard inventory software, they can now have an accurate and updated record of each employee's actual skills and an inventory of qualified craftsmen for every task performed. This inventory shows each employee what they need to learn and what skills they have mastered. This simplifies recruiting after-hour training prospects for your in-company skills upgrading.

The skills inventory permits a contractor to provide ample precertified skilled manpower on every jobsite parallel to providing materials and equipment. When a contractor receives a signed contract and a job schedule, he checks the inventory and then orders the required needs with enough lead-time to assure timely on-site deliveries. Likewise, with enough lead time to pretrain and precertify skilled craftsmen.

4. Green & Gold mentoring. Recruiting “gold” retired, semi-retired and light duty craftsmen to mentor “green” employees gives contractors economical orientation, guidance and actual skills training for new employees and job transfers. This is a win-win-win situation:

  • Your retired craftsmen win because they now have an opportunity to “give something back” to their proud industry. All of their wisdom and experience is needed and appreciated on today's jobsites.

  • Their spouses win because of a proud change of attitude and the positive effect on their home life.

  • Naturally, the green employee is the biggest winner of all. In addition to what he learns, he also gains a very close friend for the rest of his life.

  • The company wins by developing each new employee in producing proud and profitable workmanship.

  • Your customer wins because he gets a quality job done on his schedule.
5. Internships.Your apprentices should be treated as interns doing skilled craftsmanship under the constant guidance of a master craftsman. By using laborers (tenders) to perform mobilization, demobilization, handling of tools, materials, scaffolding and ladders, your training time is literally cut in half.

6. Co-op programs. Contractors are cooperating with high schools, vo-tech schools and community colleges to combine actual work experience with scholastic curriculums and recruit willing and able employees.

7. Scorekeeping. Our theme for last year's articles was “Make More in '04, Keep Score.” I hope you all found out how much more effort your employees give when someone is monitoring, measuring and rewarding their performances.

By utilizing piecework and flat rate pricing, this scorekeeping is simplified and guaranteed. You cannot pay piecework without counting, measuring and keeping score. Piecework and scorekeeping are critical for newly hired employees and your apprentices.

8. Prefab and pre-assembled. Prefab done at your shop or on the jobsite is a tremendous labor saver, along with providing flex-time options and billable work during delays or inclement weather. You also gain an effective training facility.

9. Bag & tag. On multiple residential projects, contractors are having the supply house bag-and-tag complete bathrooms, etc. These are wrapped in plastic and shipped to each floor of the project on pallets.

10. Company uniforms. Your employees present an enviable professional appearance with a clean and attractive uniform. This affects the employee as well as your customer and the other trades. Uniforms are extremely critical for service techs.

Why Isn't Everybody Doing It?

That is only 10 innovative profit-producing ideas that your competitors are now using all over North America. As you relate to how many your company enjoys, you need to justify cost vs. results. This is very simple mathematics. In addition to comparing what each item costs vs. what it will make in dollars, you need to consider what it would cost if you didn't do it.

You must also consider the positive team-building effect on your jobsite employees and your managers. In addition to recruiting good employees, you also minimize costly turnover.

If something is this great, why aren't all contractors doing it?

  • A large majority are stuck in that old proverbial rut - “That's the way we always did it. Why change?”

  • Many contractors do not attend trade conventions or seminars, nor do they take time to read trade magazines. They are so busy trying to make money and survive that they never learn how to do it properly.

  • We also have very diligent contractors who liked these ideas and tried putting them to work in their companies unsuccessfully. “We tried that, but it didn't work” usually puts an end to their endeavors.
This kind of response is very disheartening for me when I hear it at a convention or a seminar. There is no doubt that all of these ideas work very well when a company follows basic management guidelines.

When I hear that negative comment from a client, my reply is always, “Let's find out why it didn't work.” In many cases, it is just a little thing, but done properly can make all the difference in the world. Remember that old saying, “Little things mean a lot”? In almost every case, a few basic questions will uncover the problem and the contractor can enjoy the positive results.

Our next few issues will show you how specific management oversights can torpedo each of these innovative strategies.