Part 3 of our solutions to management ideas.

Two questions that I hear from my clients share one common answer:
    1. How could anything this simple be so difficult? We really gave it a 110-percent effort, but it just wouldn't work.

    2. How could anything this difficult be so easy? We struggled all of those years and found out we were headed south trying to get to Canada.

The answer is exactly the same as baking a cake: If you want it to turn out right, follow the recipe! You need all of the proper ingredients, and you need to do all the right things at the right time.

I hope you will agree that there is always a better way. You've seen other contractors who have more employees, higher morale, more productivity, better quality, maintain critical path schedules, and enjoy bigger profits and a proud company reputation.

Naturally, you also have seen competitors who struggle with even the simplest basics of our competitive construction industry. I hope you are consistently observing, innovating and monitoring your efforts.

Our list of 10 innovative, profit-producing ideas features techniques that I have used successfully or observed other contractors using to solve their challenges. There is no question or doubt that all of these will work for you if you do the right things at the right time. One of my clients laughingly called it the “Ridilla Recipe.”

Continuing with our 10 ideas from the last couple months, we will now look at the reasons why our last four innovative ideas didn't work, along with the solutions.

Keeping Score

Problem A.Our company has been in business since 1983 and our 45 employees always got a yearly review and pay raise. Last year we followed your advice and set basic guidelines and kept performance files on every employee.

Three of our long-time employees threatened to quit if they didn't get their annual raises. We reviewed their lack of performance, which was clearly discussed and documented. They didn't think that should affect their income.

Solution. You need to remind these employees that this is a very competitive industry and you can only afford to pay competitive wages for good performance. If you had to lose any employees, would you rather lose those whose performance justified significant raises?

Problem B. We offered piecework as an option and 17 of our 43 installers jumped at the opportunity. They are now making more take-home pay and five more installers have joined their ranks. Our only problem is they cannot get much installed when the job is not ready or we don't have the material they need on site.

Solution. This is a very common problem and you should bear the cost for not having what they need on site. Keep in mind that you would have had to pay your hourly employees for that nonproductive time.

Prefab & Pre-Assemble

Problem A.Our jobsite crews spend more time re-working what our shop employees prefabbed than it would have taken for them to fabricate it on site.

Solution. Typically, your fab shop labor will cost only one-third of site labor for the same work. You can expect that a small percentage will not fit for various reasons, but that re-work doesn't even come close to you doing total on-site labor costs. You could have any of these problems:

  • Your measurements are wrong. You may need someone else to produce fab drawings.
  • Your field crews resent installing pre-fab:
    1. You could allow one of your jobsite employees to work in your fab shop.

    2. You could send one of your fab shop employees to assist with installing that work.

Problem B.Our jobs are usually located too far from our shop to ship material in to be prefabbed and then back to be installed.

Solution. Your purchasing department should separate material and equipment that will be prefabbed or pre-assembled and ship this directly to your fab shop. Scheduling of delivery dates is extremely critical.

Problem C. We spent too much labor and material crating and securing our prefabbed work to prevent distortion or damage during shipping and handling on our jobsites.

Solution. All of your vertical rough-ins can be installed in metal or wood studs that will secure your material and fit between the top and bottom plates at the required locations.

Bag & Tag

Problem.We tried to do this on a 180-room motel job, but our supply house wanted too many dollars to bundle each room's material on separate pallets.

Solution. You could have shopped around with different suppliers who would jump to get a job of that size. You should consider what they wanted to charge you compared to what it would cost you to store, separate and hand-deliver every item to each separate room. You might also discuss returning the empty pallets. A motel of this size is a perfect dollar-saving bag-and-tag project.

Company Uniforms

Problem A.We agree with your idea of creating that “professional image” when our employees wear a nice, clean uniform. Unfortunately, all of our employees do not agree. We have 46 employees, and 11 refuse to wear our uniforms. They are good employees who have been with us for years and we don't want to lose any or have them de-motivated.

Solution. If you furnish the uniforms as a company benefit, they must wear them while they are on your payroll, and keep them clean and presentable. If they must buy or rent the uniform, then each employee can choose what they prefer.

Problem B. We rented and furnished our employees with uniforms about two years ago, but our losses were unbearable. Our turnover rate was high and most of the employees who quit did not return their uniforms. We also had some employees who claimed they either lost theirs or that someone stole them.

Solution. You need to have each employee sign a receipt when he or she receives the uniforms and you can deduct that amount from his or her final paycheck.

All 10 innovative ideas described in the last few columns are very beneficial to your employees, as well as cost-saving methods for your company. Keep in mind this is just a short list of techniques and practices that your competitors are using throughout the United States and Canada. You need to constantly be on the lookout for anything you see being done a better way by other contractors or other trades.

Of course, you also can pick up great ideas from your own employees. Most of them have worked for other companies and they should be value-engineering each task they perform to find that “better way.”

When you see something being accomplished in a more efficient way, or you think of a better way to complete a task - try it!

You should always begin with a written evaluation:

    1. Will this save us time or money?

    2. How much will it cost to do it?

    3. What will it cost if we don't do it?

    4. Will it benefit our employees?

If you know it is a feasible idea, try it. If it doesn't work out in your company, you need to find out what you are doing wrong. Feel free to contact me if you need help.