It can cost big bucks to be late, and save big bucks to be on time.

We all know that it is impossible to always be exactly “right on time.” The only other alternatives are to be too early or too late. Naturally, when you are too early, you will definitely be on time.

We will cover most of the attributes of being early, or on time, in this article, but we need to start with the negatives of being late:

1. You did not honor your word. You told someone what to expect from you and you lied!

2. You insulted that person's dignity. Being late insinuates that you are more important than the other person, and he or she should wait for you.

3. Arriving late to your jobsite wastes dollars and critical production time.

4. Arriving late to an important business meeting could easily cost you a job.

5. Being behind schedule on a critical-path job schedule can cost liquidated damages and loss of any future work with that customer.

6. You may get a traffic citation for speeding, running through a changing yellow light or improperly passing another vehicle, etc.

7. You can easily miss your plane, train or bus, etc.

8. You disrupt other people when you are late for a movie, show, other entertainment or any meeting.

9. You miss the kick-off and part of the first quarter of important sporting events.

10. You can miss the introductions and critical points of a seminar or lecture.

And the list goes on.

There are a couple of very predictable reasons for being late that could have been avoided simply by allowing enough extra time to be early:

  • Traffic tie-ups due to roadside accidents, rush hour or special events, etc.

  • Car trouble - flat tire, dead battery, no gas, engine failure or misplaced keys.

    In each of these situations, as well as with the following unpredictable delays, you should always telephone the party expecting you and give him or her your new arrival time.

  • You can be delayed in a previous, important business meeting.

  • You may get involved in a serious situation with one or more of your employees.

  • You may suffer a personal injury or illness.

  • A member of your family could need your immediate attention.

The Advantage Of Being Prompt

Now, let's look at some of those big bucks you will earn by being the consistent early bird.

First, and the most profitable, is the reputation your company will enjoy in your market area. Being a man of his word and always on time is what every customer looks and prays for in a contractor. I'm sure you share that philosophy in your own dealings with your employees, suppliers, other subtrades, customers, the design team and building officials.

Unfortunately, there is no possibility of determining exactly how many jobs and dollars a contractor loses because of a negative reputation. Your best evaluation of which contractors enjoy that “on time” image is who gets the negotiated projects. They don't need the low-bidder approach with people they can trust!

You can definitely determine how much money you lost when you are late to a public bid opening with a low and profitable bid.

When you finish a project early, you can do the math on how much you saved on jobsite overhead and your company overhead. You can double that savings number since you are now able to use that very same company capacity on another project during that period.

Last November's article, “Do The Math,” gave some realistic numbers of how much money you lose because of crews starting late and quitting early (this “early” is the only negative of being the early bird!). Some employees believe that pick-up time does not relate to picking up your company tools. That's why they are in their “pick-up” trucks early, heading for home or the local bar.

Your only control of jobsite employees being on time is your foreman. As you know, the majority of craft foremen, in all trades, have little or no training on discipline or motivation of their “buddies.” Our one-day foreman's seminar shows them how and why to do both. We recommend that your foremen start 15 minutes early and quit 15 minutes late. This assures that you will get that full eight hours work for eight hours wages.

You should also consider offering flex-time options to employees who have time commitments at home with their children's school schedules and sports activities, etc.

When you are awarded a contract, you need to start early to apply for a permit to assure you can get inspections on time to backfill your ditches and stay ahead of the other trades. You also need to purchase any equipment or materials that require submittal of shop drawings or catalog cuts. These delays can be very frustrating and costly.

It is also critical to order your materials early enough to assure on-time deliveries to your jobsite or fab shop. You cannot install what is not there. This is extremely important when your employees are on piecework.

Having your materials delivered early also permits you to stock each floor on a multistoried project before the walls are closed in. This is a major dollar and labor saver in your materials-handling budget.

On a typical long-term project, the general contractor or construction manager will request your monthly draw by the 20th of the month to pay you on the 10th of the following month. If your request is late, he cannot request that amount from his client. Your cash flow is then stymied until the following month, creating unnecessary financial hardships and frustrations. Again, there is absolutely no problem in being early.

We've talked about the financial rewards for finishing a project early. Keep in mind that your project is not complete until you receive your final check for the contract amount, and all of the extras and change orders. I hope you billed and collected all of the extras and change orders when they occurred. That's when you spent your dollars doing that work and that's when you should have collected it.

But the biggest delay in getting your final check is caused by late compliance with all of the requirements of your contract:

    1. Submittal of accurate as-built drawings.

    2. Test and balancing reports.

    3. Operating manuals for all equipment.

    4. Instructions to owner's maintenance personnel.

These and numerous other items were in your specs when you bid the project. Owners and developers rely on late compliance to retain your final check as long as possible. Here again, there is no problem being early!

We did not cover all of the big bucks your company can earn or save by being the early bird, but surely you can see the advantages of being early. Our only early negative, and it is a big cost factor, is when your employees leave your jobsite too early. If you have any doubts or questions about the early bird getting more than a worm, contact me and we'll talk.