Opportunities, Obstacles & Options
How many times have you heard these frustrating words - coulda, shoulda, woulda? I hope you've never said them yourself. The frustration of not having done something that you thought was a great idea applies to picking the right spouse, buying the right house or car, selling at the right price, going on a diet, etc.
We are not going into detail about your personal disappointments, but we will look at the occurring options you will face in our free enterprise business world. Thank God we live in America, where the choice is ours. This is truly the land of equal opportunity and this great construction industry leads the way with unlimited opportunities for fulfilling your dreams.
Recruiting The YoungLet's begin with the opportunities, obstacles and options facing entry-level high school students. We have millions of very capable, born-to-build individuals who could eliminate our critical skilled craft crisis if we could eliminate these obstacles.
Obstacle No. 1: Educated schoolteachers and guidance counselors preach their attitude that smart kids go to college and the rest seek menial jobs in construction.
- Option A: You can attend career-day sessions and even schedule one for potential craftsmen at the school or at your shop. You have something great to sell - sell it!
- Option B: You can recruit part-time students with a co-op “school-to-work” program or obtain working permits for students under age 18. You should use our database skill inventory and pay each student piecework rates, rather than a low minimum starting wage. Piecework does not cost you a penny, and it encourages diligent effort as well as providing a bragging wage to overcome a negative stigma at school.
- Option A: You can use career-day meetings or one-on-one conversations at social or sporting events to explain the positives and negatives of these entry-level opportunities.
1. They can work part-time to earn extra cash and, at the same time, learn what kind of actual work they can do effectively. You should always provide answers to their questions with our Green & Gold 90-day mentoring program.
2. They can enter a registered apprenticeship program to specialize in a specific trade.
3. They can get a college degree in construction management, engineering, architecture or business to prepare for management, engineering or design positions.
4. Every employee has the opportunity to be promoted to foreman, service tech, service manager, job superintendent, project manager, estimator, purchasing agent, safety director or even vice president. You can emphasize this with a list of your managers who were promoted from within. These success stories are very encouraging to help them choose a long-term career path.
5. In our construction industry, every employee has the opportunity for fulfilling the great American dream to be your own boss. Although many contractors consider this a negative as they lose their good employees, you must remember that you capitalized on that very same opportunity.
Growing Your BusinessThis leads us to the opportunities, obstacles and options available to every contractor. Here again, reviewing other contractors' success (and failure) stories definitely will help one choose which long-term opportunities one should pursue - or avoid.
Your involvement in our industry gives you firsthand knowledge of what - good and bad - your competitors, general contractors, construction managers and the other trade contractors are doing.
I always recommend to my clients a practice that we used throughout the years to observe and compare what your competitors do on a job that you bid and did not get. You have already built that same job conceptually when you estimated it:
1. What did they do better or worse?
2. How much labor did they use?
3. How long did it take?
I like the advice from that old popular song back in the '40s - “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and don't mess with Mr. In-between.”
You can also gain insight to many more contractors' progress by mingling and comparing situations with other attendees at trade conventions and seminars.
Likewise with reading about success stories in PM and other trade magazines. I am positive our “0 to 60 employees in six years” story about Chick Antolchick's Royal Flush company's amazing growth assured a lot of readers that the opportunity is here!
Naturally, your best ongoing opportunity is to grow in size and profitability.
Obstacle No. 1: Lack of funds.
- Option A: Tighten up your entire operation for efficiency to eliminate costly, wasted time, materials and money. You should value-engineer every phase of every project because there is always a better way to do it. Cost-code your labor and scrutinize what type of work produces the most profit. Expand the best and minimize or eliminate the weakest.
- Option B: Collect your money fast. Include a good payment clause in all of your contracts with time limits and late payment penalties. You or someone in your office needs to monitor collections and initiate positive actions.
- Option C: Reinvest some of your profits back into your business. Create good credit terms with your banker and your suppliers.
- Option D: You can start a joint venture with a larger, financially stable partner.
- Option E: You can form a corporation and sell stock.
- Option F: You can take in a full partner, either active in some phase of your business or a silent partner willing to invest for a share of your profits.
Obstacle No. 2: Lack of good employees.
- Option A: Provide and maintain the “best job in town.” Both America and Canada have millions of excellent workers who are constantly looking for a better job.
Your first step is to provide leadership training for your jobsite foremen and your management team. Their actions create your reputation and image in your market area.
Naturally, we recommend my one-day foreman training program to “accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives.”
- Option B: Keep score and reward accordingly. Our “Make More In '04” articles in this magazine covered most phases of your business to clearly emphasize the more you do, the more you make!
You can shortcut the scorekeeping process with piecework, which also provides more reward for more effort and ability.
- Option C: Use our database skill inventory to ensure constant task training and reward employees for what they know, rather than punishing them for what they don't know. You need our Green & Gold mentoring program to provide one-on-one sharing of old skills, wisdom and shortcuts.
- Option D: Eliminate unnecessary and costly turnover with grievance counseling and exit interviews.
- Option E: Offer monetary rewards for recruiting and retention of new employees.
- Option F: Place “career opportunity” ads on all of your trucks, at your office and on the jobsites.
- Option G: Maintain a “Management Career Launch” to encourage every employee to move up the ladder.
- Option H: Offer every employee flex-time options to fulfill your need and satisfy their own personal needs or desires. Many good employees will leave a company working five eight-hour days for this flex-time opportunity offered elsewhere.
- Option I: Allow your leaders to take home your company vehicle with written rules to ensure no abuse. This is a minimal cost to your company with maximum benefit to that employee, both in financial savings and prestige.
- Option J: Get involved in your employees' personal lives and families without interfering. You should lend money and help with serious problems. Involve family members in company picnics, sporting events or other social gatherings. Keep in mind that well-known employee attitude - if the company doesn't care about me, why would I care about the company?
See Paul at this year's ISH North America trade show in Chicago, Sept. 28-30. He'll have three programs on hiring/training/managing employees - “Recruiting, Training and Keeping Skilled Craftsmen,” “The Other Half of Foremanship - Building People,” and “Jobsite Motivation and Control: Pride, Productivity and Profit.”