Make the commitment to build a successful team, one employee at a time.

Photo credit: ©istockphoto.com/Mark Stay


No one would disagree that the best team usually wins. Most contractors will ask, “Where can we find the best team?”

That’s an easy question to answer, but not an easy thing to do. You cannot find the best team; you must build it, one employee at a time. This is the primary goal of your Value Engineering University, with the ultimate reward for everyone involved.

The process begins with a sincere commitment by the contractor - a commitment by you. Create a feasible plan with short-term and long-term goals for your company and for each of your employees. Your database skills inventory, along with your monthly audits on each employee’s progress and those providing training, will ensure your team-building efforts will produce a proud and profitable winning team.

Your scorecard on those providing company training opens the door for you to identify and establish your coaching team. Offer coaching positions for various tasks as well as the position of head coach. Then decide how and when this training will occur. You want the coaches’ commitment to building your team. Do not overlook specialized training for your service techs and management team.

Organizing your team-building commitment gives you a great opportunity to give flattering titles to deserving employees. These working titles do not cost a penny but are worth a lot to employees and their families. Management 101 states you should give each employee the most flattering title that would describe what they do or are responsible for - without being silly.

Also emphasize the opportunity for more income along with promotions as they occur.

Identifying Coaches

The key to building a successful, competitive team is simply one word - coach - used as a noun and, more effectively, as an active verb. Your size and market area, the number of years in business and the diversity of your work may require only one coach, depending on his or her skills and years of experience.

In addition to an overall team coach, you could benefit with task coaches. For instance, a coach for welding, one for layout, another one for controls, a coach for estimating, etc. You can easily relate this to baseball’s hitting and pitching coaches or football’s quarterback and linebacker coaches. But remember, your company size and diversity will determine how many coaches you should use for your team.

If you are a regular reader, you have probably read my Plumbing & Mechanical columns about using retired, semi-retired or partially handicapped craftsmen for Green & Gold training and coaching. It’s easy to imagine an experienced craftsman as a head coach or a specialty task tutor. America has millions of these gold coaches who would thank-you for the opportunity to give something back to our great industry. And we have even more employees who would appreciate some solid gold time to enhance their own abilities, as well as income and advancement.

Effective Communication

With all this in place, you are now ready to find that “better way” with your own Value Engineering University. Surely you realize how many great ideas your employees would be proud to incorporate into your endeavor. All you have to do is ask! Keep in mind, by giving them two options, it will inspire an invaluable, upward communication.

You can begin with employees’ skills inventory. Compliment them on their accomplishments and ask how certain skills you are interested in were learned. Find out what they would need in order to teach another employee those skills. Also ask about additional skills they would like to learn and what instructor or method they think would work.

Determine the most convenient work hours and effective after-hour training possibilities: early morning before work; after-hours during the evening, Saturdays or Sundays; and flex-time schedules. Ask employees about convenient training locations, such as the fab shop, salvage center, seminars or conventions through local trade associations, vendor training or after hours at the jobsite.

You see how effectively this upward communication will benefit your team-building efforts and increase the pride and appreciation of your employees.

When you share your team-building goals and plans, ask each employee where and how he or she would like to participate. You will be surprised how this value-engineering feedback turns your team-building commitment into your employees’ obsession.

Your first set of questions should involve coaches and coaching:

  • Would you like to fulfill any of our coaching positions?

  • Who do you believe would make a good coach? Why?

  • Who do you believe would not make a good coach? Why?

  • Where, when and how can coaching be accomplished?

  • What specific problems did you have with trainers we should avoid?

  • Do you know any retired or semi-retired craftsmen, service techs, management employees or contractors who would be willing to fortify our team?


The next set of questions should involve that particular employee’s dream opportunities for more wages, additional skills, management positions, estimating, service work, etc.:

  • What part of your job do you dislike?

  • What phase of our work would you like to learn?

  • Have you tried that before? Why didn’t it work?

  • What other type of work should our company do?

  • What other market area should we consider?

  • What do you think about using flex-time?

  • Should office staff members consider working at home in a virtual office?


Continue this Value Engineering University with your management team and office staff:

  • What do you think about using flex-time? Should office staff members consider working at home in a virtual office?

  • Are you interested in coaching? What skills?

  • What other positions would you like to learn?

  • What type of reviews and records will make this team-building exercise successful?

  • How much of your workload could you delegate to provide time for personal advancement?

  • Are you sharing Plumbing & Mechanical magazine and other industry-related publications with other employees?

  • Do you attend trade association meetings, seminars and conventions?


This Value Engineering University plan will help you build a winning team, one employee at a time. As a contractor, your personal interest in fulfilling your employees’ dreams will definitely fulfill your own.

Giving employees two options increases your access to what they would really prefer to do and avoids any obstacles they fear. You can be certain that every employee wants to earn more money. You just need to find out what parts of the job they are interested in and what parts they don’t like. And they will appreciate your offer of flex-time to better suit their personal and family needs.

Some of your employees would prefer a decision-making position and move up into management. But many employees are content to just perform our trade and leave the decisions up to management.

Value Engineering University gives you a better way of training employees. Using it will definitely result in better-skilled, happier, higher-paid employees. That’s how you create a winning team.

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