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True Rewards – Mastering Your Craft
December 31, 2006
If you are a true craftsman you will never master your craft – you will always be working on it, getting better each and every day. Last week I got to know Jim Woolems (Founder/Owner of Woolems, Inc.) a little better and he is a great example of a true craftsman. He has built a great business focused on high-end homes and commercial properties.
Jim truly enjoys all aspects of the building process and on this trip to their company I got the opportunity to see what he does for fun on the weekends. Guess what it is – he builds things, constantly working on mastering his craft as a carpenter, welder and builder.
Being a craftsman is not about having a job in the construction industry. That is just the beginning. Being a craftsman is about truly taking pride in building things. It is about constantly working to expand your knowledge of the craft and of the industry. It is about helping others get involved in the industry and helping them achieve more. I believe to some degree we have lost sight of that in today’s construction industry.
Bottom line - we need more leaders like Jim Woolems passing their craft on to others.
Private Companies Tackling Healthcare
December 30, 2006
There is a lot of negative publicity about companies not providing healthcare coverage but at the heart of the matter is a flawed system. One of the biggest flaws is that people consider health insurance a catch-all to relieve them of responsibility for taking care of themselves proactively. No one would ever expect auto insurance to cover repairs and maintenance.
If everyone were to start to rely on auto insurance to take care of all repairs and maintenance then why bother with the routine stuff like oil changes? The lack of proactive health management on the part of individuals is one of the key causes of high costs.
Some of the largest companies around are seeking to make medical records for their employees readily available online. Their hope is that the information will lead people into thinking more proactively about their health and lower costs.
More information in the Information Week article Get Well Soon
Just something to be watching as we move more and more into electronic record storage in construction. I don't think I've heard a solid opinion from a construction attorney yet on electronic records because there is no real case history where the validity of the electronic records has been challenged.
From another industry but still something to watch: Discover or Else: Rules Take Effect on Electronic Evidence.
Marketing Should Be The Customer’s WORST Experience With Your Company
Counterintuitive? Hear me out…
A few months ago I commented on a great post about why marketing should be involved in every aspect of the company. I firmly believe in this because marketing exists to help polish the company’s image.
This week I was in Florida with Woolems, a high-end home builder in Palm Beach. When I first arrived I was having dinner with the VP of Operations, John Rogers and he said something that really hit home:
“I want people to meet Jim (the owner) and have that be the worst experience they have with the company.”
John could tell I was looking at him a little funny and he continued explaining that he wanted to make sure that every interaction the company had with the customer after they met Jim would only serve to enhance and polish the image of the company.
That simple statement and explains John’s painstaking attention to detail in every aspect of the business. They build homes of phenomenal quality but they also go way beyond that. John is looking at every single point of customer contact from the way estimates are presented to how Woolems prepares homeowners on what to expect when building a house to how the bills are processed.
The results show and I only wish more contractors realized how critical every single customer interaction is. There is no such thing as a detail that is too small when it comes to pleasing customers.
John Moore posted a list by Bruce Mau about change - the list is short and concise. Reading it over breakfast this morning reinforced my thought process in some ways (refreshing) and sparked a lot of new ideas (VERY refreshing).
Notice that many of the ideas mentioned seem counterintuitive - until you think hard enough about them.
Thank you John for posting this list!
Work Today Building Tomorrow’s Construction Workforce
December 29, 2006
Maintenance Technology Magazine ran an article called Homegrown Talent about BE&K’s development of an in-house training center. The curriculum is approved by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). BE&K hopes to make this facility open to the public and is also looking at expanding the program to other states where they do work.
The workforce problems we are experiencing in the industry will not go away in the near future and we all have to take part in fixing them. Programs like this are not just for the big companies. The smallest operating team in construction is a journeyman and an apprentice and in that situation a good journeyman takes time out of their day to teach the apprentice the craft. If the leader of a two person team can find time to train their workforce then so can the owner of a two person company and therefore any business can and should make the time to train.
These do not have to be formalized programs. They can be lunchtime sessions. When we were doing work in the Bay Area during the dot-com boom of the late 1990’s we had trouble finding qualified craftsmen. We put on lunchtime training, focusing on conduit bending, wire pulling, basic code, etc. One superintendent running multi-family residential held after-work code sessions for his crew. Just having a PM and Superintendent sit down and have a meeting with foremen about pre-planning, scheduling or change orders will provide huge benefits.
Winning - The Answers
December 15, 2006
Yesterday I was at the airport in San Antonio, Texas and saw the book Winning - The Answers by Jack and Suzy Welch. The book is a compilation of various Q&A sessions similar to what the very end of Winning had. Unfortunately my brain was a little tired and though I wanted to read the book I opted for a magazine instead.
This morning I see a post from John Moore with some great quotes from the book (see slides below). I loved the book Winning - the ideas were applicable to every business and every career. This weekend I fly back to Florida and will definately pick up a copy but in the mean time I really enjoyed the excerpts.
If you haven't checked out John Moore's website, Brand Autopsy you should - he regularly posts the best excerpts from the business books he is reading along with great insights.
Efficient Vehicle Setup
December 11, 2006
Having an efficiently setup workspace is the key to productivity. In the field the trucks and vans we use every day are our primary workspaces.
Having these efficiently setup is a critical first step in improving productivity. Spending a few thousand extra dollars on the setup and some time to seriously plan will pay you back very, very quickly.
Weatherguard provides a great online tool for planning vehicle layouts. While you are at it think about standardization. Every vehicle you have that is used for the same purpose should be setup the same. Same layout, same tools, same inventory.
Standardization means that anyone at any time can get into any vehicle and be productive.
If your standardized setup is well documented it means that setting up new vehicles will be a known cost and can happen very efficiently meaning that you can scale your business faster.
December 08, 2006
This looks like an awesome product and much needed for the construction industry. It's a pretty cheap way to protect expensive assets on the construction site.
The Project CEO
December 06, 2006
In a great article by Matt Stevens called Take off the tool belt: The foreman as manager there are 16 great tips that are applicable to anyone who is or wants to be a leader in the construction industry.
Matt makes a great point that the average jobsite size is about equal to a small business and the foreman is the business owner. I have used many similar analogies in my training calling Project Managers the Project CEO and the Foreman or Superintendent the President.
Leaders in construction have a lot of gray areas they need to deal with and wide lattitude about how to deal with those gray areas. They truly do have executive level power on the project. We all need to treat that position with that level of respect.
One Laptop Per Child
December 03, 2006
There are few things that will do more to change the world (or a company for that matter) than giving everyone access to the same information. This program will do just that - imagine lifting billions of people out of poverty and war over the next century.
Costco & Employee Relations
Great points about workforce development including management development that are applicable to contractors as well as retailers.
Workforce Development Ideas - Digineer
Some great ideas from Digineer about how they develop their workforce using more than monetary perks. Digineer is a IT consulting firm but the ideas are very applicable to what contractors could do to enhance both the loyalty and skills of their workforce.
InformationWeek ran a short article called How to Keep Employees Around about Digineer's HR strategy.
What they had in the print version but not online was a sidebar disicussing the four categories of their employee training. Each of these has a direct translation to construction and could be effective for developing your team.
101 - The Basics: When a new employee gets hired at your company do you have a structured way to teach them how you specifically do business? Who does what in your business? How you treat your customers? How they can succeed in your business? In construction we tend to assume that people should just know - this is an incorrect assumption. Spending a little time creating a '101' course for your business will help you clarify your thoughts and will also get everyone on the same page.
Coffee Talks: These are informal and could easily be done with coffee and donuts on the jobsite or at the office. They should be hosted by an 'expert' and focus on one topic such as daily job logs or doing 3-week schedules. The informal nature lowers people's barriers and helps build the team.
Deep Dives: Bring in an expert every month on a specific subject such as grounding, earthquaking, SWPP, etc. Go very deep on the subject and stimulate everyone's brain.
User Groups: Get people to form outside groups and focus on developing new skills. After our apprenticeship programs there isn't much out there. What about all the PM's, Estimators and Foremen getting together over pizza one night every few weeks to kick around pre-planning ideas?
Killer Customer Service Idea
December 02, 2006
Trust, But Verify - News by InformationWeek points to how Salesforce.com puts their data center performance metrics online for customers to see - both the good and the bad.
Customers want information - it is that simple. If you want to keep customers provide constant information whether it is good or bad.
IT - Management or Leadership?
"Management is about control. Leadership is about releasing."- John C. Maxwell from The 360 Degree Leader
Regarding IT management this quote could not be more relevant - especially for contractors who usually do not have dedicated IT staff.
Few things in business have the power to release (lead) than good IT systems. With good IT systems the right information can get to the right people at the right time to help them make better and better decisions. With good IT systems workflow can be more efficient and customer satisfaction can be improved.
If your IT strategy is "how little can we get by with" or is focused just on the basics like making sure everyone has working printers and e-mail then you are missing a ton of profits!
Information Week magazine had a great article called A Culture of 'No' which makes some great points about what IT should and should not be doing to help the organization.
Start Quickly and Shut-Down Even Quicker - Finish First!
December 01, 2006
Perfect advice this morning from Seth Godin regarding the shutting down of an under-performing business unit. Almost every serious mistake I have made has been due to lack of speed when shutting something down.
It is easy to fall into this trap - you had a great idea.
You worked your ass off to build that idea.
You may have even made some money with the idea.
Your competitors may be making money (or appearing to) with the idea.
You are in love with the idea plus you have invested so much already...
But a fact of business and life is that you have a finite amount of resources - both monetary and human. You have to be relentless in how you allocate both. Do you have a strong team working on something that is not performing that well? Most likely they would be better off deployed to another project.
A key difference in thinking between companies that hang-on versus those that start quickly and stop even quicker is this:
Companies that hang-on tend to look at each market or project strictly on a P&L (Profit & Loss) basis and if it is making money they use that to justify hanging on. A P&L is a relatively simple calculation.
A much more difficult calculation is ROI (Return on Investment) which will then force you to look at each project or market and compare them regardless of size. A market or project making $100,000 may actually have a much higher ROI than a market making $1,000,000. The smart way to allocate resources is to continually evaluate ROI and shift resources to those areas with the best ROI.
Thinking about this another way - if you have a stock portfolio and one investment was returning 2% annually on your money (but still making a "profit") and another was returning 12% would you leave your money invested in the stock with the 2% return? Don't you shift around your investments according to ROI balanced with risk?
Are you and your team as relentless with the allocation of resources inside your company as you are with your personal investment portfolios?
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Favorite Book 2007
Download Elegant Solutions from Change This which provides some highlights of the Toyota Production System. Too many ideas that are applicable to contractors to even count!
- True Rewards – Mastering Your Craft
- Private Companies Tackling Healthcare
- Electronic Discovery
- Marketing Should Be The Customer’s WORST Experience With Your Company
- Thinking Differently
- Work Today Building Tomorrow’s Construction Workforce
- Winning - The Answers
- Efficient Vehicle Setup
- Dewalt MobileLock
- The Project CEO
Management Class SeriesTraining Modules Specifically Designed For Contractors
- Construction Documentation Overview
- Project Pre-Planning Impacted Jobsite Productivity
- Production Tracking Customer Service & The Project Team
- Change Orders Talent - “People Processes”
- Profit Dynamics For Construction Contracts
- Cash Flow & The Project Team
- Priorities (Time Management For Construction)
- Construction Financial Basics
- Integrated Accounting & Operations
- Project Management Overview
- Process Documentation
- Effective Superintendent Processes
- Implementing A Project Management System
- Organizational Planning For Contractors
- Technology Systems For Contractors
- Excel for Contractors