Three Keys To Re-Invigorating Your Construction Business

Review, Report, Respond – a simple formula for change.

The construction industry faces challenges on a daily basis. Overcoming these challenges shows the industry’s ability to survive in an evolving marketplace. By taking a simple approach that involves Reviewing multinational companies outside the construction industry, Reporting on team progress and Responding through incremental improvements, positive change can lift construction performance and profitability. I met a war correspondent recently, well-weathered from his experiences. He described his greatest talent as getting out of tight spaces quickly and quietly – he backed it up by saying it was easier than what he saw construction companies manage – and often for prolonged periods. A war zone seemed finite compared with a construction business where the stress never ended.

He was exaggerating, but courage in the face of fire is hard to maintain. How many of our employees and contractors (or ourselves) shy away from tasks they may fail at (or not reach their target) through criticism if they didn’t succeed. It’s easier to keep your head low, avoid contact with the enemy and squirrel yourself away to survive.

The following are three ways to re-invigorate your construction business and remove the culture of ‘fear’ that stops innovation by reviewing, reporting and responding to market demand.

Step 1 Review multinational companies in industries other than construction

Construction can learn a lot from how other industries re-define themselves.
A Less from IBM

IBM, which celebrated its centenary in 2011, did not start out as the company it is today. It began its corporate journey making clocks, scales, cheese slicers, typewriters, vacuum tube calculators, magnetic tape, the first disk drive, the memory chip, FORTRAN, fractals, ATMs and mainframes before making a name for itself with mini-computers, personal computers, supercomputers, software and analytics.

Imagine what IBM may have become if innovation wasn’t at its core – namely a maker of kitchen gadgets based on its cheese-slicer origins. IBM’s example proves we shouldn’t define ourselves by what we make, but by the beliefs driving our organisations to maintain a service orientation that solves customers’ problems.
For IBM the PC was an innovation in 1981, touching tens of millions of people, but twenty years later IBM’s differentiation was limited, particularly with hybrid computers flooding the market.

As a result, continual forward movement remains part of IBM’s business model – its value proposition to create and provide innovative solutions for clients being the company’s core vision. But it’s the translation of that core vision into action over the past 100 years that has kept the company alive through a culture driven by its beliefs and values.

Never Define Yourself By What You Do Today

IBM’s chairman and CEO, Sam Palmisano says, “Because the frontier of what is truly innovative keeps moving, that compels us not to sit still. It is a constant reminder never to define ourselves by the things we make, no matter how successful they are today…”

Palmisano sacked 10,000 employees in 2009 and then a further 2,600 workers in 2010. It was the outcome of a major overhaul of IBM started by a previous CEO to change a culture based on employee-comfort to one of external performance, customer responsiveness and market leadership.

Again it was Palmisano who oversaw the exit of high-volume, low-margin businesses such as PCs in 2009, ensuring IBM’s financial results outperformed most of the corporate world. Today software is the cornerstone of the company’s profits with IBMs total revenue achieving $106.8 billion in 2010.

It was only through a return to core beliefs that IBM navigated away from competitive forces that could have seen the company’s demise. IBM was challenged for sacking its employees and for paying Palmisano a $24.3m pay cheque, with one commentator suggesting that IBM “now puts its staff through the cheese slicer to make a fortune for fat Sam”.

Step 2 Report On Your Own Services
If you had purchased your own services over the past year, would you be a satisfied customer? Be honest – what areas would you expect improvement in, or write yourself a glowing testimonial for?
There’s always room for improvement in each task we produce – even if it’s only five per cent – incrementally it all adds up. But if we asked our work teams to self-rate, who among them would invite criticism? How many opportunities do they avoid because of fear of criticism if they get it wrong? The author of an excellent book on management says, “Our fear of criticism is stronger than our desire for success.” Interesting.

How many businesses stagnate from fear of taking the next step and failing? How many fail because they didn’t take the next step and discover what they needed to survive?

Action Point: Establish a team with members from each business area eg procurement, project management, delivery, etc and create a list of items you would expect a customer to experience as ‘good value’ in each area. Have team members review another division they personally are not involved with and rate according to service, reliability, problem solving, responsiveness, work quality, timeliness, teamwork, compliance and client focus.
Step 3 Respond With Incremental Improvements

Improve areas that fall below benchmarked expectations and establish three key goals for developing each team’s skills and abilities. This may include further training, establishing better systems, higher levels of communication or greater personal responsibility.
If the construction industry doesn’t respond to market pressures and maintain a focus on innovation and responsiveness to competitive forces, it will not only stagnate, but be left behind as the world around continues to change.

If construction can develop an organisational culture where innovation occurs without fear of criticism, and new ideas based on responsiveness to customer demands and needs are welcomed, then construction – like IBM – has a bright future.

5 Secrets to Getting Your Construction Project Done Right

If you’ve got a construction project you’re interested in getting done, we’ve compiled a list of 5 secrets that will have your project done quickly and done right.

Secret #1 – Doing It Yourself Won’t Necessarily Save You Money

Wives seem to understand this one well, thought well-intentioned husbands have trouble with it. While it’s easy enough to tackle some weekend painting or a little landscaping project, when it comes to actual construction projects, attempts to do it yourself often turn into frustration, with incomplete projects and wasted money. Most professional contractors will have to charge extra just to undo what wasn’t done properly.

Secret #2 – Don’t Get Sucked in by Slick Company Salespeople

When dealing with construction companies, you’ll often meet with a salesperson. Keep in mind that they are making recommendations based on what makes them money, not always what’s best for you. They also don’t always understand what can be done, and talking to an acutual field person before signing up is a great idea. Also watch out for high pressure tactics, and walk when confronted with them.

Secret #3 – Don’t Take Experience or Better Business Bureau Reports as Gospel

Doing something for a long time doesn’t make you good at it. It would be like a golfer with a bad swing practicing daily for years…if his swing is bad, he’ll only get more consistent at swinging badly. Swinging a hammer isn’t that different. Check out their references and see their work if possible to truly know if their work is good. Also beware of the Better Business Bureau, who has a poorly deserved reputation for holding businesses to task. The BBB sells memberships, and are not known for investigating complaints. Websites like Angieslist.com do a better job of collecting user reported reviews, as do other sites (though some have potential for gaming the system with fake reviews, good or bad.). Question everything!

Secret #4 – The Lowest Bid Isn’t Necessarily the Best Option

While it’s easy to pick the cheapest bid, it isn’t always best. Here are a couple considerations when one bid is a lot lower:

Is this an apples to apples bid, or did they leave some items out that will pop up later as extras?
This is sometimes a move of desperation by a financially unstable construction company. If business is slow, and they’ll cut the price to keep working, great. If they have money problems, they could end up in your lap if you hire them.
Secret #5 – Payments Control the Project

As you enter into an agreement for your construction project, pay extra attention to the payment schedule. Here’s some things to look out for:

A company that wants money right away (before materials are delivered), or especially if they want more than a third up front, hints at financial problems.
Make sure that no payments are ever made without lien waivers. You need proof that their supply houses and subcontractors got paid too, otherwise you could have a lien against your house.
Make sure to hold back at least 10% to ensure any remaining work is finished, even after the bulk is done.

Implementing Your Construction Safety Program

When you find yourself managing a construction site there are a great deal of variables that you have to account for. Making sure shipments are up to date and on time help to maintain a steady flow of jobs available for your crew to manage. Understanding the demand related to employing quality workers and identifying problem candidates before on site tension escalates to a problem. Ensuring that you have the financial resources available not only to cover supplies and keep the site operational but to cover the salaries of all of your hard working employees. With all of these obstacles constantly having to be dealt with it is not surprising to see construction safety placed on the back burner.

The problem with this is that there is a great deal of importance placed on construction safety from the owners of the site project to the legal individuals monitoring your progress. This is why many companies take the time to implement a safety program to be followed by all site workers. The program covers two major elements of the environment. The first element the safety program covers is instilling an urgency related to safety in the minds of all site workers required to follow the construction safety program. The second element that the construction safety program covers is protecting the company from any lawsuits that may occur with site workers who get injured not following the safety program.

With the importance that a construction safety program represents, it is important that you do not simply assign any individual the important task of construction safety. The training should be required for any individual who is assigned the task of construction manager. With the training this individual can help implement the programs to protect site workers and inform them of their safety requirements. In addition, these individuals can spot on site dangers that will protect the job site from future injuries and incidents.

Since the safety policy is regularly changing it is essential to seek out a resource that can provide you with all of the up to date information. Along with information resources, this safety source should offer you the training materials you need to effectively implement your construction safety program. Finally you should seek a safety source that provides you with the most up to date safety literature and forms.

Get Started on Your Construction Venture With a Construction Lawyer

Are you going to start a construction business? Smart. As we are all well aware now, the construction industry will never get out of style. People are developing buildings and sites everywhere-and almost after one construction is finished, another starts right away. Other projects are even simultaneously developed by multi-national constructions companies. Well, it’s not a bad thing if you decide to ride the trend and get some of that profit for yourself. First, you need to arm yourself with the needed preparations to make sure your construction venture stays afloat. The most important consideration in keeping your business intact? Get a construction lawyer.

Legal work is always present in any construction project. That is one reason to get a construction lawyer. However, the preparatory stages of your business venture need a great deal of help from a construction lawyer-starting papers, legal permits, construction permits, business permits, and the like. If you go out there without a lawyer within an arm’s reach, you will really have a bad time. Yes, you can process those things on your own (or your people perhaps), but leaving the strenuous job to a construction lawyer will smoothen things out for you, will makes things run twice as fast.

A new venture is always exciting, especially if it’s as complicated as construction. There are other businesses that are more risky than construction. But this one is equally difficult, with the processes, projects, and everything. I’m sure it’s not rocket science. However, do yourself a favor and leave that job to someone who actually know the ins and outs around the legal system, someone who is actually trained and experienced in the process of construction and legal whatnot. Someone who is a competent construction lawyer. It will give you so much more free space to work on more important things like marketing and getting clients for your new construction business.

You see, a construction lawyer can help you in more ways than one. If you don’t realize that until now, then let’s discuss the benefits further. Engaging in a business will get you in a lot of jams-a dissatisfied customer, a thieving subordinate, a cheating partner, a dispute against a rival construction company, misunderstanding from a supplier. The problem can be anything and everything. How are you going to solve such mess? Yes, that is what I’m talking about. The best person who can pull you out of such situations is a clever and competent construction lawyer.

So, to sum it all up, get your own construction lawyer before all the other plans for your construction business venture. I know that you are very excited right now, and I’m super excited for you too. But patience, my friend. First things first. Let’s prioritize the things that will give us more advantage. Getting a construction lawyer early on will definitely lead you to a smoother starting process. Congratulations! Now you have a partner that will guide you not only with construction dealings, but with the legal matters of your business as well.

Greening Your Construction Business

Save money and attract conscientious customers when you choose to make your construction business more sustainable.

As the world continues to come to terms with the potential effects of global warming, more and more businesses are looking for ways to green their operations and minimise their environmental impact. If you’re hoping to do the same for your construction business but don’t know where to start, don’t worry. There are plenty of things you can do that will mean you can start making a difference to your business – and the planet.

Greening your business not only makes sense when it comes to the environment, it can also have a number of other advantages too. From power saving initiatives that can help cut your electricity spend to improved environmental credentials which will help you appeal to today’s climate savvy customers, you could find that making an effort to cut your business’s emissions could benefit you in more ways than one.

Making sure your construction business becomes a little greener is sure to mean a number of changes to the way you source your products and service. However, many of these changes are likely to prove to be for the better in the long run, making the initial disturbance more than worth it.

Searching for sustainable materials is likely to be one of your first ports of call, and the good news is that there are a number of suppliers out there who are also realising the benefit of providing goods and services that have minimal impact on the environment. From reconstituted stone walling products to alternative carpeting options, there are a number of suppliers who are currently making the kind of building materials you could use to really differentiate yourselves in what is a sometimes difficult marketplace.

You could also find that you can maintain a good stream of work by offering to help individuals and businesses make their buildings and premises more environmentally friendly. There are a significant number of people who are willing to make an investment in their building for the benefit of the planet, and many are further encouraged to make the change due to the likelihood they will be able to save on things like energy costs if they have their properties fitted with, for example, doors and windows offering a high thermal performance.

If you often make use of diesel generators, you could consider switching to gas. Gas generators typically have a much lower Sulphur, NOx and Greenhouse gas emission content than their diesel counterparts, and are suitable for many of the same tasks. You’ll also find that gas generators are ideal for generating cost efficient electricity, making it possible for you to save on costs too. Cut your emissions by choosing your generator rental company carefully, and you could find this is one of the easiest ways for you to improve your company’s green credentials.

Greening your construction business may seem like a mammoth task, but there are many ways you can make a difference – and the process can be a gradual one if that works best for your company.