I was visiting one of our construction job sites a few years ago in early August. We were building a large 75,000-square-foot concrete tilt-up warehouse building. The project superintendent, concrete foreman and I were discussing the job schedule and when the tenant was expecting to move in. They weren’t sure what the exact movein date was nor the contract completion date nor what the city required to get a final inspection and release to get the utilities turned on. Not a comforting thought considering this project team was supposed to be in charge of a $2,500,000 project!
Put the dates where all can see them!
Our company bids this type of project often and typically calculates the costs and project requirements based on a six to seven month total completion schedule. Our contracts always specify the start and completion date. And in the first project meeting with our customers, these dates are confirmed and documented to avoid issues at the end of the project when people tend to forget what was said and committed to six months earlier. I recommend the team post these critical dates on the job office wall in bold letters for all to see. I suggest they post the start date; completion milestone target dates including foundations, slab, exterior walls, roof structure, rough framing, drywall taping, floor coverings, final inspection, utilities on, and punch-list completion; and the final contract completion date. With these dates clearly posted and tracks, they will stay focused on the tasks required to not let them slip.
A project team without a clear knowledge of the contracted completion date or understanding of what’s required to make it happen is a disastrous predicament for a construction company. Finishing a project late means you will surely spend more than the estimated and budgeted costs for field labor, supervision and general conditions; the customer will be unhappy; and you will end up in a dispute over delays and damages with your customer and subcontractors. And even more important, your customer will tell everyone that your company finished later than promised.
Spend a little to make a lot!
At our job-site meeting, I next asked the project team leaders when they were planning on tiltingup and erecting the concrete wall panels. Lifting and erecting tilt-up wall panels is a very critical, critical path item when building an industrial building from the ground up. They told me they had scheduled the 100-ton crane to erect the panels in mid-November. I was thinking: ‘Three more months. That seems way too long and won’t leave enough time to finish the project and meet our contract completion date!’ I asked them how they arrived at mid-November. They said they had all decided it was reasonable, doable and makeable in order to make sure they would be ready for the crane. I asked if they had checked the construction contract or budget estimate to see if mid-November would work or fit into the project goals. They hadn’t. In fact, both of them didn’t know what the contract said about the completion date or the budget for time on the project. I was a little upset, to say the least.
Rather than fire them both on the spot, I decided to see if I could coach them to a better result for themselves, the company and our customer. I then asked if they could possibly move the date up a few weeks. They hesitated and shook their heads ‘no’ in protest. So I tried to encourage them to think about how they could move the job a little faster. No ideas. So I next offered them both a $1,000 incentive bonus if they erected all the walls by October 31. Guess what happened? They both changed their tune in a hurry, agreed, promised and guaranteed they could easily and would surely finish two weeks faster. Not a bad investment for me. A $2,000 investment versus our 20 men crew working for two weeks longer than expected
($40,000 minimum plus on-site costs). The end of the story is they actually tilted-up the walls on October 26. I gave both the superintendent and foreman $1,000 each plus every crew member a day off with pay for their extra efforts.
Offer more to get more!
What games, bonuses and incentives can you offer to entice your crews to work faster and boost your bottom line? Faster jobs equal more money in your pocket. Try different incentives like competitions between crews, games to beat the budget, challenges to finish ahead of schedule, hardware store coupons for no defect or punch-list items, catered barbequed job-site lunches for meeting milestones, dinner gift cards for crews who hit important targets, winter jackets for no job-site accidents, or anything else that will keep work fun, exciting, interesting and competitive.
Make it your priority to tell your people how difficult it is to actually make a profit. Explain that these bottom-line boosters can make a big difference. Your job is to make it your priority to focus on the positive factors you can influence instead of complaining about the economy or your competition. Get your team focused on what you need to happen to make money. Post the schedule completion dates for all to see and offer some incentives to beat the schedule.
George Hedley owns Hedley Construction & Development Inc. and Hardhat Presentations in Newport Beach, Calif. He is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, popular speaker and business coach. Visit www.hardhatpresentations.com for more information.