One of my first jobs after college was as a project engineer for a commercial builder headquartered in Southern California. As a rookie employee I got to wear a lot of hats. I worked with the estimators, project managers, foreman, subcontractors, customers and spent lots of time out in the field. My job description was to fix everyone else’s screw-ups and fill in where they needed help.
Nothing Works the Way You Want It To!
When I started my company four years later, I didn’t want to get into the habit of reacting to every situation and let customers, subcontractors, suppliers and employees run my business the way they wanted to. I wanted my company to run like a machine and produce consistent results, quality, service and profit. I didn’t want to have to rely on my constant supervision to ensure my company worked the way I wanted it to work.
Most construction companies are run by owners who have all their standards, procedures and systems in their heads. They’re so busy making sure everything is done exactly the way they want, they never have time to write down what field or project management systems they want. This limits their companies’ growth, as this type of owner is stuck at their level of control and therefore can’t take on more work, bigger projects, new customers or different types of projects that might deliver better bottom-line profits.
What Systems Do You Need?
Stop for a moment and identify the most important pro-active field procedures you want done the same way every time on every project. Focus on things that cause you the most stress and cost your company the most money. These are what you need to fix. Then sit down and create a system to make sure everyone will do those things exactly the same way you want them done. Here’s my list:
Proactive Field Must-Do Systems
1. Have Proactive Systems!
Step one is to have written standardized field systems or procedures for your field team to follow and use. I call this our “Do” Manual. How we “Do” business on every project, no exceptions! It’s a simple notebook that has our company standards and systems written out. Each field employee is issued a company “Do” manual to follow and refer to. Our “Do” Manual has the following sections:
- Problems and Issues
- Calls To Make
- Business Cards and Phone Numbers
- Job Information
- Project Administration Checklist
- Job Start-Up Checklist
- Job Contract/Plans/Specifications
- Subcontractor List and Subcontracts
- Job Goals and Objectives
- Job Budget
- Job Schedule
- Shop Drawing and Submittal Log
- Job Daily Activity Reports
- Job Inspection Log
- Job RFI/PCO/CO Logs
- Job Meeting Minutes
- Quality and Punch List Reports
- Job Close-Out Checklist
- Company Information/Standards/Systems
- Employee Forms
2. Set Proactive Targets and Goals!
In my company, I want every member on our project teams and crews to know exactly what they’re aiming at. Teams also need a scorecard to keep track of their progress: weekly, monthly and overall project. These targets must be written down and presented in a visual format every week. Set clear targets in several of the following areas:
- Contract Management
- Overall Project Schedule
- Weekly Project Schedule
- General Conditions
- Budget versus Estimate
- Budget versus Actual Job Cost
- Customer Relations
- Customer Service
- Field Productivity
- Punch List
- Job Close-Out
- Change Orders
3. Proactive Contract Management!
Most field and project management problems can be avoided by following the contract to the letter. Start every project right by reading the contract. Make a list of all the requirements it details. Review the list before you start and discuss them with your customer to make sure there is clear understanding. After you agree, always follow the contract.
Your contract also spells out what notice is required for several issues or actions that occur on every project. Make sure you invoice per the contract. Remember, if it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen and you probably won’t get paid what you deserve.
4. Proactive Job-Site Management!
Be very pro-active and manage your projects aggressively. The faster you build, the more money you’ll make. Full-time supervision will always provide a positive return on your investment. With full-time supervision, jobs will finish 25 percent faster and with better quality.
Give your field superintendents and foreman the authority to make decisions and commit the company. Give them the tools to get the job done. Every foreman and superintendent must have a fully equipped home office so they can email their daily reports into the office every day.
5. Proactive Project Planning!
We use a simple field system to guarantee our field foreman and superintendents think at least two weeks or a month ahead. We require every foreman and field superintendent to draft a two- to four-week “Look-Ahead” schedule every Friday and email it into the office before Monday morning. On Mondays they review it with their project manager, general superintendent and crews, and discuss what else they might need to keep jobs on track.
6. Proactive Must-Do Meetings!
It’s next to impossible to communicate to everyone on your project team what you want done, how you want it done, and when it must be completed without regular team meetings. To get everyone on your project team on the same page, require mandatory field meetings. The meetings I recommend include:
- Daily Crew Team Huddle Up
- Monday Morning Quarterback Meeting
- Project Start-Up Meeting
- Weekly Field Coordination Meeting
- Monthly Project Management Meeting
7. Proactive Quality and Safety!
We created a system to ensure quality and safety are a mandatory part of our jobs. We require superintendents and foreman to dedicate at least 15 minutes every day to quality and safety by performing a quality and safety walk-thru inspection and report of items needing to be addressed. They fill out the observation report listing out what needs to be fixed, by what date and by whom. Our goal is to fix every problem immediately if urgent, or by no later than the next week. Don’t wait until the end of the job as it is too hard to= get crews back to do the little things.
George Hedley, CSP, CPBC, helps contractors grow and profit as a professional business coach, popular speaker and peer group leader. He is the author of “Get Your Construction Business to Always Make a Profit!” and “Hardhat BIZSCHOOL Online University” available on his website. Visit www.hardhatbizschool.com for more information.