EZ Scaffold Corp.
EZG Manufacturing
Federated Insurance
Fraco USA, Inc.
Hohmann and Barnard, Inc.
Husqvarna Construction Products N.A.
Hydro Mobile, Inc.
iQ Power Tools
Kennison Forest Products, Inc.
Mortar Net Solutions
Non-Stop Scaffolding
Southwest Scaffolding
Tradesmen's Software, Inc.
September 15, 2010 7:25 AM CDT

Little Leaks Sink Big Ships

Contractor tip of the month


That’s what Dad said his boss would tell him years ago. Think about that, no one dreamed the Titanic would go down, but it did. Do you have leaks in your ship? If so, are you fixing them, or waiting until it takes on so much water that you can’t keep it afloat?

A friend of mine, we’ll call him Earl, has a leak in his ship and refuses to plug the hole. He’s a business manager who often calls me for advice. Earl called me a couple years ago and said he had a lady in his office who wasn’t pulling her weight. We will call her Jane. When Earl explained the issues Jane was causing at his office, my advice was that Jane had to go – now – for just one little leak in your business can sink the whole ship. Earl replied, “I can’t fire Jane. She goes to my church, and I will have to face her every Sunday knowing what happened. Plus, she has been with us for so many years that she is like family. And, she needs the job. I just can’t get myself to let her go.”

Jane is still with Earl today, while his business continues to struggle. If she hadn’t been pulling her weight, he should’ve let her go years ago, even when his business was doing well. However, it is even more important now as business is getting tighter and tighter. I am sure the money Earl paid Jane the last two years would have really helped toward his deteriorating bottom line.

Now, I am not a monster. I’ve been there myself. It hurts to let someone go who is really close to you, even when you know it is best for the company. What’s even worse is that, although everyone inside your company knows who isn’t doing his or her part, the people on the outside may think that same person is the best thing that has ever happened to your company. Now, you are letting this person go. Boy, won’t you be popular in church now?

However, if you don’t do what you know is best, you risk losing it all. Let me give you some more food for thought: Isn’t it the leader’s responsibility to address the employees who aren’t doing what they are supposed to, like someone who isn’t pulling in the same direction with everyone else? Or, simply is not doing the job the way it should be done? Since Earl avoids the situation with Jane, he ends up with an even bigger problem. The others in his office see Earl as weak, because he isn’t strong enough to address the situation with Jane. They are now beginning to think that one doesn’t have to do his part, after all, why should he if Jane doesn’t? This becomes acceptable behavior and a very slippery slope.

It’s a difficult position for any manager, but when it happens, it’s your job to stop the leak by making employee changes. Think about it this way, if you make the changes and stop the leak, sure some on the outside will say you are just another greedy manager who doesn’t care about his people. However, if you don’t stop the leak, when your ship goes down, the word on the street will be that you are not only just another greedy person who doesn’t care about people, but also a very dumb manager for not doing what you had to do to keep things afloat. Which do you prefer in the end? Remember, “Little Leaks Sink Big Ships.”

About the Author

Damian Lang is a mason contractor in southeast Ohio and inventor of many labor saving masonry systems and products. Lang has served as the Marketing Committee Chairman for the Mason Contractors Association of America. He is also author of the book Rewarding and Challenging Employees for Profits in Masonry. To network with Damian on contractor tips or tips you have and would like published, contact him at or 740-749-3512.


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