Sometimes, Best Laid Plans Create a New Direction
Contractor tip of the month
By Damian Lang
A few months ago, I wrote about how we have to be willing to change. Now, after some soul searching, I have to be ready to take my own medicine.
I have been trying for years to get the right systems in place to make things more automated in the office and in the field. My foremen have laptops, automated production time cards, the ability to log right into the office, cell phones – the whole nine yards. You all know my philosophy, technology is here to stay, and we need to use it to be competitive. My goal has always been that the job estimate, schedule of values, production, payroll, and, finally, the job profit and loss would all work in a perpetual system, so we are not doing the same thing over when we do the next task. I’d develop one system and get it going, and then move on to another system for a different situation and get it going, and on to the next. Although I have some really good information, I’ve created my own new problem: The systems don’t talk to each other to accomplish the next task. When I want information, I have to run three different reports from three different systems and put them all together to see all the pieces to the whole picture.
To help fix this, I hired a tech-savvy, construction-schooled engineer as a consultant. I thought this guy surely could fix us and train as we went along. After all, he’d worked with some big construction outfits in the past. Life would finally be good. Come to find out, the only skill this person lacked was the ability to communicate effectively to my people on their levels. Even though this person is very knowledgeable, I ended up with everyone in my office, frustrated. I talked with him and tried to be the mediator to help him learn a better way to get his message across, but it just didn’t sink in. Lesson learned. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, if you don’t have communication skills so others can understand what you are trying to say and teach. Time for another change.
After 26 years, the time is right for me to hire someone who knows what to do to re-vamp all those systems and get them talking one to another, in perpetual motion. And, owning four businesses, I truly need someone who can free up my time as operations manager of the masonry company. Someone who is smarter than I in the operations management area, and, as the saying goes, has “been there and done that.” So, I put out some feelers and started calling people that I network with in the industry to get someone in to actually be my operations manager. After 26 years of filling that position on my own, this is a big step for me. But, that’s exactly what I did. Talk about a change.
It’s been said that the only thing constant in this world is change. So begins the next chapter for my company, and we’ll see if I can really take my own medicine and, eventually, after some training with me, let the operations manager do what I want him to do. There’s one bright spot in the market right now: I was more than pleased to find that this recession actually has done businesses in my situation one big favor. There are some very qualified, experienced managers out there looking for work. If you are in need of a key employee right now, it may be the time bite the bullet and find your next All-Star as well.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-749-3512.