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Don’t be under the bus; be in the driver’s seat
Don’t be under the bus; be in the driver’s seat
June 20, 2014 7:00 AM CDT

“Under the Bus” company leadership

Full Contact Project Management


For those who follow that sort of thing (and I don’t), as I write this, it’s Draft Day in the NFL. This seems to be a big deal to those rabid sports fans among us. I’m not rabid; I just like the game. And, I already know, before the 2014 season begins, that there is no way that my Chargers are going to win the Super Bowl this year.

It doesn’t seem to matter who they draft, when they draft or even what they draft. Chances are better that they will leave my city than win the Big One!

So the question is: Does this seem to describe your business, at least, from time to time? “If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score?”
- Vince Lombardi
Truth be told, it probably describes life of the mason contractor during the last few years. Most contractors are wondering if they will ever win the big one again – get back near the top in their marketplace.

For the NFL, Draft Day is all about improving the team and getting new talent to make their team more competitive in the league (their marketplace). It’s pretty important when all the teams seem like they are just about equal.

So, how do you stack up in your league? Does the pool of prospective clients regard all the contracting teams in the “league” as about even? What can you do about it? You can do plenty!

My standard approach to any of my marketing “students” is that they need to lovingly throw their competition under the bus. Basically, you just have to be ready. Check out Coach Gary’s copyrighted list of excuses and answers:

  • YOU’RE TOO OLD. I have more experience than anyone.
  • YOU’RE TOO YOUNG. I am the most enthusiastic about your project.
  • YOU HAVE A LOT OF JOBS GOING ON NOW. Obviously, we can handle anything.
  • YOU DON’T HAVE ANY WORK. Your job will be my top priority.
  • YOU’RE BRAND NEW IN BUSINESS. Your job is important to my company.

Under the bus

Let’s talk about that “bus” part. Let’s assume that yours is not the lowest bid out there. In any event, what’s the project owner thinking? He wants to believe that all construction is a commodity. That allows his conscience to accept a low or “cheap” bid.

Your job is not to convince him to use your company. Your job is to educate him, so that he finally comes face to face with the reality that, because of your superior craftsmanship, your track record of on-time completion, your value engineering, the quality of your materials, your ability to bond the project, the strength of the insurance policies in effect, he knows this: To use another company, he would have to be a complete moron.

If your company is only providing a generic service – a commodity – and you can’t differentiate your product from that of another, then you are in for a rough ride. Who wants to be the K-Mart of the contracting world? Turns out, not even K-Mart can do that, although they did try their hardest for at least a couple of decades, in their market.

Realize that Wal-Mart figured that out sometime ago, and went from being “Always the lowest price,” to the point that they are happier with “Always the low price leader.” There’s a difference. Be a leader. I can always buy my shorts at Wal-Mart, knowing that I’ll get a decent deal, but rest assured that my daughter’s wedding dress was crafted, bought and sold at a much different store. And I did not go with the cheapest bid!

You see, throwing your competition under the bus is actually doing a kindness to your potential client, assuming that you are the top of your class, doing top-notch work, with quality work installed by employees possessing the skills of quality craftsmanship. If that’s not you, then you’ve got some homework to do, so that you can get good, and not embarrass yourself or the project owner.

If it’s really that kind of a project, and your company, frankly, is not there yet, then you might want to check out the bottom of the bus, yourself. Harsh words, I know. But if you’re just a junior varsity player today, then give yourself time to grow. When you’re ready, then go out and play with the big boys, who are always bigger, faster, better and meaner.

I expect, though, that you’re not. As an MCAA member, you’re well past varsity; you’ve played Division 1 ball, and you’re a student of the game. You’re a player. And any project owner should be happy to have you handle his project. And, yes, there might be a slight price differential, but there’s a very good reason for it.

Don’t be under the bus. Be in the driver’s seat.

About the Author

Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author, consultant and coach. He has severals years of industry experience, including a background as a licensed general engineering contractor. For further information and insight on the Full Contact Project Management approach, write Coach Gary at


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