High-Performing Contractor March 2010
March, 2010 – Issue 78
This e-newsletter is dedicated to supporting High-Performing Contractors and all contractors working to become one. Written by Dennis Sowards
Leadership – How you play golf matters!
Research done several years ago found that people who cheat at golf also cheat in business and in their personal lives. If found that those who would move the ball to a better position or not count a couple of strokes, would also fake reports, mishandle accounts and lie about business decisions. Business, especially construction, needs leaders with integrity. Much of the current economic problems can be traced to greedy individuals who acted without integrity.
Marvin Ashton, a noted speaker, once said,
“A lie is any communication given to another with the intent to deceive. A lie can be effectively communicated without words ever being spoken. Sometimes a nod of the head or silence can deceive. Recommending a questionable business investment, making a false entry in a ledger, devious use of flattery, or failure to divulge all pertinent facts are a few other ways to communicate the lie.
“It is a tragedy to be the victim of lies. Being trapped in the snares of dishonesty and misrepresentation does not happen instantaneously. One little lie or dishonest act leads to another until the perpetrator is caught in the web of deceit. As Samuel Johnson wrote, ‘The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.’ Those who become victims of this entrapment often struggle through life bearing their heavy burden because they are unwilling to acknowledge their problem and make the effort to change. Many are unwilling to pay the price to be free from the chains of lies. Some individuals may be very aware of the value of honesty and yet be unable to come up with the down payment.
“Lies are often excuses for lack of courage. Sometimes lies are nothing more than excuses for poor performance. Usually one lie or deception has to be covered by another. Lies cannot stand alone. Each one must continually be supported by more and more of its own kind.
“When marginal cases and situations arise, personal integrity must be an important element in any decision. When right actions are not clearly evident, personal honesty will lead us to discern and reveal relevant points or facts of which others may not be aware. A person of integrity will assist others to be honest. A person of integrity will ask questions and give answers that are accurate. Integrity makes it possible for us to chart a course of righteous personal conduct long before the time for action arrives.
“It should be the goal to become the kind of person of whom it can be said, ‘His word is his bond.’ In all of our words and deeds we should ask ourselves, ‘Is it right? Is it true?’ not ‘Is it expedient, satisfactory, convenient, or profitable?’ Just, ‘Is it right?’ The wise will consider, ‘What is right?’; the greedy, ‘What will it pay?’
“Honesty will be compromised by some when failure lurks. People with integrity will stand true and firm in success or disaster.
“People of integrity will neither foster, nourish, embrace, nor share the lie. People of wisdom will not let greed, fear, or the desire for quick riches lead them into the snares of the dishonest and unscrupulous who prey on the gullible in order to maneuver from them valuable possessions.” (Source: Ensign, May 1982)
Leaders in high-performing contracting companies are men and women with integrity. That is what allows them to be successful over the long term. People, who cheat on golf, will cheat in their work and success will be short lived. One construction company owner said that used car salesmen and contractors are often grouped together by their customers when it comes to honesty – people feel they have none! How do you show integrity? How do you hire people with integrity? Honesty is not the best policy – it is not a policy but a way of living and acting.
The next time you consider doing business with someone, maybe you should play golf first. It might tell you a lot about their character.
“Know the enemy and know yourself, and your victory will never be endangered; know the weather and know the ground, and your victory will then be complete.”
—Sun Tzu, Chapter 10 of Art of War
“Of course, our clients aren’t the enemy, but the idea to completely understand the client is sound advice. When a contractor focuses on only the construction activities, it limits itself and overlooks opportunities to set itself apart from its competition and increase its profit margins. This forces contractors to look at construction projects differently. When someone buys a drill, he is interested not in buying a drill, but in obtaining a hole. When a client constructs a building, the contractor should expand its focus to the use of the building, rather than focusing on just the construction process, because it offers greater opportunities. The construction costs of building represent about 11 percent of the total lifetime cost of the build. So why does the industry place so much emphasis on the construction process? The construction process has been reduced to a commodity that has forced contractors and vendors to compete on price. However, focusing on added value allows them to differentiate themselves and increase their profit margins.”
- Ted Garrison
Creating value to the customer starts within the company. It starts with having a meaningful purpose for the company. I am so tired of hearing people say “The sole purpose of a company is to make money.” Your customers don’t want to do business with a company that just cares about how to get their money! This company’s purpose includes a mission and vision statement, and a set of company values. These are not just fancy worded statements that hang on a wall in the office, but statements that have meaning and life to the company’s management team and through them to all employees. The difference is that real purpose statements live in the hearts and are easily shared and seen in the employee’s actions. The opposite is the statement that no one remembers or practices. To say, “We all kind of know our vision even though it isn’t in writing” translates into many different and conflicting employee behaviors and no alignment. If one doesn’t know what he is and his relationship to the company’s purpose - how can he deliver consistent behavior to others? He can’t!
Being able to give value to customers starts with having a meaningful purpose statement for your company. It is followed by developing a strategic plan to align everyone’s priorities and actions to get there.
What is your company’s purpose? How do you know everyone knows and shares it within your company? What is your plan to achieve it? If you do nothing else in 2010 define, redefine or re-affirm your company’s purpose and invest time discussing it with all employees so they connect their work to it. Even if you are not the top executive in the company, you can help this happen.
Focus on Employees
In today challenged economy finding employees is easy. Keeping employees is not much of a challenge either as everyone is holding tight to his/her job. But we know the business cycle will change and just like a few years ago, it will become more difficult to get and keep loyal employees. When construction does heat up, there will also be a bidding war for the best employees – your best employees. While money is not the top motivator, if offered enough most employees will eventually give in. You can’t win a bidding war. Now is the time to do or continue to do the things that will keep your employees loyal. High-performing contractors are committed to keeping their best employees. What can you do? Here are 5.5 questions to ask your employees and to listen, really listen to their answers. Ask:
1. If this is not the best job you ever had in your life, tell me why?
2. Would you recommend working at our company to a best friend? Why/Why not?
3. What gets in your way of doing the your best work?
4. How does your job contribute to achieving our company’s purpose (mission, vision and values)?
5. What is the best new idea you’ve done or seen for doing our work this year?
5.5 What can I do to make your work safer, easier and better?
Ask these questions to many employees and note their answers. If it is something you can do to improve things – do it now. If it is something you have reservations about, tell them you will explore the possibility. Then, do study it with an open mind. If you determine can’t justify doing it, get back with the employee and explain your reasoning. Let him/her know why you can’t do it. Listen to his/her reaction to ensure that you understand. There may be new possibilities developed as you both openly discuss it. Be honest, if it is a matter of no money to spend, tell it. If it is something that conflicts with the company’s values, take the time to explain why.
One of the best things you can do is to involve your employees by asking for their ideas. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to not give them an honest answer or no answer at all.
How are you going to keep your best employees?
You may be interested in attending one of these training seminars by Dennis Sowards:
- March 10, 2009 – Lean works in Construction – sponsored by Mid Atlantic SMACNA Chapter. Contact them at (301) 446-0002 or email@example.com for details. Must be a SMACNA Member or affiliate to attend.
- March 25, 2010 - Job Planning that Really Works – The Last Planner not the First Planner system – Phoenix, AZ, Sponsor: PIPE & 469 JAC, contact Cathy Mayeux at 480.966.0377 or CMayeux@pipetrust.org
- April 22, 2010 - Lean Applied to Service – Phoenix, AZ, Sponsor: PIPE & 469 JAC, contact Cathy Mayeux at 480.966.0377 or CMayeux@pipetrust.org
- May 20, 2010 - Getting to the Root Cause by Analysis not Luck - Phoenix, AZ, Sponsor: PIPE & 469 JAC, contact Cathy Mayeux at 480.966.0377 or CMayeux@pipetrust.org
- Sept 30, 2010 – Lean Construction – It can work for you - Phoenix, AZ, Sponsor: PIPE & 469 JAC, contact Cathy Mayeux at 480.966.0377 or CMayeux@pipetrust.org
- Oct. 28, 2010 – Gaining Customer Loyalty by Design - Phoenix, AZ, Sponsor: PIPE & 469 JAC, contact Cathy Mayeux at 480.966.0377 or CMayeux@pipetrust.org
Thought for the day
Know the enemy and know yourself, and your victory will never be endangered; know the weather and know the ground, and your victory will then be complete.”
—Sun Tzu, Chapter 10 of Art of War
For more information about the High-Performing Contractor assessment process contact Dennis Sowards at 480-835-1185 or at dennis@YourQSS.com
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