Some time ago, I figured out the value of being a connector, working to connect the right people who may not know each other, but would benefit from being acquainted. I’ve been doing this for several years now, and typically with no strings attached. The realty is that if you expect nothing in return, then one will never disappoint. The second reality is that generally much will be returned either now or in the future. Good people do not forget.
I try to connect people who have resources with people who might not, but have sound ideals. I might try to link a person who is down on their luck, needing a leg up, with someone who can offer assistance. One thing I have also learned is to always try to concentrate on quality people. We all have limited amounts of time to give and might as well spend it with good opportunities and good people, the best we can.
At least in my book, nothing worth doing is ever easy, and while their may be some strike outs connecting folks, there are also some singles and doubles out there.
Over the years, I have learned the hard way that saying “no” can sometimes lead to just as much success as saying “yes.”
It’s human nature to want to say “yes.” We all wish to be positive and help, but sometimes knowing our own limitations or those of our company means certain business situations or opportunities are not for us. The wisdom of experience can be key here, and I have a few scars on my back to prove it.
This week, I was reminded of my lessons learned. I had been working on a project, something with a duration of maybe five years for the company, and it looked pretty good in the beginning. As I learned more and evaluated the players, it did not seem as inviting, so I made the hard call and said, “Not for us.” Maybe I made the wrong decision, but I made one.
The recipient was taken aback at first, but when I explained the facts, I think he began to understand. The simple truth is that when a potential customer leaves the room, you sometimes make more money than you would have otherwise.
We all have finite amounts of time in our weeks, months and years. How we choose to spend that time, either saying “yes” or “no,” affects us in different ways. The magic is knowing when to say “no.”
Just a few years ago, a 10,000 sf slab pour was a large one. We are now in the 50,000 sf range.
We have recently made a series of large pours on a 15-acre project, using a laser CAD guided screed. It yields better, more accurate pours. Here is the run down on the means and methods of our equipment.
Total station surveying equipment is mounted to the laser screed. Grading information is filtered through CAD, which creates a 3-D model.
Slope and grade changes on a slab are handled by the screed, translating to less labor, more accuracy and the ability to make larger pours.
This also allows for a lower slump concrete with higher strengths and less labor. On this particular pour, we used a mid-range water reducer to give us more workable slumps but keep the water to cement ratio down. We get better early breaks which allow quicker access on the slabs.
Document control is a must. Ensure the latest, most accurate CAD drawings are used. A lesson learned.
The flow chart on this sidewalk sign caught my attention. Simple. All options lead to the “right” answer.
It reminded me of an important truth in sales. Every customer is different, needing a different approach to lead them to the end goal.
The object is the same for us–we wish to earn the business or gain the trust for a relationship. Most of the time, good customer relationships deserve and need a customized strategy and approach if we are to earn this business. To me, taking the time to respect the nuances is what turns potential customers into long time relationships. (This along with dozens of other things along the way.)
As to this sign, I got the haircut. While it might not have turned me into a “true warrior,” it was worth it. And I needed to reward this person’s creative efforts. Just because. And to say thank you.
While I think many may subconsciously be more likely to hire folks they easily relate to or find common ground with, we have found diversity matters. Whatever we think separates us–gender, culture or any other “norm”–we have so much more success by finding common ground and sharing different views in the process. Having said this, it also should be understood that we hire the most qualified person for the job, and do not bring in a team member for diversity’s sake alone.
The second part of the challenge of diversity and inclusion is more complex. For many reasons, those underrepresented groups are less likely to enroll in a building science or trade training program. Educational opportunities and options, traditional gender roles, instances of exclusion and non-family friendly work places are just a few of the possible setbacks. By looking for the best and the brightest, no matter what makes us different, we will develop better and more competitive companies.
This leads me to a statement from Warren Buffet that goes something like this: “One of the reasons for my success is that I am only competing against half of the population,” speaking to lack of female executives in the marketplace. It’s something to think about regarding diversity concerns, especially when the talent pool that exists today may or may not look like ourselves.
It doesn’t matter if you are in the C-suite or any other position in the organization. For those who are motivated to keep moving forward, it’s hard to get everything off that “to-do list.” That’s the growth mindset. You are always thinking of the next thing to make bigger and better.
If I have a new idea, I either try to act on it right away or dictate the thought to my smart phone. (That’s if I can record soon enough not to forget.) I then wait for quiet time to act, and sometimes these items don’t seem so important. For me, deleting these unnecessary tasks is almost as much fun as un-friending someone from Facebook when they use that platform for political ranting.
For the tasks that make the cut:
Figure out what can be delegated. Among other things, I discovered some time ago that relationships are what keep us in business. This is where I try to place my focus, and I’ve surrounded myself with others who can handle many of the other details involved in running our business. That’s something I am constantly reminding myself.
Make a point to give yourself uninterrupted time. For me, this is just about impossible in the office. I am an early riser, and often stay at home through 9 a.m. or so, creating a block of time to work through “heads down” tasks that involve my full attention. Also, Saturday’s are great for me when I get up with no deadlines, which allows my mind to soar.
To me, Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) may have a first cousin in the younger generation managers coming online today. These are people who care about ethical framework and community involvement on a deeper level. Gratefully, that’s been part of our corporate culture in different ways over time, and we’ve recently made our efforts more official. Giving back to the community can take several forms, but for us, there are three major resources:
Time. We’ve always encouraged those in the company to be active volunteers in their communities. This year, we formalized a program to show our support. It’s called Stewart/Perry Cares, and among several initiatives, allows each one of us to take a full day (paid) away from the office for service.
Space. Since we first moved to our new place about 10 years ago, we’ve been donating the space to non-profits who might need a venue for a meeting or event. We’ve lent out our conference room countless times, and allowed many groups of elementary school children to fish in our lake. Several fundraising dinners have taken place on our grounds. This is another easy way to contribute, and it’s fun for us as well.
Finances. We support several initiatives with our finances, from the Scouts to United Way, the Symphony and others. When it comes to investments, we consider both financial return and social or environmental impact, to find a win for both our company and the greater good.
Even small initiatives can make a big difference over time. To paraphrase John Harbert, an acquaintance from many years ago, “It’s not important how much you do, but that you do something.”
The construction industry is a very fragmented industry. This is among the reasons one does not see the large-scale technological advances like you might see in other sectors.
Having said this, I was with a group of young project managers today, and I was telling them how “things used to be.” Before power screeds and riding trowel machines, the rule of thumb was one finisher for every 1,000 sf. Last Friday I was on one of our pours and we had six of these riding troweling machines. The pour we made the next day was 50,000 sf. In today’s economy, there would be no way to find 50 finishers. Along the way, we also got smarter and started making these large pours starting around 1 am. Less traffic. Lower temps. Better quality.
As we talked a bit more, we all decided that the next 10 years will bring more changes than the last 40 years. Because of the labor market lowering its number, maybe our industry will be forced to accomplish more with less human capital. We should anyway.
Last Saturday evening, when I attended KultureCity‘s KultureBALL, I was reminded once again what can happen when a grassroots idea gets the right leadership.
Julian Maha and his wife Michele Kong, both medical doctors, founded KultureCity in 2013 after their oldest child was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Ever since, their goal has been education, inclusion and to provide the alteration of public spaces, making them more sensory friendly.
KultureBALL is their annual event where celebrity and philanthropy walk hand-in-hand to promote acceptance, foster awareness and raise funds for programs benefiting children and families with autism. Football great Tiki Barber was there, along with Hamilton star Christopher Jackson, who I enjoyed sitting with at dinner. Both of these men have children affected by autism, and both have stepped up to set change in motion.
KultureCity has been around 5 short years, but as you can see in this video, the difference they have already made is staggering. As I walked around that evening, hearing the stories and seeing the map of all the current event spaces that have been changed, I found myself getting excited for what’s ahead. I was reminded that a little spark by two individuals can light a fire in the community and then maybe a nation.
This week, I visited one of our projects that covers several acres. It’s not ready for permanent power, but also needs power in a lot of locations. In the past, we’ve run conduit to a stationary board, which works, but has its downfalls. If there is too much load demand, breakers get tripped and the whole job shuts down until the problem can be fixed. There is very little flexibility to relocate easily. As walls go up, locations have to be changed. In short, productivity is lost.
On this project, we’ve brought in temporary power distribution units. Simply put, these units are daisy chained throughout the job, so that we now have multiple temp electrical locations. They are easy to move, with no single source. A few advantages:
Safety. There are fewer cords, less chance of overload and all plugs are GFI protected.
Portability. We can easily move the units from space to space to accommodate changing needs.
Convenience. There are multiple plug in spots for equipment that needs to charge overnight.
While temporary power distribution units are frequently used in industrial construction, we are seeing potential with these system in our commercial mix. Good call by the management on this job.