by Mark A. Cobb
As humans, we use milestones to mark our journeys; as one year fades into another, it is natural for us to claim the calendar change as an opportunity to make changes within ourselves. Fortunately, in 1885, the Church of England’s Bishop Beckwaith provided us with a useful formula for making effective and permanent changes in our lives:
Plant a thought and reap a word;
Plant a word and reap an action;
Plant an action and reap a habit;
Plant a habit and reap a character;
Plant a character and reap a destiny.
The most successful humans are leaders in both their personal and their professional lives; consequently, those who want to succeed are willing to change–to improve themselves, their businesses and their lives. Thus, without any pretensions, we offer this year’s list of the Top Ten New Years Resolutions for Construction Professionals:
10. Take time to understand the other person’s position:
It doesn’t matter whether you are a design professional trying to fit your client’s desires (and needs!) into a budget or whether you are a project manager negotiating a change order with a subcontractor, it is very important to recognize the validity of the other person’s opinion. Acknowledging and understanding another person’s position can go a long way in avoiding potential disputes or quickly resolving a current dispute. Respect appears to be disappearing in the construction industry–promise to prevent its further erosion in the new year!
9. Money is important, but it isn’t the most important thing:
With today’s increasingly tight profit margins, even small bumps can derail projects and bankruptcy contractors, thus, there is an ever-increasing temptation to deny payments to those downstream, to cut-corners where corners should not be cut, and to worry more about your own job-security than the success of the project. Do not give sway to these temptations. Instead, be professional; treat others the way you wish to be treated, and look for a successful project completion for all of the participants. This is a wonderful time to remember that reputation, dignity, and honor trump profits in every long-run scenario.
8. Use fair and balanced construction contracts:
We see more and more general contractors handing down increasingly onerous construction contracts which could be summed up with the following statement: “Subcontractor Agrees to do anything and everything the Prime Contractor requires (whether known or unknown to the Subcontractor); and, for this work, the Subcontractor will only be paid the amount stimulated below if and when the Prime Contractor wants to.” This is neither fair nor right. Contracts have become solely about transferring risk and listing reasons to withhold payment; instead, we argue that construction contracts should be about ensuring mutual successes on a given construction project, reaching just conclusion in the event of a (real) dispute, and cooperation between the project owners, prime contractor, subcontractors and material suppliers.
7. Watch those emails and texts:
Almost daily we are appalled by construction professional’s reliance on text or emails to transmit important communications and even contractually required notices. Unfortunately, this type of communication lends itself to a “too concise” ability to communicate and “too casual” form for addressing important topics. If something is important, then take the time to write a letter (it forces you to be more professional, more accurate and less likely to be misinterpreted) and attach it as an email. Do not let text and email “conversations” be substitutes for meetings where you can meet face-to-face. And–frankly, we are shocked about this–watch the curse words and pejorative statements in your emails. They can (and will) be used against you.
6. Manage Your Stress:
From project scheduling to unexpected weather conditions, from slim profit margins to job security, the construction industry is filled with stress. There are wonderful resources available to help everyone deal with stress, so promise to avail yourself of some of these resources. Remember to spend time with your family, relax, and, if necessary, find a new job! Stress damages your physical body, it decreases your profitability, and it destroys relationships.
5. Know your contracts:
If our clients had taken the time to review their construction contracts and the possible consequences of a breach or a problem, they could have prevented many problems. It may seem boring or redundant, but review every contract as if it were your first contract; then, as the project continues, occasionally review the contract to remind yourself of potential pitfalls and notice requires. Meet EVERY notice obligation which you have. If you don’t have the time, desire or interest in doing this, then find a competent construction lawyer to help you manage this aspect of your business.
4. Set realistic, positive goals:
If your business isn’t growing, now is an ideal time to evaluate where your business has been and where you want it to go. Consider establishing a business plan and/or a marketing plan. Consider joining professional organizations which can help you with these projects (such as the American Subcontractors Association, Associated General Contractors, Construction Suppliers Association, etc.). Take a look at the type of projects on which you work and whether or not these are the projects which you want; consider taking on larger projects (but don’t stretch yourself too thin); if you are not currently bonded, take steps to build a relationship with a quality surety.
3. Treat your employees well:
This one should be obvious, but the stress, economic limitations, and competitive bidding can make employers forget that their employees are their finest asset. There are many ways to improve employee relations, and only some of them involve money! Provide educational opportunities, safety training, positive recognition, even treating an employee to lunch can lead to a more satisfying workplace.
2. Build the next generation of construction professionals:
It is universally acknowledged that the skilled-labor work force is diminishing at an alarming rate, and that means labor shortages and increased labor costs for every prime contractor and subcontractor. We advocate adequate training for your employees, but don’t forget the next generation of employees. There are countless opportunities to work with your area technical colleges to build programs specific to your needs, if you are looking for a place to make a year-end donation, consider funding a scholarship at your local school to train the next electrician, mason, or project manager! Be creative and participate in a grass-roots program to stimulate young people to pursue careers in the construction field.
1. Be honest.
This one, too, should be obvious. Be honest with your yourself–know your strengths and weaknesses and strive for improvement. Be honest with your family and your co-workers; truthfulness builds respect from those around you. Admit your mistakes, acknowledge when others are right (even though you may be wrong), and build your destiny on a solid foundation.
Whatever your goals are for the coming year, the construction attorneys at the Cobb Law Group wish you success. Now is a great time to plant the thoughts directed by Bishop Beckwaith to create a new destiny for yourself and your business.