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By Duane Craig
June 19, 2017
Maintenance is easy, but improvement can be challenging––challenging because it requires change and change means leaving your comfort zone. But this change is necessary if you want to take your construction business from average to exceptional.
Here are five strategies to help you go from lagging to leading:
If you run your company without a strategic business plan, you should prepare for negative outcomes, like project failures and bankruptcy. Some small business owners claim they like living on the edge. After all, that’s why they’re in business for themselves. And you might even make it long term without a business plan. Down the line, however, when you look back, you’ll probably find that you didn’t end up anywhere close to where you thought you’d be. It is often a high price to pay for avoiding such a simple process.
Your business plan should answer questions about what your business is, who your customers are, who the competition is, and how you plan to grow the business. In short, you need to define your business and demonstrate that it has viable future. It is your vision, the one you’ll share with partners, employees, bankers, and everyone else involved. You want to show you are leading, not lagging.
Construction is a risky business and the place with the greatest risk is safety. Not just the safety of employees, but also the safety of subcontractors, vendors, and everyone else who interacts with your projects. Regardless of where you are in the construction food chain, your safety plan is going to get asked for and scrutinized by someone, possibly even multiple parties.
Develop your plan by starting with the basics. A safety plan needs top level support. Not only does everyone in management need to understand the plan, but they must also follow it. You need accountability built in. When people are given safety assignments with periodic reviews, the emphasis on safety stays alive.
The next step is to define just how you will prevent accidents by doing things like setting up safe work procedures and emergency plans. Finally, to recognize that a safety plan is always growing and changing, you need to plan for training so everyone knows what’s expected and how to work safely. Get in-depth details here.
The three key words here are efficiency, collaboration, and connectedness. The heart of what you do is project management. Your project management processes have to help you excel (not the spreadsheet program) at managing your projects to meet these goals. If not, you won’t stay in business for long.
When your project management is efficient, it is not prone to rework, errors, and time-consuming approval processes. In short, if you’re still using spreadsheets to run projects, you’re a dying breed. Start the migration toward software exclusively designed for construction project management and you will witness a dramatic boost in efficiency.
Construction has always relied on collaboration, although at times it hasn’t always seemed that way with the siloed approach of delivering projects. But that’s changing with the emergence of things like construction operating systems and open APIs that connect all applications, people, and devices across projects.
Construction is finally moving to the hyper-connective state that it should be with the help of the cloud and mobile devices. If your project management processes are not connected, meaning people don’t have access to what they need, when they need it, they are lagging.
Perhaps it’s time to stop trying to manage customers and instead figure out how to delight them. One path to that state is to always keep your promises. There might be a hundred reasons why it’s someone else’s fault for why quality missed the mark, but that information is only good for claims. It won’t do much for your reputation. If you have to beef up resources, anticipate changes, or substitute with a higher grade of product to deliver on your promise, that’s often the best course to follow.
But in the event that you can’t deliver on what you promised, admit fault, correct the deficit, and move on. But never lose sight of all the things that did go right.
When you are ready to get a valuable earful from your customers, start listening better. “I’m not sure I know what I want to do there,” is more than just a statement of uncertainty, it’s also a plea for solutions. If you really listened, you should be ready to offer those solutions.
Finally, when it comes to attracting new customers, focus on proof and action rather than words. Show them that you are right for the job based on past project successes and delighted clients.
Today there are whole new businesses coming into their own because their owners innovated. They took existing tech, or existing processes and improved them, updated them, and brought them into the 21st century by using the new technology available.
Construction is on the verge of rapid change in almost every aspect. Just consider how new distribution systems are revolutionizing the retail sector and you can understand the magnitude of change coming for the construction industry. For many, the initial reaction is to pull back and try to keep things as they are. But those businesses are the ones that will gradually fade away while others rise to challenge.
If you know that the typical RFI costs you $10 to process, you have a starting point for innovation. Maybe there are duplicative processes occurring in your workflow. Maybe there are too many approvals. Or maybe, there are too many RFIs. Once you find the reason and reduce your total costs of RFIs, you’re innovating.
Going from lagging to leading comes down to having the desire to excel, inspiring others, and staying focused. Stagnation is easy, but leading is takes courage and drive.
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