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By Duane Craig
May 8, 2017
Others’ perspectives teach us, and help us see things differently. If you are managing a busy construction business, or aspiring to, the lessons and experience of other leaders offer plenty to think about. Here are some perspectives on running a construction business from five construction leaders.
While cashflow is ‘king’ for a construction company, this can lead to ‘living in the moment.’ I believe that it pays to have three business plans in place:
1) A plan that deals with what you expect will happen based on your knowledge of your market today.
2) A plan that deals with the consequence of too much success: how will you handle this without losing quality, schedule, or customer satisfaction.
3) A plan to deal with a sudden bad recession.
Proceed on the basis of the first plan, but have a good understanding of what you’ll have to do in case either of the others arise. At some point in time, both of them will probably happen to you.
The success of a project relies on the communication between you and your client. With each new client, comes unfamiliar challenges and uncharted systems of communication. Learn to speak their language. Take the time to translate their unique ideas into a finished product you both can be proud of.
What makes each of our projects a success is that we focus on building a long-lasting relationship with each of our clients. We work with them not only to understand their cost structure, but to completely grasp the vision they have for their business––and embrace it as our own. This goes for everyone on each of our project teams. We pride ourselves on completing projects on time, on budget, and with our clients in mind. The best advice we can give to those running a construction business, would be to settle for nothing less than the highest quality standards for your clients.
When you design and construct a commercial or residential facility, the end result will always be an intimate experience for the businesses and families that will be using it or living there. There can be a lot of emotion on the customer's part, or certainly on the next intended buyer's part, and builders have to understand that.
This industry is different in that respect from other big-ticket purchases. So the choices customers make, whether they take your guidance or not, have to be respected.
We had one property where the owner wanted to have an entire kitchen facility fabricated in Italy by a separate manufacturer and shipped in, and it wasn't going to be ready according to the schedule we originally agreed to. So we re-phased our planning to accommodate an empty space, ready for the kitchen after work around it was done. This required more precision and more contingency planning than a project normally calls for. It was a very unusual request, but it was important to this customer's vision and we were able to slot it into the structure as intended. It fit like a glove.
Ours is a project management-driven profession that can suddenly require reverse engineering and you have to be prepared for that. So the most important bit of advice is to develop a customer-centric listening skill. And go beyond expectations.
Construction is all about finding ways to manage risk. However, it’s easy to forget that one of the greatest risks for construction executives is a lack of innovation. Keep an open mind to new technologies.
Just look outside construction; disruptive technologies are shaking up industries and the early adopters are the ones reaping the biggest rewards. There is always a better way to do things. Historically, our industry is slow to accept change, but once change comes, it comes fast. Prioritize innovation so that your company isn’t left behind.
The best advice I would give for running a construction company is understanding how your role changes as a leader depending on where you are in your company’s growth cycle. You need to clearly understand your strengths and then surround yourself with amazing talent and give them the best. It's even more important if you are having explosive growth. You have to evolve, communicate, delegate, fire fast, hire slow, and keep your company aligned to accomplish your corporate culture and vision at all times.
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