It’s Going to Be a Wild Ride.
By Brian Hall
As we (seem) to be nearing the end of the pandemic and getting back to whatever normal is, the paving industry has had a different set of challenges. While work seems to be plentiful, other “opportunities” have reared their head. The economy is great but what started as “14 days to flatten the curve” has turned into an 18 month bumpy ride. What will the “new” normal look like? Will we always be fighting for loyal employees that work hard? What will government programs do to help or hurt us? Those are things we cannot control. This month, let’s discuss some ways that become your company’s “new normal”.
Loyal and Productive Team Members.
In talking to paving crews all over the country, this is their number one issue, and has been for many months. We all complain about workers that come on board only to leave when it gets too hot. It’s easy to say that those workers “couldn’t stand the heat”, but maybe we should look a little deeper. Did the supervisors and management do everything they could to retain the new worker? Did you make sure that the worker had a voice and felt like he was a part of a team? Was the issue all the safety equipment he needs? We are so busy these days that we tend to just throw a new guy to the wolves. This employee does his best to emulate others, but if doesn’t have a mentor explaining WHY you shovel asphalt like flipping a pancake, he doesn’t get it. It costs a ton to hire a new employee and even more to replace him, so make sure he is given the tools to succeed. This doesn’t mean you can’t send him to get the asphalt stretcher on his first day, though!
Keeping Your Equipment Productive.
Ride it hard and put it up wet seems to be the order of the day with a lot of companies. While most machines are built to last many years, if the machines are not properly cleaned and serviced, years are shaved off the life of the equipment. Long hours and hot work are the orders of the day, but not doing a beginning and end of shift routine on your equipment is a recipe for disaster. The best way of accomplishing this is to have a check sheet with a sign off. The list is easy; sit down with the crew and brainstorm. This way, everyone has ownership. Giving the crew ownership also gives them the responsibility to call out another crew member when they are doing something that will cost them downtime. No team member should ever be penalized for trying to be more safe or productive. The checklist should be SOP each day and any abnormalities should be addressed immediately. A small hydraulic leak at 6 am could mean big trouble at 1 pm with 5 trucks lined up!
Preparing For Rain.
I use this as a metaphor, not as a day off. Every farmer prays for rain, but the successful one prepares his crops for rain. We are all praying for the new Infrastructure Bill, or the new gas tax or whatever it is that will put dollars in the coffers for new roads. New roads mean new subdivisions, which mean new business and schools. While we are all praying, how many of us are preparing for the influx of work? Do you have a 5 year plan or a 1 month plan? I’m not only talking about equipment and labor, which are integral parts of expansion, but facilities, support staff and marketing. When you decide where you want to be in 5 years, what does the picture look like? Maybe your plan is to be the best at what you currently do. Nothing wrong with that. Maybe your goal is to expand into different fields and even multiple states, leaving a legacy for your children. If that’s the case, my suggestion is to find a trusted ally in the business and let them mentor you. Don’t re-invent the wheel. However you decide to approach the inevitable, have a plan.
The next few years should be interesting. I recently attended a state’s road builder’s conference and everyone expects the next 3+ years to be positive. Once we can finally put the supply chain issues behind us, the entire country should see plenty of work ahead. We just have to go out and take what’s ours!
Brian Hall, LeeBoy Territory Manager. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org