By Brian Hall
Strange days, indeed. I’ve been in this business for 25 years and thought I had seen it all. Recessions, inflation housing booms and busts. But in all my born days would I ever think that the construction industry would be so robust that it would outrun the supply side. Can it last? Of course not, but we must make sure that we are not out running our needs on the equipment or job site side. Typically, we’d be able to get our maintenance and repairs done on our schedule or at a minute’s notice. Also, we are typically confident of our variable costs of a job, but that’s been a moving target as well.
There’s lots of work to be done and we’re moving faster than ever. This month let’s take a step back and make sure we aren’t overlooking some of the issues we might take for granted.
Pre-plan your maintenance. Whether you do your maintenance in-house or contract a dealer to handle everything, you’ve got to be able to schedule it and stick to it. This is true for 2 reasons: One, as busy as you are, it’s easy to say, “We’ll do it next week.” Well, next week never comes and before you know it, you’ve got a breakdown with trucks lined up. Secondly, with supply problems the way they are, filters, lube oil and other necessities may be in short supply. What’s on the shelf today may be tomorrow’s shortage. Have what you need on the shelf for quick and easy maintenance.
Double check your bid process. In quoting jobs, we tend to get into a rut and phone it in. In the past, you were able to absorb some overrun or unforeseen repairs because you were confident on your other job costs. In today’s environment, asphalt, trucking, aggregate, emulsion or other supplies could change at a minute’s notice, leaving you in a bad situation if you overrun the job or encounter any other misunderstanding after the job started. Many contractors I speak with have shortened their quote guarantee window to avoid surprises. Escalation clauses cover some items but not all, so be prepared.
Stay close to the job. A great way to lose control of costs on the job is to be absent. The best crew in the world can go astray and before you know it, job costs go through the roof. Am I saying you must keep your thumb down on the crew you promised autonomy? Of course not, but if you are known to show up on the jobsite unexpectedly, your crew is more likely to be on their toes. Give them ownership but expect an owner’s work ethic. Oh, and by the way, bring lunch with you!
Follow up on the results. That’s just good business. I’m busy, you’re busy, but we aren’t too busy to make sure we did everything we promised and more. Did one of your machines run over an azalea? Plant 2 in it’s place. Prove to the customer that water runs the right way. In other words, make sure there are no issues and the customer is confident that he will call you for his next project or will refer you to anyone in need.
Finally, with the limited supply of new equipment available, your Section 179 purchases won’t be as easy as in the past. Now more than ever you need to start planning immediately for your end of the year purchases so that your dealer has what you want and you don’t end up with equipment that doesn’t suit your needs. Remember also that used equipment qualifies as well. Chances are that you’ve had a profitable year so don’t get caught wondering where the time went.
Busy isn’t the word for what’s going on in the market right now, but as we all know, continued success goes to the contractor that treats his business like a business and postures themselves to sustain that business through all economic environments. What does tomorrow bring? Everyone thinks they know but, we’re just planning based on the information we have right now. Keep your head down and heels up and we’ll all be better business people.
Brian Hall, LeeBoy Territory Manager. He can be reached via email at email@example.com