By Brian Hall
No matter what your role in any organization, something concerns you. Lute men worry about having quality tools, roller men worry about compaction and rolling patterns, truck drivers worry about pulling away from the paver with a full load of asphalt, operators worry about mat quality and owners worry about all this and everything else. But when all is said and done, what really keeps you awake at night? I took the time to speak to a few contractors recently and asked them “Even though business is good and you have a nice backlog, what is your main concern?” Some answers surprised me and some didn’t.
The Weather. This was overwhelmingly the most common answer. So much so that we could break it down into subsets of good, bad, hot, cold, etc. But let’s start with the obvious. You have a big job that you worked hard to win the business and because of your great track record of quality work on time, you were awarded the job. Now with the project looming and the customer anxious, you hit your favorite weather app to discover rain in the forecast. Not 100% chance of downpours, but a 50% chance every day for a week. At least with a 100% chance it’s an easy decision, but who knows if you’ll be wet or dry. Chance it or not? I wish there was an easy answer. Send everyone home and it doesn’t rain – you’re the bad guy. Chance it and pave and get caught in a monsoon – you’re the owner of a couple hundred tons of asphalt you can’t use. The best advice here is to order your asphalt in waves, usually about half of what your total daily goal will be. That way, as lunch approaches you’ll have a better idea of how the rest of the day will go. Communication with the asphalt plant is always the key.
The Competition. From the beginning of time, man has been in a competition of some kind. The strong survive, right? While this is generally true, I’ll submit that the smartest strong company survives. For example, you do everything right; work hard, play fair but you still can’t seem to climb the hill as fast as the guy across town. It’s probably time to take stock and figure out what you are doing different. Not wrong, just different. Are you attracting and keeping the best employees in town? Are you enjoying as much uptime with your machines? Are your estimators doing a good job in bidding the jobs so that you are profitable? Take stock and invest in those things that make money for you and focus on those things. We could spend days discussing the “best practices” but the answer may lie in just a few new habits. Habits such as networking at events that focus on your industry. Talk to like-minded people and remember that they are your competition, not your enemy. Also, invest in your work force. Taking them to industry events shows your interest in them seeing new things and enrolling them in the education seminars will pay dividends that cannot be measured. Making sure your hard workers stay on your team is invaluable.
The Machine. When you look at your machines, does the phrase “Rode hard and put up wet” come to mind. If so, maybe your worries are well founded. If this applies to you, don’t fret. This might be the easiest to remedy because you have so many partners ready to help. No, I’m not just talking about the equipment dealer, although they are your best source for equipment knowledge, I’m talking about your crew. Your workers must understand that when something goes sideways on a job, most times it can be remedied on site with little worry. Anything that cannot be fixed quickly must be reported to the foreman so that it doesn’t result in downtime. Those rainy days can be used to do preventative maintenance such as fluid changes or machine cleaning. Your crew will gladly give you the extra effort to ensure their machines won’t let them down where they might have to be sent home prematurely.
So, what keeps you up at night? Hopefully the issues you have are a result of a good economy and can be solved by just slowing down for a minute and reassessing what is important in your company.
Brian Hall, LeeBoy Territory Manager. He can be reached via email at Brian.Hall@Leeboy.com