Managing Growth in the Construction Industry
“Deconstructing” its business, hiring the talent it needs, and leveraging technology will allow a company to manage growth in a challenging market.
Nevertheless, while the economy is expanding in numerous regions and across industries, there is still a great deal of uncertainty for continued growth and how to manage that growth in light of this uncertainty. Today’s business climate is positive, yet there are many challenges associated with growth.
One challenge is talent. During the recent recession, a number of professionals and tradesman in the industry moved markets or left the industry altogether and retrained for other careers. Therefore, there is a reduced supply of highly skilled talent, and the cost of that talent is increasing as the market improves. So how do you manage a growing company in a growing market with a limited supply of talent? Here’s how to face the challenge.
Deconstruct your business
First, deconstruct your business into consistent tasks and codify. Determine the essential, consistent tasks of running a successful business and how they fit together. Once tasks are defined, set up systems and procedures to ensure the completion of each task. Define what you need and the staff needed to accomplish it.
Ultimately, deconstructing your business involves being able to track down those necessary tasks from beginning to end. Identify what you need to know, set up processes, assign responsibility, and decide upon which technology best supports the tracking of the tasks through completion.
As your company encounters obstacles and develops solutions, document best practices and standardize your processes and procedures for those scenarios or similar scenarios. Proven processes and procedures allow you to be more structured, effective, and productive, which ultimately saves you resources and money.
In addition, planning, scheduling, and forecasting are paramount to managing growth. The best opportunity for success is to develop a clear and efficient path to each project’s goal. Creating and effectively conveying a plan and schedule are fundamental to the success of your business. Schedules are used to track progress, expedite decisions, and remove obstacles so that collective goals are kept clearly in sight and not jeopardized. When changes arise, proactively and expeditiously address them, and use the schedule to either develop a recovery plan or convey the impact those changes may have on the goals of the company.
Business is constantly evolving, so be prepared to be constantly evolving and constantly looking at what you are doing. Flexibility is another important aspect for managing growth. At the same time, you need to know how procedurally you are going to handle situations — so it is a balancing act.
Focus on what you have done over the years and what you do well. Know your business and find the most effective way to gather, enter, and extract information on your business. Determine the key metrics in all phases of your business and develop processes to consolidate them. Who is going to see the metrics, and what are they going to do with them comes into play as well. The data can assist you in evaluating not only current programs and outcomes, but also future purchases, hires, areas for improvement, trends, and so much more. Tasks and metrics are different for each company — some have more and some have less, but all companies have them.
Above all, the data has to mean something. Determine what you want to get out of the data and how often you are going to review it.
Hire the talent you need and establish a culture of teamwork
Once you have deconstructed your business, narrow down the tasks so that they are manageable for each responsible party according to his/her skills. You need managers and those who can perform the day-to-day tasks. Only assign team members those tasks they can effectively handle at any given time. Your company is only as strong as your weakest link — so assign individuals who can consistently perform tasks such as gathering and entering data in a timely manner. Empower your employees to make decisions for their specific areas, and cross-train them in order to provide the opportunity for advancement within the company.
Those who succeed in companies like ours have drive, talent, and the ability to find creative solutions. We like to say these individuals also have “patient ambition.” They can see the clear path for advancement, but understand they may need to be patient in their ascent. They also “get it” that the surest and quickest path to advancement is to use their creativity to advance and grow the whole company. In years past, new hires often displayed “impatient ambition,” but this trend appears to be changing.
To ramp up new hires, foster a team environment with regular meetings, correspondence, and feedback. Strive to bring out the best in your employees, and reward them fairly based on performance. Recognize each employee’s strengths and provide mentoring and training opportunities, as well as supporting education for continuous improvement. Formalize a training process and encourage the involvement of your senior management.
When you have the right people on board, drive the company through effective communication. Conduct regular meetings and correspondence. Communication is crucial because each individual should be treated as a valued and respected member of the team. Your workforce will quickly become an experienced, reliable, and professional team with the right guidance and inspiration.
We’ve all heard it before — leverage technology — and it’s true! Technology is brilliant, but we must feed the system with the right data; otherwise, garbage in, garbage out.
During the deconstruction process, management determines what processes, procedures, and tasks are necessary for success and then moves on to finding the technology to fit the company’s needs. Technological systems can sort, sift, and consolidate data generated and push out summaries and all levels of detail to management. Systems should have drill-down capabilities to provide real-time details when you need or want them.
Off-the-shelf programs frequently don’t fit a company’s needs. While many appear to have just about every bell and whistle out there and can coordinate the construction of the space shuttle, others are too simplistic and can’t track the tasks and metrics determined in the deconstruction process. A mix of customized off-the-shelf software and self-generated programs often works best to ensure seamlessness. Don’t chase the latest and greatest to say you have it — it has to advance your capabilities.
Utilizing computerized estimating, accounting, scheduling, and productivity systems optimized to your needs can consistently deliver projects on time and within budget. It will allow you to track all aspects of your business through technology, allowing you to efficiently and effectively manage company projects and make real-time adjustments.
Properly applied technology can assist in bridging the gap between training and experience. With new systems and equipment — some of which are like playing a video game — the construction industry can attract additional talent and decrease training time.
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