Smart Growth: How to Avoid Biting Off More Than We Can Chew
As a consultant working on a project, it can be easy to fall into the trappings of a large or high-profile project. Getting caught up in helping a contractor move to the next level in his or her career path, while attaching your name to the project, can sometimes be a bigger pitfall than a benefit. Before you know it, the cost of the materials and supplies is more than the bid, you only have two power cords to cover a 9,000 square-foot project, employees loaded the trailer wrong, the supplier didn’t have the proper tools and so on.
These situations can escalate very quickly, compromising the professionalism and trust between customers and their agents, as well as the quality of the project.
Once a customer loses faith in a contractor, it becomes very hard to earn that respect and faith back. In speaking with contractors, most have no problem with good competition, which yields competitive pricing and increased value. However, problems arise when consultants or contractors bite off more than they can chew. The consequences can negatively impact more than your company, but also the industry and your competition.
Smart Growth Means Smart Planning
While some may say that taking on bigger projects is the only way to grow a company, that growth needs to be tempered with good planning. It’s important to take the steps to grow a business and move up in the size of projects that consultants are undertaking, but if there is an obvious struggle to complete simple residential garages and trouble finding qualified labor to do that, how are you going to handle a large casino project with very tight time constraints and high demand for once-and-done application?
Know Your Crew
Before you start considering larger jobs, really get to know the abilities of your crew. If you find that your crew gets overwhelmed with fast-paced projects, bringing them out to projects on tight timelines may not be the best option. It’s common to see contractors struggle to keep crews focused when projects are difficult. Often, they end up not being productive or leave jobs altogether.
Since the industry is closely knit, a lot of contractors bring friends and kids to projects. The key is making sure they know how to work. Including friends and family on a job just to fill a body count can be counterproductive. Well-oiled crews that work together and know each other’s next move are efficient and effective. Another solution to finding a great crew is to consider teaming up with a contractor who may be able to handle a large project. If it's your lead, you will be learning the ins and outs of handling a large project, giving you valuable experience to take on those projects by yourself in the future.
Invest in the Right Equipment
While it may be an expensive prospect, making an investment in the right tools and equipment is extremely important for larger projects. Not investing in equipment out of concern for breakage or theft isn’t a valid excuse.
Mistakes Happen…Plan for Them
Every contractor has had a situation where bids don’t quite work out, or the work needs to be redone. Always try to bid the project so you can make money, but also cover a few unforeseen costs. Knowing that these will come up, and more importantly planning for them, can take a lot of stress off of the consultant or contractor. Instead of writing them off as a loss, consider them as a corporate investment.
Engage with Your Crew
Making a crew feel invested in the project is important. If concerns exist about damage, take the time to show the crew how to service equipment and give them the responsibility of fixing any broken equipment as soon as it breaks. The more time and effort you invest in educating your staff about cleanliness, organization and mindfulness, the greater the chance they will follow your lead. Also, have a formal equipment sign-out and hold crews responsible for bringing the equipment back.
No matter the size of your company, check equipment out with your staff every day and give the tools a thorough once-over to ensure they’re available and in proper working order. Some easy items to add to your crew engagement checklist include:
- Educate them on a pattern of compliance, or they will never know what you mean about keeping equipment running.
- Provide them with access to reps and/or maintenance companies, which can help maintain or repair equipment to create a sense of greater ownership and better stewardship of the tools and resources at their disposal.
- Take time to show them how to organize their tools and to keep them in proper places.
- Manage the equipment with quick visual checks to make sure everything is in its place.
Reputation and Financial Gain Matter Equally
Taking on larger projects is a surefire way to help your company grow both financially and reputation wise. After all, sending potential clients to see a successful large project rather than a homeowner’s house instills greater faith and trust in your skills and experience. But keep in mind, if you’re not prepared, these same projects can be detrimental, negatively impacting the company in the same way.
If you are going to take on a project that is much larger than you have handled in the past, make sure you are ready for the project.