According to a recent poll by the Fails Management Institute, here are the top 10 areas of concern for construction company owners:
1. Getting more work
2. Profit margins
3. Personnel problems
8. Reverse auctions
9. Leadership and training
10. Getting out of business (business succession)
At first glance, it looks like training is near the bottom of the list. The question could be asked,” If the top three concerns of contractors are getting more work, profit margins and personnel problems, what does that have to do with training?” A company with training as one of its core values would probably say that training and education has everything to do the top 10 concerns facing construction contractors.
The company with a training culture takes a proactive, continuous improvement approach to the concerns. The goal is not to resolve the concerns but to run a successful construction business. For example, take the top concern: getting more work. In a company where training is part of the vision, mission and goals, it is likely that the estimator has had formal training and regularly attends seminars to keep current with common practices. In like fashion, the person responsible for marketing is likely to update his or her skills regularly. In some companies, cross training between these two functions makes a lot of sense.
Looking at the second biggest concern, profit margins, a company can finish each project on time and under budget but can still have problems making money on the project. Profits are a function of your company’s cost accounting, estimating, cost containment and productivity. The person responsible for the financial health of your company should definitely stay on top of the latest trends. Without training, a person can do the right things without doing things right.
It does not stop there. Everyone in the office should strive to continually upgrade his or her skills. The goal in a tight market is to have people in positions who can take advantage of every opportunity. Even a little difference can make all the difference when it comes to being competitive, which by the way is the fourth concern, right after personnel problems.
Opportunities to improve
Speaking of personnel, once again training becomes an issue. Giving each employee the opportunity to improve his or her skills and knowledge through training is a very proactive approach to dealing with your work force. If your supervisors and work force are well trained, your company should be able to expand the type and scope of projects your company can successfully complete.
For some companies, a changing market has become a very real phenomenon. What might have been their core market for decades has changed very quickly. Companies with a well-trained flexible work force can adapt and even thrive in the face of a changing market.
Training makes the difference, but what kind of training will make the biggest difference? Every successful company has to ask that question. And more important, every successful company has to find answers to that question. If training is part of the company’s core values, the idea of training just for training sake is a waste of resources.
Training has to be planned, and it needs to be part of an overall company strategy. You can have the best-trained work force in the world, ready and willing to take on the most difficult projects, but if your estimator or marketing staff functions at a low level, the whole company will experience problems. The reverse is true. The best estimator in the world cannot compensate for a work force that is poorly trained. Training has to be companywide to be effective.
Every company faces competitive challenges on a fairly regular basis. The approach a company takes to meet those challenges is what defines it as an organization. For the company with a training culture firmly in place, each of the concerns listed above can be addressed with long-term solutions. There is no magical quick fix. Your Associated Builders and Contractors chapter can be a true training partner every step of the way in developing long-term training solutions. ABC can provide the vision to help you look beyond the top 10 concerns of contractors. ABC can work with you to develop the long-term strategies to take your company into the future.
Wayne Belanger is the director of education for the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin.