by George Hedley
As a business owner, I need to get a huge return on my time. Every year, our company does $40 to 75 million in commercial construction and development. We also manage over 500,000 square feet of leased buildings. I don't have time to sweat the small stuff. But, I have great people who do!
When I started my construction company in 1977, I took care of everything: hiring, purchasing, awarding subcontracts, marketing, sales, proposals, bids, estimating, supervising projects, project management, job meetings, paying the bills, invoicing customers, depositing checks, etc. You name it, if it had to be done, I did it! Often until the wee hours of the night.
Can't find any good help?
As my business grew, I had to get some help. So I hired family and friends. Not the best idea in retrospect! It's hard to build a professional company with inexperienced people who don't respect you like a boss. Over the next seven years we grew to 150 employees. Wow, what a workout! I had to learn how to manage people or die trying. In one 2 year period, I hired and fired 14 secretaries, 3 vice presidents, 5 project managers and 9 superintendents. I couldn't find anyone who could do the work exactly the way I wanted it done. No one seemed to care, be accountable or accept any responsibility except me.
Our company became a revolving door. Hire people, put them on the job and then watch them leave after less than a year. Not a good thing for our bottom-line profit! We had lots of exciting work with great clients, but our company didn't retain people. My job description changed from contractor to personnel complaint department. Not what I enjoyed doing.
I continued to try and find answers to our company's people problem. I looked everywhere for the magic fix. I tried new management ideas, went to time management seminars, read business books and attended company retreats. Nothing worked. As a last resort I decided to try a new approach. Let go of all daily management decisions. Delegate everything except leadership, vision and values.
Look in the mirror!
I finally realized that the only factor that was holding our company back was me! I was the problem. I was trying to control everything and everybody. This was holding back our people from accepting responsibility and being accountable. When I made every decision for them, they didn't take responsibility. When I fixed their problems, they weren't accountable. When I controlled and lead every meeting, they didn't grow. When I approved every purchase, contract and strategy, they people didn't have to think or be their best.
Don't control, let go!
I learned that high control equals low performance. And low control equals high performance. 99% accountable and responsible equals 0% accountability and responsibility. You can't be partially responsible! When you solve other people's problems, they bring you more problems to solve. Are you wearing a sign around my neck that says "Bring me your problems"? This makes you feel large and in-charge while you slide backwards.
If in doubt, delegate!
When a project owner calls you about a field problem, do you immediately handle it yourself and get right back to him? You should listen and then turn your customer over to the project manager or superintendent to take care of the situation. When it's time to award a major subcontract do you get right in the middle of the negotiations? Instead, ask the project manager to review all the bids, analyze the scope of work and then award the subcontract to the lowest responsible qualified bidder without your input. When a supervisor asks you call a subcontractor who isn't performing on a jobsite, do you get involved right away? Train your field supervisors to update their schedules, plan ahead, hold weekly field meetings, communicate, put things in writing and manage their projects professionally.
Here are some specific delegation strategies you can use to "let go" of the small stuff.
- Weekly management meetings
- Pre-job start-up checklists
- Subcontract scope of work checklists
- Contract administration checklists
- Two week look-ahead schedules completed weekly
- Weekly field coordination meetings with all subcontractors
- Increase maximum spending limit to $5,000 per employee
- Weekly project meetings with the customer
- Project managers award subcontracts and material purchases
- Superintendents prepare project schedules
- Office manager purchase all office equipment
- Accounting manager purchase all computers
- Construction administrators handle shop drawings
- Estimator prepare and sign all bids
Lead to grow!
Performance is the number one indicator of leadership. No performance, no leadership. If you control the work, hold your people back, and tell them what to do, you will hurt your company's growth and bottom-line profit.
My leadership role is to inspire others to be the best they can be. My job is to lead, not do. I don't even sign the checks. When I worry about all the little details, I waste a valuable resource - me. When you do $10 per hour work, you are not even earning $10 per hour.
What is your time worth?
My company needs to bring in $2,000,000 annually to cover our overhead and projected profit. As the owner I only have 2,000 hours to make that happen. Therefore, I must earn at least $1,000 per hour for our company on important things like customer relations, leading our people, training, financial matters and looking for new business opportunities.
Effective business owners and managers invest their time as follows:
25% Leading your Company
25% Spending Time with Customers
25% Training your People
25% Doing your Work
Less is more!
The results are incredible: more profit while doing less, more loyal customers, and employees who love to work for our company. Over the last ten years our employee retention rate exceeds 95%. We have built a great place to work where people can grow, take responsibility and be accountable to meet our company goals.
George Hedley owns a $75 million construction and development company and
Hardhat Presentations. He speaks to companies on building profitable businesses,
leadership, and loyal customers. He holds 3-day in-depth "Profit-Builder
Circles" open to construction company owners in an interactive roundtable
format every 3 months. His "Profit-Builder System" includes proven
tools to always make a profit, build equity, create wealth, win profitable
jobs, motivate your people, and enjoy the benefits of owning a profitable company.