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Bennett Ghormley, Director HASC Board of Directors

My once a year shopping experience at the mall was not an enjoyable one. It seemed like I was the only one who did not know where to go. Maybe for guys like me, it’s good that the holiday season comes around only once a year. My first action was to find the directory and after being shoved around a bit I spotted it…and it read “You are here”. Relief did not come instantaneously. I’ve never been lost in the woods, and seldom in an unfamiliar place. But here, in my own hometown, even knowing what the directory declared, the truth be known, I was lost. The situation reminded me of a place our company ended up years ago: In safety, we were worse than the industry average, our execution was poor and we had no plan to do better. And customers were coming down on us.

You, too, are here

This may strike you the wrong way and may not be what you want to hear, but your company is ‘here’ also. All companies have been at a place that was undesirable, uncomfortable or possibly non-compliant. As a contractor, many eyes are upon you…and not just in Texas. Your customers are looking. If you provide services for owners, you are under their magnifying glass.

Everybody is watching. Can you remember when contractor X was dismissed from a project for inability to perform the work? Do you remember contractor Y being ousted from the job for not meeting quality expectations? How about contractor Z losing its contract for having safety issues? Well, it happened yesterday and will happen tomorrow. Problem is, contractors have not been able to overcome issues that plague them.

Main issue: Satisfy the customer

Equipment and materials. Can we blame equipment and materials for our issues? No we can’t. Equipment and materials are inanimate objects and must be controlled by humans. So if it breaks, it is an issue of line management or the manufacturer. Equipment and materials are supposed to be purchased or rented and is to be inspected daily and maintained in a workable and safe condition. So if a forklift malfunctions, do we blame the manufacturer, the project manager or the operator? In reality, it could be all of the above. Each person in the line of execution has some responsibility and is accountable in some way.

The workforce. Can we blame hourly workers for our workplace problems? No we can’t. Labor is a subset of management. Every company needs qualified workers and if a firm chooses to develop its own workforce, workers can choose to stay or join another organization. So, if the contractor workforce is not trained it is a situation for management to deal with. The old saying goes like this: “Train the workers and they leave you or don’t train them and they stay”. A firm can do more than train. They can lead, they can treat workers well and thus will maintain a percentage of them.

Management. Can we blame all issues on management? No, probably not all things, but maybe a high percentage. As in the military, leadership responsibility and accountability starts at the top. I was taught years ago to pass problems up to management and pass solutions down to the workers. For those who choose to supervise or manage others, accountability is key.

Safety. Can we blame all injuries on workers? No, all injury is not the fault of workers. Prevention lies in elimination of at-risk behavior on the part of leaders and workers. Leaders make errors in judgement, planning and leading execution of the work. Worker injury may be from following poor planning and supervisors who may be untrained and unfocused on the work.
These are but a few of the problems in construction. All in all, it gets done.

Where are you?

We need to know where we stand with workforce and company issues. Knowing about these can bring opportunities to improve.

Our job as leaders, is to know the issues, our responsibilities and be accountable in fulfilling our roles. It is up to us, in leading construction, to know our corporate situation so that we can put the pieces of the puzzle together. We must combine workers and leaders, quality, safety, materials and planning in facing all that we encounter and still get the job done. Don’t forget ‘You are here’ and we’re in this together.

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