Make difficult decisions now for higher profits later

To win more games than their opponents, NFL football coaches must have specifically defined positions and hire the most talented players available for each position. If players don’t perform well or follow the plays, coaches have no choice but to replace them with better players. The same is true in the construction business. As head coach, the owner has to strive to fill each position with the best players available who have the required experience, talent, attitude and ability to win. If players don’t have the required talent, won’t follow the plays or can’t achieve expected results, they must be trained or replaced.

Don’t Hire Cheap

A common problem occurs when business owners attempt to control every decision throughout their operation. When these managers hire people and don’t let them do their jobs and be held accountable, the company simply cannot grow. Good employees will eventually leave and find a better place to work.

Business owners eventually decide to get some help and hire experienced managers with strong resumes. Unfortunately, deciding and doing are two different actions. To add to their frustration, they hire inexperienced, low-priced people for key positions. When this doesn’t work out, they hire an assistant, untrained field supervisor or junior project manager with little experience in the position they need to fill. Even worse, rather than taking enough time required to find the right person, they hire a relative or friend who won’t be able to do the required work effectively. Quality is key.

The top reason for making wrong hiring decisions is the fear of making a mistake or spending too much money. Managers make an easier decision and hire the wrong person—a weaker, less expensive, junior trainee—and hope it works out. Then, managers are forced to spend all their time keeping the wrong person busy, answering questions and showing them how to do simple tasks.

Don’t Just Fill Positions

Many business owners have difficulty managing people because they think they are the only person capable of handling every task required to keep their company going. Owners continue to multitask and constantly perform roles they should not. When I was building my business, I thought I was a good manager. In reality, like most entrepreneurs, I was a poor manager, and had a tough time making employees accountable and responsible. One of my biggest mistakes was not hiring an experienced construction operations manager sooner, which would have let me stick to what I’m good at doing: leadership, estimating, marketing and sales.

By deciding what you do best, you can find the right person to take over the roles you shouldn’t be handling. Define the position and job description for the right candidate to take over the responsibilities you are ready to fully delegate to him/her.

Hire the Right Players, 
Fill the Right Positions

Often, people are assigned to positions, but will not or cannot do everything required to grow business and increase profits. Rather than move or replace them, weak business owners continue to hope that these underperforming players will improve as the owner covers for their weaknesses. Struggling business owners continue to make excuses like saying “they’re a great foreman who can get things built properly, but won’t do the required paperwork.” Or the project manager is “great at negotiating subcontracts but can’t deal with customers.” Or the carpenter “has great carpentry skills, but can’t work well with other teammates on the crew.” Or the equipment operator “knows how to move dirt, but can’t work with certain superintendents.”

You have to make tough decisions and do what’s right for your company. If you have a foreman who won’t learn to operate a tablet computer for daily job reports, payroll tracking and communications, he has to either learn the required responsibilities of his position, find a different position with lower pay or find another place to work. Your job as head coach is to offer training and a reasonable timeframe to require your employees to step up or step out. To fill each position with the right people, look for players who will be fully accountable to accomplish the tasks required and achieve the expected results.

Assess the Need

Smaller companies often need to hire a responsible combination of office manager and construction administrator, a part-time bookkeeper and a full-charge field foreman or supervisor first. As growth continues, more administrative help is needed. When deciding who to hire and what position to fill first, decide which new player will help you accomplish your company’s top priorities. Remember, when you do $20/hour work, you are not getting a high return on your time and your company cannot grow.

Make Tough Decisions

Whether you own a large or small company, you must identify every position required to manage your company effectively and select the right players required to continue to build a growing and profitable business. If you think you can’t afford it right now, keep in mind that postponing hiring of the right people will keep your company stuck at the same place forever.

Do whatever it takes! Look at the options you have to save money within your company. Sell your car, truck or backhoe, lease a used one, then take the money and hire real professionals to fill positions that will help your company succeed.

To submit a question for George Hedley, email Associate Editor Elizabeth Manning at