Part I By Ron Pestone
There are many answers to this question some of which we will discuss in this article but I think the best answer lies in asking another question. A question that in my mind goes right to the heart of the matter and no matter how big your company gets you will do yourself and your company a great favor if you know the answer to the question even before the question is asked. The question, “Can you imagine a coach of a football team, who with the exception of being deathly sick, was not on the field when his team was playing a football game?” The answer as everybody knows is, no and the reason he is there is after all the toil and heart ache he and his team have gone through, he wants to win. Simple, he wants his team to win, same basis reason you need to be on the field when your team is out there.
Not to say there are not a lot of other good reasons why you should be out there but, you’ve got to want to win and to do that you need to be with your team some of your time.
I have known guys who ran large subcontracting companies and were never too busy to hit the field. And when they were out there they were in their zone. They knew the smells, textures and language and most of all like all great coaches out there they knew they were in charge. Nobody had to guess who they were. One look at him with his men told even the simplest minded idiot he was the man. The big enchilada. The heat and guts of the company and he was on his turf with his men checking it all.
Never, never sell this short. It is almost never spoken of and nobody is going to admit it but when the big guy is out there a whole lot of energy is in the air and it’s priceless. Just like when the coach walks on the field. Every team member knows he is there and their adrenalin is up. After all, the last thing anybody wants is be cut from the team.
I have worked with small, middle and huge subcontracting firms and the one thing that always held true is the change in the air when the big guy hit the job and by big guy I mean the owner of the company. Big guy even applies if the owner is three feet tall. So keep it in mind no matter how big your company gets it is really important to make your presence known in the field. It is where the money is made or lost.
Frequency of your visits is also important. If you show up every day your presence loses some of its edge. It’s kind of like eating out every night, after a while it becomes just another meal, nothing special. Even the more exceptional meals will get little more than a grunt and somewhere in the back of your taste buds you will be thinking how nice it would be to stay at home and have a nice home cooked meal.
I think one of the worse things you can do is to show up on the job and spend 15 minutes with your foreman and project manager in the trailer or shanty and split. By this one single act you have insulted every man working for you on the job. In effect you have told all your guys they are not important enough for you to spend any time with. If you ever worked the field you know how that burns. So when you hit the job make sure you walk it from head to toe. If it’s a little muddy put your work boots on and walk it. The mud is not cancer causing and might even be good for your soul.
While many times I have let the foreman and project manager know when I was going to walk their job some of my best walk thru’s have been when I showed up unannounced. No matter what you think, you are the boss and when even the best intentioned guys know you are coming and will probably do a walk thru they prepare their men for it. Kind of like a dog and pony show. Everyone is at their posts with plenty of material, working diligently. If you want a truer picture show up unannounced, get your foreman and project manager on the phone, meet them and walk the job with them. While everything you see might not be text book perfect its how the installation is really going in.
In your walk throughs really look at the installation and while you should not be afraid to comment about something you do not like, praise the good work. As a mechanical and electrical subcontractor I love to look at a good pipe or conduit installation. You know, straight, plumb, hung neatly and everything fitting just right. I am never short on praise when I see it because I know some of it was put in on hot sweating days or days so cold you could not feel your fingers. Whatever your trade you need to let your people know you appreciate professional work. The only thing sweeter is if it’s been installed in record time.
Many times if you hit the job early or late and coffee break comes and you are in the middle of your walk thru and really like what you see buy all your people coffee and buns. And for god’s sake order some for yourself and drink it with your guys. Nothing like breaking a little bread with your guys.
Speaking about breaking bread, depending on when you hit the job if lunch time or quitting time comes around and you like what you see take your foreman and project manager out to lunch or it it’s the end of the day take them out for a few beers. Discuss the installation a little and let them know you are happy with them.
On the other hand if you do not like what you see during your walk thru take your foreman and project manager back to the trailer and let them know you are far from pleased. Ask what the problem and how do they intend to fix it. When the meeting is over leave, no lunch, no beers; everyone gets the message.
End Part I
Don’t Forget: WE BUILD AMERICA