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Six Fundamentals for Long-Term Contractor Success

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Whether you're hitting a golf ball or running a construction business, the fundamentals don't change.

There must be a hundred attributes that contribute over time to a construction company’s success, but there are only a handful of fundamentals. To use a sports analogy, think of golf or baseball swings or the service motion in tennis. There are a few checkpoints along the way that all the great players hit, and they define the fundamentals. In tennis, when you serve, it doesn't matter how you address the ball, how you place your feet, or whether you use the platform or step deliveries. What matters is that you hit a few key checkpoints, and every great server from McEnroe to Sampras to Roddick hits those marks every time. They’re fundamental, and they’re crucial. If you're not addressing the fundamentals, you’re not going to be successful in sports or in the construction business.

Here are the fundamental success activities for a construction business:

  1. Successful contractors are NEVER complacent, and they’re always hungry to learn and improve. They always want to be better. We’re not saying that if you have a $50 million company that you must transform it into a $200 million company; bigger isn't always better. What we’re emphasizing is that successful contractors are relentless when it comes to improvement. Maybe they feel employee morale could be better, customer satisfaction could be higher, margins could rise, or quality could improve. They’re always trying to move the needle. Complacency is a construction business killer!
  2. Successful contractors understand they are in the people business. It's not about moving dirt, bending conduit, or pouring concrete. Construction success ultimately comes down to people. Genuinely successful contractors focus on their people, shower love and attention on them, and create great work environments.
  3. Successful contractors empower their people. They push decisions down to the lowest level in the organization where they can effectively be made. Part and parcel with that, they hold their people accountable. Accountability is a frustration for many contractors, but it must be a part of the success equation. When you have people who aren't getting it done, you must remediate that situation.
  4. Successful contractors communicate constantly. They focus on mission, vision, values, and culture. They talk about how the company is doing, where it is headed, new improvement initiatives, and provide a steady drumbeat of information. Part of constant communication is your meeting rhythm, and perhaps it’s time to reevaluate that rhythm now that we live in this hybrid world of remote and in-person work.
  5. Successful contractors make sure that everybody in the organization knows how they fit and how they contribute to the plan. Everyone in the organization understands the strategic plan, knows the mileposts, knows the success metrics, and can drill the 30,000-foot strategy down to activities and success metrics for their own position.
  6. Successful contractors have clearly defined plans. You're probably sick and tired of us emphasizing this in our column, but we cannot overstate the importance of having a company strategic plan. The most successful contractors have well-thought-out plans, they update and tweak them as necessary, and they communicate the plan up, down, and across their organizations so everybody knows precisely where and how they fit in.

The fundamentals are timeless. If you examine Joe DiMaggio's swing, it probably doesn't look too much different from Mike Trout’s. Bobby Jones' golf swing probably looked very much the same as that of Tiger Woods. The fundamentals in business are the same too. Whether you're running a construction business in the 1990s or the 2020s, the fundamentals don't change. It's all about having a plan and direction, being hungry, focusing on your people, communicating with them, and empowering them. These are the fundamentals every successful construction company employs.

Wayne Rivers is the president of The Family Business Institute, Inc.  FBI’s mission is to build better contractors!  Wayne can be reached at 877-326-2493, [email protected], or on the web at www.familybusinessinstitute.com

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