What barometers can you reliably utilize to avoid potential challenges often faced by concrete construction companies? Of course, no contractor wants to think that she has a bleak future ahead of her; that would make it exceedingly hard to get out of bed in the morning! But it is a fact that, from time to time, contractors find themselves with their backs against a wall and uncertain of the best next step.
Here are seven signs that your concrete contracting company may be blundering down an unproductive path:
1. Turnover trends
There is both good and bad turnover. For example, let's say you've got an employee who is a poor cultural fit, not productive in his job, or causes drama in your organization. If that person leaves, that's not a bad thing. Their decision helped you avoid the conflict that can come when having to terminate an employee.
However, losing good, high-quality people—the ones who add vitality to your organization—is a terrible sign. There are likely always going to be construction employees who leave for a few dollars more, but if you find yourself regularly losing high-quality contributors, it can indicate larger, company-wide troubles. If your ambitious, high-potential employees observe that you're failing to complete the long-term planning needed to develop a solid future for the company, they're apt to join a company at which they can see better futures for themselves.
2. Conflicting future visions
Leaders in an organization must share the same North Star. Let's say you and I run a $50 million heavy civil construction company. My aspiration is to grow exponentially year over year, and your aspiration is to grow bit by bit—maybe 5% to 10% per year. We won't be able to reconcile the difference in those goals. We can't average it out; you're not happy because I'm pulling you faster than you'd prefer, and I'm unhappy because I feel as if you're holding me back. Having a compelling, common vision sounds nebulous, but sharing one is an absolute must.
3. Unhealthy communication
Whether with internal teams or external clients, unhealthy communication leads to conflict over time, and no contractor wants that. Conflict means that people are digging in and repeatedly butting heads with each other. In most construction companies, the inclination is to bury conflict.
Don't do it. Go ahead and do the things you need to address the source of a conflict, and figure out if similar conflicts can be avoided entirely by planning ahead.
4. Dwelling on the past
If you regularly notice your employees talking about the "good ol' days" or constantly reminiscing rather than looking ahead, it's time to pause and consider why that is. Of course, it's nice to occasionally reflect on the successes you've enjoyed, but wouldn't it be better to hear your team animatedly discussing the company's future? You want them to say, "How are we going to tackle this challenging project? How can we get ahead of schedule? We're really excited about opening the new office!"
5. Aging demographics
Take a hard look at your organization; if you observe that the majority of your productive employees are nearing retirement age, your company may soon be in for a giant brain drain. Demographics speak for themselves.
In fact, social scientists and philosophers have a saying that demographics are destiny. It's true in your construction company, too. Surely you need experienced, seasoned professionals, but you also need young, hungry and ambitious people who seek to drive innovation, are comfortable with ever-changing technology and are good candidates for future leadership roles. Make sure you have a healthy mix of younger leaders and solid, mature professionals.
6. Constant firefighting
The typical contractor walks into the office on Monday with a list of important priorities for the week. He usually leaves on Friday with the list largely untouched because so much of his valuable time was consumed fighting fires. If you count yourself among this group, it's time to look at several things. Do you have the right people? Do you have the right processes? Do you have the right technology? If you're constantly spending time fighting fires, the answer to at least one (if not all three) of those questions is "no."
7. No long-term strategy
The best contractors put into place strategic plans, supporting budgets, marketing plans and talent-acquisition goals. Your written plan is the document anyone on your team can see, touch, experience and understand. It defines your mission, vision and values. It details where the company is going and how you'll get there. It includes forward-looking financials, new technologies to invest in, details of your capital plans and more. It's an essential document for sustainable success at any contracting company.