The Field General – 2004
Welcome back to another week of moodyspeaks. We are now 9 weekly posts from celebrating 25 years of business. By the year 2004, I had worked in the construction industry for 23 years and owning a business for 16 years. I had finally accepted and adjusted to being a company President and no longer staying engaged to the day-to-day operations. I had turned over the estimating to the head of estimating, accounting to the controller, and field operations to the operations manager. My job was to get out of the way and keep everyone working as a team. I actually enjoyed turning things over to other people. I was learning that people have to have the required skills to lead other people. I am not talking in a negative way about anyone, just that leadership requires special skills and a person must have the desire to sharpen those skills to be an effective leader. By now I understood the importance of training at every level of business, and how little people are actually trained at many companies. I had become aware that many people aren’t given the opportunity to lead at other companies or exposed to leadership opportunities. I also at times fell short getting people properly trained for leadership before assigning them to leadership positions. I learned I was equally responsible for making sure a person was ready for a leadership position before assigning them to one. It is important to have an open mind as a leader and get feedback from others, so you can be aware of your blind spots that might negatively effect your leadership skills. Some key traits of leadership to me are patience, a desire to teach, laugh at yourself in front of others, being a servant to the people you lead, courage, character, integrity, honesty, good communication skills, a desire to touch the people’s heart, so they will know you truly care about their success and well-being. I don’t care if you lead 1 or 1,000 people these traits are important to successful leadership. There are many other traits that are important in leadership. Leadership isn’t just a title or position you hold, but the positive influence you bring to the group.
Last week I talked about getting the different departments working together and the importance of estimating and accounting to a construction company. This week I want to talk about the team and people that makes or break every project. That is the project management team, which includes the superintendent. This week I will focus on the superintendent. I call them the field general of the project. You can have the best estimating department, best accounting department, and best project manager for a project, but if you have a weak superintendent, the project will be a disaster and you will lose money, and pretty soon be out of business.
Many people never think about what it takes to build a building and who is the one person responsibility for everything in the field. That person is the field superintendent, the field general as I call them. In a general construction company the superintendent is responsible for the schedule, quality, safety, staying in budget, solving problems in the field, and keeping everyone motivated and coordinating all of the trades. Just imagine a building of any size and being responsible for creating the schedule to meet the owner’s needs, figuring out how the project will be built, logistic for managing the site, if a crane will be used, where you will place the crane to reach all parts of the project, the phasing of construction and the list goes on of responsibility for the superintendent. A few areas that always concern me are laying a building out correctly and in the proper location, getting the structure up with no injuries and no roof leaks at completion. The superintendent has to be responsible for all quality for every trade. The superintendent has to help coordinate when something doesn’t fit as drawn on the contract documents, example; the HVAC ductwork and fire sprinkler pipes can’t fit in the ceiling space as designed. The superintendent often has to give the architect or engineer the solution to the problem we encounter in the field. The superintendent must update the schedule weekly and figure out how to make up time, when the weather doesn’t cooperate, or something is late being delivered or some other unforeseen condition interferes with the project schedule. The superintendent is responsible for the safety and well-being of every person on the project site. The superintendent must daily look at the site for safety, know the safety rules, hold weekly safety meetings and set the proper example about safety on the project. Today the superintendent has to know how to use a computer and construction software for the project. They must lead the weekly subcontractor project meetings and lead all of the trades daily in executing the work. The superintendent and the project manager must work hand in hand and know how each other thinks and what each other needs without it being said by either person. (Next week I will talk about the project manager in construction and their team). It is for all of these reasons I stated above, I feel the superintendent is the last key piece of the team for the profitable success of a construction company. As I said earlier you can have the best estimator, greatest accountant and the greatest project manager, but if you have a weak superintendent to lead the field, you will lose and lose big. A superintendent has to have nerves of steel, plenty of courage, integrity, honesty and never cut corners. (I have attached a video of a current project to see what it takes to be a superintendent).
In 2004, the business is really starting to mature, I am getting better at my duties and we are winning some very nice projects. We won some new church projects, more design build work, renovation work and two landmark type projects. We won the new coca-cola museum and the Maynard Jackson international terminal. The museum and terminal projects are joint venture projects. I will talk more about these projects in the coming weeks.
Karla and I were getting ready to become the happy empty nesters next year and life is going great in 2004. As I reflect back while writing this blog, I realize how fast time goes by, the many ups and downs we all face in life. I now truly understand the saying; it is not how many times you fall, but how many times you get back up. By 2004 and 16 years in business, I had thought about quitting a few times, taking a partner, questioning can I build a company, getting through panic attacks and raising a family. It is these types of reflections for me, which confirms there is a God that loves me and we are all stronger and have more courage than we give ourselves credit.
I never ever dreamed I would have the company I have come to love and enjoy, or have the people in the company that gives me so much joy everyday. I always thought I would be this small little company that no one knew existed. Even with the things I have been through in my life, I live a great life. Keep going for your dreams and helping others and expect nothing in return.
In 2004, I was selected by Fortune Small Business magazine as one of the Best Bosses of the year. I was honored at an event in Chicago and I will always be thankful that my fellow team mates thought I was worthy of being selected as one the best bosses in the country.
Sidebar funny story: In 2004 I made donation to Howard University School of architecture and they named the design studio after me, not the building, just the design studio. I had to smile, because I was not a very good designer, but now the design studio is named after me, how that’s for a comeback.
Enjoy the pictures in the slide show and the YouTube video. See you next week (sorry for any typos or grammaritcal errors, I am trying to do my blog completely on my own, that is what makes it fun for me)