Work Less and Do More

Many construction owners and managers complain about working too many hours. While speaking at two construction industry conventions, I surveyed the attendees about their work life habits. How do you compare?

Typical work week:

  • 15 percent work 40 hours or less per week
  • 52 percent work up to 60 hours per week
  • 33 percent work over 60 hours per week

The average Fortune 500 company executive works between 50 and 60 hours per week. Unfortunately the 40 hour work week isn’t the norm in business today. Construction executives appear to work about the same amount of time as their peers in the corporate world. But, construction company owners and managers come from a culture of 40 hours pay for 40 hours work plus overtime. As they move into management, many expect to be paid more for putting in their 40 hours while working less than peers in other industries.

Do you take work home with you?

When I was building my construction business, I usually arrived at the office or jobsite at 6:00 a.m. and didn’t get home until around 6:00 p.m. I would take work home every night - such as plans to review, projects to bid, invoices for approval or subcontracts to prepare. On weekends, I often worked between four to eight hours as well. The time pressures of starting and growing a business never seemed to end.

Average take home work per week

  • 40 percent never take work home
  • 30 percent take home 10 hours of work
  • 30 percent take home 15 hours of work

I became used to doing certain tasks at home like take-offs and estimating. When work hit my desk at the office, I put it into three piles: “Do It Now”, “Do It Later” and “Take This Home”. I wasted time doing the less important things and took home the important things. At home it was easier to close the door and dig into my work uninterrupted. But, I was often tired and not as efficient late at night.

I finally realized important things should be done at the office during normal working hours. To make that happen, I had to rearrange my daily priorities and get focused. My top priority was keeping the pipeline full of new work. To stay on task, I learned to shut my door and not take calls if I was working on a bid. To accomplish this, I had to delegate and trust others with the less important tasks and decisions. This reduced my take-home work to almost never.

Several years later I rearranged my schedule again to be even more efficient. This now allows me to work less than 40 hours a week if I choose to. My early mornings are spent at my home office from 6:00 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. working on “important” tasks. I then go into the office around 10:00 a.m. ready to meet with my staff and handle everyday requirements and tasks required to run a busy construction and development business. This schedule works, and I usually can go home around 4:00 p.m. without taking more work home.

Time off for good behavior

I always dreamed of taking lots of vacation as reward for being a business owner. This seemed impossible while building my business. My mistake was not trusting my people to make good decisions. I realized I wasn’t really as important or as smart as I thought I was. I had great people, but I made them rely on me to make all the big decisions. Finally, I tried an experiment and took a one week vacation without calling the office. Upon returning I discovered my managers had actually done a better job than I would have if I had stayed home! With my eyes opened, I realized my management style was the real problem. I had to learn to delegate and let go of as much as possible.

The survey of construction company owners and managers shows that only 30 percent take less than two weeks off a year. They must think they are too important to leave. Seventy percent realize time off is good for their businesses and personal lives. How do you compare?

Vacation days per year

  • 15 percent take 0 to 5 days
  • 15 percent take 6 to 10 days
  • 35 percent take 11 to 15 days
  • 25 percent take 16 to 20 days
  • 10 percent take over 20 days

I have been in business over 30 years and now realize the value of time off. When I work too much, I make mistakes, tend to micro-manage, make less money and miss great opportunities. Now, when I head home for the weekend or off on a vacation, I have two purposes in mind. First, spend time on family, faith, friends, fitness or fun. Second, work on improving my business by reading business books or magazines on topics I need to work on. When I come back to the office, my mind has been focused on solving problems or seeking opportunities, I am filled with new ideas and refreshed and excited about the future. How do you compare?

George Hedley is a professional business coach, popular speaker and best-selling author of “Get Your Business to Work!” and “The Business Success Blueprint For Contractors” available at his online bookstore. He works with contractors to build profitable growing companies. E-mail: GH@HardhatPresentations.com to request FREE admission to his next webinar, signup for his e-newsletter, be part of a group BIZCOACH program, join a peer mastermind BIZGROUP, take a class at Hardhat BIZSCHOOL online university, or hire George to speak. Visit www.HardhatPresentations.com

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