Over the years of speaking at the National Pavement Exposition I’ve made it a rule to encourage the audience members to do their own “post show debrief.” Similar to doing a “job post mortem,” it’s a chance to assess what was learned and what can be applied in the near future. After just completing the 2014 NPE meetings in Ft. Lauderdale, I thought I’d actually put some thoughts and suggestions in writing for your use.
1. Take notes at the meeting. I know that this first suggestion is too late now but for all future meetings you attend, take notes. I have many contractors who come to my own meetings with hardly a note pad with them and I see many of them scrambling around for a pen. Amazing that a contractor, or any of his or her employees, would attend a conference and not bring recording tools along. Unbelievable!
2. List all the improvement ideas from your notes (assuming you took notes), then prioritize the list. This prioritized list of improvement ideas should reflect the order in which the items could assist your company. For example, if the top three or four ideas gleaned deal with marketing or sales, then perhaps you should begin here to put together the steps, resources and people to make those suggestions happen. Prioritize your collected ideas!
3. Depending on the complexity of the prioritized “takeaways,” commit to working on only 3-5 during the next year. It’s not at all uncommon for contractors to leave the NPE with no less than 100 ideas…all great ideas…but still…100 ideas. You can’t complete the efforts needed to improve 100 things in your company. The bigger issue is that you “won’t”! Start with too many things to improve and you’ll mentally get down on yourself and wind up quitting on improving any of the ideas. Start small and let it continue to grow as the year unfolds and you accomplish the improvements.
4. Set some measurable goals to accomplishing the improvement ideas. This should be quite practical to do but consider a few examples from some clients of mine, who have given me permission to share here:
- We will conduct customer follow-up, including a “walk through,” on every project this next year.
- We will measure materials estimated against actually used and track for the year to make sure we’re accurately accounting for material use to improve profitability.
- We will create a preventive maintenance schedule for every piece of equipment and vehicle and perform a weekly maintenance check.
- We will include 3-5 pictures of the project site for our crews and include them in our job folders.
- We will conduct a morning and afternoon crew huddle…every day we work!
- We will track “cash flow” weekly to maintain a better handle on where our money is going.
Now, some of these goals might not look like much to some contractors, but for the contractors that developed these goals it was a turning point in their business. Every contractor engaged in the above goals had either learned or were reminded of a tip or business practice that they needed in their own company.
5. Conduct a formal meeting with all of your employees to discuss what was learned. If you took some of your people with you to this NPE conference (or other industry event), have them share in the presentation to all of your people what they took away from the conference. When some of their peers or employees hear valuable learning points from someone other than the owner, it often registers with them with more meaning.
6. Finally, keep a log of all the learned ideas and review them with your leadership team throughout the year. This sixth and final suggestion is almost a goal in and of itself -- but don’t go to all of the trouble of attending the NPE, make a formal list as was suggested earlier, and then let your efforts drift off within a few months. The easiest thing to do is to attend the NPE and get excited about what you hear. The hardest thing to do is to actually carry out your new learned lessons throughout the year.
I sincerely hope you had a great time this past NPE in Florida. It was awesome for me in getting to see some old friends, clients and to welcome in the “new kids on the block.” Don’t let your trip just be about the sunburn you got or the large fish you caught (or the rain you withstood); put the ideas presented into action so NPE can make a profitable impact on your company this year!
Brad Humphrey is president of Pinnacle Development Group, a consulting firm specializing in the construction industry. For more information about PDG, go to www.pinnacledg.com. Brad also hosts the educational site www.thecontractorsbestfriend.com. For more information about separating yourself from your competition join the TCBF team!