How to Identify and Prevent Poor Job Management

Construction business management tips for proper planning, staffing and communication will lead to job success.

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Contractors are in the heat of the season now, so many construction problems and challenges have surfaced — some with very critical and negative results. Running successful and profitable projects is important for every contractor, yet some construction leaders continue to miss signs of poor project or job management.

Do you recognize any of these signs that often rear their ugly heads when things are not going well?

  • Crews are under supervised or lack knowledgeable supervision
  • Inability or lack of knowledge of how to administer change orders (Not collecting monies for work performed)
  • Jobs not completed on time
  • One or more contracts have a claim or pattern of owners/customer holding back final payment
  • Company is continually threatened with litigation
  • Increase in backlog with little management resources
  • Lead time to prepare bids too short or lacks needed “intel”

If these issues have crept into your business, here are a few prevention techniques that have rewarded other contractors in overcoming the same issues.

1. Prepare Bids with All the Needed “Intel”
It all starts at the beginning. The right information, the right pricing, the right “legalese” that spells out payment terms, retention if needed, and especially clarity about process for “change orders” and the payments for such efforts. We don’t do ourselves any favors if we hurry through to complete a bid and miss some very critical aspects of the job, site, conditions and administrative issues. Refrain from calling a bid complete unless all of the critical points of contractual success have been completed.

2. Plan for Realistic Schedule, Resources and Proper Staffing
The smaller the contractor, the more they might try to “wing it.” Such contractors, although they may be genius craftsmen, are only setting themselves up for trouble without a clear schedule that maps out with certainty the “who, what, where, when and why.”

Next, contractors must locate all needed resources including items that they own and those items they need to rent, lease and purchase. Equipment that is only used occasionally is often better leased than owned, but the contractor must identify early what the job needs are. It is counter-productive to force a crew to work with equipment that isn’t right for the job at hand.

Finally, there is just no room for error if your staffing is poor. Most crews need strong and wise supervision. If your firm really is short in this category of leaders then you need to either cut back on the difficulty of jobs you bid or find another contractor to sub the work. Either way, putting weak supervision on a project is just extending the “slow kill.”

3. Communicate Early, During and Post Job Completion
Most threatening legal action against contractors is often related to the amount of communication that took place during the job. Communicate early with your clients about when your crews will start, what their needs will be and what role the owner will play to support the construction.

Then, daily or weekly, there should be regular dialogue between the contractor, project manager or crew foreman with the client about progress. Taking a customer on an occasional “walk about” throughout the project is a great way to keep them in the know and allow them to see progress.

Finally, it’s always important to continue those customer “site tours” through the actual completion of the project. Taking pictures throughout the project’s life is also a good thing to do, making such pictures part of the job history and file. All of this may not prevent a legal action by the owner, but such actions will tend to remove reasons for such action. Remember, in most cases, it is the lack of communication or response from a contractor that causes the owner to question and suspect.

The three recommendations just presented will help you execute better and more profitable work while also creating better customer relations and retention. Don’t be shy when it comes to addressing the “signs” shared early in this column. Waiting too long may wind up costing you much more than you can imagine.