Recently I had the pleasure of working with a contractor who has multiple locations. The focus was primarily on the need for and how to conduct a pre-construction meeting. This wasn’t a large general contractor we’re talking about but a contractor who depends on multiple locations to get things right…the first time.
As a rule, the “GC & CM” companies have included the pre-construction effort as part of their pre-planning. However, with more contractors of all size and specialty realizing the narrow profit margins to acquire work, the need to ensure that “costs of goods sold,” or what most of us call our “direct costs,” are executed as estimated; the need to prepare has never been greater.
Consider just a few “quotes” that were shared with me by many of the contractors whom I visited with at some recent construction conferences and conventions.
- “Brad, it’s like, we just finish talking about the job and the guys go off and do just the opposite.”
- “With bidding so tight today we can’t afford to make one mistake…and we still make them.”
- “Ok, will you please provide me with the secret to getting all of the guys involved with a project on the same page?”
- “I know it’s costing me something because our crews never quite get things done right the first time. It’s not real bad, but I’ve got to be losing some pennies here and there.”
While these were not the only comments I heard, they do represent many of the experiences of good contractors across the United States and abroad. So if preparing for any size of construction project is so critical, then why aren’t more contractors doing it?
Let me briefly share a few reasons I’ve found why more contractors fail to focus more on the pre-planning aspect of construction. I’ll then share a few benefits that a consistent pre-construction mindset can add to your company’s projects.
Why not pre-construction?
- “The customer is in a hurry to get us on their site and working.”
- “We suddenly have won a lot of work, at low margins, and we need to get started.”
- “I’ve got experienced guys; they should know what to do.”
- “That’s what the ‘big boys’ do…the little guys don’t need it.”
- “We do several projects in a week’s time and they’re all similar in scope.”
- The contractor has never been exposed to pre-construction.
- The contractor will not make the time available to complete effective pre-construction meetings.
- There is no known agenda to follow.
- “I know what I’m doing!”
Well, you can tell by the varied reasons that this is a very wide open topic where there is a lot of room for improvement by many contractors.
But what are the benefits to good and consistent pre-planning? Let me share with you several reasons why you should integrate a more formal pre-construction culture, which includes conducting a formal ‘Pre-Con” meeting. Consider the following benefits:
- Provides for a more formal “hand-off” from estimator to field leader
- Lines out special project needs and requirements
- Educates the team about client profile: personalities, needs and expectations
- Addresses required company, city, county, state and federal forms and documents
- Opens up discussions to questions that crew leaders and project members have about project
- Establishes a formal and clear starting point
- Allows the team to set performance goals and consider best methods to achieve those goals
- Brings the best minds of your organization together to consider the best approach to be successful completing the project (or projects) the first time, thus helping the job to maximize the profit that was probably put into the bid
Are there any other reasons that might be more important than any on the list above? Hardly! The Pre-construction effort is not a meeting that we “try” to hold; it’s a meeting that is demanded by everyone associated with the project or projects to be executed.
Who should attend this pre-planning exercise? Good question. Depending on the size of your construction business, the answer may be simple. Let me briefly provide some roles for the different size construction companies reading this article.
Small contractor with few players (wearing many hats)
- Crew Leader
- Crew Members
Mid-size contractor with more levels of leadership
- Project Manager
- Crew Supervisor/Foreman
- Owner (Depending on size of project)
- Lead Personnel
Large contractor (who are probably already holding Pre-Cons)
- Business Development
- General Superintendent
- Job Superintendent
- Crew Foreman (if self-performing)
- Project Manager
- Project Engineer/Field Engineer
- Project Administrator
- Critical Path Sub-trade Contractors (if determined)
You can tell by the growing number of roles listed above that a pre-construction meeting can certainly attract a larger number of interested parties to the job. “More is not always better,” but it is very important that you have the people who are responsible for the success of the project, directly or indirectly; attend to ensure that our execution is flawless!