construction team on site

You Can't Do It All Yourself


Some people starting and building a construction company try to do too much by themselves. They want to do everything that takes brains and is important to the viability of the business and more. They put all the estimates together and present the bids; award, negotiate, and sign all of the contracts, subcontracts, and change orders; make the big field decisions; purchase all of the materials and equipment; go to all of the job meetings; supervise concrete slab pours; and make every personnel decision. This may make them crazy, raise their weight, and cause their hair to fall out!

Why do they do this? They make lame excuses that they can’t find any accountable or responsible people they can trust. The real reason is probably that they can’t let go. And they can’t let go because they don’t have any written systems or training programs in place to ensure that others know what and how to do things the way they want them to be done.

For example, McDonalds has young employees, the owner is not on-site all of the time, yet the customers are happy and the food is consistent.  How do they do this without the owner supervising full-time and making every decision for the crew? It turns out that behind the counter they have pictures or blueprints clearly displaying how to build a hamburger with two pickles as well as the other menu items.

Good People or Good Systems?

Wow! A huge company runs smoothly using simple pictures of the finished product. This guarantees consistent quality and results. Plus, the owner doesn’t have to be on-site all the time supervising, juggling, and making every decision for every customer order. If you could do this in your business, you could build a systemized well-organized company. Having great people and systems in place could reduce your need to be everyone and everywhere. And it would allow your business to grow beyond the level of what you can control, micro-manage, or supervise.

A systemized business produces consistent performance and the same results every time. How much money are you losing relying on your people to do their best and not following company installation and operational standards? In your company, who decides how many pickles you include per burger, nails per top plate of wall, form braces per lineal foot of slab edge, support wires per light fixture, hangers per lineal foot of copper water pipe, depth of excavation lift, or what two coats of paint really means?

The results of owning a systemized business include on-time and on-budget projects, quality workmanship, safe working conditions, repeat customers, and the ability to always make a profit. All of this, with or without you being there all the time. Perhaps you could even take a vacation one or two times per year!

Good Systems Are Simple

Excellent companies have simple systems. Outline each system on one piece of paper, detailing a picture of the end result desired to meet your company, customer, or project specification. The best systems are designed by the team of people who actually do the work and know how to do it best. For example, at hotels all rooms always look the same when ready to occupy. How do they do this? Simple. A picture of a ready room is shown to the housekeepers and the supervisors explain what’s expected. They don’t care how the result is accomplished, just that the room is perfect when completed. This simple approach can be applied to every part of your business.

Create a “DO” Manual

To organize and systemize your company requires time and effort to produce consistent results and get everyone doing business the same way. Create a “DO’ manual of pictures, checklists, and guidelines as your company’s minimum standards. Build a three-ring binder of standard systems for every aspect of your company and field operations. Include everything from how to prepare a timecard, calculate a change order markup, install slab expansion joints, form door openings in concrete walls, do monthly job close-out, and get paid. Focus on the important things first that will make a difference in your bottom-line. Make a goal to create one system a week and you will be very organized in a year.

Seven Steps to Create Systems

1) Identify areas to systemize

Start a ‘Fix-It List’ identifying everything you need to fix in your company. Keep this list handy and add to it when things go wrong. At your manager meetings, pick the top one or two items to systemize each month.

2) Assign a system team

Assign a key individual in your company to be the systems keeper to formalize and keep the systems organized. After choosing a system to create and implement, pick three or four people to work on the company standard. Involve those who actually work within the area being systemized. For example, your team might include a project manager, foreman and journeyman when systemizing a field standard. Let them pick a convenient time and location to work together for a few hours.

3) Draft standards, guidelines, and a tracking system

Create checklists with pictures of the desired end result for each system. Include a way for the standard to be verified that it is being followed and implemented by everyone in your company. Draft it on a standard paper for three-hole punching into a binder.

4) Formalize and try

The system keeper will be in charge of formalizing and distributing the systems. Let the team who created the system try it and work out all the bugs for a few weeks before implementing the system company-wide.

5) Implement and train

At regular monthly meetings, have the team who created the system present it to the entire company. Insist everyone do the system per the company standard – no exceptions including yourself. If someone protests, let them put the item back up on the ‘Fix-It’ list for further revision. These written systems can become your training manual too.

6) Monitor and track

You job will be to insist the systems are followed. Many of them will need a tracking mechanism to make sure they are being followed. For example, a pre-concrete pour checklist should include a place for the foreman to sign off on the checklist and submit it to the project manager for review.

7) Follow-up, evaluate, and improve

After six months, revisit the new systems to make sure that they are still being used and working correctly.

The beauty of written systems is not having to worry about every little detail all of the time. Your team will have a company standard to follow. This will allow you to spend time on important matters like growing your business and making more money. Get started now by making a “Fix-It List” and you will get organized sooner than you think.

Business - Commercial Construction Industry

Ready to explore how Sunflower Bank can assist you? Speak to a personal banker at a branch near you, contact a specialist on our Wealth Management team, or find the right financial partner on our Commercial Banking team for your business needs. 

Back to Resource Articles

This article contains general information only. Sunflower Bank is not, by means of this article, rendering accounting, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This article is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, before making any decisions related to these matters, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.