Building a company is nothing more than assembling the assets that will enable the business to make a profit. In a service business like the construction industry, this means hiring the people who will provide the service–and organizing them into a functioning whole. Experienced construction professionals are a construction company’s primary asset. How do contractors acquire and assemble the personnel assets needed to create a valuable construction organization?

In The Beginning

Most construction companies begin as closely held or family concerns peopled by a small group of friends and/or family members experienced in a trade. Gritty hard work leads to success. Jobs get bigger and more complex as the group digs in. Eventually, they reach out beyond the team to a circle of experienced acquaintances to fill out the newly minted positions that the growth of the business requires. We call this generic growth. No one plans it. No HR department has a hand in it. Contractors just go about their business and hires new team members as they go along. The next thing you know, they are a successful “organization”.

The Growth Stage

The nature of selling construction services is such that business growth is generated at first by multiples of small projects. Inevitably, a construction company’s good reputation incites the marketplace to welcome its services on projects compounded by size and complexity. As a construction company becomes more expert at one type and size project, the market will seek its services for bigger and more complex projects.

The Mature Business Stage

There are three primary functional areas of a mature construction business, and each must be adequately managed and supervised to create a successful contracting enterprise. The primary functional areas are:

  1. Estimating and sales 
  2. Construction operations 
  3. Administration and accounting 

In every successful construction enterprise, a top-level executive is responsible for one or more of these areas. If a company is making a profit, it is to a large degree because of the efforts of these key individuals. If one of them leaves, there is no track record of profitability for the new organization as it is reconfigured. This is a reality in all business but even more so in a service industry like construction.

The Keys to Success

Performance at this level requires a mature team of construction professionals with “experience” in larger, more complex construction projects. Some of these positions are filled by home grown team members but many must be filled by a formal process of recruiting, training, and retaining experienced personnel from outside the company. The execution of these three team-development steps is the most important management skill a construction concern’s top management can possess.

Learn From the Experts

Few coaches can have a greater impact on their team than those in college football where the duties of a head coach read more like that of a CEO: recruiting and developing personnel and serving as the face of the program inside and outside the university.

The winningest coaches in college football all shared three traits that had nothing to do with technical football knowledge. Joe Paterno, Bear Bryant, Nick Saban, and Lou Holtz all knew how to:

  1. Attract the best high school football prospects.
  2. Develop potential. 
  3. Engender loyalty and team spirit.

In other words, they instinctively knew how to recruit, train, and retain the talent it took to assemble a winning football team. Here’s how they put it:

Attracting The Best

 Coach Saban:

  • “Mediocre people don’t like high achievers, and high achievers don’t like mediocre people.”
  • “In sports, a team with great players and a decent coach will almost always beat a team with decent players and a great coach.”

Developing Potential

Let’s listen to Lou Holtz:

  • “Never tell your problems to anyone…20% don’t care and the 80% are glad you have them…
  • “No one has ever drowned in sweat…”
  • “The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it…”

Engendering Loyalty

Here’s Joe Paterno:

  • “It’s the name on the front of the jersey that matters most, not the one on the back…”
  • “They ask me what I’d like written about me when I’m gone. I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach.”
  • “When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality.”

Look Inside

If your goal is to build a great construction company the first step is to look inside.

  • Do you believe you are in a service business? 
  • Do you see your team members as your most valuable and only asset? 
  • Do you think that your primary duty is to recruit, train, and retain experienced professionals?

For more information on employee retention, read more at: RETENTION

For a broader view on leadership, read more here: LEADERSHIP

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Please circulate this widely. It will benefit your constituents. This research is continuous and includes new information weekly as it becomes available. Thank you.