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The Difference the Right Employees Can Make For Your Construction Business

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, Jan 14,2016 @ 05:30 AM

The Difference the Right Employees Can Make For Your Construction Business

 
choosing good construction employeesHaving the right employees at your business can make a huge difference to your business in so many ways.
It should not be left to chance. In addition to your construction company's profitability the right employees can also make a huge difference for your customers and the way they view and or will share their experiences with others. In this article I share my experience with one United Airlines employee who helped make my experience and day way better than I had come to assume it would be.  I bet by sharing it you can use my experience as a guide to better seek, choose and train your employees.
 
Over the holidays this Christmas season I went on an annual goose hunting trip in Illinois with some contractor buddies.  My first return flight was delayed and I was at risk of making my connection to get back home. I was obviously bummed out.  But, thanks to just one exceptional airline employee, I made the connection and got back in time to celebrate the New Year with my family.  Here's what that employee did and why you should seek, choose and train your employees to be just like her.
 

First off she had a great attitude and presented herself well

The woman who checked me in was well dressed and well groomed.  Sure she had to wear a uniform (and so should your employees), but in addition to wearing professional attire she obviously also had a lot of self-respect and presented herself well.  Unlike others I observed working around her she was professionally groomed, interacted with a genuine smile and spoke with a professional vernacular. I suspect someone raised her to be that way and I could tell it was natural for her, not an act.  In my opinion hiring her was a great investment.

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Next, she managed my expectations and offered proactive assistance

how to choose the right construction employeesAs she checked me in she made me aware that my flight was likely to be delayed and therefore making my tight connecting flight might be at risk.  I had never had anyone else at any airline do this at check in.  She also told me why it might be late before I had chance to ask her why.  By doing so my attitude about my situation was already less stressful.  She then helped me make a "Plan B" in case I missed that flight.  By doing so I went to the gate in a much better frame of mind than the frame of mind I would have been in if I discovered my possible dilemma at the gate.  
I soon found out the flight was expected to be delayed by at least 30 minutes, I was now assuming "Plan B"
 

Then she was at the gate and was working hard to mitigate potential challenges

Yes, the same woman who checked me in soon came to work the gate, and was all by herself.   I suggest, like a small business, the gate at that small airport could not support additional overhead.  She was obviously cross trained by her employer to perform a wide variety of tasks and to do so very efficiently.  For that I not only credit her employer for properly training her, but for also hiring an employee with the right cognitive abilities and a desire to learn.  For that I can probably also credit her as well as whoever raised her and or mentored her in her formative years.  With her actions, knowledge and a professional demeanor she got the incoming passengers squared away, prepped things for my outbound flight, and very efficiently got us all boarded faster that I have ever experienced before.  And I travel a lot!  She minimized the potential delay big time like it was second nature.

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The good news was that I made my connection to get home. 

how to hire the right employeesThe better news, for me and her employer, is that she restored my faith in her company as a preferred option.  The next time I have a choice when deciding between available airline options to serve my traveling needs my experience that day with her will definitely become part of my buying decision.

I hope sharing my experience that day will help you make better hiring plans and decisions.  For additional help and insight check out his article titled "One Simple but Powerful Tip for Hiring the Right Employees”

 

Topics: Hiring and Firing, Worker Training, Recruting, Team Building, Differentiating your Business, Culture, Customer Relations, Creating Referrals

Key Differences Between Carpenters and Great Lead Carpenters: Part 2

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, Jul 09,2015 @ 06:00 AM

Key Differences Between Carpenters and Great Lead Carpenters: Part 2

Skills to be a lead carpenterAs I pointed out in part one of this article skilled carpenters are assumed to have the trade skills needed to do the work at hand and to understand construction. But just because a carpenter has these skills doesn’t necessarily also mean he or she has the rest of what it takes to be a successful Lead Carpenter. In the first article I listed the basic skills and thinking skills a carpenter must possess to be eligible to become a Lead Carpenter. Below is the second half of a list of key skills a carpenter should have or will need to acquire to become a great Lead Carpenter. We will be covering these topics and others at our Lead Carpenter System Workshop for business owners coming this summer.

 

This second list describes the people skills and personal qualities a carpenter must possess before becoming a great Lead Carpenter. These are skills that can be learned and mastered while working as a carpenter. Training, supervision, mentoring and coaching by the business owner and or other leaders in the business can help the right carpenters acquire these very important skills. Before investing in a carpenter in these areas make sure your Lead Carpenter to be has the demonstrated cognitive ability and willingness to learn and apply such skills.

 

People Skills needed to be a Lead Carpenter

  • Social: Has a natural ability to show understanding, friendliness, and respect for the feelings of others, but at the same time is able to assert oneself when appropriate. Also takes genuine interest in what people say and why they think and act the way they do.
  • Negotiation: Ability to assess and identify common goals among different parties and at the same time clearly present their and the company’s position. Can also examine possible options and make reasonable compromises.Lead Carpenter skills
  • Leadership: Can appropriately communicate thoughts and feelings to justify a position. Can also encourage or convince while making positive use of rules or values. Demonstrates the ability to have others believe in and trust in them because of demonstrated competence and honesty.
  • Teamwork: Contributes to the team offering ideas and effort, but also does his or her share of the work to be done. Has the ability to encourage other team members and can resolve differences for the benefit of the team. At the same time can responsibly and appropriately challenge existing procedures, policies, or authorities for constructive purposes.
  • Cultural Diversity: Works well with people having different ethnic, social, or educational backgrounds and understands the cultural differences of different groups. Can also help the people in different groups make and embrace cultural adjustments when necessary.

 

Happy_lead_carpenter-wrPersonal qualities needed to be a Lead Carpenter

  • Self-Esteem: Understands how beliefs affect how others feel and act. Can identify irrational or harmful beliefs they may have and understand how to change and or adjust them when needed.
  • Self-Management: Honestly assesses his or her knowledge and skills accurately. Proactively sets specific and realistic personal as well as professional goals and can self monitor progress toward those goals.
  • Responsibility: Works hard to reach goals, even if the task is unpleasant. Will consistently do quality work and maintains a high standard of attendance, honesty, energy, and optimism.

 

Click here to see a Job Description for a Lead carpenter

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Click here to read part one of this article

 

lead carpenter system workshop click here Other articles to help contractors and construction business owners choose and grow the right carpenters into Lead Carpenters

Helping Lead Carpenters Become Managers Benefits Them and The Business

Is He Or She Really A Lead Carpenter?  Probably Not!

Interesting Considerations For Putting The Right Employee On The Right Job

Getting Employees to Think Like Owners

 

Topics: Hiring and Firing, Worker Training, Careers in Construction, Recruting, Team Building, Production Considerations, Lead Carpenter System, Mentoring/Coaching, Culture, Leadership

Key Differences Between Carpenters and Great Lead Carpenters: Part 1

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Jul 07,2015 @ 06:00 AM

Key Differences Between Carpenters and Great Lead Carpenters: Part 1

Creating lead carpentersSkilled Carpenters are assumed to have the trade skills needed to do the work at hand and to understand construction. But just because a carpenter has these skills doesn’t necessarily also mean he or she has the rest of what it takes to be a successful Lead Carpenter. Below is the first half of a list of key skills a carpenter should have or will need to acquire to become a great Lead Carpenter. We will be discussing this list at our Lead Carpenter System Workshop for business owners to help carpenters and construction business owners improve their chances of success developing Lead Carpenters and a true Lead Carpenter System.  

 

Skills to be a lead carpenter

 

This first list describes the basic skills and thinking skills a carpenter must possess to be eligible to become a Lead Carpenter. These are skills that should be inherent to the carpenter already, learned from an early age through schooling and practical application as a person evolves from childhood to adulthood.   If a carpenter does not already possess these skills the chances of success as a Lead Carpenter will be greatly compromised.

In my next article I will discuss the people skills and personal qualities a great Lead Carpenter must learn and develop.

 

Basic skills needed to be a Lead Carpenter:

  • Math skills for a lead carpenterSpeaking: Ability to speak clearly including selecting language, tone of voice, and gestures appropriate to a specific audience.
  • Listening: Listens carefully to what people say, noting tone of voice and their body language, then can respond in a way that shows a true understanding of what is said.
  • Reading: Ability to identify relevant facts and locate information in books or manuals. Ability to find the meanings of unknown words and use computers to find information.
  • Writing: Ability to write ideas completely and accurately with proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Also able to use computers to communicate information in writing.
  • Mathematics: Ability to use numbers, fractions, and percentages to solve problems and communicate solutions.

 

Thinking skills needed to be a Lead Carpenter

  • Carpenter_framing-wrCreative Thinking: Has the ability and is not afraid to use imagination freely to combine ideas or information in new ways. Can easily make connections between ideas that seem unrelated to others.
  • Problem-Solving: Can easily recognize a problem, identify why it is a problem, create and implement a solution, and naturally watches to see how well attempted solutions work so they can be revise as needed.
  • Decision Making: Can identify goals, suggest alternatives and gather information about them. Can identify and weigh pros/cons and choose the best alternative along with a plan to follow through.
  • Visualization: The ability to imagine, strategize and sequence the construction of a building, object or system by looking at a blueprint or drawing.

 

Don't miss Part-2 of the list

Subscribe to the Design/Builders Blog Be sure to come back here to find the second half of this checklist to learn about people skills and personal qualities a great Lead Carpenter must learn and develop. It will be published in a few days.   To be automatically notified via email when new blogs are published simply subscribe to the Design/Builders Blog.

 

Click here to see a Job Description for a Lead carpenter

lead carpenter system for business owner workshop click here

Other articles to help contractors and construction business owners choose and grow the right carpenters into Lead Carpenters

Evolve From Being A Contractor To Being A Construction Business Owner

Afraid To Hire Production Employees For Fear I Would Run Out Of Work For Them

A lead-carpenter system helps both the business and the employees to grow

Compliance Checklist: Will You Be Ready If OSHA Visits Your Job Site?

 

Topics: Worker Training, Careers in Construction, Recruting, Employee Advancement, Production Considerations, Lead Carpenter System, Mentoring/Coaching

Thoughts on Choosing a MA CSL Renewal Class and Instructor

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Mon, Mar 02,2015 @ 08:26 AM

Thoughts on Choosing a MA CSL Renewal Class and Instructor

Best MA CSL renewal classesChoosing your MA CSL renewal class simply by price or location may not be a good investment for some MA CSL license holders. Sure, you may get the credits you need, but why not also seek to increase the return on investment of your hard earned money!

Here are a few things to consider before you choose which class you will sign up for.

 

Different trainers offer different classes and subjects.  

Some trainers offer classes that concentrate on trade skills. Others offer classes that concentrate on building code and or energy code requirements and amendments. On the other hand we have decided to concentrate our classes on helping contractors charge and keep more money by helping them with the way they run their businesses and how they manage construction. One of our 6 hour CSL Classes titled Estimating, Pricing and Producing Successful Construction Projects covers ways contractors can be accurate about pricing their projects, write proposals that help sell work and assemble job packages crews can build from on their own so the owner can concentrate on selling another job.

I find it amazing how many attendees don’t even know what topic will be covered when they get to the class they had signed up for. Before you choose a class to renew a MA CSL first consider the topic being offered. As a business owner you may want to take a business related class but send your licensed production employees to a different class.

Cheap MA CSL renewal classes

Make sure you get the right number and categories of credits you need

Depending on your license type you will need either 6, 10 or 12 credits to renew your MA CSL. Check out this link for a full explanation of how many credits each CSL License type requires.

Although the number of credits needed differs by license type, all three license types require the license holder obtains credits in certain topic areas called categories. The list of required categories is different the first time you renew than subsequent renewals. Make sure the class or classes you take will give you the right credits to renew.   Check out this link for clarification about the required CSL Credit hour categories.

 

Some trainers have more experience than others

Two things to think about regarding the trainer you choose.

Shawn McCadden CSL classesThe first is whether the class instructor is experienced as a teacher and can effectively help you and or your employees learn the topic at hand. Some trainers have degrees in education and lots of previous experience actually teaching.   Other trainers lack the skills and or experience needed to help you actually understand and then apply what you learn in class in the real world. I suggest you choose a trainer with a proven educational background. If you don’t already have past experience with the trainer and his/her abilities, referrals and or testimonials from past attendees can be a big help when making your selection.

The second important consideration about choosing a trainer is the level of actual practical experience that trainer has had using and or performing the skills being taught.  In my opinion too many trainers have read the book on how to do something and then decided to teach about it. If the instructor lacks practical experience he or she may actually be misleading the attendees. We are seeing a lot of this now that contractors and workers are renewing their RRP certifications at our RRP Refresher classes. Many attendees share they are very disappointed when we tell them the information and guidance they got form a previous instructor was incorrect and has cost them a lot of money and or put them at risk for potential fines.

 

Renewing your MA CSL takes up a lot of your time.

Cheapest MA CSL Classes

If you have to do it anyway why not maximize the value of your time and the money you spend by being strategic about the topics and instructor you choose? By doing so the money you spend will be an investment, instead of an expense.

 

 

Topics: Remodeler Education, Contractor Training, Worker Training, Earning More Money

Five Remodeling Business Myths That Get In The Way Of Growing Past $1M

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Wed, Jan 14,2015 @ 06:00 AM

Five Remodeling Business Myths That Get In The Way Of Growing Your Business Past $1M

Myth_or_Truth-wrThere are many remodeling business myths that seem to have become truths for way too many remodelers. That’s too bad. Believing those myths may be holding them back from being able to grow their businesses. Allowing these myths to remain in place will definitely prevent remodelers from successfully growing their businesses past the $1 Million installed sales threshold.

 

Schema leads us to believe what we experience as true

In an April 2010 Remodeling magazine article I defined and discussed schema. We all have our own schema. Schema is our way of interpreting things and information based on our past experiences.   Without previous experience with something one cannot have schema in that area. We can also have a limited schema about certain subjects if our experience in those subjects is limited. With limited schema our definition of what is true may also be compromised. In other words, if you have schema, but it is limited, you may end up believing something to be true, even though it is a myth.

 

I suggest the video below makes my point

 

 

Here are five remodeling business myths that are easily debunked with some schema

Myth #1: I have to be competitive on price to sell jobs:

If you don’t do marketing to expose how your business is different you will be perceived by consumers as being the same as most other contractors. That puts you into price competition to get jobs. Check out these two articles and try what is suggested to gain some new schema on this topic: Generic Contractors Are Fading Away, Brand Names Are Shining and Why Some Contractors Can Raise Their Prices But Most Others Can’t

 

Myth #2: Home owners won’t pay for estimates:

Most contractors say they can’t charge for estimates in their market place because all the other contractors do them for free. First, that is not true, many contractors successfully charge for estimates. Second, remember your mother: “If all the other kids jump off the bridge on the way to school does that mean you should jump off too? Maybe learning some ways to do it and them giving them a try could change your perspective about charging for estimates. This article can help get you started: Tips For Contractors On Ball Park Pricing and Charging For Estimates

 

Myth #3: Contractors have to wait until each phase of work has been completed before getting paid for each phase:

pocket_change-wrAgain, will you jump off the bridge, too? Will Delta Airlines let you pay after you land?   Completing remodeling services without being paid for them before you do them is in my opinion foolish, and a huge risk for most remodelers.   It instantly creates cash flow challenges in a business where cash is king. Breaking $1M without good cash flow might be the death of your business. Here is how you can create payment schedules that keep you ahead of your customer: Payment Schedules That Create And Protect Cash Flow

 

Myth#4: There are no good employees out there to hire:

Finding good employees is tough and doing it well requires a well thought out recruiting process. However most remodelers get bad employees because they don’t establish well thought out job descriptions before seeking to hire. When that is the case the job description is often being created during the interview, perhaps by the candidate. Check out this article published in JLC magazine for some help in this area: One Simple But Powerful Tip For Hiring The Right Employees 

 

Myth #5: If I give my employees too much training they will leave and start a business of their own and become my competition:

I personally found just the opposite happens. If you don’t give them enough insight and schema regarding what it takes to own, run, lead and finance a business they will leave to start their own. In addition to the training offer them leadership positions at your business, along with a good performance based compensation package. Doing so will make it more likely they will stay. These two articles will offer you some options to address this myth. The first was published in Remodeling magazine: Shared Responsibility: Advantages of Creating a Team of Leaders and Helping Employees to Think Like Owners

 

Looking to gain some schema?

By participating in the Construction Business Owner Education and Peer Group Program beginning in March you can gain the knowledge you will need to try new ways of doing things. The program also includes one-on-one assistance and coaching to help and guide you as you work through the changes.

 

(Note: This is the fourth article in a series of articles written specifically for remodelers who want to successfully break past doing $1M/year in installed sales.  Click here to see a list of all the articles in the series that have been published.)

 

 

Topics: Success Strategies, Worker Training, Business Growth, Opinions from Contractors, Leadership, Sage Advice, Breaking $1Million

Invest In Your Remodeling Business Now, Or Pay Forever

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Mon, Jan 05,2015 @ 05:00 AM

Invest In Your Remodeling Business Now, Or Pay Forever


Business improvements for remodelers

 

The New Year is here again. For many it’s a time to plan and make commitments for the changes and improvements needed to make the coming year better than the last.  Then there are the remodelers who say they and their companies are too busy working to take the time to remodel their own businesses. What they may not know is that if they don’t invest now to either train employees or restructure their businesses, they will be paying for not doing so for a long time to come.


What am I referring to?

  • I'm talking about proactively taking a look at how efficiently you run your company in order to get better returns on your investment of time, money and focus.
  • I am talking about assessing your company's cost effectiveness and taking into account if employees are properly trained to do their jobs so you don’t have to micromanage them.
  • I’m also talking about creating the ability to actually be “present” when you sit down to have dinner with your family or attend your child’s soccer game.

Retirement planning for remodeling business ownersYou can invest now to train managers or employees and to rework structural shortcomings within your business.  Or you can pay forever by running a shoddy show that won't give you the financial returns that it takes to stay in business and retire before your body eventually gives out.

If you don't do it now, how much profit will you possibly lose until you do set a plan into action?  If you don’t do it now how much will your procrastination cost you over the coming years you are in business; including the compounded interest you could have earned each year towards your eventual retirement? 

I know many remodelers who have no retirement funds at all.  How about you?


Don’t forget about lost opportunities

By sticking with the status quo many business owners are also missing out on opportunities they could have concentrated on if they were not constantly dealing with and fixing the same problems over and over again. For example, at a recent workshop for remodeling business owners I broke the attendees out into several groups and asked them to assess their business’ current status. One group of eight remodelers agreed their production slippage problems hurt them financially at a cost of at least 10% of total volume each year.

I then asked them to reference that in the point of view of being a $1 million/year company. They agreed this 10 percent production slippage loss would equal a $100,000 deficit each year. Would you want that to happen or keep happening at your business?


Here is a tough question to ponder

Does your spouse or significant other know you have such opportunities to make and keep more money?   Or, are you hiding that fact from them and others so you don’t have to recognize and address the shortcomings of your business and or your business acumen?

It's up to you. You can pay now, or you can pay forever.

Topics: Remodeler Education, Contractor Training, Worker Training, Careers in Construction, Business Growth, Retirement Planning, Earning More Money, Production Considerations, Business Planning, Leadership, Sage Advice

5 Ways to Take Your Remodeling Business From Less To More

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, Jun 12,2014 @ 06:00 AM

5 Ways to Take Your Remodeling Business From Less To More

Remodeling business owner burnout

 

It’s real easy as a construction or remodeling business owner to get burned out as you try to keep up with everything.   This is particularly true now that the remodeling market is picking up.  After downsizing to stay in business, and putting in lots of extra effort and hours to make a profit during the recession, many business owners are once again trying to grow their businesses.  However many of them are still using the "do more with less" mentality they used during the recession.  Maintaining this mentality as they seek to grow will definitely add to the burnout they are already experiencing.

For a good number of these business owners doing more with less may have made sense as sales shrunk and overhead expenses had to be cut back.   To clarify things the idea was to do more of what you were already ready doing with less.  Now that the economy seems to be improving if you want to do more business than you have been doing you'll need to do and add more inside your business to support that growth, not less.

 

Five things remodeling business owners can do to take their businesses from less to more:

Get serious about your management style

Advice for remodeling business ownersIf you have lost focus or lack the discipline to put business systems in place and stick to them it’s time to commit to and practice new attitudes and behaviors.  Before you grow your business consider the adequacy of your financial system to predict and measure results.  Do you have a formal marketing plan to guide you or are you winging your marketing?   Do you have well thought out job descriptions you can use to recruit, qualify and hold new hires accountable to?  Have you established benchmarks for the performance of your business systems?  If you don’t have or do these things what example are you setting and what type of employees will join and or stay with your business?

 

Don’t spread yourself too thin

If you plan to grow your business it and your employees will need your attention and guidance.   If your focus is being watered down by other outside activities like a second business, community activities, politics or even involvement at your church; the leadership and oversight needed at your business may be compromised.   There’s nothing wrong with being involved in outside activities, but make sure you put qualified middle management and business metrics in place first.

 

Be sure to think and act like a professional

OSHA for remodelersA growing business that wants to attract and keep good employees needs to act professional.   This means having a proactive and strategic marketing plan in writing.  It means preparing a financial operating budget and staying within it.  It means investing in training and mentoring your employees to be the future leaders your business will need.  It means creating a profit sharing strategy and or compensation strategies based on performance. It also means operating legally and safely.

 

Develop organizational charts, career paths and improve your recruiting process

If you think it’s expensive to train your employees only to have them leave and go elsewhere, think of how expensive it will be if you don’t train your employees and they stay.   If you plan to invest in training your employees make sure you can share your business plan with them.   Your business plan should show how you plan to expand your organizational chart and the opportunities they have if they are willing to grow with the business.  Your goal should be to offer opportunities that are mutually beneficial to the employee as well as the company.

 

If you want to step back make sure your business and the new leader are ready first

Remodeling company leadershipBefore you as the leader can step away from your business the business needs to have a new leader already in place.   Many business owners are forced back into leading and managing their businesses because the person they hired to do so did not have adequate leadership skills and or wasn’t yet seen as the leader by the other employees.   Don’t make this mistake at your business.  Before you step away make sure there is a successful transition of leadership from you to the new leader; in the eyes of the employees as well as your customers.  Also, make sure you have a way to measure the performance of the business and the leader before you pull away.   Again I suggest you have this in place and confirm it is working before you transition out of your office and your roles at the business.

 

 

         

Topics: Business Management, Worker Training, Recruting, Business Growth, Business Planning, Leadership, Sage Advice

One Craftsman’s Thoughts On Traditional Carpentry and Work Ethics

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, Mar 27,2014 @ 06:00 AM

Mike Ushka

 

Guest Blogger: Starting his working career in the mid 1970’s, Mike Ushka is lifelong craftsman.   Mike has spent the better part of nearly 40 years dedicated to traditional American carpentry and building.

Today Mike spends most of his time facilitating residential remodeling in Fairfield County Connecticut.

In this guest blog Mike shares his history and his thoughts regarding craftsmanship and work ethics.

 

One Craftsman’s Thoughts On Traditional Carpentry and Work Ethics

Having come from descendants of the 18th and 19th century, I was given the privilege of a mechanical upbringing that was rich in history.  Not to be confused with what we know today as "The Yankee Craftsman" who has every tool and vehicle that NASA can muster at his fingertips to get a table built.  I am referring to classically trained carpenters who are well seasoned, with an appreciation and respect for their craft.   Carpenters with an understanding of why things are done the way they are, and how they used to be done before battery powered yellow tools took over.

Old Time Craftsman being lostMy Great Uncle's brother was a custom wood worker and built everything from tiny jewelry and cigarette boxes with minute inlay and detail, to a full spectrum of furniture and woodworking.  He built his shop in the cavernous basement of an ancient brownstone five blocks from the harbor in Philadelphia. In this shop he had every true carpenter's tool of the day including an entirely leather belt driven coping lathe that he built himself.  Every tool had a place and there was a place for every tool, all sharp, oiled and at the ready. From my uncle I learned the necessary task of stone sharpening; honing the edges of every tool, from chisels and planes.  I also learned how to sharpen each tooth of a circular blade and the art of "setting" the teeth of each handsaw in the shop, positioned teeth down and stacked front to back in the handmade wooden tool boxes that cuddled every tool.

I started my first paying job when I was nine years old in the early 70's.  I was clearing lots to build homes by the time I was thirteen, having become fluid with the chainsaw and sharpening the chains by eye without a jig.  By fifteen I was framing houses after school and on weekends, nailing off plywood and sheathing by hand, sharpening the "non-carbide" circular saw blades, hatchets and chisels by hand every night at home before returning to work the next day.


At that time the jobs at hand were conducted as poetry in motion.

There was no wasting of time as there were only so few minutes in the day.  Each minute was precious as this was our livelihood.  Once on site to frame or trim a building the job was set up in minutes. Pouches on, saws and hammers in motion, there was no time wasted. If you had to move it was for a purpose and you never left your work area or task unless every possible thing that could be done was complete; and then some. By the time I was seventeen and out of trade school I was into full blown house construction.  My skills as a fine wood worker had peaked and the jobs ran seamlessly.

Traditional CarpentryEventually the first miter boxes, buck saws and smaller radial arm saws arrived and we started to move away from the hand tools like the Yankee screw driver, the brace and bit and the miter knife. We started to use nail guns, carbide blades and a plethora of modernized tools to save time and money; not knowing that we would forever kill the "Traditional Carpenter".  I witnessed men become unwilling to use a hand tool.  They were unwilling to know, understand or simply feel the joy of building something you hoped would be there forever, built with your own two hands. Those days are gone.


We now live in the care free age of “get to work late” and chat over “five buck coffees’

If the nails won't set, the gun must be broken (send it out to fix it.)  “I can't do it yet the screw gun is still charging...If the miter is close just caulk it...I can't work the power is out...I need a table saw to rip that stud...Who has the hammer?...The header must be level...The floor must be level...I can only work eight hours, you can't make me work more than 8 hours...where's the laddervator?  Step flashing?  It's not my job to clean up after myself”--AND SO ON !?!?!

 

Best of both worlds

Building without power tools

As an experiment a few years back I decided to take a modernized crew and show them the light. The only power tools I allowed to frame a house were circular saws (without the $800.00 green attachments) and a sawzall (even I won't bitch about this as I hacked off a billion rafter tails with a hatchet as a kid.) The rest were hand tools. We not only finished the job in a fraction of the time with a much higher quality level, all the men had an earnest appreciation for not only what they had accomplished, but for themselves as well. They all went on to be better craftsmen, still working with the ethic that I had instilled in them that cold winter we built that house by hand.

 

Today I am a building and remodeling contractor enjoying the mature end of a proud career as I manage and consult in all levels of construction in New England.

 

Thank you for the opportunity to share this story and my opinions,

Mike Ushka Sr.


Topics: Worker Training, Guest Blogs, Opinions from Contractors

OSHA Visits Contractor 3 Times in 33 Days, Subs Don’t Want To Come Back

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Feb 11,2014 @ 06:00 AM

OSHA Visits Contractor 3 Times in 33 Days, Subs Don’t Want To Come Back

Mark Scott of Mark IV Builders

A remodeling contractor in Cabin John, MD was visited three different times by the same OSHA inspector within a 33 day period on a Washington DC project.  The fines come to a total of $8000.  However he was told if he is willing to pay up within 15 days, not put up a fight about the charges, and make the required corrective actions, our government will give him a 25% discount.  The citation letter he received from the OSHA inspector also let him know that information about the citation would be published on the internet at www.osha.gov after 30 days.

Mark Scott, president of Mark IV Builders, told me he chalks it up to just another cost of doing business.   Fortunately for him his business is large enough to absorb such costs.  However it has put some fear into his employees as well as his sub contractors.  Both were found in violation of OSHA requirements when the inspector stopped by.  One sub, who was also cited for the same violations and fines, doesn’t want to come back to the job site, fearing additional visits and fines. 

 

All considered “serious violations” by OSHA, here are the violations as well as the fines for each:

  • OSHA Inspector visits contractor 3 timesOne employee was found using a table saw without using safety glasses.  This offense came with a $1200 fine.  The inspector noted the violation was corrected during inspection.
  • Another employee was working without a hard hat in an area where possible head injury could occur due to falling or flying objects.   This violation triggered a $1200 fine.  The inspector noted the violation was corrected during inspection.
  • Three sub contractor employees were each found to be using separate damaged extension cords.  Again, another $1200 fine.
  • A sub contractor was observed working more than 6' off the ground without proper fall protection in place, in two different areas at the job site.   This triggered a $2800 fine.
  • A sub contractor was standing on the top step of a 4’ step ladder.  This offence came with a $1600 fine.
  • Both employees and subs, while doing drywall installation, were found to be using a GFI wall outlet without a cover plate on it.   For some reason no fine was assessed for this violation.

 

What will the company do differently?

Unlike many remodeling businesses Mark IV has already embraced worker safety and OSHA requirements.   All company employees have the safety equipment needed to do their work as well as the required training to use it.  In fact Mark told me he worked with his insurance company to make sure he was in compliance and has several letters from them stating what an excellent job his company has done in regards to worker safety.     

I asked Mark what he plans to do differently now after having been written up and fined.  His answer was; “Not much.  My employees have the equipment and know what they should and should not be doing.  It’s part of playing the game of being in business”.   

One thing Mark says he will do is look into how his company and his employees should handle and manage future OSHA visits. 

 

What does Mark suggest to other contractors?

OSHA Targeting residential constructionMark shared that his first experience with OSHA was back in 1979 when working as a project supervisor. An OSHA inspector showed up at the job site with three books under his arm.   Mark said the inspector greeted him with; “You’re going to get a fine today.  I’ve got three books here and I’m sure I can find something in one of them”.  

In Mark’s opinion OSHA has no intention of proactively helping businesses comply.  He suggests taking advantage of what your insurance provider has to offer to help with worker safety and OSHA compliance.  In his experience most of the help offered has been free and can even help manage a contractor’s insurance costs. 

Check out this OSHA compliance checklist for contractors.


Topics: Worker Training, OSHA Considerations, Subcontractor Considerations, Opinions from Contractors, Government Regulations

Have The Right Compensation Strategy For Carpenters Before You Hire!

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, May 30,2013 @ 06:00 AM

Have The Right Compensation Strategy For New Carpenters Before You Hire Them!

Pay rate for a carpenter

 

One of the benefits of the great recession was that as business slowed down businesses got rid of underperforming and or overpaid employees.  This article is intended to help those remodelers who had or may still have such employees.   I hope by reading this information they can avoid repeating the same mistakes again as the economy eventually improves.

 

During the boom times many contractors, trying to get enough field labor to keep up with volume demands, resorted to overpaying carpenters and other field workers just to get them on board.  Also, over time, many remodelers gave wage increases to these people just to keep them, either in fear of losing them and or because another business offered the employee more money.  Additionally, many employees received wage increases based on longevity, perhaps with little or no consideration for any actual advancement in performance, responsibility or productivity.  One could fault the business and or the economy for why this was happening, but certainly not the employees.  After all, if market demand stimulated increased wages, employees would be foolish not to pursue and take the increases.

Then the bottom fell out

pay rate for carpentersThe great recession changed this scenario somewhat due to layoffs and downsizing.  The surplus of unemployed field workers got as high as 27% for the construction industry during the recession.  Unfortunately many skilled workers left the industry for other jobs, less physical jobs and or better job security.   This has set up what is expected to be a major labor shortage problem for our industry as the economy and construction pick up again.  Many contractors around the country are already reporting challenges finding skilled carpenters to keep up with construction demand.  As the demand goes up, so will the wages that carpenters can demand to either stay at their current jobs or that other contractors will use to lure workers away to work for them.

 

Finding, attracting and keeping the best carpenters will require strategic thinking

Finding good carpentersIf you plan to hire additional carpenters as your business volume picks up now is the time to put a plan together for not only finding, but also attracting good carpenters to work for your business and then to get them to stay with your business.  The compensation package you put together should not only capture their interest, but also help them see opportunities for future growth and increased compensation if they are loyal and motivated.

This provides a great opportunity for remodeling business owners to get compensation and any future wage increases in line with actual performance, rather than continue using the subjective reasons so prevalent the past.  It should only make sense for a business to put a plan in place that properly compensates employees based on the value they bring to the business.  It also makes sense to put such a plan in place so employees will know how they can and when they have earned the right to expect increased compensation.

 

Buying a boat or getting married is not a good reason to give a carpenter a raise!

pay rate for a carpenterThe automobile industry uses a flat rate manual to determine the labor costs for auto repair services.  The strategy they use is not to estimate the number of hours to do a certain task, but rather the typical actual cost of the labor to perform the task.  A repair shop that uses flat rates pays their employees for what they accomplish, not how long it took them to do it.  A construction or remodeling business could do something similar.  Such a strategy could also help the business and the employees learn where to invest training to improve performance and stimulate wage increases for those who buy into performance based opportunities.

If remodelers and other contractors continue to use purely subjective methods to determine compensation for field employees, they will be setting the example for and encouraging employees to also continue using subjective methods to assess their own performance.  If this plagued your business in the past it’s up to you to make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

Summary

Before you hire new employees or bring previous employees back into your business take the time to think out and document compensation plans based on merit.    If you introduce such a plan to job candidates it could even act as a filter.  Top performing candidates will be attracted to such a plan, but those who can’t or won’t perform will likely find somewhere else to work.  After all, as a business owner your compensation is based on actual performance.  Why not offer the same opportunity to employees.  If they make more money participating in such a plan, so will you!


Compensation plan for a carpenter


Related articles:

Successfully Grow Your Business By Creating A Ladder Of Opportunity For Employees

How To Make The Ladder Of Opportunity Happen At Your Construction Business

Simple Profit Sharing Plan For Contractors

 

Topics: New Business Realities, Hiring and Firing, Worker Training, Careers in Construction, Team Building, Employee Advancement, Business Growth, Sage Advice