One thing I absolutely love about this business is that every day brings something new and different. Every day brings new challenges to face, joys to live, problems to solve and opportunities to shine. I've been in this business all of my life and every day I've learned something new. Granted, that something might not always be something I wanted to learn — some of life's best lessons are also some of the toughest, but they're all to be equally experienced and learned never the less.
Each and every project is that way too — a totally unique temporal entity even though its components have some constants with past projects, much in the same way as today is different from yesterday, but with some similarities. You will likely wake up, brush your teeth, get in your car and go somewhere, and eat and drink just as you did yesterday, but there are always new events and situations to experience and learn from, making the present day unique.
Just like life, each project is somewhat predictable to a certain point. But remember that life and projects involve more lives and fates than just your own due to the overall scale of life itself.
Each project usually begins with a request along these lines: “Make us 10% net return even though there's just 2% profit in the job or you'll give us your company car keys,” or “making money on this job is literally a question for survival of the life of this company, so do your best.”
Every adventure in life requires planning, and so does every project. You wouldn't shop for Bermuda shorts when you are taking a trip to Antarctica. You wouldn't take along any of Paul Prudhome's Authentic Lousiana Cajun Head-Shrinking-Boil Spice mix if you were adventuring into uncharted territory that could possibly be headhunting country.
Every adventure requires a map and compass. In our business, those tools are called a schedule and a calculator. When exploring a new land on an adventure, you would note your path and what you find on a map, so you don't get lost. When working on projects, we note changes on paper, by using “as-built drawings.” Theses are the maps we use to follow projects, noting necessary project changes, so we don't forget why the changes were made to begin with.
You also need supplies, lots of supplies for every job, adventure or trip you go on. You need to acquire all the tools and gear before the journey begins or it won't be successful. The entire trick is that no matter how financed you are in the beginning of a project, too much stuff to start with will eventually bog you down. Too little stuff will guarantee failure, and if you haven't planned well enough for the end game, you won't be able to finish — you will have to stop yards from your goal.
Experienced guides/field superintendents are absolute must-haves as well. If you don't have a qualified field superintendent to interpret your vision of correctly bending metal or installing pipe, the guys carrying your directed burdens to get the job done will abandon you for better paying back-breaking labor with other operations, no matter how much your own sense of greatness is worth to the probable success of your grand adventure. You will be stranded in your greatest hour of need.
Lastly, you must have faith that what you've set out to accomplish will not benefit just yourself, but all of those involved, including those who actually thought enough of you to hire you to do the near impossible. You also need faith in yourself, of course, and faith in your abilities based on self-knowledge of both strengths and weaknesses, and your own past track record of getting the job done on previous expeditions. No matter what is happening on your adventure in life or on a project, you will learn from it and become stronger and wiser in the long-run. Plus, you will become a believer in yourself and what you do. Always remember that you've survived worse and will survive this as well.
Kent Craig is a second-generation mechanical contractor with unlimited Master's licenses in boilers, air conditioning, heating and plumbing. You may contact him via email at [email protected].