When it comes to project managing, the whole ball game can be expressed by one sentence: You either make money on the jobs you’re given, or you simply won’t have a job as a PM. Money migrates to those who are efficient in its use, and flees at the sight of those who aren’t. Money couldn’t care less about you personally.
The industry, always competitive in any economy, is now in the trough of a depression in most parts of the country. It’s beyond hyper-competitive to the point where it’s feeding on itself. The only way to survive in this world is to do what it takes within your ethical standards to make it one more day, and then one more day after that.
Within this world, money and competition are forcing the issue with many old-line and old-time contractors to abandon what racist and sexist notions they may have harbored in the past to find, hire and employ the absolute best people possible.
And it’s not just within the ranks of project managers, estimators and project schedulers, although the search for good people is critical in those spots because they are so important in a typical contracting organization.
Sheer economic necessity is forcing a hard second look at what constitutes productive field personnel, based solely or as much as possible on hard, indisputable production numbers and daily assigned quotas met.
Hard times are forcing many contractors to re-examine long-time family and friends on the payroll in the office, shop or field. They are rarely as efficient as someone possibly hired from “the outside.” These insiders cannot be afforded the luxury of their cushy positions at the expense of the company as a whole.
If you are a woman or a member of a minority group, this economic mess we’re in is not the time to despair. It is the time — as long as you have the requisite education, job skills, management knowledge and track record — to take the bosses by their horns and force the issue! Roll the dice (in a professional manner, of course).
Go to them and make your case that it is you who should be given the chance to squeeze out what tiny bits of profit are in the jobs your company has on the books right now.
When times are good and contracts are fat, some bosses can afford to be good ol’ boy, back-slappin’, hard-drinkin’, hell-raisin’ racist and misogynist pigs. They can’t afford the luxury of those personality traits right now, and they know it. Business for the next couple years is and will no longer be about business. It’s going be about sheer survival.
Make your case why you will be able to help your company survive better than somebody else. Just make sure your presentations and arguments make sense to you. Practice your spiel first before going to your bosses, or you might be out the door the same day. Yes, you’re taking a risk doing this, but a time like this, when your bosses are looking for new ways to make a dime, won’t come along for another decade or so.
If you are an owner or are in executive management, you should be doing a zero-base assessment of every single employee, including yourself, or you’re a damn fool. Use whatever unbiased and objective measurements of job productivity you have at your disposal. If you have not, or won’t, conduct brutally honest job performance evaluations to all within your company, I won’t shed a single tear for you when your company has to close its doors and your wife and kids are asking, “Wasn’t there something you could have done?”
That said ...
Don’t panic! If the work out there is break even or has little profit, even if it’s hardscrabble and hardtack that feels like eating a bowl full of briars when you sign the contract, you still can get some work some time for your company.
Start hiring! Insanity? Far from it. Right now, there are a couple battalions of the very best people out there that you could never lure away from their employers during good times. They are sitting at home, unemployed or underemployed, and you can hire them for a song. Yes, they might be African-American or Hispanic or Inuit and maybe even (gasp!) a woman or any combination thereof, but they are eager to make their case that, given the chance, they’ll be better than the people you have or have had on your payroll. And all they want is five minutes to make their case.
H. Kent Craig is a second-generation mechanical contractor and project manager with unlimited Master’s licenses in boilers, air conditioning, heating and plumbing. He may be reached by calling 919/851-9550, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.