Do Not Be Afraid of Hiring the Wrong Person

Construction & Engineering

Working with and coaching construction business owners, I have discovered most have a common fear: the fear of hiring the wrong person. And to avoid making a hiring mistake, they postpone hiring for many months and oftentimes years. By not hiring additional administrative, project management, estimating, or supervisory help, they spend too much time on menial tasks that could be handled by other employees. These simple tasks often include writing checks, getting material quotes, calling subcontractors to get their shop drawings submitted, organizing the monthly invoices, worrying about equipment maintenance, doing take-offs, typing letters, organizing job correspondence, or playing phone tag trying to schedule meetings.

When the business owner handles all of these menial tasks and tries to grow the business, he or she doesn’t have enough time to focus on important activities like sales, business development, meeting with potential customers, or improving field productivity. These owners work too many hours on tasks that could be handled by other employees. As a result, the business gets stuck at the size and level where the business owner can barely stay in control of what he can do in a day. Doing activities that can be delegated hold the business owner back from being effective and reaching his goals. But since most business owners don’t really like to hire people anyway, they stay stuck forever and continue to complain they can’t find any good help! A vicious downward spiral that leads to low profit and no growth.

Why Can’t You Let Go?

What activities can you let go of and turn over to another or new employee? Some examples of business owners I am helping with this problem include the following:

  • Dan owns a masonry company and spends an extra 20 hours per week paying the bills, writing checks, doing payroll, balancing the checkbook, and going to the bank. His best skill is selling and finding new customers, but he doesn’t have enough time to get out of the office. As a result he is losing money and his field operations are not producing what he needs.
  • Bill owns an electrical contracting company. To save money he eliminated his office manager / contract administrator a few years ago. Now he is stuck doing all the secretarial and administrative duties required to keep his company going, plus manage all his foreman and jobs. His customers, suppliers and employees now know to call him directly on his cell phone which keeps him overworked during his eighty hour work week. As a result, his sales and profits are dwindling and he didn’t know what to do next.
  • Jason is part owner of a heavy civil construction company but gets stuck doing all the take-offs and calls subcontractors and suppliers for bids and estimates as part of his responsibilities. These demands have depleted the time he needs to spend out in the field to keep jobs moving. As a result, they are not winning enough new contracts and the field is not meeting the budgets.

Mr. DO = Company DOESN’T!

Why don’t these business owners get some help? What are they afraid of? Letting go of doing tasks and delegating them to someone else is the only way your company will ever grow or make more money. As Mr. DO, when you do the work, your company doesn’t work! The more you do, the less your company makes. When you handle $10 to $20 per hour tasks, you can’t focus on the important things that will make you lots of money. My recommendations for these business owners were:

  • With Dan, I recommended he hire a part-time professional full-charge bookkeeper or construction bookkeeping service to come into his office two days per week. The cost for this service should run around $1,500 per month. With an extra 20 hours per week, Dan can then go out and sell an additional $50,000 to $75,000 of work per month.
  • Bill needs to hire a full time construction project administrator / coordinator. He could delegate and assign them accountability to handle many of the everyday tasks he performs so he can focus on customers and productivity. The small investment of $35,000 per year will allow his company to grow by at least $1,000,000 in sales if he spends his time networking and seeking new customers who need the value-added services they perform.
  • Jason committed to hire a recent college construction management graduate to help him with project estimating and act as an assistant project manager. This small investment of $45,000 now allows him to take his company to the next level.

What Position Do You Need Filled?

Why have you procrastinated way too long? Are you afraid to hire and make a mistake? Make a list of everything you do, you shouldn’t do. After sorting the ‘should let go of’ list, decide what type of new position would free up and produce the most time for you to focus on what your company needs to grow and make more money. Then commit to go out and hire that person and make them accountable for the tasks you need accomplished. Remember, the alternative is to continue hoping things get better the way they are. So get over your fears and go for it. Now write a compelling ad listing out exactly what you need. For example:

Construction Administration

Growing construction company seeks full charge responsible energetic construction administrator and office manager to organize and handle multiple tasks including: phones, computers, submittals, contracts, correspondence, customer service, paperwork, graphic design, jobsite meetings, and billings. Construction knowledge, Microsoft office, and blueprint reading experience required. Email resume, references, and salary history to xxxxx.

Next place the ad in one of the low cost online employment websites. When you receive the resumes, sort them by experience, relevance, salary, and longevity at their previous employers. Next email them to schedule a short phone interview. There you can ask them detailed questions about their experience, knowledge, teamwork, responsibilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Also ask them about their time commitment, salary requirements, and benefits they expect. If you like them, next schedule a face to face interview. Always have your spouse meet them sometimes during the interview, as two heads are better than one in determining attitude, energy, and if they’ll fit well into the company. And finally, if you are ready to hire them, I suggest a 30 or 90 day probation period to determine if they will be the right long-term person to help your company get organized and grow.


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