Discussion – 


Discussion – 


You Can’t Get Rich With Your Head In A Ditch!

Ever feel like the more you do yourself the less you get done? Most construction business owners work far too hard for the return they get. They have too many details to attend to and not enough time to focus on the big things that make them the most money. See how you operate by taking this true false test:

Does My Business Work Without Me?


____ I make most of the day to day business decisions

____ I can’t find any accountable or responsible help

____ I do the hiring, firing, purchasing, pricing & sales

____ I like to be in-control & in-charge

____ It’s easier to do it myself than delegate or train

____ I work more hours than my managers

____ I feel guilty when I leave work early

____ I never have enough time to do what I want to do

____ Customers call me on most important issues

____ When I’m not there nothing gets done

____ My people don’t make decisions without asking me

____ I have to push people to hit goals & deadlines

____ My people need to take charge & get better

____ My business won’t work without me

How’d you do? Does your business work without you making all the decisions and doing all the work? Each true answer is an indicator of an area for your improvement and an indicator of what you must do different to get different results. Your people want to do great work, be accountable and make good decisions, but something or someone is holding them back.

Are you getting a return on your energy?

As a business owner, you need to get a huge return on your time. Every year, my company strives to complete $40 million plus in commercial construction and real estate development. We also manage over 700,000 square feet of leased industrial buildings. I don’t have time to sweat the small stuff. But, to get it all done, I must have great people who do!

When I started my construction company in 1977, I took care of everything on the following list. What are you responsible for?

___hiring & firing

___personnel issues

___purchasing materials

___awarding subcontracts

___buying tools & equipment

___marketing & sales

___proposals, bids & estimating

___negotiating change orders

___project management

___scheduling crews & subcontractors

___job meetings

___paying the bills

___invoicing & collecting

___ depositing checks

You name it, if it had to be done, I did it! Even the jobsite cleanup if it needed to be done. Often until the wee hours of the night. I finally realized the more I did, the less I accomplished. Doing stunts your business growth. Take a look at which items you checked as a part of your responsibilities. Which areas can you let go of, delegate, and train? All it takes is a good system and some controls with regular feedback.

Can’t find any good help?

As my business grew, I had to get some help. So I hired family and friends. Not the best idea in retrospect! It’s hard to build a professional company with inexperienced people who don’t respect you like a boss. Over the next seven years we grew to 150 employees. Wow, what a workout! I had to learn how to manage people or die trying. In one 2 year period, I hired and fired 14 secretaries, 3 vice presidents, 5 project managers and 9 superintendents. I couldn’t find anyone who could do the work exactly the way I wanted it done (or read my mind). No one seemed to care, be accountable, or accept any responsibility except me.

Our company became a revolving door. Hire people, put them on the job and then watch them leave after less than a year. Not a good thing for our bottom-line profit! We had lots of exciting work with great clients, but our company didn’t retain people. My job description changed from contractor to personnel complaint department. Not what I enjoyed doing.

I continued to try and find answers to our company’s people problem. I looked everywhere for the magic fix. I tried new management ideas, went to time management seminars, read business books, and attended company retreats. Nothing worked. As a last resort I decided to try a new approach. Install systems and controls which helped me to let go of most daily hands-on duties and decisions. Delegate everything except leadership, vision and values. 

Look in the mirror!

I finally realized the only factor holding our company back was me! I was the problem. I was trying to make every decision, do too much myself, and control everything and everybody. Take a hard look at yourself and your management style. Are you holding your people back from accepting responsibility and being accountable? When you make every decision for them, they won’t take responsibility. When you fix their problems, they aren’t accountable. When you control and lead every meeting, they can’t grow. When you make or approve every purchase, contract, and strategy, your people don’t have to think or be their best. When you don’t take time to train, your people won’t grow.

Don’t control, let go!

Think about the last time you took a vacation and your people had to make decisions on their own. Isn’t it amazing how things get done without your constant input? When you operate in an environment of high control, you get low performance from your people. And when you trust people to do their best without your constant supervision using a low control approach, you get high performance.

Many controlled and stressed-out business owners and managers often say to their employees, “Please handle this, but just don’t make any decisions without checking with me first.” When you try to delegate like this, you really haven’t delegated nor let go of the responsibility. 99% accountable and responsible equals 0% accountability and responsibility. You can’t be partially responsible! When you solve your people’s problems, they bring you more problems to solve. Are you wearing a sign around my neck that says “Bring me your problems”? This makes you feel large and in-charge while overall performance slides backwards.

If in doubt, delegate!

When a project owner calls you about a field problem, do you immediately handle it yourself and get right back to him? Try listening politely and then turn your customer over to your project manager or superintendent to take care of the situation. When it’s time to award a major subcontract or a large material purchase, do you get right into the middle of negotiations? Instead, ask your project manager to review all the bids, analyze the scope of work, discuss any questions he may have with you, and then have him award the order to the lowest responsible qualified bidder without your final approval.

When a superintendent or foreman asks you call a problem subcontractor who isn’t performing on a jobsite, do you make the call for him? When I get a similar request from a field superintendent, this is an indicator that I have a weak employee who can’t get subcontractors to perform without help from the office. This is not acceptable. When you have to make the tough phone calls, you are letting your people off the hook and not making them perform their job responsibilities. Train your field supervisors to update their schedules, plan ahead, hold weekly field meetings, communicate, put things in writing and manage their projects professionally.

Here are some specific delegation strategies you can use to “let go” of the small stuff.

–         Weekly management meetings

–         Pre-job start-up checklists

–         Subcontract scope of work checklists

–         Contract administration checklists

–         Two week look-ahead schedules completed weekly

–         Weekly field coordination meetings with all subcontractors

–         Increase maximum spending limit to $5,000 per employee

–         Weekly project meetings with the customer

–         Project managers award subcontracts and materials

–         Superintendents prepare project schedules

–         Office manager purchase office equipment

–         Accounting manager purchase computers

–         Construction administrators handle shop drawings

–         Estimator prepare and sign all bids

Lead to grow!

Performance is the number one indicator of leadership. Poor performance equals poor leadership by the leader, not the employee. If you control the work, hold your people back, and constantly tell them exactly what to do, you hurt your company’s growth and bottom-line profit. My leadership role now is to inspire others to be the best they can be. My job is to lead, not do. When I worry about all the little details, I waste a valuable resource – me.

What is your time worth?

When you do $10 per hour work, you don’t even earn $10 per hour. My company needs to bring in $2,000,000 annually to cover our overhead and projected profit. As the owner I only have 2,000 hours to make that happen. Therefore, I must earn at least $1,000 per hour for our company doing important tasks that return big to the bottom-line. When I do $10 per hour work, I am losing $990 per hour! I can’t get rich spending my time on the wrong things.

How do you spend your time? Are you doing $10 per hour things you could let go of and delegate? Do you spend most of your time sweating the small stuff and taking care of little details to get your jobs built? Or do you spend your time in the important things including:

  1. Creating loyal customer relationships
  2. Seeking profitable business opportunities
  3. Maximizing your banking and bonding lines
  4. Training your key employees
  5. Setting clear targets and goals for your company
  6. Reviewing your financials
  7. Developing business systems
  8. Insuring consistent quality workmanship
  9. Motivating and recognizing your great people
  10. Building a great place to work

Effective business owners and managers invest their time as follows:

            25%     Leading & motivating

            25%     Customer relationships

            25%     Training people

            25%     Doing work tasks

Less is more!

By getting your head out of the ditch, your results can be incredible: higher profit while doing less, more loyal customers, and employees who love to work for your company. You can build a great place to work where people can grow, take responsibility and be accountable to meet your company goals. The only way to grow is to let go. What will you let go of?



George Hedley is the best-selling author of “Get Your Business to Work!” As a professional speaker and business coach, he helps entrepreneurs and business owners build profitable companies. E-mail: gh@hardhatpresentations.com to request your free copy of “Everything Contractors Know About Making A Profit!” or signup for his e-newsletter. To hire George to speak , attend his ‘ Profit-Builder Circle’ academy or find out how he can help your company grow, call 800-851-8553 or visit www.hardhatpresentations.com

George Hedley   HARDHAT Presentations

3300 Irvine Avenue #135
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Phone (949) 852-2005    Fax (949) 852-3002

Email: gh@hardhatpresentations.com     website: www.hardhatpresentations.com


George Hedley owns a $75 million construction and development company and Hardhat Presentations.  He speaks to companies on building profitable businesses, leadership, and loyal customers.  He holds 3-day in-depth “Profit-Builder Circles” open to construction company owners in an interactive roundtable format every 3 months.  His “Profit-Builder System” includes proven tools to always make a profit, build equity, create wealth, win profitable jobs, motivate your people, and enjoy the benefits of owning a profitable company.


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