Hidden Opportunity

A US study sited that, on average, only 43% of the work undertaken by the average trade in construction, is productive billable time. So, what is this all about?

We all seem to have a built-in distrust of our competitors. We think they are after our clients, our people and our ideas. The reality is, we are all running so hard to make our businesses work, that we rarely give our competitors the time they deserve.

A firm that offers poor quality workmanship, doesn’t properly warrant their work, or speaks poorly about another competitor is disruptive to their own Industry. However, if the attitude was that by maintaining high standards and respecting competitors it would reinforce and strengthen the market, companies might want to stay closer and work together to build and grow a healthy market not just a business. A rising tide floats all boats.

Besides being invested in doing your business right, there is another advantage to respecting and aligning with your competitors. You can partner with them. When I ran my Custom A/V business, I observed that some firms might be flat out running hard while others were quieter, most likely waiting on job sites. I didn’t mind calling my competitor to see if they had anyone available to help us in a jam. Not all were responsive, but some were.

As the labour market gets even tighter, with baby boomers retiring and fewer young people entering the trades, firms may have no choice but to ally and share labour. This may be especially true in construction, where there is limited site access and unpredictable schedules, making it even more challenging to optimize crew.

In peaks, when too many sites demand attention, it can create serious pressure resulting in inefficient work practices such as sending the wrong trades or not enough people or taking them off sites to deal with other issues. Whether employees are waiting on unpredictable job sites or tapped out trying to please too many, this has a serious impact on overall efficiency. It can also drive overheads up, depending on the crew size and the firm’s reluctance to lay off.

It’s been interesting as we’ve launched LincEdge. We’ve seen firms in totally different industries sharing labour. A small startup firm had a junior in training when job sites slowed down. He couldn’t afford to keep his guy, but knew he’d need him as soon as the sites were ready. As life often plays out a firm in a completely different sector needed a quality guy to help with general labour. They connected, and the small firm ended up putting a few dollars in his back pocket, keeping his junior and ensuring that the junior had little to no downtime. We’ve also seen some trades who lay off in the colder months reach out, hoping to keep their people working during the seasonal closure. Quality people are kept working and are even more loyal to their employer.

If through trusted alliances, firms can both improve their efficiencies and keep their people employed during closures and unpredictable downtime, whether within or outside their core industry, it is a win for everyone.

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Head shot photograph of Marilyn Sanford

Marilyn Sanford is the co-founder and CEO of LincEdge.

In the past, she had co-founded and ran a custom install firm for 23 years.

You can find Marilyn on LinkedIn.

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