The Benefits of Contractor Coaching

By Ann Elliott

In an industry with so many moving parts, it is easy to respond to the urgent while the important stands waiting. Knowing what needs doing and getting it done are two different concepts. How equipped are you to weather the uncertainties and take advantage of the opportunities?

What is Contractor Coaching?

Contractor coaching is the service of helping the owner or executive leading a company in the construction industry build a strong business from the inside out. The construction industry is an exciting and challenging field. You see the results of your work unfolding day by day. At the end of a project, you can look with pride at what your team and you have created. In the case of contractors who demolish a building, you can observe immediately a structure implode into a pile of rubble on its footprint.

The discovery of hidden obstacles in the course of the work is common. Rarely does a project go with no surprises. This adds time and expense to the project. The golden rule in construction is to finish the project on time and within budget. Sometimes a project exceeds expectations such as the Arthur Ravenel Bridge which connects downtown Charleston to Mt. Pleasant across the Cooper River in SC. It was completed a year ahead of schedule and $100 million under budget. It is an engineering marvel that is used daily by 80,000 cars. The Ravenel Bridge is the third longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere.

The fast-paced, unpredictable construction industry holds opportunities for missteps. Make a mistake early on, and everything following is out of order. 

Do I Need Contractor Coaching?

Because there are so many external, uncontrollable variables, having the internal workings of your company in good order is important. Making all decisions by the seat of your pants doesn’t set you up for success.

When you have your stuff organized when something surprises you, it’s much easier to take the next right action. The whole thing does not explode and create more unnecessary problems. Being in a reaction mode is fraught with missteps.

Accounting practices—what is the profit picture on any job? If you do not know where you stand, how do you know the best action going forward? 

Bidding process—winning every project is not a good strategy. If you are in a cash crunch and need the influx of cash from a new project to complete your current work, you are in a vulnerable position. When my father, a general contractor, learned a contractor won a bid at a substantially low price, I heard him say, “That fella’s broke, he just doesn’t know it yet.” 

Marketingfocus on your customer instead of beating the competition. Your business gains the reputation of excellent client service. Happy clients provide referrals, the most cost-effective way of developing new business. 

Hiring the right people—with a tight labor market, finding people and especially the right people can be a challenge. As important is keeping the right people on your team. Regardless of the role they fill, people want to feel appreciated and respected.

Purchasing materials—giving free reign on buying material for a project, often leads to overspending. With some simple procedures such as a purchase order, this can be managed. Plus, storing and organizing excess material can be daunting.

Health and safety—maintaining a clean job site not only promotes safety, but it also speaks volumes about the care and attention to your owner. Visitors draw the conclusion this is first-rate; the work must be extraordinary too. 

Equipment maintenance—keeping the equipment in good condition eliminates most last-minute emergencies. For example, if temperatures well below freezing are expected, checking antifreeze at dark to discover your equipment is not protected, puts you in a mad dash to find antifreeze. And there is no guarantee you can find it. A regular maintenance schedule is not glamorous, but with no lost time for repairs, it pays big dividends.

Office procedures—create consistent practices to handle such things as change orders on projects, billing clients for work, reimbursement of expenses, communication with clients/employees, and use of office equipment. Put these procedures in writing. 

Payroll—determine how and when employees and subcontractors are paid. What do you require for payment to be made? Do you use direct deposit, checks, or some other method?

Insurance—protect yourself from various liability risks with the appropriate insurance coverage. Consider insurance as the cost of doing business regardless of the size or type of contractor you are. In some cases, proof of insurance is required to compete for a project. 

Leadership development—provide opportunities for learning and growing for the team in various ways. In my report, “What Successful Women Know about Leadership, Running a Business in a Male-Dominated Industry,” 90% of the women felt team development is important.

Is Hiring a Contractor Coach Worth It? 

Hiring the right coach for your business can give a significant return on your investment. You can expect an investment of time as well as money in hiring a coach. The time to meet with your coach, the effort to implement a new process, the effort to communicate with your team on the changes that will impact them are examples of your investment.

An annual savings of $125,000 for a contractor with a large company demonstrates the value of coaching. She invested in the software to track overtime in her company as well as the time for her team to learn to use the software. The value of a coach can be providing the impetus to act on something on the back burner.

The return on your investment can come not only from predictable avenues but from unexpected places as well. 

During the Great Recession in 2008, a general contractor I worked with, reached out to his clients to discover they wanted to be more involved in the design process at the beginning of a project. As a result, “I listened to what my clients wanted and what they felt was important.” This insight changed his entire approach to relating to his clients and winning contracts.

Contractor Coaching Process 

The process begins with an understanding of your current circumstances. This would include the history of the organization, number of employees, what clients they serve, and size of the company.

Establish with your coach what the ideal outcome you want to achieve with the help of a coach. Identify no more than 2 – 3 specific outcomes. “Improve productivity as a leader.” How will you know you successfully achieve the outcome? What can you measure? If you cannot measure it, how will you know you have achieved it or made progress?

Identify the value to you and to the organization for achieving or making progress on the objectives. For example, the operations manager of a manufacturing plant said using standard operating procedures would yield $50,000 in estimated annual savings in a 0.1% yield improvement for the plant. The value to the operations manager would mean a favorable review by senior management as well as a bonus based on the savings.

In a coaching relationship, it is important to understand who is responsible for what. The client agrees to commit to engage fully in the work and attend coaching sessions. Doing the required work produces the desired outcomes.

The coach agrees to provide materials such as worksheets and assessments as well as 25 years’ experience of working with other leaders and organizations. The coach supports the client in identifying the obstacles/barriers that prevent forward movement and developing a doable plan of action. 

The methodology would include but not be limited to Positive Intelligence (PQ) self-assessment,  

Private consulting and coaching sessions in person and/or remotely (ZOOM), track and measure activities and results.

Benefits of Contractor Coaching 

A significant benefit of coaching is the clarity it brings about what needs doing and what barriers exist. Often these barriers are old thinking patterns that do not serve you. The courage to call them out liberates you.

As you get into action, your confidence builds. You discover what works and how to alter your path. Because you are measuring and tracking your progress, you are telling a story. When you know your profit picture on a project, for example, you have real-time data to guide your decisions. Also, your team understands the reasons for decisions that have an impact on them.

Relationships improve when you respect and appreciate others on your team for the contribution they make. People are eager to contribute when they feel heard and appreciated. Consider laborers, carpenters, painters, and electricians in the field who have different viewpoints because they are on the ground. They have a valuable perspective, too.

Many leaders experience significant success in terms of income, status, and material wealth at the expense of their health and well-being. Burnout prevails while happiness languishes. Devoting time and attention to your mental fitness pays rewards in unexpected ways. To name a few more: joy, better health, increased productivity, and richer relationships.

For Your Consideration

Which of the following areas do you have the most interest in changing?

  • Leadership for productivity
  • Ease and Flow to achieve more
  • Stress management for well being
  • Improved relationships personally and professionally
  • Work-life balance

In conclusion

Your success is an inside job. You cannot control external forces, but you can develop a strong organization equipped to deal with turbulence. When unexpected good fortune comes your way, you are better equipped to take advantage of the situation. 

© 2023 Ann Elliott

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Ann Elliott

Ann Elliott, founder of The Berkana Company, excels at leadership strategy

An expert at helping business leaders enjoy more profits and improved productivity with less stress, she blends fun and excitement with executive coaching and training to yield results for her clients.

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