In this article I offer some more advice.
- Construction is a team effort. No construction project is completed by one person. The project manager relies on a team, consisting of subcontractors, suppliers, company personnel on the project and support staff at head office. The success of any project depends on a good team. Make sure you employ the right team. Show appreciation for a job well done. Look after your team.
- Good communication is key. Instructions must be clear. Many think that spelling and good grammar isn’t something that’s important. But consider this: there is a big difference between the words access and assess and confusing them can cause misunderstanding for the reader. A project manager writes emails and letters every day and it’s important that readers receive the correct message.
- There will be good days and bad days. You have to learn to weather the storms and not become demoralised. Don’t give up no matter how bad the project is, or how bad the client gets.
- Don’t take things personally. Construction can be rough and tough. People will say things in the heat of the moment. You will be sworn at. Mistakes will be made. It will feel that you have the weight of the World on your shoulders. However, don’t shrug off all criticisms. We must learn from mistakes. We all can improve.
- Remember peoples’ lives depend on your actions. Do you job diligently. Don’t take chances. Make considered decisions. That rushed check may just miss something that leads to someone being killed. That shortcut may be unsafe and cause someone’s death. Accidents happen fast. You don’t want to be responsible for killing someone.
- Don’t burn bridges. Construction is a small industry. You can’t afford to leave your company with bad blood. You can’t afford to offend clients and project managers. You can’t even afford to offend the people you work with. When I mean offend, it doesn’t mean that you mustn’t be tough, rather you shouldn’t treat anyone unfairly or make things personal. There should never be hard feelings. People change jobs and you may just find the person who was reporting to you changes company and is working for the client on your next project. I have repeatedly met the same people over the years in different roles.
- Lead by example. People are always watching you and will follow your example. Particularly with safety it’s important to lead by example.
- Pick your battles. Some young construction professionals want to fight about every point. They just have to be right, or have to have an excuse for everything. They take on the safety officer, quality manager, clerk of works, project manager and client. Unfortunately, many of these people have huge power on your project and they can literally make life hell. Everyone has their special quirk or ‘hobby horse’ they always look at. Often these items are small, so learn to give them what they want, and they’ll often let other things slide. Fight them and they’ll look for every little fault and detail. Sure there are things that must be fought for, but learn to pick the battles and remember it’s about winning the war. Nobody is going to remember who was right or wrong, rather they’ll remember that the project was completed successfully, safely, profitably, on time and with the required quality. You will work with idiots sometime, but learn to work with them.
- Ask for help. It’s pointless drowning on the project. The longer you leave not asking for help the worse the situation will become – a bad situation seldom gets better on its own. Making the wrong decision may make the problem worse. Expert advice can save lots of money. But even discussing a problem can cast it in a different light providing solutions.
- Never assume anything. If in doubt ask questions. The wrong assumption could be costly – even cost lives.
- Don’t trust anyone. This sounds harsh, but in construction thieves literally lie around every corner. Check deliveries – are you getting what the delivery docket says and are the quantities right? Are the invoices correct? Who is stealing from the project – it could even be your manager?
- If you leave a company make sure it’s for the right reason. The grass isn’t always as green on the other side of the fence as it looks. Make sure you are changing companies for the right reason. Will you really be better off there? What is the future for the new company? What will your future be at the new company? Look at the long term prospects and not at the short term gains. We all get upset with the people we are working with. We all feel at some stage that we are being overlooked or taken advantage of. Look objectively at your complaints. Carefully consider which company can offer you the best career prospects.
Construction is a tough business and there isn’t an easy route to the top. Yet, it can be rewarding for those who are prepared to work hard, taking the rough times in their stride. There are probably few businesses where you will interact and work with such a wide variety of people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. It will be challenging at times, but overcoming these challenges will be satisfying. No day will be the same, no project will be the same.
What was the best thing you did when you started your career in the construction industry?
This article is adapted from information in the author’s popular books: 'Successful Construction Project Management: The Practical Guide' and 'Building a Successful Construction Company: The Practical Guide' and 'Construction Project Management: Tips and Insights'
'Construction Claims: A Short Guide for Contractors' is another of Paul's useful books. These books are available on Amazon and other online book stores.
Paul publishes articles regularly on LinkedIn and his website.
Paul writes regular articles for other websites, gives lectures, mentors, and is available for podcasts and interviews.
© 2017 This article is not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission from the author.