The other day I was on a cruise ship. I noticed a flock of pigeons flying around the ship. This was strange as we were several miles from the nearest land – after all, pigeons are land birds, they aren’t seagulls! They had probably joined the ship at our last port. The pigeons landed on the ship but were continually disturbed by crew and passengers and forced into the air. This went on for hours during the day. The ship got further away from land, but it remained visible on the horizon. We passed other ships, some close and others further away, some heading in the same direction and others going back the way we had come. Yet the pigeons stuck with us. They became more tired as the day wore on having to continue flying. There was no fresh water for them to drink. Some eventually fell into the sea, left to drown. Those that remained with the ship were going to a land they didn’t know. A land far from their mates.
If only the pigeons had lifted their heads to the horizon they would have seen land. They could easily have flown to safer ground where they had a chance of finding food and fresh water and a safe place to rest their weary wings. Even flying to a passing ship may have given them a quieter place to rest, possibly even a pool of rainwater trapped in a container to drink. If they had cognitive thought they could have picked a ship heading in the direction they had come from so they could have returned home. Every hour was taking them further from home.
Unfortunately, in construction, the same often happens. Construction company owners are often so focussed on the immediate survival of their company, dealing with the day to day problems on their projects, that they don’t lift their heads to see the opportunities that are passing them by. They are sailing a path without a clue as to where it will take them, or what storms will buffet them along the way. They have no idea where they’ll find finances, resources, or the next project. (Really like the pigeons who didn’t know where they were going, were becoming more exhausted and didn’t have food or water!) Many companies follow the path they are on, often following other contractors – like a flock of pigeons. Eventually, these contractors will drown when they run out of work or finances.
But, smart contractors take the time to look further than their next project. They look for other opportunities on the horizon, other projects. They have a vision for the future and aren’t just blindly following the first ship that they jumped on. This vision is changing depending on circumstances and events around them. They see other opportunities around them, investigate them, and take those that are suitable.
It’s vital for contractors to have good intelligence. To spot the next project, the next potential client, the next developing market. Markets change, clients come and go, so it’s important that contractors are adaptable, otherwise, they’re going to become stuck in a direction which could eventually sink them.
Clients that were once reliable sources of work may eventually run out of work (no longer be expanding, need to cut back on their costs, or even close down), or they may give their work to another contractor. Markets that were niche, with little competition, can quickly become flooded with competitors. Construction methods are evolving and smarter contractors can deliver a better product cheaper and faster.
Contractors need to be aware of what’s happening around them, noticing what their competitors are doing, what their clients are doing, what the new innovations are in construction, even what their employees are doing. The world is changing. The way we have always done business in the past will not be the way to do business in the future. What worked yesterday is probably not the best solution today, and will almost definitely not be the right solution in the future.
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