Chairman's Message: Examining The Big Picture

Words: Paul Oldham

Paul Oldham, MCAA Chairman

  Lately, in our office, we have been discussing the “Big Picture” quite a bit.  What do I mean when I say the big picture? As a mason contractor, we can’t have blinders on and only pay attention to our work scope. As project managers and superintendents, we can’t just pay attention to our activities during those weekly meetings. You have to pay attention to the trades before and after our work.  A while back, one of our project managers came back from a weekly meeting, and I asked him how the painter was moving along with their work scope. He looked at me with silence and then said, “I’m not sure, and why are you asking.” After we install CMU walls on most projects, then block fill and painting are next on the list. We like the opportunity to review our walls after block fill has been applied but before paint application.  Staying ahead and not holding up work for others that come after us keeps the ugly phone calls minimum.  Even understanding the landscaping contractors schedule and scope of work can seem far fetched, but take a veneer project scheduled to finish in the late part of the year. For years, architects have included a requirement for the landscaper to have specific plantings installed by October 15th in our area. Think of a defensive driver, anticipate the problems ahead of you, and stay away from them.  Understanding the big picture plays a significant role in when you need or don’t need work.  It's good to step back from those three-week lookaheads that have lists of activities on them and just look at a project as a whole and then look at all your projects. Get out of the weeds and minor details so much by merely looking at how many block, brick, or pieces of stone are on a project and back into some more extensive high-level durations to feel how long it will take your company to perform the work. You can also take anticipated labor costs or hours for those projects and see where that lands. You can get so far into the weeds that you miss the big picture. The big picture ties into the bidding and sales process as well. Understanding where the market is at and is heading plays a critical role in securing profitable work. A few weeks ago, we bid on a small school addition project; not a project we wanted, but it wasn’t going to take a long time to put a bid together, and with it being a public project, all the bids would be open, so we could get a feel where pricing currently is. We came in second and this gave us a sense of pricing in the school market. I also did this project because I took the time to listen to all the trade bids and took some notes. Seeing in general how tight bidding was across the board.   This big picture idea also ties into why I am so involved with MCAA, and I encourage you to get involved.  Not everything I work on or do in my roles with MCAA directly affects our business, but I was shown many years ago that if it's suitable for the industry as a whole, it is also ideal. Again, give back to what gives to you. Giving back also ties into our industry’s goal to promote and educate the world about masonry and gain market share back, in some form of a Check-Off program. It's for the common good of the industry. Our industry segments don’t see the need or don’t agree with everything, but we have to look at the big picture and what it can do for all of us. Whatever the outcome of this is, we, in general as masonry contractors, either mandatory or voluntary, hope it happens.   
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