January 2008: Full Contact Project Management

Words: Dan KamysJanuary 2008 Full Contact Project Management

You Can Be QB1

Become the quarterback your team needs for 2008

Gary MicheloniBy "Coach" Gary Micheloni

As January rolls around, we can get caught up in college bowl games and pro football playoffs. The funny thing is that this all happens at the end of those seasons. At the same time, the rest of the world is wondering what to do about their own seasons: the brand new year of 2008 and the promise — or the hope — of better things to come.

It's interesting that, with most football teams, as fans, coaches and players wonder about the future, wonder what happened, wonder what went wrong with the old season, they talk about leadership. In football, the talk is often about the quarterback — the QB position. And the team's starting quarterback is called "QB1."

In the sports world, the talk shows are all about whether so-and-so is the quarterback of the future, and who should get recruited or drafted. Even in little towns all over this country that seem to be defined by high school ball, QBs and their coaches are hot topics of conversation.

If we look at the basics of our team, we can start with some exercises to help you survive.

Survival exercises? You bet.

Listen; in almost every area of our country in 2008, construction will be down, at least somewhat, in our industry. So, here are your "survival" exercise questions:

Question 1: If things get slower, do you expect more or less competition in your market area?

Question 2: If things get more competitive in your market area, do you expect more or less profitability in your projects?

Coach Gary says:

As PM on your project, you are QB1.

Question 3: If profits are down in your own projects, what do you intend to do to take up the slack?

You see, it's all about you, and your ability to lead your team. You're smart enough to know that, with a softer economy, if you make no changes now to your team and its game plan, you'll soon suffer. So, what is your plan?

Well, here's a thought for you as you ponder your new career as "quarterback." Increase your profit on your projects, even in a down market.

Here are a couple of examples. Let's say you have a small company doing $1 million in yearly sales, and you're averaging a 10 percent gross profit. (You can use numbers that better fit your own company. The principle and the equation remain the same). Well, a 10 percent gross profit would yield $100,000 annually. And, let's say that your company has done that for the last few years and can function okay with those numbers.

Coach Gary says:

Too many contractors do too much extra work — for free!

Using round numbers, let's assume that your volume this next year, if you change nothing, will drop 10 percent to $900,000, and your 10 percent profit drops to $90,000. You have $10,000 to make up. Again, rounding off, call it $1,000 per month of make-up profit that is needed.

You could cut your profit to, say, 5 percent; try and pick up an additional $200,000 in volume; and get your $10,000 lost profit back. Of course, that would be in a much tougher market. And, that additional volume would probably strain your limited resources even more. When you're working on thinner margins, you've got to be even more careful, don't you?

So, by now, are you interested in a simpler, more logical solution — something that won't tax those resources and will deal with the reality of the market? Something geared to helping you survive?

Coach Gary says:

You can't get to where you need to be if you're not willing to go there!

Let's resolve that 2008 is the year that we stop working for free. I know you've heard this before. You've always thought it was a good idea. Maybe you've been too busy. With so much work out there in years past, it might not have been as important. You might not have been as concerned as you should have over your materials waste or your re-work costs, and you figured to make it up on volume. Well, volume is about to go down for a lot of companies, so let's realize it, plan for it, and do something about it.

It all boils down to this: If our mythical, million-dollar company can pick up an additional $200 to $250 per week, in other words, just convert some otherwise "free" work into some revenue, it will make up the profit shortfall.

How, again, do we pick up this money? We do this by only giving our clients what they asked us to give them in the contracts that everyone agreed to before the job began. And, we do this now, realizing that when we give away work for free, we are reaching into our own wallets. That's money coming out of a wallet that is already missing $10,000.

This realization of weakened profits should keep us from being overly generous with our company's money. This is the year when we learn to say, when we're asked to do more free work, "It's not ours!" It's also the year when we gain the ability to resist being such nice guys all the time.

There is a way to do this, a way that is based upon the specifications of most projects, and it begins by recognizing a change to the scope of work and doing something about it. You're assuring you do get paid for it, if and when you perform it.

Here's how: You let your client know that the work is not included in your contract. You no longer have the attitude that it's too big of a hassle or too much trouble. After all, to many of us, this means survival. You normally start this process with a Request for Information.

This is the year to become QB1 your team needs. Be the leader. Make the required changes. Start asking the right questions. Decide that you want your $10,000 back, and know you can't do that without a game plan to implement these strategies.

Begin here: Go to the FullContactBlog.com Web site and get the free (for Masonry readers), five-part mini-course, "How to Stop Working for Free." It's a great place to start, and the price is right!

Finally, may we and our industry not only survive 2008, but also have a successful and prosperous new season.

Coach Gary's Corner:
Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author and consultant. Got a question? Go to the Blog and ask him, or email coachgary@fullcontactPM.com. Copyright 2008 Gary Micheloni      
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