“The Thrill Of Victory… No Agony Of Defeat”
—Looking‘ Back 50!—
2018: Your Breakout Season Part 2
Half of you may not like what I am about to say—but the other half just may love it—so here goes!
But first…a quick story. A dozen years ago I wrote a book about construction change orders. In my mind, it was—and is—the definitive book on change orders because it is all about how contractors can get paid for the ‘extra work’ that they do. In fact, the title is “Get Paid for a Change!”The book was birthed by me out of my frustration of NOT getting paid for extra work’… but I digress.
Typically, people review books prior to publication and, hopefully, give a positive recommendation. A construction manager friend of mine read the book but said he could not recommend it because I took such a hard stance and made general contractors and construction management firms seem like bad guys. Well…I considered what he said, concluded that maybe I wasbeing a bit too harsh, and re-wrote parts of it, making it clear that not all of our clients are bad guys. He then happily endorsed the book.
You’ve heard football fans say,“The best offense is a good defense.” And that makes sense until you realize that your defense can’t stop anybody,any time. So you build up your defense and make it the best it can be. Then…if you can stop everybody, even your horribly-anemic offense begins to look pretty good because a 3-0 shutout is still a “W”. And we begin to believe that maybe the best defense might turn out to be the best offense. Of course…it’s all debatable, and I put it out there to make a further point, which I’ll get to in just a sec.
My opinion: to succeed in any sport, contracting, or life in general, you’ve got to work at developing both sides of the equation…offense and defense. I’ve been thinking about this for the last several months because I’ve been seeing the need for it in our industry.
Here’s the deal. I’m seeing the increase—in some clients—of a tendency to expect more things to be automatically included in our work, even if those things are not included in our contract scope of work. Further, even after working through an RFI process where we come to agreement that the work is, indeed, extra, and that we proceed on a ‘time and materials’ basis to do the extra work, that once the work is done, and the client has what the client needs, that the client then has no compunction about second-guessing the very work it has previously approved–and now wants to negotiate your costs!
Simultaneously to the sometime-hostility in the construction industry, I was witnessing similar things playing out in real time, real life, in our country: the classic battle between the ‘Left’and the ‘Right’. Long time readers of this column know that my views tend toward the conservative side of the political spectrum. Keep that in mind as you read these next couple of paragraphs, as I seemingly change sides, but then tie everything in to how we can use this insight in our businesses.
As a conservative from the right, I still marvel at the successful team play of the left! As a team, they play to win, stick together, pressing on toward their goals. I can completely disagree with their platform but, by gosh, you’ve got to admire their tenacity!
By contrast, I think the folks in leadership on the right talk a good game, have a game plan, but once the actual game begins, team unity disappears, the game plan gets discarded, and they do their best to try and pull a defeat out of the jaws of victory!Their fans—the ticket-buying public (taxpayers)–are completely disregarded. The team appears dysfunctional. It makes me want to turn off the game or walk out early from the stadium. Know what I’m talking about? Yikes!
I gotta add this: my team seems to have gone from attack mode to a prevent defense. And you know the old saying, “The problem with a prevent defense is that it prevents winning!”
Some of you might be thinking, “Coach, enough civics lessons. What’s this have to do with our businesses?” Here’s my take on it, relative to construction.
COACH GARY’S TEACHING
First, you need balance. Offense, defense and special teams. If you don’t, then your dream of a winning season may be just that: a dream. Hopefully, not a nightmare!
Second, if you’ve got a good game plan—one that your team has practiced and can execute—then don’t be in a hurry to throw it out. That said, if your players are smaller, slower, and less skilled than the other, then it’s going to be a long day. But too often players get psyched by the other team, and start thinking themselves to be inferior, when that’s not the case at all. (Same thing with young contractors working for older, well-established GC’s.)
Doesn’t matter what league you play in. Me? I prefer to play against the best. Once upon a time, while coaching a boy’s, under-16 soccer team, my assistant coach and I enrolled them into a men’s league, comprised of mostly college-age guys. The first season our kids had their (you-know-what’s) handed to them. But the next season, they won it all. You see, when you play against the best, you’ll learn to get better. Which they did! When you play against lesser teams, you slack off.
Back to construction. Look…you’re playing in the big leagues, for real money, as professionals. You had to prove your worth just to get here. Not all companies are eligible to bid the kind and quality of work required to play here, are they? Face it. You’ve got a team of all stars. A good coaching staff. A well thought out game plan.
You appreciate the requirements of your contract and you know the rules. A secret to succeeding in our game is to make sure that you hold your clients—who provided the contracts you hadto sign—to the scope of work outlined in that document. Simple: nothing more and nothing less. Smile big; be polite…but be insistent upon that fairness.
Curious about the title of this column? Go to YouTube and type ‘the thrill of victory’ into the search bar and you’ll see an old, 30-second video from ABC TV. Watch it; you’ll get it! There are but two real choices—possibilities—in any sporting event, political battle, or construction project. Position and train your team to expect victory in every event.