Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
"How are you?"
"I hope you're doing well."
"Is there anything I can help you with?"
"Have a great day!"
From outside appearances, these types of questions and statements seem to show sensitivity and genuine interest by the inquiring party. But what are the chances that the asker is just going through the motions and doesn't really care what the answer is? I'm going to go out on a limb and say that nowadays, it is high. Very, very high.
Some will say that if you ask the right questions, you'll get the right answers. While this indeed may be true, what happens if you aren't listening?
I've thought many times about the statement from Stephen Covey that "most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply". So, what if we combined that phrase with the 2,000-year-old Epictetus quote that "we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak"?
What if we remove any self-interest and truly attempt to empathize with the individual that we are speaking to by being sincere and more so, by active listening? I get it, you're busy. We're all busy. But next time you ask someone "how are you?", ask it like you really, really mean it.
Perhaps you'll hear what the pain points are on a project. What the difficulties are in their day-to-day work. A common bond while outside of the office. Insight on where they believe the future of their profession is going.
That’s it. That’s the post.
Contributed by Michael Chambers
Continuing education for design professionals is arguably the most effective and powerful marketing opportunity available to construction product manufacturers in North America. However, there appears to be some confusion as to what continuing education is supposed to accomplish. In my opinion and experience, continuing education can bring three things to the bottom line. First is brand recognition, second is getting specified, and third is holding specifications against non-competitive substitutions.
There is a bizarre notion that manufacturers provide continuing education out of the goodness of their hearts for the benefit of design professionals. Or worse, manufacturers think that continuing education is a perfect tool to sell product to design professionals. Is there any wonder why local AIA components and a growing number of large design firms no longer allow manufacturers to present programs?
Unless manufacturers can begin to bring excellent programs to the design professionals, the opportunity inherent in continuing education is going to be lost.
One of the most powerful and least understood aspects of continuing education is brand recognition. The biggest issue I see here is that manufacturers do not understand how to brand with education. Successful branding is never about logos or products; it is about high quality education that speaks directly to the audience and provides solutions to design and construction issues. It is never about product, never, never, never.
A high quality program designed for adult learners, presented by qualified, knowledgeable product representatives is the best possible branding opportunity. At the level of design professionals, people brand manufacturers far more effectively than product advertising and the like. Product representatives must be knowledgeable not only about their products but about the industry and most importantly about the competition.
In this same regard, presentation skills are even more critical than product knowledge. A poor presentation will trash a brand faster than anything. Product representatives must be good presenters and have the ability to make effective presentations.
An excellent education program presented by a professional product representative can have an incredible impact on the bottom line by providing usable information and identifying the “go to” resource for the design professionals.
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
On July 26th, my company finished installing a flooring project that sparked a trilogy of blog posts, "Not Quite Ready Yet", "Project Compaction: Not Just for Soil" and (I thought) concluding with “It’s Just a Matter of Time” on July 29th.
This was a non-prevailing wage, privately funded project in one of the Boroughs of Manhattan where our standard credit terms were negotiated with us by the General Contractor. We typically request a 50% deposit at the time of the contract award, a 30% balance due on the day materials arrive on the project and then collect the 20% balance on the final day on site. On this particular project, they agreed to our 50% deposit, but asked to pay us down to 10% retainage within 30 days of completion. We reluctantly agreed and even though it was change ordered immediately, we didn’t insist on collecting additional money up front on the change order work. We eventually collected our 50% deposit on the base bid, despite it taking multiple payments to tally.
I won’t rehash many of the particulars that were outlined in my previous three posts, but this project did not go smoothly from award. We fought tooth and nail to have the space ready, then to have it solely to ourselves, to not have our in-place work damaged (by workers, inspectors or Acts of God) and then to complete within their requested window. The final brush stroke was on Friday, July 26th. I submitted all billing and paperwork in a timely fashion, and we did what many do to receive payment on a construction project: we waited.
At about a week before our Net 30 term approached, I started reminding the contractor that our money was due. We received immediate pushback from the GC that they had not been funded by the owner. Our response was easy: our payment terms were not paid when paid, as per your negotiation.
Back and forth we went. We waited. More back and forth. More waiting. As day 60 approached with no further money received, we decided to protect ourselves the best we could by filing a mechanic’s lien on the project.
Contributed by Elias Saltz
Like it or not, the architectural product library is a thing of the past. No longer do firms set aside rooms dedicated to shelves covered with hefty binders. The parade of product reps schlepping suitcases filled with paper updates has mostly stopped. Architects' and specifiers' need for up-to-date information, on the other hand, has not abated. My job writing specifications requires me to research multiple products and systems every single day. Product data is now almost exclusively available electronically, and manufacturers are figuring out the best way to present and distribute that information. Many consolidate the information on thumb drives and hand them to architects and specifiers at meetings and product shows. But how useful is that when those thumb drives end up tossed in a box, gathering dust?
Also, it's recognized now that thumb drives are a major cyber security risk; any one of them can be a malware or espionage vector and the product manufacturer may not even know it (every single thumb drive is made in China, and who knows what's hidden in them?!). Also, the data on the drives is current as of the date the drive is made, but quickly gets obsolete. So thumb drives aren't the answer.
The only feasible on-demand information source we have, other than old-fashioned picking up the phone or meeting reps in person, is manufacturer websites. I visit dozens of sites for every project I write, and often I struggle to find the information I need. This might be because the sites are poorly designed, require registration, or simply don't have the information. The search bars return useless results. The guide specifications, when available, aren't editable. There are no details. There are no tools to find local reps.
Most sites actually contain very thorough information, but there's frequently a learning curve to finding it efficiently because they do counterintuitive things. Often, for example, clicking "I'm an Architect" displays only CEUs, not product information.
The time is ripe, I believe, for the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI), a national association most famous for publishing formats adopted by the entire construction industry, to jump into solving this problem. WebFormat (or whatever it would be named) is an idea that has been floating around for a long time, but hasn't yet been implemented. Given the investment CSI has been making in upgrading its technological footprint, the time is ripe to develop this product.
What would WebFormat contain? I imagine a single hyperlink on each manufacturer's homepage that would bring us to an index of the available products, perhaps organized in multiple ways (how about drop down options for sorting by MasterFormat number, UniFormat category, and OmniClass table), with a very brief description of the product within the index. The main index page would also have a way to search for local reps and senior technical reps. Upon visiting a specific product, we could immediately find details, product data sheets, photographs, available colors/finishes, guide specs (in MS Word), warranty information, HPD's and EPD's, installer qualifications, and installation instructions. All the information will be organized by every manufacturer in a uniform way.
Let's end the endless, frustrating, fruitless web searches, and learn from how MasterFormat and SectionFormat have transformed AEC. CSI needs to begin working on WebFormat, now.
Contributed by Nick Carrillo
(Editor's Note: October is Careers in Construction Month. Please feel free to delve into our previous posts, "Don't Just Look for Employees, Attract Them" and "Changing the Public's Perception")
We’ve done it, we’ve written enough articles to know that the construction industry is facing a workforce shortage, and that shortage isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The problem is very clearly identified.
If you ask older generations, the reason for our workforce shortage is the lack of desire to work in the trades from the younger generation(s). Or, to put it bluntly, the millennials don’t want to work hard and get dirty.
I can hear it now, “millennials are the ‘everybody gets a trophy’ generation and are entitled!” Those type of casual statements are broadly painting an entire generation as lazy and entitled based on the few. Does that mean that everyone born in the 60’s is a pot-smoking hippie? Or everyone in the 70’s is a disco party maniac? No, it doesn’t.
A quick Google search will show a list of the largest companies in the world run, or founded by, millennials. Facebook, The Honest Company, AirBnB, Lyft and many more companies that we all rely on and that undoubtedly take a lot of hard work to maintain.
Baby boomers may not be outright saying these younger generations are worthless and hopeless when they said, ‘lazy and entitled’. However, I’ve often heard the phrase, “How do we change the mindset of an entire generation?” Hearing it enough, without back story or explanation, it leads the audience to believe that the people being referenced are wrong, and the person saying it is right.
I know, after working so many years alongside baby boomers, the comments are not malicious. I know that when a frustrated owner, manager or supervisor makes these statements, they simply are trying to express the desired change in the way we communicate; a change in the way we perceive the information that one generation has to offer the other.
So, how do we change the mindset of an entire generation? YOU DON’T
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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