Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My new title - Professional Juggler?

In all the networking that I do as a building professional you'd think I would have perfected my 15-30 second elevator speech because I get asked almost daily "what do you do for work?" Speaking with great confidence about what I do for a living has never been one of my strengths as I tend to lead by example and don't usually feel comfortable babbling on about myself and what I do. Not that I have yet to perfect my speech but yesterday I had a revelation about how to answer this proverbial question. From now on I will be answering this question like this - "I am a Professional Juggler"

I had an interesting lunchtime discussion yesterday with a new friend about our (construction) industry and how hard it can be some times. I compared it to being an air-traffic controller which is actually very similar, but when I thought about it, it is possibly even more difficult than being an open heart surgeon. Let me explain my logic: Traditionally a doctor spends many years after college practicing their craft under more experienced doctors until they are skilled enough to perform open heart surgery. An inexperienced contractor would never (or should never) rip into a client's home to do a remodel without knowing a great deal about how a structure is put together, much like the doctor and the human body. The doctor spends many years watching videos and performing surgeries on cadavers before he or she can actually work on a real live body. Unfortunately contractors don't have fake homes to practice on nor do we have the same sort of formal college training that would prepare us for what we will see out in the real world. We rely on on-the-job-training with many potential surprises awaiting us. Some of the best contractors are the ones that have made most of the mistakes at least once and preferrable on their previous employer's dime.

Unlike doctors who can, with a great deal of certainty, predict where the aortic valve or right ventricle might be, contractors cut into walls every day with no idea what they will find underneath the surface. I can't count the amount of times I have opened a wall and found a pipe or wire where I'd least expect them to be due to improper planning by previous contractors. On several occasions I have opened floors to shift a toilet location over a few inches and the previous contractor cut out or notched the joists so badly that it required a few thousand dollars to repair the damage. Sure, there are plenty of doctors who do shoddy work, but I am guessing there is a much higher level of skill and accountability as a doctor with insurance premiums being so high. I wish there was more accountability in the construction industry.

Doctors can rely on the research and development of many previous doctors who have perfected the same surgical procedures and ever year there are advances in techniques and technology. The same holds true for the construction industry, but unless contractors and their employees take the initiative to read trade journals, watch HGTV shows, attend trade shows and go above and beyond what is required, the industry as a whole is going to suffer and the biggest losers will be unsuspecting homeowners. Continuing education is a way of life at Meadowview Construction and it has kept us at the forefront of what is going on in our industry.

Remodeling someone's home, in my opinion, is the ultimate form of juggling because of the hundreds or thousands of pieces and parts that have to come together and all fit together. These pieces include obtaining permits and inspections, getting materials in a timely manner, having the correct subcontractors on the job at the right times and shifting man power from one job to another to keep a good balance. And that is only 25% of the challenge that we face as builders. The other 75% consists of marketing, sales and administration. I cannot think of many other professions where there is so much at risk. So many things can go wrong and it takes a professional juggler to keep all the ball in the air. As soon as one falls they can all fall. Many jugglers count how many catches (or throws) they can do for many of the big tricks they are working on. Not only does counting help keep the rhythm of the pattern (especially for passing), but it gives the juggler a measure of how his skills are progressing. In my business it is virtually impossible to keep all the balls in the air all the time, but if we can keep some or most of the balls in the air at all times I feel like I have accomplished something special. AND NOW FOR MY NEXT BIG TRICK......