Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Valuing Expertise - Let's Blog Off

Every two weeks Bloggers unite for a day to write about a communal topic. This week LetsBlogOff asks the question How do we accommodate the Ikeas and the Wal-Marts of the world while at the same time making a living? Where does price stop and value start?

I am going to start this Lets Blog Off with a story that happened to me several years ago.  I was in a Home Depot trying to find something specific and was trying to decide between several varieties of some thingamabob.  Somewhere nearby someone mentioned doors and my brain started paying attention.  It turned out I was standing near the door department and a woman was trying to order a door.  The HD associate was asking her which way the door swung.  Unfortunately he couldn't convey his question in a way she understood.  After listening (basically eavesdropping) for a few minutes I walked over and asked if I could help since I was in the door business.  The HD associate was less than thrilled.  All I did was take a piece of paper and write exterior and interior on it, drew two lines that represented walls and one line that represented the door.  I was able to ask the woman, while showing her the crude drawing, when standing on the exterior side of the door which side were the hinges on and did the door swing into the room or out of the room?  She answered quickly and easily.  I looked at the HD associate and said there you go. He stilled looked less than thrilled but the woman thanked me profusely and I continued on my way.  

While this story proves that my expertise in the door business is valuable I still have to make a living which to be honest is very tough in Florida.  It is all about the bottom line versus quality here.  In order to be competitive I no longer put a dollar line item in my quotes for my time and knowledge to create submittals, key schedules, tag hardware, and all the other many small services that come up on a project.  If I did I would never close a job.  My hope is that because my service and expertise are given willingly the general contractor or end user will come back to me for the next project.  So far it has worked.

Please read the other contributors point of view below as they are much wiser than me :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Building a Team of Trades

Being a door & hardware supplier I think my scope is 1% of the total building process.  Yet that 1% is often complicated and confusing.  I work hard to make sure my material shows up on the jobsite tagged with door numbers and anything else I can think of to do to make it easy on the GC and installer.  Building a building is a team process and each trade can make or break the job. 

To that end I thought it would be interesting to start a series of guest blog posts inviting all facets of the building industry to write about what they feel could be done to make the process of building a building easier at the jobsite? 

Todd Vendituoli was the first person I emailed about this new series and he was gracious enough to say yes. Todd has been a builder for many years and currently owns two construction companies.   Todd Vendituoli Construction L.L.C. is based out of West Burke, VT and also Eleuthera, Bahamas, KV Construction Company LTD.  You can find his blog about all things building here: http://thebuildingblox.blogspot.com/   Todd is also expanding into the Social Media industry and recently started a brand new blog:  http://thebuildingblox.blogspot.com/p/social-media-4-you.html

By Todd Vendituoli
Over the years I have had many roles in the construction field but in all of them I was the one that had to make sure that every aspect of the project flowed smoothly. The entire process of making sure that the pieces and parts of that project had to be all aligned so that there were no glitches or delays.
This is even more evident as the projects get larger in scope and you are dealing with many different trades people and suppliers. The carpenters need to be aware of the needs of the electricians and plumbers as well as others to make sure that what they build will work smoothly into the needs of the others. This process operates through the entire project so that each of the different trades and suppliers know what is needed of them and also what will be required by the others. This is how it works when I do it but..
I had occasion to be part of a large project a few years ago and was asked to do the remodeling of a ski lodge. There was a hitch though. I was there to do carpentry, not act as the general contractor. The man that had been put in charge was not a GC and it was his role to oversee all the carpenters, electricians, plumbers, suppliers etc.. It was not working well at all as no one knew what the overall plan was and what their roles and responsibilities were. As my frustration grew, I asked if he wouldn’t mind if I helped try to co-ordinate everything so that we got back on schedule. He agreed and I now had  to learn all the parts that were needed to be done such as where the wiring was to go, what plumbing was to be repaired or changed, what each supplier had on order and when it was scheduled for delivery and on and on.
The chain had been broken. Each of the links in the chain barely knew it was part of the same chain so a new plan had to be implemented. My solution was to have morning and evening meetings with the head of each trade.
We would all get together before any work started and discuss what they would be doing and how it worked into the other trades schedules. For example: if the electricians were going to wire a certain section, had the carpenters done what was needed, did the IT people need to run anything there, was there any plumbing work that was required there etc. We also discussed what was happening with their suppliers. Were they getting what they needed when and how they needed them? Was there any way to increase the rate and efficiency of what was happening on any end?
Then come the end of the day we met again to discuss how and what had been accomplished even though I had been checking throughout the day.
The area that was consistently in need of assistance was the supplier end. Without the needed supplies things couldn't progress on schedule. So my next step was to discuss with the suppliers what they could do to make things better and they were more than willing to help do whatever they could to simplify and expand their role. The solutions they came up with was for us and each of the trades involved to notify them as to when products would be needed. The trades would also notify them as to any scheduling changes. The suppliers would also add any addition installation requirements and needed hardware so that there would be no slowdowns.
The process was in sync. Every trade and supplier was working together to help each other as well as themselves. The system was flowing smoothly because each of the links in the chain knew what was expected of them and what the other person, trade or supplier needed and when. It had started as individual players and turned into a team that all worked and co-ordinated their efforts for the success of the project.

Thank you very much Todd for taking the time to write this post.  If anyone else would like to chime in please contact me at acrackeddoor@gmail.com.  Thank you.