Tag Archives: brad humphrey

Exceptional at the Ordinary Things

There is little fanfare given to the leader or worker who goes about their job every day, performing work in a disciplined and consistent manner.  The attention often goes to the individual who pulls off some miraculous effort to save a project from disaster.

What is interesting however is that for the leader and worker who daily, practices consistent discipline to insure they have the tools they need, and make sure their work efforts are methodically followed, their results are consistently better.  This is what I have come to call, being “exceptional at the ordinary things.”

There is little doubt that “ordinary things” do not possess much excitement.  I mean, how can some of the following items be considered anything but ordinary?

  • Making sure the equipment and vehicles are gassed up, lubed and oiled, and properly loaded and unloaded.
  • Taking the time to see that all plans, pictures, and specifications are in the job file.
  • Double or triple checking prints for accuracy.
  • Looking to see that all working areas are safe and pose no threat to workers due to power or gas lines in the area.
  • Regularly having the crew picking up after themselves to insure the site is clean.
  • All project tools and equipment are accounted for daily and returned to their respective storage areas.
  • Preparing for each new day, conducting morning “huddles” with the workers to be sure that they know their roles and the scope of work for the day.

Such tasks do not require a “Hail Mary” pass effort, but instead, a daily consistency to perform the same procedural things that are required to achieve the needed quality, safety, and to meet critical schedules.

If more contractors over-emphasized being exceptional about performing the ordinary things, more companies would reap the benefits.  I mean, consider briefly a few benefits to those who are exceptional at the ordinary things.  Can you imagine:

  • Less risk to workplace injuries?
  • Better house-keeping of job-sites?
  • Equipment that last longer due to consistent PM?
  • Jobs that start on time?
  • Less tool replacement costs?
  • Customers are bragging on your worker’s efficiency, quality, and clean job-site?
  • Projects that make the estimated profit?
  • Greater peace of mind for you?

So, if there are so many benefits to be realized by having all our workers being exceptional at the ordinary things, how can we influence or encourage this experience?

Let’s look at a few efforts that leaders and owners can make to influence their employees to be exceptional at the ordinary things.

  1. Formally Create and Document the Ordinary Things

Whether it is creating a “pre-start” list of tools, equipment, building components, etc. needed for the day or providing crews with an inventory management sheet to keep better track of what they are to bring back to the yard or tool crib, you will need to document the expected procedures to follow.

  1. Compliment Individuals When They Practice the Basics

Remember, “praise what you want practiced.”  When employees receive recognition for doing the basics, they will be more likely to maintain the effort.  No different than a professional athlete who methodically prepares for their daily workouts, being consistent on the little things allow the bigger things to be more easily completed.

  1. Make it Your Norm to Remind Workers About Consistently Following Every Process or Procedure

Contractors will grow frustrated if they assume their workers are all doing the “little” things each day to bring about the best results.  Reminding workers helps to keep them focused on following process steps.  Being disciplined in the “ordinary” things will make it easier to take on the extraordinary things with more confidence and preparedness.

  1. Review Problem Jobs with Leaders and Workers to Determine What Isn’t Consistently Followed

Finding inconsistencies in following procedures or processes is almost always the reason behind poor work results.  Reviewing jobs that had higher than expected costs should always be looked at to determine the cause of the increased cost and what was or was not followed.  Inevitably the reasons come back to confirm that one or more things were not performed as required.

  1. Conduct a “Spring Training” One to Two Times Each Year

If the professional sports teams can require their coaches and players to prepare for the season, is it any less important for our own people to have their own form of “Spring Training”?  Use such times to re-educate work efforts, include hands-on learning, and challenge workers to strengthen the “ordinary” tasks and how they are to be completed.

  1. Prepare to Discipline Those Who Fail to Practice the Basics

This can be challenging for the contractor that has lost control of workers embracing the need to perform well on the ordinary things.  However, when workers, and leaders, are disciplined for failing to perform important basic but needed tasks, then the message begins to be understood that doing the little things really do matter.  Failure to do so could cost one their job!

Just think what your performance could be if all involved would spend just as much energy and focus on performing the ordinary things?  Consider how much lower your equipment costs could be or much cleaner or safer your job sites might be if each worker made an exceptional effort to complete the small and ordinary tasks.

One final observation about this topic.  Being exceptional at ordinary things reflects the degree of pride within the employee.  It is easy to get excited about a new project working for a high-profile customer but not about a small project within our own company.  But both project types benefit from workers who are focused, consistent, and attentive. 

To perform every project with such proactive and positive effort is reflective of people who take pride in their work, their preparation, and their reputation.  This is what most contractors need to direct their time and attention to, the raising of the ordinary things as needing and benefiting from exceptional work efforts.

Brad Humphrey

The Contractor’s Best Friend


Getting the Best from Your Interns

A growing number of companies have realized the benefits to bringing an Internship Program to their organization.  Larger contractors have used Interns for years but the experience has become more common for many contractors, no matter their size.

For all the benefits that an Internship Program can bring to an organization, few companies really exhaust their efforts to make the experience all that it can be.  Let me share a few signs of a poor Internship Program.

  • College students are not interviewed; just “invited & assigned”
  • Interns are given primarily administrative or low difficulty jobs
  • Interns are not included in strategic based meetings, decisions, etc.
  • The company does not work to determine the potential of the Intern
  • The Intern is not questioned by their “host” company about new trends being taught in school

Ask many Interns who have experienced one or more of the signs listed above and you will find an Intern who heads back to school considering other career choices.  At the least, the Intern will probably not consider being hired by the same company they served their Internship.

If you believe that Internships are worth the effort, and include an Internship Program as part of your company’s strategy to grow the company by finding the future workers and leaders, then you will be quite pleased with this article.  If you are interested in starting an Internship Program or want to upgrade your current efforts, then this article will really resonate with you and provide you with some excellent building tips.  Remember, the Internship Program should be part of your future growth plans.

Let’s look at how to get the very best from your Interns…and your Internship Program.


  1. 1. Interview Intern Candidates as if You Were Hiring

Asking the local college to send over a few candidates to Intern with you is not going to help identify the best Intern Candidate.  You must plan to interview Intern Candidates in the same manner that you might interview any job candidate.  While the questions may be different, you need to prepare by interviewing the Intern to determine their aptitude and attitude.  Anything less than this level of commitment and you will have only brought on short-term administrative assistants.

  1. Identify, Train, and Commit an Intern “Point of Contact”

I conduct training for many contractors on how to be a leader to an Intern.  But first, a company needs to identify the right candidate to be an Intern Point of Contact, or IPC.  This person needs to be someone who will oversee and coach the Intern on their role, responsibilities, and their job expectations.  The IPC needs to be trained on how to interact with their Intern, how to address improvements when needed, even how to determine if the Intern should be a future candidate for employment.  Finally, the IPC needs to be fully committed to fulfilling all that is needed to make the Intern’s experience enjoyable, educational, and encouraging.  It is quite common for contractors to hire employees who may have served an Internship while they were in college.

  1. Develop Goals & Exit Strategies for the Intern

The Intern, while interviewing, should be told that they will have goals set if they are selected.  This effort must be accomplished and delivered on the Interns very first day with your company.  The Goals might be reflective of what the IPC believes the Intern should be striving to achieve during the time-period of the Internship. 

Once the Intern has been around for a few weeks, the IPC should sit down with the Intern and begin to map out some Exit Strategies for the Intern’s departure.  The Exit Strategies might be a continuation of the Goals, but they may also include other achievements that the IPC believes the Intern capable of finishing as they complete their Internship.  The Exit Strategies might include preparing for and making a presentation to senior leaders on their Internship experience or, it might include having the Intern complete some written exercise that has lasting value such as a Standard Operating Procedure, or a software instructional book, etc. 

  1. Match the Intern with Interest & Educational Desire

To gain the best from your Intern it will be important to match their focus with something that will interest them and provide for some educational value.  Part of any internship should include introducing the Intern to some of the realities of construction or the specialty of your organization.  Additionally, it is wise to ask the Intern what is an area that captures their interest or desire. 

The Intern’s interest should be discussed during the interviewing phase, before they are extended an offer to spend their internship with your company.  Once they arrive, a brief confirmation of what they shared as their interest is then matched with a possible role that brings as much of the opportunity and educational value to their time with you.  Not only does this meet their need, it also sends them back to school with a positive attitude and experience with your company, something that they will brag about to their Academic Advisor and to any of their peers interested in a future Internship.

  1. Empower the Intern with Some Authority & Responsibility

If you are to give the Intern a great experience by educating them on how the “real world” works, you will need to invest some authority and responsibility into their time spent with you.  Short of them running the company, you can still empower an Intern with some authority, allowing them to make decisions that do not require them to have permission. Remember, they always have their IPC to throw ideas at, and who can counsel them on better options.  Giving the Intern a clear role description and the responsibilities that go along with the role reinforces the Intern that they were not brought in only to make copies of drawings or to file customer files.

  1. Schedule Regular Follow-Up by the IPC & Other Company Leaders

Depending on the length of the Internship, there should be periodic and regular follow-up sessions with the Intern.  And, because so many companies fail at prioritizing the time spent with an Intern, I would highly recommend that a regular schedule of more formal Follow-up Meetings are arranged between the Intern, their IPC, and other company leaders.  The list of “other” company leaders might include the Owner, a more Senior Leader, and a Human Resource Manager.  Conducting the Follow-ups with such a diversity of leaders will reinforce the commitment that your company has to making the Intern, and the Internship Program, a satisfying and a learning experience for the company. 

  1. Create a Team Exercise that the Intern Leads

One of the most interesting and beneficial observations I have made of companies who have a great Internship Program is engaging the Intern in creating and facilitating a team-based exercise.  The exercise might be job related or it might be team-building related.  It’s not critical what the exercise is but it will provide the Intern with the chance to facilitate a meeting that they control, thus providing an opportunity for you to monitor just how well they do in a mixed-group of people.

  1. Insure that the Intern Spends an Evening with the Team

Only so much can be learned about an Intern during the work day.  While grabbing a cup of coffee with an Intern, possibly taking them out lunch every few weeks, are good things to do, and should be encouraged, getting the Intern out for an evening with one or more of the company employees often furthers the experience for the company and Intern.  This is not about going out and getting drunk, but instead, taking the Intern to a more relaxing environment, allowing them to share more freely how they are doing, what type of things they feel they are learning, and do they have any ideas or recommendations to share about the Internship experience.

  1. Assess the Internship for All Involved Parties

By the end of the Internship process it will be important to capture any learned lessons and opportunities for improvement that has been gained.  Often, a company will only ask the Intern about their experience.  I would recommend that you also include those who were part of the Internship Program, whether directly (IPC), or indirectly.  Gathering feedback from the multiple perspectives can contribute to strengthening your Internship Program.

Internships are a great way for you to catch a close-up view of some of tomorrow’s workforce.  It’s a chance to see what sort of talent is out there to hire.  It’s also a chance for you to challenge your staff to recognize the importance of working with younger workers, being more sensitive about how your company “on-boards” new workers, and assess how effective the company is on training and development.

Internships are not about giving a college student an easy go of it, allowing them to spend eight to twelve weeks, maybe even sixteen weeks or more, just hanging out.  No, the Internship should be viewed as an honor to experience and an awakening to how hard great companies work to be successful.

Want to get the best from your Interns?  Then put some of the steps presented here to work in your company and watch the energy that takes place between your Interns and many of the company employees who will interact with the Intern.  It really is a win-win scenario.

Here’s to Getting the Best from Your Next Intern!

Brad Humphrey

The Contractor’s Best Friend

Can Contractors Bring America Back?

NOTE: This article originally appeared on ForConstructionPros.com

Eight reasons author Brad Humphrey believes the construction industry is the perfect place to resurrect the middle class and a great America

Think this title is too far fetched? Consider some thoughts from an article by James Surowiecki in The New Yorker magazine entitled “The Pay Is Too Damn Low.”

  • Fast food restaurants and department stores pay minimum wage because of low margins on the products and services they provide.
  • These same industries could get away with such pay in past years because many workers were teenagers and, per Surowiecki, “underemployed married women.”
  • Due to recent economic conditions, “main” breadwinners are actually filling many of these same jobs.

I think it is safe to say that most of us do not believe that America will prosper when the local hamburger franchise or low-cost department store chain employs a majority of this country’s workers. Therefore, is it possible that contractors, hiring construction workers, can bring back America? Can construction company owners and leaders bring back the ever-needed middle class?

Let me share a few thoughts why I think that contractors are exactly the right medicine for bringing back not only the middle class but our great country too!

First, few contractors pay their workers minimum wage? Why? Come on, that’s way too easy. Construction is hard work, conditions are often less than ideal, and even the most basic of laborers still needs to be able to read, count, learn and think to some extent.

It is not uncommon at all for construction workers to gross $35K to $60K in wages during the year. The more skilled construction workers can make every bit of the high end to this range and more — sometimes a lot more! Can you think of any better industry to help spark the revival of the middle class and the rebuilding of America than construction?

Second, what this country needs, in addition to jobs, is a resurgence of morale and motivation. I know few industries that have more self-motivated leaders than construction; that is, contractors and their leadership teams. Construction leaders are often, by nature, more optimistic and entrepreneur-like in their thinking and actions. For the most part, such leaders are learners and enjoy seeing others do well and succeed. Can you think of any better spirit for America to embrace today?

Third, the greatest percentage of contractors are “Red, White, and Blue” Americans. They understand hard work and deeply appreciate the opportunity that they’ve been given to create their own business and sell their services to those in need of dedicated workers to meet their construction needs. Sure there are a few “Carp” out there, but most contractors are “Thoroughbreds” and understand how to make money and how money works. Can you think of a better reason for America to begin prospering again?

Fourth, the greatest percentage of contractors are focused on employing the best available workers…regardless of age, sex or color! I’ve had the honor to consult with contractors in the Deep South, the Northeast, Northwest, the Southwest, the Midwest and the West Coast. Nowhere have I ever found a hint of a contractor who was prejudiced or had a hatred for people different than themselves. In fact, I found just the opposite: contractors who paid and recognized their workers for jobs well done no matter their color, age or sex. Can you think of a better attitude more Americans need to embrace today?

Fifth, no one works harder than the construction owner and leader. They are often the first in the office or on the jobsite each morning and the last to turn out the lights at night. Their work ethic is a testimony to how much they love their company, their employees and their industry. Sure they want to make money, but they also like to put people to work…and keep them working! Can you think of a better strategy for many of our politicians and government leaders to take?

Sixth, contractors recognize talent and what that talent is often worth and they are not afraid to pay for it. OK, contractors have budgets, but they will also do just about anything legal to hire talented people and pay them what they are worth. It truly makes contractors feel proud when they know that their workers are paid well enough to own a house, to pay for their kid’s college or to take a nice family vacation every year. This isn’t pie-in-the-sky thinking; it’s a reality for a lot of construction workers. Can you think of a better financial objective to get the middle class back again and stronger than ever?

Seventh, as most contractors know, the infrastructure of the United States is in horrible condition. Roads and bridges are at an all-time “low” in terms of risk to the driving public. Many schools, court houses, fire stations, etc., are also in great need of remodeling, if not a total new rebuild. (And don’t even get me started about the need for more housing for all economic levels of Americans.) There are so many projects that need to be funded and completed that there may not be enough contractors, and construction workers, to complete all of the work if it were all to come in at the same time. Can you think of a better way to truly stimulate the economy with “real shovel ready” projects?

Eighth, construction owners, leaders and workers are some of the brightest people in the country. While many construction leaders are college educated, that is not always a sign of a successful contractor and leader. Some of the most successful contractors in America do not have a college diploma and quite honestly, are smarter than a lot of people with a PhD! Contractors and their people are creative, think outside the box and are not afraid to take a risk. Construction people are creative and strategic problem solvers and can often figure a way around what the architects and engineers deemed impossible or didn’t have the “horse sense” experience to see. Can you think of a better group of people to place more trust for rebuilding the United States than the American worker?

Yes, there are a lot of reasons why I think contractors and their leaders can bring back the America that truly rewards hard work and big dreams! The dwindling “middle class” can once again be resuscitated and much of this can be achieved through the construction vision, planning and execution of contractors.

Just as the automotive, steel, rubber and paper industries may have created wealth in the United States in years past, so now may the construction industry lead this country back to prominence and financial stability. Far fetched? With the great personal drive and determination of so many construction owners and leaders poised to spring into action, I think it is very realistic and possible for our construction industry to bring America back to a country again known for its commitment to excellence, opportunities and achievement.

You and I are part of the greatest industry in the world. Breathe it in! Be proud of yourself and your workers. Let your people know how much you appreciate them by stopping by to tell them yourself this next week. Can you imagine what would happen in America if all owners and leaders did the same?