A Look at the Relationships between Owners, Managers and Operators
Ok, this is going to be long so get comfortable and lets get real here. We all have relationships of one type or another. Either personal, Professional, or otherwise, we all maintain some sort of relationship with other people during our lives.
You’ve all heard things like a cops partner is like family, or a marine views all other marines like family. It’s a little like that here too.
Sometimes we see the others that we interact with in a very simple way, like a manager or an employee. We see the POSITION, not the person. We see the task, the assignment, not who is responsible for its successful completion, or its total failure. If we did see beyond the obvious, we would open ourselves to a much better understanding of what goes on in the daily routine of the people that we work with and depend on each day. And, this level of understanding can also be taken home and used to benefit your life with your family, so that there is more harmony in everyone’s life and less aggravation which translates into more pleasant times, which we could all use more of.
The purpose of this particular piece is not to teach or explain about concrete pumping, but to teach you to see beyond your role in concrete pumping. Once this has been understood, and you can see what others may miss, and you have elevated yourself and increase your worth to the industry and to your future. You grow in other words, and mature. Some call this process “seasoning” while others simple see it for what it really is, growing up and respecting the world and its occupants as well as you.
In the 30 yrs that I have been in this, I have seen every imaginable conflict, difference of opinion, argument and simple personality conflict that there is.
I have been part of many of these differences, and after having survived, and learned something from it all, I can now share with everyone from an owner to a new operator some of the things that are essential to the success of a business or its ultimate failure.
I’ll go ahead and piss off one group early on and say this. The people are the business.
THE VALUE OF A BUSINESS
Assets are measured in terms in net worth, dollars. That is how the business world rates or values a company, by its net worth. But what about the people that makes up that business? Do they figure into the formula? Certainly, but not in terms of dollars and cents.... You can have all the new equipment in the world, but if you do not have the right people to operate it, maintain it, and promote it, then it is scrap. This equipment only becomes valuable when it can be utilized to generate revenue and profits can be derived from its use and service. Otherwise, it’s all just trophies that you cannot eat or pay the rent with. In this business, we call it a service, and that is extremely important in this discussion. Why? Because the equipment is simply the tool that the people will use to perform the requested service. That’s where the people become as important as the assets themselves. Without manpower, and skilled manpower, its just iron sitting there rusting. With the right people onboard, it is almost priceless, unlimited earning potential. Equipment that will be able to generate the required revenues that a business needs to survive. Its a marriage that has to work to be effective for everyone involved. Sure some will say that its all about the machines. A good machine will do the job with any warm body running it. That could be...... But, there is a difference between just doing the job with whatever is available, and doing it WELL with skilled, professional labor. Don’t fear, I’ll justify that statement as we go here. I’ll have to in order for some of you to want to read further. In this paper, we’ll have to look at each person and his part in this business. The role of each man, how that interacts with the next guy, and how they all work together toward a common goal, yet do it with a degree of independence and self reliance. That is essential in order to be one of the best. The ability to deal with the infinite differences in each new day, the countless variables of each job and the never ending possibilities when people interact with each other under pressure.
We will also take a look at how each of these “positions” views the others that they have to work with and rely upon in the daily operation of the business. Everyone has a job, some carry more responsibility than others, and some pay more than others. Each is important, otherwise the position would not be there. We will examine the many ways that we can and do view these other jobs and how our envy or rejection of those other jobs (people) affects us professionally and personally.
Let’s start from the top and work our way down the company ladder. Lets take a look at the role and the responsibilities of the business owner. What many of us see is only a superficial view of someone that we know as “the owner”. We automatically assume that he or she is as wealthy as a Microsoft investor that jumped in the first month. Is that a fair assumption? And why do we assume that? I think the word “owner” implies success. Not always true, but it always true that this person was willing to take a certain amount of risk and invest in some equipment, an ideal, and YOU. Maybe its because we have heard along the way what the equipment cost. Maybe we see the amounts on C.O.D. invoices. Maybe it’s the way we’ve seen this person’s lifestyle. Driving a new truck or car each year, maybe living in a huge home that is filled with the finest of everything. So its safe to assume that he has done well and is wealthy. Financially secure at least. Maybe we’re assuming more than we should. Does that effect the way that we will deal with and respect that person? Probably so but that does not make that fair. The life and the assets of the next guy are not our concern. It really isn’t. What we should be concerned with is US. Ourselves and how we can attain the things that we see and envy. The business owner had the balls to take a huge risk and delve into a highly risky venture that depended on YOU to succeed. Did he take a big risk? Well, that all depends on your attitude and how you see things. The owner did take a chance. He worked hard and built something from nothing. I have known guys that had their homes mostly paid for and they took out loans to start their business and they risk everything. Their family, their future, their lives. Some made it, and now get to enjoy the rewards of the risk. Some failed and may be working on the end of your tip hose ! So, when we see the owner, we need to consider all of that so we don’t just see the success and breed the envy which will mutate into resentment. Why resent someone that did well? If anything, they deserve some respect. After all, if they had not done very well, you would not have this job! If this country was not filled with people willing to risk it all, we would be a nation of farmers at best, trading one crop for another, bartering our way thru life. We are only limited by our vision and our ability to handle risk. There is no other nation on this planet that takes on the challenge of success or failure better than the typical American. If you ever look at autobiography’s of the most successful people around here, they will all tell you 2 things, that they failed before making it big time, and that giving up only assures failure. It’s unfortunate, but too many employees only see the money or the success. Some never see the person and what they had to do to get where they are today. Some are unable to even comprehend that it all could be gone tomorrow in a lawsuit or some other business related disaster. And the hell of it is, that you, as an employee could easily be responsible for that happening. Does this person still appear to be so wealthy and worth your envy? So almighty and beyond the troubles of your world? The same things that worry you and me, also worry the business owner, its just on a different scale. They have the problem of the decimal point....When we have so much less to loose, they have so much, so the concerns are often much greater. The owner is now beginning to become a normal human being again now that you are beginning to view them as people too.
WHAT THE EMPLOYEE SEES
Its almost natural to see things or encounter various things and then want them. Its a natural human emotion to want. We see success and we want that too. The funny thing is, that each and everyone of us is entitled to that and more, IF we are willing to do what we have to in order to succeed. That’s all it takes. Being willing. The owner was willing to take on the challenge, and he counted on you to get there. Is it right or fair that we look at his success and resent that? Of course not. Especially when he gambled on YOU and won? This is how many employees view their owners, as rich indifferent self absorbed snobbish folks that could care less about their employees.
I’ll admit that there likely are some that fit that description, but most are as human as you or me. How we see them is how we react and that has a direct effect on our ability to excel at our jobs. Ever wonder why you never moved up or gained the promotions that you really should have? Was your attitude a part of the rope that’s holding you back? Was the time well spent with a company, the work performed above expectation and yet the advancement has not come with the years of service? Resentment is not some secret thought that you can bury deep in your mind so that nobody ever really knows what you’re thinking, it surfaces in the smallest ways and in the attitude and behavior of the afflicted employee. Others can see that you may resent someone or something no matter how well you try to hide it. That becomes obvious to your superiors and this is often responsible for a good employee failing to be a great employee. It’s the great employees that get the raises and promotions. They are seen as potential leaders. Who needs a leader that will likely poison the minds and attitudes of the next generation that will grow and mature under his guidance? There is a tremendous difference between a good operator and a good employee. A good operator can get a job anywhere. A good employee will never need to.
At the same time, there are those employees that see the owner or manager for what he is, a business owner or leader that has a ton of responsibility and loads of stress. Most do not get close enough to experience too much of that, or see it first hand, but its there. What we see everyday is a person that has the appearance that life’s good. Know why they walk around like that? Because WE need to see that the owner is in control and not worried. If we started to see the owners display the stress that comes with the business license, we’d all run for new jobs thinking that what we had was about to close or go under. They cannot nor will not bring that to us. That “show” is for our benefit so that we will focus on our task and keep the whole deal going as it should. Do you see how much we do interact with the owner even though we may never even meet ? We are closer than most imagine. We are a part of that businesses family. Part of a team ideally and as a part of any family, there comes responsibilities. We’re not there to judge. We are there to perform a stated task for a stated compensation. We have as much opportunity to excel and we want. That is what we are in control of. Our own futures. The guy that we work for today, could work for you tomorrow if you are willing to do what it takes. Remember that. This whole thing is about the way we view each other as people and as coworkers. All too often we envy the other guys job as it seems to be better, easier or better paying. What we see is often not what we’d get if the tables were suddenly turned. I see employees constantly criticizing the upper management or owners for policy or something. Until their policies and beliefs have had some derogatory effect on your life or job, that is simply not fair to judge. Keep in mind that you always have an ace up your sleeve, the ability to walk away. The one thing that we all have to keep in mind is that if that particular person had not have gone out and started that business, you would not have that job. What I’d like to see is a little more understanding of the other guy. A better grasp of what it takes to make it. Too many guys seem to think that the several invoices that the company brought in today go to the owners pocket. Actually, that’s about the last place that any of those funds end up. As a matter of fact, it IS the last stop that any company income will make when it becomes revenue for a business. Many times when a 52M boom comes in with a $2500 ticket, the actual profits may be as little as $50, or less. Of course that depends on many things, like financing, or loans against that machine, leases, and operating overhead, always. The business owner survives by getting a handful of those each day and once again, they count on YOU to avoid spending it before its earned. One flat tire blows the profit for that day. Having to replace a tire blows the potential profits for that week. Blow a motor, and its very likely that the pump will work for free for several weeks if not a months in order to earn enough to cover the cost of those repairs. It barely pays for itself in its day to day operation. It just does not take much damage or repair to turn any potential revenues into negatives in the accounting. This is once again where the owner is heavily dependant on his/her employees to literally make it or break it. Now we can start to see why managers bitch and complain about little things like gaskets, clamps and even rags. It all adds up. The bottom line is that when enough of the little things are all added up, they can easily become a huge thing that is capable of breaking a company under the right circumstances. A slow season, a recession, RATES being down for whatever reason, and suddenly a big hit from an accident or a blown engine and the company is in trouble. Loans? That’s the route to deeper debt and that’s a slow financial death that ends millions of companies each year. Sure, a solid company will have a credit line at the bank, and it will be able to keep going and you’ll probably never know the difference, but in the shadows of the office, a manager or owner is big shook about having to make payroll on borrowed money that they will pay large interest on, in order to continue operations. And that alone is another setback. It means that the next funds that are earned already belong to the bank, not the owner. So, allot can be happening that the average employee never hears about. Its none of your business first of all, and second, IF you knew, would it help you or distract you from doing your best work? You’d likely be looking for a more stable place to work. Every business encounters these up’s and down’s without 99.9% of the employees ever knowing or suspecting that there is trouble in the office. It does no one any good to know. Just the guy that is willing to take on the responsibility of fixing it. That’s the job of the manager or owner. We only see what’s on top. The surface that someone allows us to see. The rest is private and we really do not need to know more than what we are permitted to see. That’s as much for our own protection as it is theirs. The next time you want to question the manager about something, think about all of this before you do, chances are that he already has. You will never know all of what has influenced any decisions that have been made, and it’s possible that, even likely that you never will. Take what is offered to you and trust your company management. It is always in their best interest to do the best thing for the company and that usually means that its in your best interest also. Remember the family or the team? When you are a part of that family, the decisions made regarding the business are in your best interest since they effect the whole family and not just the owner or just the employees. Everyone is seem as a whole, the company. There are exceptions, but normally when you are a part of a company, an employee that they depend on and trust, you already know all you need to know, that you are trusted and relied upon. That should be enough to get your best effort each and everyday. As you grow, and become a more mature and dedicated family member, you will be burdened with more and more of this inner workings of the team. It’s not always a pay raise that comes with advancement, it’s often major responsibility. I’m not saying that every owner or manager deserves your undivided love and respect, not all do. The typical owner/,manager does deserve some level of respect because he/she has worked hard to get where they are. Most sacrificed in some way at some point to make their business grow. Some gave everything and basically had to succeed because they lost everything else in the process of growing this business. It can be costly trying to succeed in the world. When we are fortunate enough to work for a good boss that even says “thank you” sometimes, or even calls you by your first name to chat in the yard, you have a good thing going. A great boss will be familiar with the “team” concept and believe in that in order to keep his business family together and happy. Keeping the “team” working together like a fine tuned machine is the goal of every manager. It makes his life easier and it makes the life of the customers so much nicer to have people on their site each day that really take pride in what they are doing. Being there enjoying what you do, will show up in your work and it shows on your face. That can be as important to a customer as the cost are because it tells the new customer that he has a team, and not a bunch of competitive individuals that cannot count on each other. Which do you think the customer prefers? Put it like this, would you rather have a Super Bowl winning team to play an all-star game, or a bus load of football players? Of course, you want the winners. Everyone does. That’s why some companies seem like they cannot do anything wrong. They have figured that out, and use it to their advantage. So can you. This is the proof that your skill and knowledge is NOT always the key to success. The single defining quality of all success stories is always attitude and how the winning attitude is perceived by others. A winner will be noticed by the owner/manager and the customer as well. And the best thing about a great attitude is that it is contagious and can be passed on to others.
THE PEOPLE PART OF THE PROGRAM
Now that we have taken a look at how we perceive the owners and managers that we work with in concrete pumping, and hopefully gained some insight and understanding as to what and why or how we interact with these team captains, We should now be ready to look at another team member, someone equally as important. There are generally 2 groups in any business, the management and the labor. Hopefully some of us will now take a minute to better understand the management, their duties and responsibilities, so that we will be less likely to complain or criticize and just follow thru with what they ask of us. Now we need to look at the labor end and maybe some managers and owners will benefit from this so they will understand their labor force a bit better. Regardless of our title or position in a company, we should understand what is going thru the mind of the other parts. If we can do this, we make better decisions which yield better results and it is too easy for managers to forget that their employees are people and have lives also. And like most people, when their lives are threatened or their lives are demeaned somehow, they will react in unpredictable ways that will benefit no one. We have to consider people and their needs as employees and as human beings with the same basic needs as the management has. We all have room to grow. We all have faults and we all have made mistakes. What we need to do here, is to look at the employee objectively as an outsider might see him. This is really required to be fair, not only to the management but to ourselves too. When we can look at ourselves and how we do things and why we react in certain ways, we can see the problems and then we can make the changes that are required. We also want to explain what we are thinking and feeling so that the owner or manager can better understand our needs as employees, and as people too. It may be a business but it’s nothing without good reliable people. Regardless of your position or job description, we’re all still human beings struggling to survive and make it in a seemingly hostile world where the usual challenges far exceed the possible successes. As a human being, you have feelings that do play a part in your conscience decision making process, and you also have the ability to reason a situation, to evaluate and respond. Earlier I wrote something about envy and how that should not be a part of how you view someone or their status in the business. Or how envy can and will mutate into resentment if it’s not used as motivation to excel or advance. How we use envy when we see something or some ones success and use that to motivate ourselves so we have goals and something to work toward is what we need to master, and avoiding the usual trap of these goals turning into resentment when we start thinking that we cannot reach that goal. This is where that will be explained and understood in case you have a touch of envy that has possibly prevented you from being the best that you can be. It can also be a great way of motivating yourself to get to a place in life that you see and envy today. That always depends on how well you handle it all and just how realistic your goals are. But, we have to be careful so that we don’t loose ourselves in our goals and become one of those people that detaches himself from his team and his roots while he is reaching for his goals. As an employee, we need a steady course to get where we want to go. The first thing though, is to figure out where it is exactly that we want to go. While we travel the roads of life and work, we also need to know the rules. Not just the rules of the company that employs you, but the rules of work and social interaction in general. Many an employee has been set back or taken advantage of simply because he was not aware that he was getting the raw deal or that he had options and rights. Some may have thought that this was the normal deal or that if they said anything that it would end their chances at advancement or even some kind of future in the industry. Believe me, the stories of black balling and black listing DO happen, and when an employee is confronted with a situation, he often fears this happening to him if he dare object to something that may or may not be fair. Many times this may have a life altering effect on an individual and everyone needs to know when they are being treated fairly and honestly so that they can make the decisions that could possibly lead them to the next phase of their lives and not trap them into being a career employee when they had dreams of much more. I have seen situations where an employee was forced to stay where he was, stuck in that position because of some story or rumor that got around to every other company in the area which branded him as a bad employee or a risk. It’s often false, or a situation that the employee was not in control of, and it’s rare, but I have seen a less than honest employer tell other companies that a particular employee was a problem or that he had alcohol & drug issues that would certainly prevent him from being considered elsewhere. Why would a manager do that? In the one case that I can think of, it was done to force an employee to have to stay at that company and suffer the anger of a very offended general manager for as long as the manager wanted to torture that individual. That was a rare and extreme case, and that manager should have been charged with some crime at least, but when everything is in his favor, how does a simple employee defend himself and still take care of his family and children? Did this manager consider that these actions would effect the future of kids and their lives? Of course not. Did he care at all? No, he was only interested in revenge over an incident that took place months earlier and being a man that had self elevated into an almighty position, he was going to have his due, no matter who or what was effected by his evil intent. Having goals may show you the dream, but it’s facts, effort and comprehension that will get you there. Seeing what you want is not always enough. Its the ability to deal with the people that you must work with and learning which battles to fight and which to walk away from. When to get help, and which are not worth further involvement. And, which come from your own mistakes when a simple apology or adjustment in your attitude will fix it all. Its a little like looking at a road map. You see the route, but the potholes are not drawn in, (unless you’re in the N.W.) and neither are the speed limits. There are many ways to get in trouble along the way and many of these problems have a way out also. This will help you know when you need to be responsible for your actions, or when you are being used like a small town speed trap generates money from the chicken tickets that are handed out. They’re not on the map either, but that does not mean that they are not there. These are the pitfalls of life and career, but with some help you can safely detour or dodge most of these. And make the ones that you do hit, hurt a little less. Understanding the whole route is the key, not just where you will go today, but knowing where that will lead you, and the final destination always being a part of your plan. The goals that you set for yourself thru either desire, or envy, are obtainable as long as you keep your focus and avoid the traps along the way.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY
As in everything in this country, you as an employee have certain rights. You have some basic protection under the law, and protection from employers that have forgotten the “team” concept and traded that ideal for a far different value system..... pure greed or in extreme cases, abuse of their position and abusing their employees in various ways while enjoying some twisted power trip that needs constant victims as a source of fueling the sick need to be in control of everything at all times. This is very rare, but it is a situation that is bad for both the employee and the business. Neither benefit from a single persons need for power and control. It’s time to get out if this is ever encountered. There is NO future at that company no matter who you are or what your position is within that company. This need not be your problem. As I offered understanding of the upper management, I will now offer some understanding of the employee and how and what makes him tick so that management can see what is really going on with people instead of making rash or snap decisions. If an operator is being uncooperative suddenly, is this a habit or a long term issue or is it due to some offence that has been committed against that employee and this is his reaction to that?On either side of the table, it is too easy to see the problem and not the cause. When the doctor treats you for the flu, he may give you something to help with the discomfort and the runny nose, and that’s great. It is treating the symptoms which are the immediate concern., But unless the underlying cause is also treated, the symptoms will only worsen and can even worsen if left untreated. Just like relationships are in business. We need to see what the base problem is in order to be able to help deal with an employee problem. If that employee has a legitimate complaint and it goes unanswered, then he will react to being ignored as he sees it. Often simply acknowledgement of the issue in question is enough to quiet the trouble waters of a management/labor relationship. If the issue is being ignored by the management, then it’s a sure bet that the effected employees will not produce their best effort and display their best attitude when they feel like they are being ignored and even forced to accept something against their will. Remember that we need the more independent type of employee in concrete pumping so that we can have some assurance that the employee will be able to deal with the variables that he encounters each day. This same independent nature will also turn on you if you provoke that person by making them feel like their value to the business is less or marginal in situations where the employee has questions or problems with something that is happening in the workplace. Do not hire a watchdog and expect him to sit by and watch as a stranger climbs the fence. Expect him to ask questions and you should expect to have some answers that will satisfy him. This is a part of this persons evolution and learning process. They will never grow if they are left with problems or questions that you as a manager can easily answer or at least address to them personally. In the simplest of complaints, like the shop for example...”The shop never fixes the stuff that I write up and it’s getting me in trouble on the jobs which get me in trouble with the manager”. That’s a common complaint with pump operators that has some very simple explanation if someone of authority would take a minute to discuss the whole chain of events. It may be as easy as “the part is back ordered” or “we just have not had the time” or even “it’s not in this months budget but we’re planning it for next month” will satisfy the employee so that he will not feel like he is being set up for failure. We demand excellence and professionalism from our operators and they understand that completely, and when they feel like they are having to run junk or that no one cares about an issue with their world (which at work is a single pump and job) then they will respond to that with an equal and proportionate response in their attitude. Treat them like you don’t care, and you’ll suddenly have an employee that does not care.The old joke about mushrooms applies here.... I go to work in the dark, am kept in the dark, and go home in the dark” works well for mushrooms, but its fatal to the attitude of an employee or operator. These guys and women work hard for the company, and it may seem that the only reason that many even show up is for the paycheck. But the reality is that every one of them keeps coming back to that shop for one reason, they are comfortable there and they like where they work and what they do. If the management can maintain that level of interest, they can have a loyal and professional employee that will not only serve the company well for many years, but someone that can possibly grow into a position that will benefit others in the company as well. It’s allot like raising your family. Not at all different. Professional growth is the goal of everyone, with advancement being the reward.
The goal again is better understanding for the management and an objective view of ourselves for our own growth. And since the employee probably does not have the resources that the management may have, here we will also look at some of the things that keep a good employee from ever being a great employee and so on. Why and if its the problem of the individual or if its the policy of that family to keep some members from growing and possibly leaving the nest....Being the head of a family does not always mean that you get to manage all the lives of those family members, especially after hours when their time belongs to them. Remember, its the equipment that is owned, it’s the people that are employed. There is a difference for all you micro-managers out there that don’t understand the difference yet. Look at it this way, if you enjoy or require others to treat you with respect and to treat you in a professional way, then that applies to all of your people also. Respect is one of those qualities that never ends with any single person, it should always be passed on. In situations like I described above where simple communication will end an issue, that is so easy to resolve that it’s hard to believe that these types of conflicts even come up. But, they do and always will. When a business gets busy, there is often no time to deal with the simplest things that plague the company and it’s people. It’s the more complex issues that need deeper investigation. Like the employee that has a ton of resentment for a foreman or yard manager. Again, the independence that we require on jobsites can come back to bite a manager when this particular problem arises and it cannot always be resolved easily, sometimes not at all. Someone will have to either make drastic changes or leave. There cannot be an ongoing disrespect of authority because that spreads like wildfire. When a single employee has a problem or just plain don’t like his superior, then he may be in the wrong place. The question is why? And what can be done to bring peace to the workplace with the cooperation that is required to have harmony and professional behavior. Whatever the reason, it has to end. If this is allowed to continue and it often does because the company will tolerate that behavior especially when they are busy and need that operator, they risk this attitude effecting the others. What do we do about the good operator that’s a bad employee? We can try to talk it out or have a sit down and get to the root of the problem but that is a delicate dance for a manager to have to do. There are times when no matter what is said or done, that the employee may walk away feeling like he got something off of his chest, like his complaint was finally heard, but then again he may feel embarrassed about the meeting that put him on the spot. It’s is so like raising kids sometimes...If we do have that kind of issue, we really need to be sensitive to the problem. Is it a real complaint? Was this person treated unfairly? If so, what will it take to placate him? Can he even be satisfied? Is his complaint legitimate?
Sometimes we cannot fix it and we have to look at the good of the company as well as the single employee. There is no set guide for human behavior and what is offensive to one may be taken as a compliment by another. Some managers get so tired of trying to figure out each and every persons personality that they simply back away and become distant. This unfortunately has the side effect of the operators all feeling like the manager has placed himself above or away from their problems and complaints. We will back away from things that we feel that we cannot manage or at least understand. We also have a thousand other things to do besides constantly having to baby sit our people. They should be mature enough to deal with the things that annoy them each day, and it’s not the responsibility of the management to fix every little thing in their lives that comes up. Just the things that we may be responsible for and those that have an effect on our business. The operator that is always short with his answers or has a grumpy disposition at 2 a.m. can easily be mistaken for someone that has an attitude problem. If he is like me, I’m not fully conscience for another several hours and when I do wake up, I’m fine and everything is well. Its when someone is like that all the time, all day, everyday that concerns us. It’s that persons ability to get things done and interact with coworkers that has us concerned. We do truly all need to get along here...How do we deal with the terminally ill tempered employee? We can try to relate to him, ask if there is something wrong, and attempt to keep the lines of communication open so that when there is a moment of trust with both parties, there can be some discussion and resolution to the issues. It may be something as simple as a guy that is horribly shy and afraid of social interaction. That’s pretty harmless and will probably never be an issue on a job site. It’s the guy that has cause in his mind to be mad or has a gripe that needs to be heard. More and more companies are turning to social science to resolve these issues that are as varied as the people. It is helpful to have a human resources dept for an employee to got o if he has something going on that the company may be able to help with, and it has proven to be an effective tool in larger corporations to keep their investment in their people alive and well. People are like machines in that respect, they do need some occasional maintinance when they are not running exactly right. But in our business, we just are not big enough to have an in house HR dept as a safety net for people problems. That falls upon the manager and his plate is already full so the problems with a single employee will often go unnoticed or ignored. It will be noticed when the entire company comes down with the same complaint. That happens when the issue is business related and has effected the employees in a very negative way. I have seen the hiring of a new person for some office position create such a stink that you’d think that someone had just insulted every ones mother. Trust me on this, most employees believe that promotion should be from within. They see their effort and their time in a company, and they will feel like they deserve some points for that, or at least the opportunity for reward, and to them, that’s a promotion of some sort. When someone is hired that may have some authority over the existing group of employees, its like dad just went out and brought home an older brother that will get all the new toys and then tell us what to do on top of that. It’s seen thru the eyes of the employee as an insult too often. They will give the new guy hell the first few weeks, and if he cannot do something to gain their trust or show them that they did not want that job, he will never have their cooperation and his efforts will be minimized by way of their attitude toward him. The funny thing is, that most of the time the new position is not what the employees want to do, but when they feel like they have become a part of the company, they would be satisfied with having been ask if they wanted to train for that job or maybe take a run at it and see if it was something that they’d be interested in doing. Usually, they will say no, and then, it’s ok to go ahead and place some outsider in that position. I know that nobody has this much time to mess around with this stuff, but I’m here to tell you that the stuff that I’m telling you is the gospel as to why and how operators and employees get to where they are and what you can do to manage the situation. It is not allowing the employees to have their way, and it’s not about control or anything else. It is about respect and the effect that disrespect has on a business and its family members. Would you walk in the door at the house with another woman and present her to your kids and your current wife and announce that she was going to be the new wife and mom as of right now, and the current woman in that position was fired and should leave immediately? Of course not. That’s an emotional cruise missile right to some ones softest spot, their heart. And that is not anything that anyone would do, it is similar to what is felt by employees that have worked hard for a long time and then be ignored or passed over by the hiring of someone else. It’s more than job status, there can be hurt feelings in these situations that we must guard against. If we don’t, we can see the resentment slowly rise and take over what was once a good employee and turn him into a complaining and difficult person to work with. That’s not the goal of course, but it can be the effect of poor communication with your people. If there are hurt feelings over something like this, that can be more difficult to get past than some direct insult or comment by the management. That cuts a little deeper therefore it takes a little longer to heal. But, if the wound is properly attended to, it will heal fine with no permanent scaring that will return to make your job more difficult. Nobody ever makes a decision for the company with the intention of insulting or upsetting an employee, but it happens if we’re not in touch with our team. We should know who is interested in doing other things and who may be qualified or is open to cross training of some sort so that when the need arises for a person to take a certain position, you may not have to look beyond your own yard to find someone that has not only proven his value to the company and his loyalty, but someone that is growing with the company. It’s far better to train low than it is to introduce a trainee to a mid level job where the mistakes are far more damaging. We would like to think that all of our people will advance and grow but the truth is that during your lifetime there will not be that many jobs to move up to. There are limited positions in any business and the few that exist in concrete pumping will be sought after by everyone that has been there putting in their time. Some may be qualified and there is no position to move them into. Others may not even be interested in other things and those will be the people that help in your task of keeping a balance in the yard. When there is one of the operators standing there saying that even after 25 yrs on a boom, that he’d rather do another 25 doing the same thing rather than take an office job, that statement from that extremely powerful individual will have allot of do with how the others see the issue. With a comment from a respected employee, the others may back off of the idea all together. It may relieve you of having to discuss it with those that were depending on promotions after time served. You may then also have to place an ad in the paper if everyone has decided that they are happy where they are, and IF that is true, then the management has done an outstanding job of working with and bringing up a team that has purpose and intention everyday. If they are happy doing what they do, they that’s to the credit of the management. It’s not easy keeping everyone happy all the time, or even some of the time.Another common complaint that comes from the employee that every pump company manager and owner has heard is about time... They either are not getting enough time on duty making the paycheck smaller than it needs to be, or its the exact opposite, spending too much time on the jobs and not enough at home for whatever reason that they have. It’s understandable for those that have a family or a new born, or maybe just married. But it is often based in simple exhaustion that most will never admit to. We need to be able to see the difference because a tired exhausted employee is also a dangerous employee. He will begin to take short cuts, cheat the odds, and even break some rules that may be inconvenient or troublesome. The guy that just wants time off for other things has to understand that this is a high paying part time job and that next month he may not have the chance to get as many hours. Now I’m not talking about someone that’s complaining about doing a series of 18 hr days everyday for weeks straight, that guy has a legitimate complaint. He is exhausted and will become a danger to himself and others on the job site. There is only so much that a person can do and remain alert and healthy, and it is simply not fair to demand that someone go beyond his ability. There are also laws that the employee might be forced to use if he is not allowed the time off to rest and recover from too much work in harsh conditions. I know that there are some companies that refuse to see this as a problem, and they somehow have come to the conclusion that if all the truck needs is fuel and water, that the operator is the same way. These are human beings and we have been discussing the mental and emotional needs of these people, and now we also need to look at the physical needs too. It is just not fair to run a guy to death. Many operators will never say a word because they fear being punished in some way, by loosing their rig or maybe getting too much off time as an alternative to working too much. A good manager will look at all sides of this and realize that not all operators are alike. One man may be able to do 20 hr days, 3 times a week while the next may not be able to do that more than once. What the schedule demands and what the employees are able to safely do are often 2 very different things and as much as we all want to do as much as we can for personal income and company also,. sometimes its just impossible to keep up a killer pace. They need rest. If pushed too far, this too will breed the resentment that will spread and take over the once positive attitude of the best of employees. If you are being forced to work more than you are safely able to do, then it’s time to have a conversation with your manager to try to get him to see that you really are tired and have concerns about safety. There should never be an argument regarding safety in the workplace. If a man is uncomfortable with the conditions, then he should be allowed to object and even step back if his concerns are genuine. Exhaustion is a real threat to the safety of others and the law suit that we talked about early on that could possibly ruin a company, can come from just such a decision. To make an employee go beyond his ability. Just because a manager feels like he could do it, does not mean that the operators can. Forcing an operator to push too hard is illegal, and it’s also immoral to pressure someone into doing something with the threat of their livelihood hanging over their head as motivation. I have seen that and so has everyone else. Where someone says that he is tired and needs some time off, a day perhaps to sleep, and the boss tells him that if he is not there when he is told to be, that he will be considered a no-show and therefore listed as quit. That is a real chicken way to get the jobs covered. These men and women are not property, they are people. The management should never forget that, because if they can manage to treat these employees with the respect that they deserve as humans doing a difficult job, and allow them some dignity and rest when they ask, they could have the loyal life long employee that they desire. I hear the companies complain all the time that they cannot get people to stay around and that the operators will quit and run off over anything, so its not worth even getting to know their names sometimes... Is it a wonder why these people do jump up and leave? When you start getting treated like a tool and less like a person, then I encourage you to make a change. When an employee has some personal things going on at home, or health issues, then the law and morality also provide for time off to deal with these things. It is just as easy for a manager to work with a good employee to help him in getting his problems resolved as it is to hire a replacement and start all over. Besides, there is some obligation as a leader in the company to build some trust and respect by being of assistance and not always a dominate force in some ones life. If you are there for them, chances are that they will be there for you. It comes back to you in many ways, and so does the harm that a manager does to his people by not taking their needs seriously. When a guy comes to you and ask for time off to rest because he has been doing 70 hr weeks for a month, then respect that. He is tired, not lazy. There is a difference that is often lost when the numbers are all that are seen in a company. See the people too. They are the ones that the numbers represent.
BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS AND NEEDS
Lets look at a couple things one more time so there is no misunderstanding. The employees, everyone from the shop guys to the operators, are people. NOT tools to be used as required, but people that that can do what is required. Tools are so much easier to deal with. They either work or they do not. They do not get tired, and they do not resent their task or instructions. They do not resent who is controlling them or who assigned that task. People can and will do all of the things just described. They will resent what is ask of them sometimes. They will complain and they will get tired. That is where management makes the biggest mistakes, in assuming that they will respond to the pressure like the tool that they use to complete the assignment. When a manager or owner looses touch with his people, he may not actually be aware of that, but they certainly are. They will revolt, the resentment comes 10 fold, and the virus spreads like a bad flu. These people have fragile egos quite often and the least little insult can create a monster that may ruin the career of that otherwise reliable and trustworthy loyal employee. He is now looking at his former family not as a family, but as the source of his discomfort. And be assured, when someone is uncomfortable, they will remedy the situation any way that they can..
THE MIDDLE MAN
Finally I’d like for us all to take a look at the single person that can draw the hatred of everyone in the team, from the manager/owner to the shop guy that sweeps the floors. The single most “tested” person each and everyday and the single person does not have a bunch of others lined up to try for his or her job.
This person is the go between, the middleman of sorts. The dispatcher must make decisions and deliver the assignments to the employees, with some degree of diplomacy and still satisfy the demands of the manager. This is also the single job that will and always hear the complaints of all sides of an issue. Whether it be a complaining customer, or the operator that feels like he has been dealt a bad hand repeatedly, the dispatcher will be the first one to hear about it all. It ain’t easy either. This job forces the dispatcher to often look at the operators as tools, so that there is an equal division of available work hours and spreading the tougher assignments around. He is also responsible for assigning the best man for the job and still keeping these other things in perspective. As I said, it’s not easy. Sure, the dispatch could simply use a list to just place a name next to the next job that calls in, and do it that way, but when the schedule is full, and a good dispatcher knows of conflicts and also knows his/her troops as well as they should, they then have to consider all of these things, especially on the more demanding or special situation jobs. One operator may deal with adversity better than the next. One may handle the physical demands better then another. This position truly requires knowing the family as well as their own, or better. What we see as a schedule every evening, often took hours of thought and study to complete, but here again, the operator often just sees the assignment. How often I have seen an operator offended by a string of the more difficult jobs. He sees the amount of work involved or the difficulty in these jobs. He sees what he knows to be true. He rarely sees it for what it is, often a compliment to his abilities and his skill as a diplomat and an operator. These tougher jobs demand the better operators, and while the dispatcher knows this and has written the assignments based on skill, it’s the operator that may loose sight of that and begin to feel abused or used. Everyone deserves a break. When the company has been depending on your ability too long and you’re starting to pay the price of being over worked, then its up to you to speak up and ask for a little down time. No one will even know unless you either lash out in anger, or just ask. The dispatcher also has the no so wonderful task of answering the phone when there is a raging contractor on the other end that would certainly climb thru the wire and strangle the first person that he could grab. Your dispatcher has to field those calls all day as well as decide who must go deal with this job tomorrow, or IF we even go at all. This job has all the pressure of ownership without any of the perks. It often goes thankless for years, and the support and cooperation of the employees is always greatly appreciated by the dispatcher. You might be surprised at how much your dispatcher really likes everyone in the company, but can be so annoyed when everyone starts the “me” attitude and fails to see the other side of the window. Take a minute and do that, put those other shoes on for a minute and imagine their day....You’ll quickly go back to what your job was , trust me on that one. Dispatch is the art of diplomacy with strength in decision making. Everyone complains and critiques, and few compliment and assist. You can make the life of your dispatcher allot easier by simple compliance and appreciate what they have done for you each day. They gave you an assignment that may not have been the best that day, but in your cooperation you will be remembered when the gravy jobs come up as someone that did well when things were tough and deserve a break with some easy duty. Dispatchers do remember who is a pain in their ass and who helps their job go easier.
There is another that we see and interact with that we also need to understand a little better. The salesman. I personally hate that term. salesman. It implies that we are selling something, that there are deals to be done or made. We provide our customers with a service and the operators are the true salesmen, not the face that found the job and got the commitment to do it. When we go do a job, we are servicing the needs of that job, in other words, we are not selling anything, we are supplying a service that we charge for.It’s always been my personal belief that we should title this position in our family as the “Customer Service Representative” or something similar. Sales just makes it sound like what we all hate, someone faking their sincerity in order to gain from our wallets. I think the customers in this industry view the word sales the same way. What needs to happen in this task, is the service rep needs to be able to cut a deal for the rates, which should NOT ever be a final point of the negotiation, and he should be able to place a tremendous amount of confidence on the table for the potential customer to see and absorb. When the customer is confident that he has someone that can do the work, do it the way he wants, and do it within reasonable cost, this service rep will do that job. When the rep goes in with sincerity up front, he is also less likely to just agree to anything without considering the ability of his operators to actually be able to do the work. Too often I have seen a poor rep tell the customer whatever he needs to hear, displaying a false sense of confidence and then when the operator arrives there, and sees the impossible, the very first thing out of the mouth of the customer will always be “ but the salesman said that you could” and you’re credibility is doomed. Then, you’re gonna go back after this impossible situation and hunt some salesman ass. That is quite natural to be a little pissed at the guy that set you up to fail. And a sales guy that does this, has nobody in that family that will support him and make the attempt when there is a possible way out because they know that this guy does not really care, he just wants to say what he has to and move on. Everyone makes mistakes, its the level of intent that will ruin a relationship between the sales staff and the men that attempt to do what sales has promised. if that is impossible, then we either have a bad salesman that will lie, cheat and steal to get a job, and therefore cannot be trusted to do what is beST for the company, or we have a sales guy that is simply ignorant. I’ll take ignorant anytime. I can fix that, I cannot beat a value system into the black heart of a liar. We can teach someone that simply does not know. The salesman does need to know allot too. He needs to know what safe set ups are and what we can and cannot do with our machines. He needs to be able to spot trouble the day before the pour and deal with it before the trucks are lined up in the street. That’s a good service rep, one that will take the interest to make that job go as well as it possibly can. This same rep will also have the cooperation and support of his crew of operators. Without that, he is doomed and will never enjoy the ability to take on any challenge because he has lost the support of the rest of the team. This is where we all need to work toward a common goal. The ultimate success of each job that we do. When we do see the others challenges and when we’re able to reduce the level of difficulty we also elevate ourselves by way of our character. We demonstrate maturity and the ability to deal directly with adversity and when we do that consistently, we then position ourselves for the coveted opportunity to advance. We grow.The task of the sales guy is not always so easy. You should expect some problems here and there, because he is not always able to see the problems and he is not able to promise that the customer actually did what he advised. he did go find that work, and he did secure it, so give him that much. It’s when the sales guy sells and runs without ever looking into the hazards or possible problems that the employees begin getting very upset about this person and wonder why he is on the payroll. Too many sales people are seen as dead weight when they only deliver challenges and questions and never answers. this job is not for everyone, there is a ton of rejection and they do get allot of hell when the job goes bad. Remember that it was the salesman that made the promises to the customer and that’s exactly who the customer will call first when something turns to crap. promises are very serious when people are spending money to get them... and after the customer gets thru with the salesman, he may then get a piece of the dispatcher too.....See why we need to support each other in this? When under attack, the guys shooting at you will be shooting at your team, not just the single man that may have fired a shot at them. They will go after everyone and who ever is handy will get their anger. When we all do our job and understand that each has a direct effect on the other, then we can pretty well prevent most of this and enjoy a far better relationship with the other members of our family.We too often see out sales reps as guys that have lunch for a living or spend the day talking and driving around doing nothing,. We don’t get to see the hours of reading and doing the homework just trying to find these jobs and then finding the right person to speak to about this. It’s often weeks of work and research to find the right man to see, and then it may come down to having that guy give the rep less than 30 seconds of his time and ending the meeting as quickly as it began with some response like “we use your competition” but we’ll call you if we ever need you. Or there may have been some incident in the past that the rep is unaware of that has the door not only closed, but locked forever preventing him from ever getting the chance to show this customer that his team is more than able and ready to do his work. There is so much to this that in order to understand it, day after day, you have to try it. Most don’t enjoy it too much after having a taste of the rejection and other problems that come with the job. Remember, the sales rep also has his owner and YOU to answer to. If he is not doing his job well, and getting you on these new sites, then he will have the added pressure of the blade being at his throat and this is supposed to help him with his sales? Of course not, but that is the way it is. Produce or be gone. His job is often complicated by what the operator says and does on the job, which the rep has little control over, but he will bare the ultimate responsibility for keeping that job and more from that customer. So, you really do depend on each other to survive.Many companies believe in the sales techniques of the pro’s. They approach the marketing of their service as if it were selling real estate or used cars, or even soap. The difference here is that when we are selling to the general public, much of this applies and makes good sense to know all the tricks and the proper methods to make that sale. But here, in concrete pumping, we’re often dealing with such a diverse group that we cannot always depend on a predictable outcome if we employ only that one type of sales tactic. We have to be flexible and adaptive. The man that we need to deal with today may have a degree in engineering, and the next guy may have made his millions without the benefit of a high school education. So, the salesman or service rep has an extremely difficult task ahead trying to read the various types of people that he needs to deal with. When he does get a new job, he has done so with the odds against him and it is now the job of the operator, dispatcher and the shop to supply the service that was promised. The operator is probably the single biggest reason that a job is either kept or lost after the first pour. With this in mind, it’s even easie