Who’s your most profitable employee? Are you sure?
I would like to share a couple of contrasting experiences that I have had during my career that highlight two different sides of the same coin, both of which may be costing you money without you even knowing about it.
The first experience happened in1992 while I was running an electrical project in Davis, California. The project consisted of a large fellowship hall and a three story classroom at a church. It was the only project in my long career that actually got to wire twice…because it burned to the ground right after the first rough in was complete. No, no, it wasn’t an electrical fire, it was arson, but I’m off track. I want to talk about a young Journeyman named Charlie.
Charlie was a hot shot journeyman electrician and I mean he was good; the kind of guy you would want to fill your crews with. On this project, I put together two week schedules for every man on my crew that detailed every task they would be working on for the next two weeks. The time frames on these tasks were dictated by the actual project estimate. Every week I would update these schedules based on everyone’s progress and give them their next two weeks worth of tasks. Charlie was the fastest electrician on my crew and his work was excellent. By Thursday of the first week, Charlie would always be working on Monday or Tuesdays tasks of the second week.
So one day I came walking around the corner of the fellowship hall and ran into Charlie, smoking a cigarette. Charlie got really nervous about that because it wasn’t break time and started kind of dancing around. So I told him “Whoa, Charlie relax. You are by far the most productive electrician I have on this project. I’ll tell you what. If you will keep blowing my schedules in the weeds like you have been, I don’t care how many cigarettes you smoke. As far as I’m concerned, if you can keep producing like you have been, you can smoke your brains out, O.K.?” Of course Charlie agreed with that proposal and from that time on he smoked whenever he wanted to. He also continued to race through my schedules like a man on a mission.
The project eventually ended and Charlie was sent off to work on another project while I wrapped up the loose ends and got started on my next project. It wasn’t too long afterwards that I got a call from Charlie. He called me to ask for help. As it happened, Charlie’s new foreman came walking around the corner that day and caught Charlie smoking a cigarette when it wasn’t break time and fired him right on the spot. Now let’s be honest. Electricians that produce like Charlie did are not all that common. I have no doubt that, like my project, Charlie was undoubtedly the most productive electrician on that project. So this foreman fired the most productive electrician on his crew without even giving him a second chance.
That foreman had no way of knowing how much material Charlie could install in a day. All he knew was that he caught Charlie smoking when he should have been working and fired him on the spot. You know, not all workers are easy to manage. Sometimes they break rules and do things that get under your skin. But I’ll be darned if I am going to fire the most productive guy on my crew without giving my best effort to get him to follow the rules, or make allowances for him if it is in my scope of influence in order to make as much profit as I can for the contractor I am working for. I consider it my duty to use my assets, manpower, to the best possible effect in order to generate as much profit as possible.
I immediately dug up all of Charlie’s old schedules from my project that clearly noted the time frame’s that the estimate predicted for Charlie’s tasks and how fast he actually completed them. I took those schedules into the office the next morning, showed them to the project manager on the project and asked him if he was really going to let Charlie go. Charlie was back to work by 10 O’clock that morning.
Now let’s fast forward 10 years to 2002…. Visit my blog for the rest of the story