Geo Week News

July 14, 2016

Field Crew Front Line


I spent last week in Florida on vacation at a lovely beach house, in fact, the very same beach house that we rented last year. I make this pilgrimage annually to visit with my siblings and their children—most of whom are under 10 years of age. With all of those young kids it pays (and we pay a lot) to have only a short boardwalk between the beach and the bathroom/kitchen/first-aid kit/etc. Much to my surprise, I arrived this week to find a back hoe, a bobcat (complete with vibrating plate on) assorted other pumps, generators, lumber; and no boardwalk. In fact, they had strung survey tape along the site so that neither I nor my neighbors could access the beach without leaving our property until they finished building a new retaining wall.

We arrive on the weekend, get an extra day (July 4th) with no workers then find ourselves in a rather ill mood when the construction crew shows up around 11am on Tuesday, nails two saw horses together in the surf, nails a gas-powered pump to the saw horses, fires it up and stakes an intake hose about 10 feet from my four-year-old. Needless to say, several of us took it upon ourselves to open a dialogue with the crew.

Which brings me to the point of this post. As a business owner, as a contractor, as the client, as a manager, do not put your field personnel in the position that these gentlemen found themselves in. These guys were not only left to do the work, but also to be the public face of the group that was ruining the vacation dreams of a new set of people every week.

What eventually occurred to me was that the construction crew that I was questioning did not know what to say. While it seemed unbelievable seeing as they informed me that this was their 15th week on the project, they didn’t even seem to have a “go-to story,” much less the truth.

“Why does it matter?”, you ask?

  • Any time the field crew spends talking or attempting to smooth over the situation is most likely unbillable. Anything you can do to reduce that is simply good business.
  • Since the delays ultimately cost the property owner, the property owner should understand that having to cover for them will cost them more money in the long run.
  • At best, it’s disrespectful to the field crew to be put in that position, at worst it’s unsafe. After a few hours spent drinking on the beach, yelling at my kids to stay away from the equipment, and breathing diesel exhaust, I was ready to hit someone. I wasn’t alone.
  • It has to affect the quality. Can you imagine driving to the site each Monday, knowing what is about to happen? Think about working all day while every person that passes gives you a look that says they would rather you be anywhere but here (usually one particular place came to mind…).

So, now that you’ve decided to do address the situation instead of ignoring it, what can be done?

  • If you can, tell your field crew the truth. Let them tell that truth to any one they encounter—and then get back to work.
  • Provide them with a contact (preferably a stack of business cards) that they can provide to irate people they encounter. You would be surprised at how far a, “Buddy, I can’t do anything except get fired for not working but if you call this person they might be able to help” will go toward maintaining a productive working environment.
  • If you have to cover for the actual client, create a cover story and make sure every member of the crew sticks to it.
  • Set out and clearly communicate the rules of engagement to everyone on your team. In most cases, there is no need to risk physical harm in order to complete a scan or capture drone imagery. Let you staff know when it’s time to call in the prime contractor, property owner or law enforcement. Losing a few hours of work is a small price to pay for a staff that knows that you are more concerned about them than your client’s secrets.

In the end we survived. We received a partial refund and an offer of an additional discount on next year’s rental. However, we demanded those things because of the way things were handled. Advanced notice and a clear line of communication between all the parties would have saved them thousands this week alone. Multiply that by the twelve houses over the entire season and you begin to realize how much an issue like this can influence a project’s bottom line.



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