Why In the World Would I Want to Turn My Blog Posts into Podcasts?

It’s Simple Really…To Help More People Build Their Dreams

As a society we are moving at a faster and faster pace. This leaves less time to do all those things we’re trying to do and we’re trying to do a lot.

Add to that, the overwhelm of information that’s out there. It’s hard for people to find the time to read no matter how great the content is.

I’ve been writing two blog posts a week now for almost seven years. Even though they’re short, most people don’t take time to read them.

Of the 31 active subscribers, 8-12 people open them regularly…4-6 click and read. That’s a lot of information not being used.

This can be a little depressing.

Granted, I don’t know how many people who aren’t subscribed read them, but still…

Multiple times I’ve considered quitting. It takes a substantial amount of time to write, edit, find pictures and publish each one. I’ve often wondered if I should be spending my time on this.

Here’s the bottom line…if my message helps one person build their dream…it was worth my time.

Early on in my blog posting I talked with several people who told me they simply didn’t have time to read them.

This is exactly why I listen to audio books and podcasts. I can consume content through my tablet or phone while driving or doing other things.

Okay…we agree, an audio version of my blog posts would increase the likelihood more people would get my message.

I’ve thought about this for years but…it’s the time issue again. It’s going to take time to figure out how to do it, learn how to do it, then actually do it. I don’t have time. So, I just put it off.

Putting it off is easier, but you don’t accomplish much by putting things off.

I’ve been talking with Nic Natarella at AdWise Creative about turning my blog posts into podcasts.

Even if I have Nic do this, there are still decisions that need to be made…and decisions take time.

Not to mention I’m a recovering perfectionist and I struggle with wanting things to be perfect.

I had a conversation about this with my friend Shep this past week. He said it will take some time, it won’t be perfect, but it’s not going to get done if you don’t do it.

He’s right.

So, what are we going to do?

We’re going to move forward.

It’s going to take some time. It’s not going to be perfect. We’re going to do it.

Whether building a building, a business or a life, the hardest part is the early planning. The thing to remember is…it won’t get done if all you do is plan.

I want to help construction companies searching for business solutions and customers who are overwhelmed by the construction process.

I want to help both achieve their dreams by providing businesses with systems and training while educating and assisting customers through the construction process.

Podcasts will be a way for me to help more busy people accomplish their dreams.

I’m meeting with Nic today and we’re moving forward with this podcasting thing.

What If You Want to Do a Construction Project but Don’t Know Where to Start?

That’s Where the Right Qualified Virtual Consultant Can Help

We all have our areas of expertise. One of mine is construction processes and systems.

These are a couple of things missing from most DIY construction programs on TV as well as many of the “do it yourself” internet videos. They can be helpful, but typically they oversimplify things and normally only give you a small snippet of the big picture of a construction project.

As a construction professional that has been doing this for forty years, trust me, there’s a lot more to it than a sixty-minute TV program or a five-minute video.

When I meet with a customer, I instinctively know what questions need to be asked and answered.

It’s different if you’re not a contractor and this is where a lot of problems with construction projects begin. Either from a “do it yourself” construction customer or when hiring someone who isn’t qualified.

The overwhelm starts and it often leads to corner cutting, things being done in the wrong order or completely left out.

Here’s some of the information that I gather early in the process –

            Measurements and dimensions, existing and new

            Building materials, existing and new

            Pictures of existing construction and pertinent areas involved in the new

            Design ideas, products and finishes to be used

The information gathered early in the process is important to the project moving forward as smoothly and economically as possible.

Asking and answering the right questions early in the process is critical to a successful project. Once you’ve determined what your dream project is, it needs to be broken down into categories. Then these categories should be divided further into smaller tasks.

Imagine a construction project as a giant puzzle with hundreds of thousands of pieces. These pieces need to be put together in the right place and in the right order. It’s hard when you don’t know what that is.

A qualified virtual consultant can help you put the right pieces in the right place.

I developed a list of categories and tasks that I use when doing a construction proposal so that I don’t overlook things. This “Bid Sheet” is where I gather the information that pertains to each specific task.

Here’s a small excerpt from my bid sheet template –

These are just three of the 17 categories of the construction process.

The next issue for the “do it yourself” construction customer is…what do all these tasks mean? What is included in them?

These questions prompted me to begin developing just such a list.

Here is a matching excerpt from it –

Once I have this explanation page finished, I will make a link available at the Solution Building web site.

This explanation page will be a good tool for a “do it yourself” construction customer, someone hiring a professional or as a helpful referral when talking with a qualified virtual consultant.

Virtual Construction Consulting…What’s That Even Going to Look Like?

Pretty Much the Same as In Person, Except For the “In Person” Part

Virtual construction consulting…that’s an interesting idea. What is virtual construction consulting anyway?

Let’s start with construction. What is construction? Construction is the act or process of constructing. The art, trade or work of building. Construction is a pretty straight forward concept. Most of us are familiar with construction.

Construction is where I’ve spent most of the last 40 years. During that time, I’ve accumulated a substantial amount of experience and expertise.

Consultinggiving expert advice to people, or other professionals in a specific business or trade. This is a term that gets used a lot without giving it much real thought. The key to this is the word EXPERT.

Giving expert advice is something that I’ve been doing for my construction customers for years without realizing that’s what I was doing. This happens naturally. I find out what the customer’s construction desires are and share my expertise to help them achieve their construction dreams.

Virtual is a word that is currently used a lot. There are multiple definitions for this word, but generally at the present, it refers to digital media, computers and emulating the function of another system or device.

Virtual technology allows us to communicate, connect and interact with people around the world.

Virtual construction consulting removes the opportunity for “on site” instinct that comes from years of experience. For me it shows up without me even realizing that it’s happening.

The problem with virtual is not getting the “in person” feel for the project.

With “in person” consulting there is a limited number of people that can be helped due to distance.

This limit to the number of people I can help is what prompted me to consider doing construction consulting virtually. The question then is…what is it going to look like?

The biggest “virtual” hurdle to overcome is the 3rd party gathering of information. The not being able to get the in person feel.

Like any other problem we encounter there is a solution. It may take some out of the box thinking but it can be done.  

I’m currently working with a long-distance friend to provide construction consulting virtually.

We will continue to share the ups and downs of the process as we develop this virtual construction consulting service.

What Kind of Jar Do You Want to Use?

This Needs to Be Determined Before We Start Putting the Rocks In

Most of us are familiar with the time/priority analogy of putting rocks in a jar. I first became aware of this in Steven Covey’s book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

If you’re not, here’s how it goes:

One day this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration I’m sure those students will never forget. After I share it with you, you’ll never forget it either.

As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is:

If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

Dr. Steven R. Covey, First Things First

I think this is a great example of prioritization.

This analogy uses a wide mouth gallon jar…but what if that’s not the jar we want to use?

This is where we need to start. What is the jar that we want?

Construction projects are like this. They are big jars filled with lots of rocks, gravel, sand and water.

A good construction contractor can help you through the process of determining what jar you want and then help you put the right rocks in, in the right order.

Too many construction customers don’t spend enough time in the beginning thinking and planning for their project. They see construction as a, go to the construction project store and pick something off a shelf.

Unless you’re buying a spec home or a trailer house, construction projects don’t work like that.

Sorting through ideas, designs, finishes, etc. is the time-consuming part. But if this part is done early on…the rest of the project will go much smoother.

This is why you need to decide what kind of jar you want before you start trying to cram in the rocks.

What’s Needed for a Good Construction Contractor is Simple

I Said It Was Simple…I Didn’t Say it Was Easy

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve written about the difficulty in finding good, qualified construction contractors and how this problem is amplified after a disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, flooding, etc.

Finding a good construction contractor is a huge problem and has been around for a long time. I’ve thought about this off and on for years and recently has been one of those “on times”.

Why is this a problem and what do we do about it?

As I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve concluded, that even though it’s a big problem, the solution is simple…but hard.

The key to this solution is…

Treat others the way you would want to be treated.

Granted, different people have different ways they want to be treated, because each of us is different. Add to that, the long-term acceptance of “this is just the way it is” and it becomes more difficult than ever to solve the problem.

To clarify how we should treat others, we should use God as a measuring stick. Do your work with all your heart, as if you are working for God, not for men. Colossians 3:23

Working as if for God is the opposite of how the world operates.

As I was speaking with a customer just last night, they were telling me how they had been trying to find someone to do their project for years.

They had contacted several contractors who said they would come by and look at the project and never did.

They met with some who did show up only to never be heard from again.

With one contractor they got as far as getting a price but then they could never get him to come do the work.

Equally as bad is when a contractor does agree to do the work, but the customer never knows if or when they’re going to show up and then the  job drags out and out and out.

This is an unacceptable way to treat God or anyone else.

The first and most important thing a good construction contractor needs is…COMMUNICATION.

Communication is more than just talking. It includes:

  • Listening to find out what the customer wants.  
  • Clearly explaining the work to be done, what it’s going to cost and when it will be done.
  • Transparency and honesty. Letting the customer know what to expect and when.
  • Willingness to be vulnerable. If you can’t be there when you said you would…let them know.

I plan to unpack what’s needed from a good construction contractor more over the next few weeks.

What Does it Take to be a Good Construction Contractor?

In a Nutshell, the Problem is…There is No Clear Answer to the Question

Last week I wrote about what’s missing when rebuilding after a disaster. It turns out that it’s the same thing that’s missing in everyday construction.

There’s simply a lack of good construction contractors.

So, what does it mean to be a “good construction contractor”?

As I was searching for ideas and answers to this question, I found very little and I mean, VERY LITTLE about it. Apparently, either nobody knows what it takes, or everyone assumes everybody already knows.

In my web search I found one article that spoke to it and one that kind of spoke to it.

The one that kind of spoke to it listed the following…

Signs of a good contractor –

  • Clean record, within reason
  • Responsive and punctual
  • Listens to your ideas
  • All hired work is accompanied with written contracts
  • Provides written estimates

Are you kidding me? Doesn’t this go without saying. And what about a clean record, within reason. This is a little concerning.

Signs of a bad contractor –

  • Licensing abnormalities
  • Habitually late or doesn’t return calls
  • Avoids permits, zoning and building codes
  • Speaks poorly of clients and associates
  • Many lawsuits against them

These are definitely signs of a bad contractor.

The better of the two articles spoke about construction workers, not contractors. It listed 12 skills, several of which would also fit for a good contractor. Those were…

  • Skills specific to “actual construction” – Need to know the things required to do the job they’ve been hired to do.
  • Problem-solving skills – Every construction job has unexpected problems that pop up. It’s important to be able to find solutions to keep production moving forward.
  • Reading and analytical skills – Contractors need to be able to read blueprints and scopes of work and understand them.
  • Listening skills – Talking is easy, but listening is critical to comprehending what the customer wants and what they don’t.
  • Communication skills – Being able to communicate both verbally and in writing are important to successful construction projects.
  • Decision making skills – The problem-solving skills will be no good if no decision gets made. It doesn’t mean that every decision is going to be the right one, but no decision is definitely the wrong one.
  • Organizational skills – This is one of the most important (and often most lacking). Time spent looking for missing tools, materials, papers, etc. leads to an unfocused project and cost time and money.
  • Technological skills – This is a newer skill that is becoming more and more important. The day of the fax is about gone. Computers, tablets and smart phones are how information is being shared…and it’s only going to increase.
  • Skill of working well with others – We need to remember that we’re all trying to accomplish the same thing. Working together as a team rather than fighting and not getting along is not productive or healthy.

This list is a good starting point, but it’s the lack of information on this topic that’s so concerning. It’s no wonder there is such a huge divide between construction customers and contractors.

A “good construction contractor” seems to be a rare and undefined treasure.

I’m going to continue digging to uncover what it takes to be a “GOOD CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTOR”.

If you have any thoughts about what you think a good construction contractor is, share your thoughts in the comments below.

What’s One Thing Missing from Disaster Response?

More Important, What Do We Do Once We Find It?

It’s tornado season here in the mid-west. A few weeks ago, a tornado went through Andover doing a significant amount of damage.

I’ve been involved in disaster response through the United Methodist Church for several years. A couple of the bigger ones I experienced were the Greensburg and Joplin tornados.

Greensburg, Kansas

Unless you’re directly affected or involved, people forget about it once the initial excitement of a disaster wears off.

The recovery and rebuilding after the disaster happens, is a slow and painful process.

I was reminded of this on a much smaller scale with the recent situation of my truck being totaled in an accident that was out of my control. Working with the insurance, determining what I should do, then the process of replacing the truck, has been going on for weeks and will continue for a few more before I’m back in a truck.

These two separate instances reminded me of a problem with rebuilding after large scale disasters and a blog post written by Andy Andrews regarding his personal disaster experience with Hurricane Ivan.

They lived in three different rental houses during the two years following the storm and this was more fortunate than most. The destruction caused by large storms can affect hundreds of miles and thousands of buildings.

In his post he refers to this experience to be like living in a third world country.

Few are wise to the fact that after the initial “clean-up” was completed and homeowners turned to the task of rebuilding, the competition for construction crews began. Oh, there are plenty of construction companies. But in this situation, it is tougher than one might suspect to secure competent, honest, crews who will continue to actually work on your house until it’s completed. Then, there’s the question of “fair price”.

After a hurricane, there is a scent of money in the air and even the companies who agree to work for somewhere close to normal wage rates, usually sign contracts to rebuild or repair twenty, sometimes thirty or more homes at a time.

Individual homeowners are rarely clued into this gambit, however, never knowing they are merely a “ball” to be kept in the air by a skillful juggler. Best-case scenario for a hurricane victim needing extensive home repair? If a partial crew is working on your house one day out of ten, consider yourself fortunate and keep your mouth shut.  Seriously.

Remember, the lure of more and easier money is everywhere and there are any number of homeowners willing to offer your construction crew two or three times the dollar amount you are already NOT getting from your insurance company.

After Hurricane Ivan, there were thousands of homes and businesses in desperate need of rebuild or repair. Thousands. And even with the flood of labor that came in from out of state, there were less than two hundred small and large construction companies working in the area…and not nearly all of them were legitimate.

…when we were in that situation, why do you think it took us more than two years to get back in our house?

Finding legitimate, qualified building contractors in a normal situation is hard enough.

This is a big problem and it needs to be addressed.

I’m going to look into this more over the next few weeks to see if we can figure out a solution to this problem.

Wouldn’t It Be Nice to Know Everything About Everything?

But Since This is Impossible, I Recommend Getting the Help of a Professional

You’ve probably met people that think they know everything about everything. And there is no convincing them otherwise.

There certainly are people who know more than I do, but it’s not about knowing everything or who knows the most.

It’s about knowing what you know and using that knowledge to help others.

Last week I wrote about construction questions and answers. I used a window project as an example. You might remember that the customer had received a quote for more than $36,000 to replace thirteen windows.

After I looked at the project it was clear that only one needed replaced. I told you that I would let you know what I came up with. I gave them a proposal to replace one window and repair some of the wood finish on the rest.

My price for this was $4,771.71. That’s 86% less than the original price.

It’s less about the price and more about the work that “actually” needed to be done.

The real issue with this project like many others is in finding what the customer needs and not trying to sell them as much as you can. The focus on selling rather than service is prevalent.

This level of service requires asking questions and listening to the answers. Finding out what it is that the customer wants and needs.

This is what professionals do. Professionals help you find the solution to YOUR problem, not give you a one size fits all answer.

Because we don’t know everything about everything, means we need to find someone that knows something about something.

I’m sure I could find information about how to do brain surgery online…but if I needed brain surgery…I would find someone that has experience and specializes in that. I haven’t seen any DIY brain surgery shows yet.

Granted, if you have a construction project go bad it’s not the same as brain surgery.

My point is this. When doing a construction project, you may not even know what you don’t know. This is where the guidance of a professional comes in. This is not to say that every building contractor is a competent, skilled professional.

I’ve heard too many people complain about their bad construction experience. Every time it came down to them making decisions without due diligence.

Almost always it comes down to being sold rather than serviced.

To minimize the bad construction experience you need to be clear on what’s most important. Is it price or quality? Is it having it done fast or waiting for the skilled professional?

Most of our construction projects come from references and recommendations. The ones that don’t start with building a relationship, not selling.

If you or someone you know is considering a construction project, I would recommend spending the time and energy in finding the right professional and asking the right questions.

An “Out of the Box” Solution to Get Your Construction Projects Done

Finding the Right Contractor for the Project Can Be a Problem

This is a construction industry issue…and it shouldn’t be.

We’ve all heard horror stories where someone either couldn’t find a contractor or hired one that later they wished they hadn’t.

I’m currently discussing this with someone in the middle of one of these situations.

After recently buying a home, they found a soft spot in the floor next to an exterior wall. With some further investigation they discovered some moisture damage that includes subfloor, floor joist and exterior wall problems. Some of the issues are structural.

The first hurdle was, having recently moved to a new location, they didn’t know anyone. They began looking for contractors, finally finding a few. After contacting them, only a couple came to look at the project. Of those who did, one never followed back up and the other said they wouldn’t do the structural work.

They had reservations about these contractors. It didn’t help that they had previously had issues with a painting contractor on a different house.

If this water damage is not fixed it’s going to lead to more significant problems in the future. Finding himself in this spot, the homeowner began to consider doing the work himself. He has done some small construction projects previously, but it didn’t take him long to realize this one was more than he could do.

Not knowing what else to do he contacted me.

Theses homeowners used to live closer and knew me through a family member. The first question was, would I come the 2+ hours to do the work?

We’ve done work further away than this before, but they were bigger projects. 

My biggest concern was finding qualified sub-contractors willing to go that far for a project of this size. It will be harder with everyone currently being so busy here close to home.

I felt his pain and really wanted to help him!

It’s a problem to find qualified construction contractors, especially in sparsely populated areas. There are too many people who call themselves contractors, but really are just a guy with a hammer.

Having run into this problem numerous times throughout my career, I have given a lot of thought to possible solutions to this problem.

One of the options that continually came up in these situations is long distance construction consulting.

What exactly would this long-distance construction consulting consist of?

This is the real question, isn’t it?

The customer’s issues come down a lack of construction experience and include things like –

  • Questions to ask the contractors
  • Communication to expect from contractors
  • Construction processes, standards and codes

What if there was a way for construction customers to have an experienced contractor in their corner? Someone to explain the process and support them through the process.

I’m working on this as an option for this customer. Providing the support and insight needed to get their repairs done. Giving them the comfort of a professional they trust that has their back through this process.

This service would include –

  • Me going to the job site and evaluating the project
  • Preparing a scope of work that could then be presented to less experienced contractors, giving them the expectations for the work to be performed.
  • Preparing a budget for the customer so they would have a price to compare to prices from contractors
  • Me reviewing pictures and reports from the customer as the onsite manager

This would be similar to what a general contractor would provide with the exception of actual construction work.

Now I’m going to get to work on figuring out what this service will cost them and preparing a proposal for it.

I will let you know how this construction customer consulting goes as we move forward.

Giving Work Away for Free Doesn’t Sound Like a Very Good Plan

The Benefit to Me is More Than Dollars and Cents

There’s a learning curve that goes with expanding my business from construction to include coaching and consulting.

After all, a coaching/consulting business isn’t the same as a construction business…or is it?

Several years ago, it occurred to me that most construction companies that I worked with knew how to build a building…but not a business. This became apparent when they would continually ask me how I did this or where I learned that. Or worse case when a construction company and customer ended up in court because something hadn’t gone as expected.

Then it happened, I got a wakeup call and realized that I needed to share this knowledge and experience with other construction companies and customers.

The problem is I’ve never been very good at teaching. It was always easier for me to just do it myself. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, this is a pretty selfish attitude.

So, if I’m not naturally a teacher, how do I get these systems into the hands of the people who need them?

This is when I developed a downloadable proposal system, available online. It was complete with instructions for how to use it, templates, examples and a database. And what happened next…crickets.

What’s the deal? There’s definitely a need for better business systems in the construction industry. So, why aren’t people buying this inexpensive proposal system and taking control of their businesses?

Recently I have been in communication with a construction company that has shown interest in the proposal system. We’ve met a few times and discussed the system. I even did an example proposal of a project they are getting ready to start (at no cost) to compare to their system.

During our most recent meeting we discussed how my system could work for them. He asked some questions about some concerns he had.

If my system works so well for me, why wouldn’t it work the same for every other construction company out there?

That’s when I had an aha moment. It’s because they aren’t me.

So, I need to rethink this whole thing. Rather than me focusing on selling my system and teaching it others, I need to find out what they need and build them a system that works for them specifically.

I need to approach this more like doing a construction project. I wouldn’t build the same house for every customer. They’re all different. They have different needs and wants. Once I figure out what those are, I can build them the project of their dreams.

This is how I need to approach the coaching and consulting for construction companies. I need to find out what they need and build it for them.

This new thinking is going to require me to do some work in the beginning at no charge so that I can learn how to do this. Giving away work doesn’t sound like a very good plan…

But I think the long-term benefits to both me and them will be worth it in the end.