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Greeting Scaffs from around the globe. Today's rant , as promised, is on Elephant hunting and sling shots. Which will be translated in a few moments. Lets get the quote of the day out of the way. "I have supplied the best men with the best equipment we have and given them what seems to be the wisest mission. That is all I can do" Admiral Earnest J. King prior to the D-day invasion. The reason I have selected this quotation is simple. I think this should be a reflection statement before we start any project. If it's a 4 hour job or a 3 year contract, the same rules should still apply. Let's look at each piece of this quotation individually:
Part 1 "the best men". Keeping in mind when this was said, I believe we can feel free to update this to the best "people" or "personnel" to be more politically correct, but the underlying question is still the same. Do we have the best people? While I realize this is a subjective matter of opinion, we still need to review if these are in fact the best people to do the job. Not the best available but in fact the best. If they are not I think the question needs to be asked of ourselves as to why we don't have the best. Is it a money issue? Not usually from the employees perspective if they are honest about what the job is worth and not just inflating their rates to fit their ego's. I personally have done the same job for less money for a friend who gives me a lot of work. Is it a loyalty issue? A lot of times when you can't get that one great employee away from your competitor it is for the the last reason I will give under this part, character. Is it a character issue? For you, for them or both? This is a sword that cuts both ways. I have been offered large sums of money to work for companies that I didn't believe had the best ethical practices, and at the same time in my youth I definitely couldn't teach an ethics class. This perspective only covers the outsourcing side of the question, now for the internal side of the question. Are our competitors people better than ours? If so why? Is it real or just a perception? You know "the grass is always greener..."scenario. Odd are if we think our competitors people are better than ours the fault does not necessarily lie with the people. I think it is more of an internal question as to why we believe that and what we can do to correct this. I know for a fact that different people require different motivators. I have four children and and two of them can be motivated via the "drill sergeant" method of motivation but I also have two others that will shut down completely if I use this method on them. I have worked with quite a few people who i thought were total idiots only to find that they were great people, I just wasn't reaching them in a method that works for them. A few of these people I have come across later in my career to find that they can teach me a thing or two. A few of them I have also come across again to see I was right on the money:) It basically comes down to accurately reading and knowing our people. As soon as someone masters this please drop me a line so I can come for lessons. Until then I will keep doing the best I can to make sure they are doing the best they can.
Part 2: "...the best equipment..." Welcome to the part to piss everyone off. Yes, this does say the " best equipment we have", but is that really good enough? Now I realize that scaffold is quickly becoming like phone cases. There is a gadget for everything and while it would be awesome to have all the little parts and pieces that the manufacturers have come up with to make all of us erectors go "oh" and "ah" over but at the same time we need to realize that there is a reason that some manufacturers and importers are selling what Direct Scaffold is calling "Scaffold Jewelry". We put nice rims on our cars and trucks, have nice watches and some of us are driving a house payment around. Why shouldn't we be doing the same thing for our clients. Yes these little gadgets can be costly on the front end, but look at a few that have become the staples of what we do just in the last 20 years. Beam clamps, anyone remember what it was like to do an outage without these little gems? I remember when we couldn't get these and had to collar beams. Spigot clamps? Swing gates? If you ask someone to climb over a handrail now they get confused like a dog when it hears a high pitched sound. At some point these luxury items become staples to just doing the job, where we used to have to do it the hard way. This goes back to the lead dog saying. Who wants to be the one to introduce the next standard item? i don't know about you but catch up is only good on fries and never in my business. Now this where I get to pick on myself a little more for the benefit of the class. Just like how we hate it when our clients shop our prices for low bidder, we should hate to do this to our suppliers. Find one or two, because one may not always have what you need when you need it, but make sure they are similar in quality and design then price. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever shop for you parts based solely on price. They are not the same and if you ever have to provide manufacturer data for all of your material you'll know why this is important. We will pick on Ringlock type material since that is what I am most familiar with. Different manufacturers have different heads, which may not seem like a big deal because they are all rated the same right? (Maybe not, but that is a whole other episode there so we won't stray too far down that path right now. More to come on this later) If the heads are different, they don't stack right which looks like crap and means you can't fit as many in a rack which could mean more freight. Some manufacturers, or suppliers, will sell you something called a 3'6" Ledger. While in their world it is a 3'-6" ledger but in reality it actually makes a 3'-6 13/16" bay which doesn't work with any of your other 3'-6" components. Which you're the one outside in -9degree weather putting it up and have to go chase down the right ledgers you don't care about the $0.45 cheaper these ledgers were than the other ones you bought that were right. If you are our client you may be wondering why with a yard full of steel plank, why are we still tripping over the lapped ends?For more information on how this relates to our bottom line see my previous post on "Anal Glaucoma and Spray Paint" Now the pick on myself part. I made the mistake of buying material from two different manufacturers and I am very not happy with the results. They don't stack together and mess up my truck pack and I won't do that again. I have a manufacturer that I will stick with since they put up with my bad ideas for custom parts, and I have another supplier that can keep me in standard material when i need it. Those are my people and i'm going to work on building my relationship with them that I want to have with my clients.
Part 3: "given them what seems to be the wisest mission..." This part is really simple. Let me see if I can complicate it for no reason. Is the mission clear? Is it reasonable? Is it written? This is one of my greatest downfalls. I figure if I know everybody else should know it right? Not even close and I'm getting better at this but it is hard. If we are not the ones going, whomever is needs to know more than we do about the project. Assume you are explaining it to an 8 year old kid, that speaks a foreign language. I'm not saying you should treat them like an idiot, but every detail needs to be relayed if you want the performance of your troops to meet your standards. Especially if your standards exceed the minimum regulations that we are all taught, which most of our do.
So in summation of this entire rant: If you are going to hunt elephants, you better have more than a slingshot. We need to have the right people in place with the right equipment and the absolute best plan in place to even have a shot at success. I really want to do the X Games someday, or something hugh and awesome like that, but if I tried to do it today it could be a catastrophic failure for both me and my client. The reality of the situation is I need to work myself, my people and my inventory into this size of a project,(my elephant.) Now that being said that doesn't mean we can't stretch ourselves a little thin and push ourselves on to bigger and better things, but i think this needs to be a calculated push. You can kill an elephant with a slingshot if you are shooting grenades and not just rocks. The trick is making sure that the grenades are live and not the duds from Joes Bargain Basement Army Surplus.
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