Joe Dethloff's Posts (1)

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Good morning from Jacksonville, FL. I can't begin to tell you how excited I am about the initial success of the PGN!My background and formal education is in construction management. I began my college career with a love for science and engineering. When I got past calculus, differential equations, physics and chemistry however, the classes (and my classmates) got REALLY boring - sorry Ray. So I left the school of Mechanical Engineering and joined the school that led me to my true passion - The M.E. Rinker School of Building Construction at The University of Florida (Go Gators!).After college I worked as a Field Manager for Centex Homes, winning awards for Field Manager of the Year and Highest Customer Satisfaction in my second year building homes. I did a brief tenure as Construction Manager at Arthur Rutenburg Homes, building custom homes at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, FL. I was then recruited by one of my mentors, Bob Porter. Bob is the head of Land Acquisition and Land Development for DR Horton, Inc in Jacksonville, FL. At the height of my construction career I headed a team of 45 Project Managers, Superintendents and Assistant Superintendents that managed 250+ single family residences under construction at one time. Our team, in our best year built 700+ homes valuing at 140 million dollars. We had a FANTASTIC time doing it!!I began to put into action the idea of pursuing my entrepreneurial dream, and looked into swimming pools. Swimming pools were very appealing because the average pool can be constructed in less than 6 weeks and with less than 30 tasks from "dirt to done" utilizing less than 15 subs. This was a welcome change to schedules with 90 to 120 day cycle times with 200 + tasks and 60 different subs. I seek out advice from everyone and as I started speaking to other pool builders it became clear that construction management was not their forte. There seemed to be a lot of manage by chaos, and yet pools remain a fairly simple project to manage.With that said, here are 5 things you can do THIS WEEK to make your next pool construction project go much smoother and that will result in a more profitable job and company1) "Write down your schedule!"It doesn't matter how many times a pilot has flown a 747, he or she follows a pre-flight checklist prior to EVERY flight. Why? Because unlike a building project, an error in flight doesn't just cause loss of money - it causes loss of life. So why not live like your life depends on the success of your building schedule.Small pool company? Doesn't matter - it is even MORE important that you are firing on all 8 cylinders. Put your schedule in your notebook, e-calendar, PDA, I-phone, whatever - just get it in writing.2) "Begin with the end in mind!"You need to set your cycle time goal PRIOR to starting construction - NOT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT WHEN YOUR CUSTOMER ASKS, "when will you be done?" This is important for many reasons: especially when times are slow - you need to be on your "A" game! You can run a very lean operation in trying times, if you know your schedule. It is very hard to time payments, plan for payroll, etc, if you have NO IDEA when draws are coming in! Know when you will be finished, and work to that date - your life will be much easier!One of my favorite schedule facts is that "a task will expand to fill the time allowed." Don't get fooled in today's market when subs show up when you want. You need to set the task expectation on three different levels: 1. Start date 2. Details of task to be completed 3. Completion date. Proper communication here will prevent your disappointment and keep your completion date intact!3)Under promise and Over deliver EVERY TIME! If you write your schedule and see it is going to take you 6 weeks to build your project, tell your customer 8 and then bring the project in ahead of schedule. ***IMPORTANT everyone on your team has to be "in the know." What do I mean by that? It does you no good if your sales person says to a potential customer, "we are supposed to tell you 8 weeks but we really do it in 6." Or if your salesperson sets the CORRECT expectation of 8 weeks but as soon as you start construction, your superintendent tells the customer "I build these all the time in 6 weeks." Why is this so important??? Let me give you a personal example:About a month ago my screen enclosure crew was building a screen room over a pool that we were constructing. I had set an 8 week expectation and we were two weeks ahead of that, despite 2 different Tropical Storms during construction. I always allow one full week to construct our screen room - this allows for some weather, punchout, etc. The homeowner asked my crew leader on Friday, "when will you be done?" My crew leader told him, "Tuesday," thinking he would work both Saturday and Sunday. Guess what? It rained Saturday and Sunday - so when Tuesday rolled around we were only 1/2 way done!! So in the homeowner's mind, we were behind schedule - (typical homeowner amnesia :-) ). We finished the screen room 100% on Thursday - exactly in the time I allowed... We recovered from the missed expectation, the homeowner LOVES his pool and my company - in fact we met with his son and daughter in law last week to begin design work on their pool and am meeting with his cousin next week to begin designing a room addition for his home! BUT - I don't want ANY DOUBT in ANY homeowner's mind that WE ARE THE BEST, WE ARE PROFESSIONAL! And unmet expectations give them that opportunity4) "Schedule, don't react!"The number one objection from most superintendents when I ask to see their "two week" schedule? "What if it doesn't happen the way I write it down???" AURGH! The point is, if you don't write it down, communicate it to your subs and MANAGE it, it WON'T EVER HAPPEN THE WAY YOU WANT IT TO! I set a "hard" schedule one week out and keep a two week "look ahead" schedule to let my subs know what is on the horizon. I do this even with the guys who have great lead times (3 days or less). WHY? Because I want to be considerate, I want my job to be first on their list, and most subs know anyone who schedules like that is someone they want to work for. Why? Because that sub can begin to plan, just like you are planning - when they start to do that, they realize how much easier their job becomes - they can begin, just like you, to manage cash flow, payroll, workload, etc... Then they begin to make money and not just live week to week! Why is this important? I have always said that I don't want anyone working for me that isn't making money - I am not in this business for practice, nor should anyone be that helps build our projects!5) "Be job ready!" or "Probing questions three levels deep!"So now you are "in." You understand how important it is to schedule, the financial benefits to your company, how your customer satisfaction numbers will be on the rise! Very exciting stuff, to say the least!!But we aren't done yet! You still have to MANAGE the schedule you set. This is what separates the men from the boys of scheduling!!Don't just assume that the task for Monday was completed, don't just assume that your steel guy finished steeling that pool over the weekend like he promised, don't just assume that the job was done correctly: KNOW IT!!Do you find yourself complaining about the increases that your subs bring in each year? What if you could delay or avoid some or all of those increases? What does that have to do with scheduling??? EVERYTHING. Especially if you are 100% job ready, 100% of the time! I have personally been in negotiations with vendors - before we began construction on a new subdivision - you want to know one question that was asked EVERY TIME??? "Who is going to be the superintendent?" Why would they ask this question when negotiating prices for new work? Because if my answer was "Gary Brunk" they knew they could agree to a reduced rate and still make money! Why? Because Gary not only followed all the steps 1-4 above - he was also JOB READY - his vendors could count that if he scheduled them to come on Tuesday, that Tuesday morning the job was ready for them - all the materials they needed were there - and Monday's work that they needed to be 100% complete to start their job was 100% complete!What are "Probing questions three levels deep?" I learned this lesson about 10 years ago as a superintendent. I was checking my job on a Monday afternoon to make sure that the interior trim package had been dropped off by the supplier so that my trim carpenter could start work on Tuesday. It had! Or so I thought... What didn't I do? I didn't check the trim package delivery ticket and see that the attic stairs had been back ordered. OOPS - so my trim carpenter would have to come back on Wednesday afternoon once they dropped the attic stairs off Wednesday morning. Wednesday morning came - I walked the job and saw that the attic stairs had been delivered and that we were good to go for Wednesday afternoon. Or so I thought. What I didn't check was the height of the attic stairs - you see they make one set of stairs that works for ceilings up to 9' in height. But this garage, where the stairs were being installed, had 10' ceilings! OOPS! How foolish did I feel? Three trips just to finish installing interior trim? But wait there is more! Do you think that the carpenter made me pay for his trips? No, of course not - he knew that I would object to the extra work order - that is what I was taught to do! BUT - I can guarantee next time there was a change order on a job - he factored his lost time, plus some, into his price!What I should have done in this example is probe three levels deep into my initial question of "Is the trim package here?" 1. Is the package here? 2. Are all the components here? 3. Are those components the correct ones to complete the job 100%?Thanks for reading, and happy scheduling!Joe Dethloffmybreakwaterpool.comBreakwater Pools, LLCJacksonville, FL
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