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Letters to a General Superintendent (Part 19)

What follows is the 19th letter in a series of letters supposedly written by an owner (Jack Owployer) in response to a general superintendent’s (Joe Gensup) request for something more than the typical job description. Though the company had provided a generic job description, what the superintendent needed and received was much more personal and heartfelt when compared to the sterile notion of do’s and don’ts so commonly emphasized throughout our industry.

Dear Joe:

I want to commend you on several steps you’ve taken to improve efficiency and refine our overall operation in the new year. Your timing couldn’t have been better. You’ve set some noble goals, communicated them well and tied them to the new year to get accomplished. Super smart.


In situations like this, it makes a lot of sense to take advantage of the opportunity to impose change on an organization simultaneously as change is naturally occurring. It is much more likely to be received. Think about it: A new year is beginning, things are changing, and people are in the mood for change.


You’d be wise to continue that practice annually. There will always be a Jan. 1 and areas that need improvement. Taking advantage of the timing and cycle of each new year to make necessary changes and set worthy goals makes a lot of sense. The timing is better yet, since work slows a bit during holidays.


With regard to goals and changes in general, you’ve selected some that will add instant value. Well done! I’m glad to see you tackling waste reduction, a more efficient approach when it comes to tool and equipment rental, promoting some of our top performers, and getting rid of our lowest performers and replacing them with the best new hires we can find. If that weren’t enough, you’ve also set out to better sequence, define and reorganize some of our processes that we’ve struggled with this past year and update our organizational chart.


Your taking the initiative to tackle waste reduction makes me proud. Your idea to couple it with safety meetings and make it a standard topic as we have our tailgate meetings is impressive.


Take our residential division for example. The potential savings of eliminating what most businesses consider typical waste will substantially boost the bottom line. Make certain every single manager and employee knows how easy it is to peel off $150 a residence. Show them how much money that actually translates into immediately, and do the math with them. Multiply that times 30 homes a week transforming waste into 4,500 profit dollars—$234,000 a year. And if we push that savings out 10 years? That’s almost a million dollars every four years. What if we actually maintained that for the 40 years we’ve been in business? That is $9,360,000, almost $10,000,000 in one career. We’re not even considering the commercial division.


While I’m lavishing you with well-deserved compliments, let me pour on the praise in a few more areas. You also embraced my recent suggestion and took yourself a long break. I could see the fire in your eyes when you returned, ready, willing and able to tackle problems and make improvements in the year ahead.


I noticed something extremely important during your absence, the earmark of exceptional management: Things went exceptionally while you were away! The manager who can’t leave his department for a well-deserved break without things falling apart was never much of a manager in the first place. One like you who can leave for three weeks while the organization continues to operate extremely well, is managing well. He/She has developed a self-sufficient workforce able to operate independently, and that is the goal of great management.


Finally, I’m about five months away from retirement, and I’m as good as gone. The new owners are coming in and taking over. Though I have a vested interest in keeping this boat afloat, it’s no longer my ship to sail.


I will always be here for you, but the letters will stop. Twenty-four in total. Two full years of writing you once a month will finally end. With what remains, I’m going to do my best to offer the very best concepts I have to convey, which will ultimately become my final thoughts with regard to you and your request for something more than the typical job description. Anything but typical …


Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. He is available for consultation, business management seminars and training. Visit him on LinkedIn or contact him at [email protected].

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