Tips to Better Manage Project Scheduling
For many of us, the nature of our business is feast or famine. I have yet to meet a consultant, integrator, manufacturer, or other person in this industry (or any construction-related industry) that didn’t experience the peaks and valleys that can make your life (and your business) a roller coaster. Sure we’d all rather be busy than looking for work, but the cyclical nature of our businesses often adds more stress than the actual work we are doing. In light of this, I’d like to offer some observations and coping skills that have worked for us; as with any of these blog entries, your thoughts and comments are welcomed and appreciated.
Worry about the jobs you have: While our clients don’t want to hear this, you can’t possibly staff and plan resources for projects that you have not yet been awarded. So, you often have no choice but to wait until you’ve been awarded a project before you can figure out just exactly how you and your team are going to pull it off. In the past, we had left holes in our schedule anticipating projects but we don’t like to do that anymore. Too many jobs get cancelled or deferred, and a hole in your schedule is revenue you can never make up.
Price projects for your normal workload: Unless you know a project will be coming in very quickly, don’t give in to the temptation to price it low in lean times because you need the work. Murphy’s Law dictates that you’ll only win the jobs that you can’t make money on, and you have to assume that business will pick up. You don’t want to be stuck doing a money losing job when better projects come along, and your service and attitude are sure to reflect your resentment. Better to price projects fairly and adjust your cost structure for all projects if you’re not competitive.
Prioritize based on the client: It’s easy to prioritize the work around your staff and availability but that’s not always the best answer. Yesterday we had to pull someone off of a planned site visit to send him on a last-minute trip across the country. The reason: the planned visit wasn’t a high priority, while the crosscountry trek represented a client with a system that had crashed and was looking for advice on resolving chronic reliability issues. It was a hassle, but, since the first project wasn’t on a “urgent” timeline, changing plans kept both clients happy.
Communicate: If you are going to make changes, tell people about them. The example above would not have worked if we promised to show up and then canceled without informing our client. We have an integrator working on a municipal project that has yet to keep a scheduling commitment. No matter how good a job they do or how competitive their prices are, they’ll be remembered as the guys that didn’t show up when they promised. Do you think we’ll recommend them on other projects? Would you?
When the scheduling demands make your life difficult and you’re struggling to make everyone happy, remember the Aesop’s fable called “The Miller, the Son and the Donkey.” If you don’t recall the fable, at least consider the moral of the story: “He who tries to please everybody pleases nobody.”
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