Summertime, and the working isn’t easy

Last year, we should have maxed out August. Ended up being one of our lowest months because of vacations, one guy on light duty then didn’t come in, second guy struggling with shoulder problems. We were counting on this revenue, and now we don’t have it. Can’t let that happen again this year. What should we do?

Thoughts of the day… Make a plan for what’s expected. It’s important to know how long each job will take. Weekly calendar adjustments are essential. Have a plan for making the last hour(s) of the day productive. Make time for downtime. Work with sales to maximize profits.

Map out each workday in 2-hour blocks. Plan to rotate staff as they’re needed. Schedule work in the same general location and try not to have people running from one end of the county to the other during a single day. Figure out who is likely to do the best work and who would be their backup. A central scheduler in the office that people report to throughout the day can keep an overall picture of how all work is proceeding.

Be realistic about the amount of time and resources needed to complete each job. Overestimating what can be accomplished will only serve to put everyone behind when estimates fail to deliver. Keep records of how long jobs take. Know who works quickly and who needs more time. Plan accordingly. Factor in the type of customer you’ll be dealing with. Someone who is going to micromanage the entire project will slow things down and it’s best to allow for that.

Rarely does everything go completely according to plan. If you add 10 to 15 percent extra time to a job, and you don’t need it, you can fill in by moving another job up. But if a job goes on too long, there’s a domino effect that disrupts everything else on the schedule.

Meet with the team each week to discuss current and upcoming assignments. Find out who has challenges and who has open time. Keep an eye on jobs that are likely to run over, as those will cause disruption to projects that follow. At the same time, make sure that the right staff is going to each job, that is, the most qualified staff to quickly do the work needed that day.

Consider having a rotating team that travels from one project to another to help out. They can provide extra skills or just help boost the productivity of a team on any given day by adding extra hands to a job.

Ask people to hold off on vacations or limit the number of people who can be out when things are normally busiest. Put up a central planning calendar and allow people to pick days off on a first-come, first-served basis.

Keep a list of jobs that can be done in 1 to 2 hours as fillers for the end of each day, like routine maintenance. Often maintenance calls lead to additional work that needs to be scheduled; the person doing the work can put in some overtime to finish up or put it on the schedule for another day.

Don’t let people get in the habit of quitting early, especially if they’re on salary. Make every minute of every hour productive, teach people about the relationship between billable hours and affording payroll.

Whether it’s up-charging for the busiest days or discounting to fit in an extra piece of work on a slow day, sales can help with delivering profits if they know a bit more about what’s going on in the field.

Make sure that when things are busiest, sales is actively pursuing work for the next slow period. Don’t back off from bidding on work just because everyone is maxed out. The best time to look for work is when no one has time to do just that.

LOOKING FOR A GOOD BOOK? Try “HBR Guide to Project Management” by Harvard Business Review.


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