I’m not exactly sure what’s driving this, but I’ve spoken with dozens of companies since the Business & Leadership Conference about doing profitable work and avoiding the profit-killers on jobs. Certainly, we set the stage for reduced profit (or none at all) when we: 1) bid work with just a few points of margin on the equipment, 2) cut labor to the bare minimums and 3) squeeze every ounce of contingencies out of the project, which I refer to as working without a safety net. Competition is fierce, and you all have stories about the crazy competitor who bid below your cost. However, I want to focus on something else: proper execution and close-out procedures.
We have all had that job that will never end. Apparently, that is a pretty common theme for many jobs going on around the world. I think some of that stems from construction managers and GCs with too little to do or, on the other end of the spectrum, not enough senior managers who have close-out procedure experience or authority to sign off on technical systems. One way or the other, your money is tied up and retainage is being held hostage in some fashion.
Here’s what I want you to take away as a priority: Do whatever you can to get that lingering job transitioned from the work in progress status to the completed status. Close it out and get the warranty period started. Do everything in your power to get the proper authorization to start the warranty or managed services portion of that project as soon as possible. Meet with the owner, write certified letters, use a mechanics lien, do whatever you can do to stop adding unbillable hours to the project.
Unfortunately, doing this and making new friends doesn’t typically happen. Remember, the project close-out authority (GC or CM) isn’t generally the person who determines your chances on the next job; he is just the person assigned to hold onto your money as long as possible.
Getting to 95% complete is really pretty easy compared to the last 5%. Your company is the only one that really cares if the last 5% is done, especially if you make the mistake of letting the customer use a working system before the close-out documents are signed. We’ve all done it… CW