How to Create a Horrible Construction Department

Corporate construction departments are crucial to the success of a growing company. Often behind the scenes doing thankless work, the construction department is tasked with getting facilities built and opened. Regardless of whether it’s a new restaurant, store, or a regional support office, the construction folks are mission-critical.

From good to bad to worse, we’ve seen them all. As a general contractor, we have worked with companies with outstanding construction departments and we’ve worked with folks who make construction feel like brushing your teeth with Oreos. And while a negatively framed article is, well, a little negative, we figured we’d offer some of the best ideas if your goal is to build a horrible construction department.

1.  Make your SOP to pick the low bidder.

Go ahead, let price be your guide. Demand that construction managers pick the cheapest general contractor. Change orders will abound and quality will be absent, but you can just blame the general contractor – right?

2. Threaten your contractor and treat them like dirt.

If it rains a lot, don’t grant rain days. If your contractor gets behind, threaten to replace them. You’ll destroy any trust with your general contractor and – remember, your goal is to create a horrible construction department – you’ll make your contractor switch to defensive/damage control mode and this will stifle creative problem-solving.

3. Give one person oversight over a broad territory of many jobs.

Go ahead, overload your construction managers. Give Jim Texas, Louisiana, and – hey, why not – the entire southeast. If his jobs are late, bust his chops. He’ll burn out and the jobs will suffer.

4. Don’t ask contractors for input.

The best construction departments have forums for contractor feedback and input, but you don’t want to do that. Treat contractors like commodities, not partners. What do they know anyway?

5. Strike fear into the hearts of your team so everyone works to justify their existence.

This goes hand-in-hand with #3. What we have seen is that the worst construction departments are the most ruthless with their people. The pressure starts at the executive level and trickles down like napalm to the construction manager. It makes everyone’s life miserable, burns bridges with good contractors, and builds a bad reputation.

That was a little snarky, huh? Sorry about that. The truth is, if you take the opposite (or nearly the opposite, maybe not the opposite per se) of the above 5 bullets you will be well on your way to building an outstanding construction department. The key is respect, collaboration, and a reasonable work load.

The best of the best construction departments have high standards, high quality people, and the humility to change and adapt with the market. When we get to build for companies like this – say, Buc-ee’s or QuikTrip, for example – it is a pleasure. We grow and improve for having worked with such outstanding companies.

So if you want to create an outstanding construction department, read these five rules carefully… then, do the opposite.

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