Client after client has shared this little known fact. Although anecdotal in nature, it has been repeated enough to me that some statistical significance should be assigned to it. Stronger still, I am statistically confident this is true.
This little known fact is “10 years”. That is, it takes 10 years to figure out this business called construction contracting. We have such a complex challenge in building work that it takes many years to understand and then act on the true drivers of profitability, safety, quality, speed and people.
As an aside, comedian / actor / writer Steve Martin said the same in his latest book. It took him 10 years to understand what he was doing and then to bring crowds to their feet. Most professions are not instantaneous events. Much like an athlete, it takes thinking, nurturing and faith. Even the most talented, have to go through a period of modest, inconsistent results. If you know Mr. Martin, ask him about performing at the Steak & Ale in Gainesville, Florida. That kind of humble beginning is not what show business is all about however, it is a critical step while keeping the insincere and weakest from earning fame and fortune.
In construction contracting, I do not work with start ups. My books are for established contractors and their staffs to understand more and different things about the construction business. Once in a while I will be asked to help someone in their new business. After I quietly tell them I don’t do that kind of work, I usually offer up some quick advice to leave them on an encouraging note. I always bring up the concept of “10 years”. Silence from the other party usually ensues.
There are two immediate benefits from mentioning this little known fact. 1) I don’t get another inquiry about their new business 2) It keeps the weakest and insincere from competing against the existing contractors.
Doing something because you want to versus doing it because it is cool or profitable is a classic conflict in construction. Obviously, having more contractors building our habitat and our infrastructure who want to be in the business benefits society and our profession. Contrast this with all the “house flippers” of just a couple of years ago.
As you can tell, I vote for the people who are long term and sincere in their professional goals.