From commercial pilot to general contractor: (5) Mistakes will be made
"My professional background in aviation doesn't like mistakes. But in my new career, in construction, 'reduction' in mistakes is a more realistic objective than elimination of them."
June 27, 2014 by John Bleasby
EDITOR’S NOTE: Meet John Bleasby. John is a retired commercial pilot transitioning to life as a general contractor. Now, as he attempts to do his first solo on a new home build, north of Toronto, he has kindly offered to share his experiences with us here in a series of blogs. Veteran contractors, go easy on him – but all comments are most welcome.
If you missed John’s previous posts, here they are:
One big upside of being the G.C. on my own house-building project is that I oversee every aspect of the construction and know where every penny is being spent. The flip side however, is that I also know where and when any mistakes are made!
And there will always be mistakes. Although my professional background in aviation doesn’t like mistakes, I also realise that construction is different. ‘Reduction of mistakes’ is a more realistic objective than elimination.
However, how the mistakes are fixed also matters. Mistakes can occur through either carelessness (hard to tolerate) or unintended human error (more tolerable). All are fixable. To me, it’s a matter of taking responsibility for those errors and dealing with them immediately; NOT pointing fingers at someone else and backing away.
The joists for the main floor level of my house are supported by two large steel beams that span the entire width of the foundation wall. On installation day, the supplier brought in a very large crane to move the largest beam (38’) into position, only find that it had been mis-measured and cut 15” short! A few expletives were muttered under the breath of the supplier as he quietly packed everything up and took the useless beam away. Next day by noon, he was back with a new beam (the paint was barely dry). The replacement beam was installed with very little time lost. That’s what I call ‘Taking Responsibility’.
10 days before delivery my construction team noted a mis-match between joist and ledger specifications on the architectural drawings and called the joist supplier for clarification. Despite our efforts to clarify and correct the discrepancy and assurances that it would be corrected, we were shipped the wrong joists and ledgers and incorrect hangers! The response from our sales rep? The old Sergeant Schultz routine; ‘I know nothing, I see nothing!’ In addition, the supplier’s shop drawings were so small they were legible only by a magnifying glass (literally) forcing me to have them re-printed on a commercial printer! To make a long and difficult story short, it took five days of discussion, re-ordering protocol, credit memo generation, credit card processing and new delivery timetables, all supplier issues, to get the materials we needed on site to proceed with construction. This due entirely to carelessness at the supplier end combined with a sales rep unwillingness to fix errors promptly. Five lost days!
As the French would say: ‘Breathe through your nose!’ I hand-picked all my suppliers and trades for not only price but for their reputations for integrity and customer service. All, except this joist supplier, have been wonderful. However, this one sales rep’s indifference to customer service meant my project suffered a serious time-wasting delay. Perhaps such things are inevitable in construction, but my aviation instincts for discipline, precision and most of all responsibility were aroused. Breathe!