Forging Ahead in Winter – Brrrrrr!

WinterizationMy guess is there are lots of people outside the construction industry that don’t give much thought to how tough and expensive it is to keep a project on schedule during the winter months. Not to mention the effort required by the dedicated tradesmen that make it happen.

In our industry, we spend a lot of time and research prior to the winter months trying to guess just what Mother Nature is going to bring us. If you’ve been in the Midwest for any length of time, you know our winters are a mixed bag of conditions. They can be incredibly cold and long, or they can be short and mild.

You just never know which way it will go, which is why we like making sure our customers understand the costs associated with winterization. To keep a project on schedule takes a lot of extra effort, planning and dollars. When competing for work, we try to figure out just what those costs will be for the upcoming winter. The odds of getting it right are like winning the Powerball lottery.

Getting it wrong in either direction can be detrimental to the success of a project. No ownership group wants to overpay for winterization, and no contractor wants to eat into already low margins spending excessive dollars battling Mother Nature. Therein lies the conundrum. This year is the perfect example. The late winter led to a lot of production and work being put in place. This work in an early winter would have cost more to put in place or not been completed at all, costing everyone.

The true win-win for everyone working on the project is to communicate up front what the expectations and goals are for the success of the project. Then with transparency, there can be several scenarios planned out with associated cost implications. The team can determine where the risks are and plan appropriately.

I want to recognize the effort by the craft professionals that execute the work in the field in these difficult and harsh winter conditions. Thank you.

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Holiday PartyWe like to bring our team together at the end of the year for a big celebration. We decided to do another “casino night” this year because it was so much fun the previous year. Everyone gets a stack of funny money to begin the evening with. At the end of the evening, everyone turned in their “winnings” for prizes.

We had Paulo & Bill cater in the food and it was amazing. Appetizers, shrimp, sandwiches, chicken, four different dips and a ton of desserts. Nobody left hungry.

As I looked around the room, I saw things that made me really happy.

It was date night for married couples. People were sharing pictures of new babies born since our last celebration. Long-time business associates in our industry were catching up. And new employees that are now part of our Straub family. It’s always a packed house and a great time.

On my drive home, I was thinking how important celebrating each other and our lives away from work really is.

Holiday PartyMy social calendar is just as full as my professional calendar. With three very active kids, there are days when the sheer organization of it all makes me step back and take a deep breath.

That’s where the support of my wife and my team at Straub really becomes extremely important. I know I can step away and enjoy coaching my kids or traveling to their meets without anxiety because the team at Straub has my back.

We have a culture where teamwork is part of everything that we do. It’s a trust that has been built over time. It’s been tested and strengthened in good times and in leaner times.

Teamwork allows us to embrace balance and not carry burdens alone. Being able to rely on our team is critical. Everyone knows the job will get done right, because we all do our parts individually so that we succeed collectively.

I challenge each of us to find or redefine our balance as 2016 is already moving quickly. Where has January gone?

More importantly, try to be someone others may lean on. You just might be the support they need in their work-life balancing act.

Holiday Party Holiday Party

Holiday Party  Holiday Party

Holiday Party

We’ll Come To You: Mobility and Our Collaborative Office Space in the Crossroads

Straub - CrossroadsTen years ago, most people in the construction industry expected their own cubical with a desk top and filing cabinet. Today, our work is done with mobility in mind – through the use of laptops, iPads, smart phones and cloud-based construction management software. More and more of our projects need larger collaborative areas instead of individual offices.  Sure, a private conference room is needed for meetings from time-to-time, but having shared workstations in spaces where people can collaborate is working well.

At Straub Construction, we’ve embrace the mobility trend. We’re heading into our 3rd month of having our new Crossroads collaborative office location, at 2100 Central, and it’s really paying off.

The original thought was that we’d have our Crossroads location for a Missouri/Downtown presence, but it’s become much more than that. Every week we seem to come up with new ways to use the space.

The office is set up with workstations that anyone can stop by and use.  Instead of employees driving back to the main Shawnee office between meetings, many of them now work out of the Crossroads shared work space. This option can save an hour or more of travel time (round trip) and our team is more productive.

Straub - Crossroads Straub - Crossroads

We could have tried this a decade ago, but wouldn’t have been able to realize quite the productivity gains we’re seeing today. Over the past few years we’ve taken advantage of the development of integrated cloud-based solutions. They allow our employees to access any document they need, from anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection.  This technology helps us at our two physical offices, and it helps our superintendents in the field. The information they need is always just a few keystrokes away.

Straub Construction - MobilityIn the midst of all this mobility, there are some real benefits to having a physical location downtown. We’re able to hold project meetings that are more convenient for our clients and partners working downtown. We also have out-of-town clients working on projects in the downtown area.  These clients appreciate the new centralized location being closer to the airport.

Our Shawnee office might have more comfortable chairs and a larger private conference room, but with today’s fast pace environment and technology, our small conference table and access to a shared conference room is working out great in the Crossroads!

We’re always looking at ways to improve our processes by adopting new technologies and methods. We know that it allows our employees and subcontractors to be more efficient and accurate so that we can deliver the highest quality projects for our clients.

A Hands-On Reminder of Why I Love This Business

Ernie Straub IIITalk about fun! What started as a small six week handicap access project at my home turned into a complete six month home renovation.

The Sights, Sounds and Smells of Construction

Renovating my home gave me the chance to do all the things I’ve learned and experienced in my 48 years in the construction business. Knocking down walls with a sledge hammer, pouring and finishing concrete, building new walls and the fresh smell of cut wood make up the sights, sounds and smells of construction.

Planning

Then, there was the planning. The selection of materials, colors, and styles. Choosing everything from hardware, plumbing, electrical, paint, stain, blinds, and more… you get the picture.  Every time I turned around, there was something else requiring a decision, but it was exciting to see the plan coming together and seeing the progress every day.

Planning ahead is so critical for a successful project. It’s probably not a good thing if the people at Home Depot know you by your first name because you are there every day.

The Work

Getting to perform some of the labor reminded me how hard construction work really is. Even though I only did a few hours of work each day, my back, bones and joints felt like I was putting in 10 hours a day. It made me appreciate the hard working construction professionals at Straub Construction that actually put in 8-10 hour days on a regular basis. (Thank you!)

Getting to use my hands and seeing it all come together was a great reminder of how much I love this business, and how much I appreciate everyone doing the work to make our company successful.

Before

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After

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