Listening is a key skill I learned from my parents at an early age. As a young prosecutor trying court cases, I had to take listening to a whole new level. Today more than ever, those skills are serving me well as I focus on my company’s growth by actively listening daily to several valuable resources, including my employees, customers and suppliers.
The amount of input is incredible as I shift back and forth between information about my business, the industry and my employees’ lives and the work they do. You see, my employees are an extension of my family. I care for them and want to create an amazing work environment that is both positive and sustainable.
In the SMACNews interview with SMART General President Joe Sellers (in this issue), he concludes with a message about the importance of “listening, getting out there and touring shops and job sites.” As I travel around the country in my role as SMACNA President, I am meeting with many SMACNA chapter executives, members and their employees, listening to what they have to say, and thinking in terms of where our industry is headed.
I am excited to report that most problems I hear about are those of work abundance, not work shortages. This is not in every market, but many contractors are struggling with the question, “if I take on more work, can I get it done on time.” It is not uncommon to hear of contractors turning down work because of labor shortages in their area. As I have visited many chapters and heard about their workforce development efforts, it has become crystal clear that there is not a “one size fits all” solution. Each chapter has a unique mix of contractors, each with their own staffing needs and therefore each area requires their own plan and points of emphasis.
SMACNA has been actively listening, too. The SMACNA Board of Directors has discussed, and is developing several services and resources for chapters and members that will support their workforce development efforts.
The other thing I hear most about is technology and the impact it will likely to have on our industry. The contractors I have heard from weigh many of the same considerations before adding new technology to their shops. These includes an analysis of the competitive environment, return on investment, customer expectations, capacity needs, staff implementation capabilities, physical space requirements and more.
Most importantly, no one is seriously talking about technology reducing manpower needs. Quite the opposite — they see technology implementation as an opportunity to expand their business by redeploying skilled craftspersons to handle the increased work opportunities that technology presents.
At the end of the day, we are entrepreneurs and we all have to be excellent listeners...to ourselves, our customers, our employees and the market.
Nathan L. Dills