Understanding What Matters
At this time of year, the normal tradition is for a SMACNA President to bid farewell in this column, but as we all know, 2020 has not been normal and I am only at the midway point of an extended tenure due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I therefore think it is best to share some valuable lessons I have learned from my leadership role in SMACNA during the past 12 months, and from running a company during a global pandemic.
First, I cannot stress enough the importance of communication, but even more so during a pandemic. Evaluating and gathering information from employees, health professionals, local government, customers, suppliers and SMACNA of course, to assess the local and national landscape, was the first step, then processing all this information and putting it into an actionable, yet flexible plan was an entirely different process. Finally, it is critical to share and communicate that plan with staff so everyone is on the same page and moving in the same direction. I have found that there can not be too much communication – but you should choose the right channels for different types of communications; email, videos, zooms etc.
The information flow from SMACNA has also been extremely valuable. The thought leadership, timeliness of content sharing and the relevancy of the information shared by SMACNA helped us all navigate this pandemic in a relatively structured process.
I say it all the time…what makes my business successful is my people, and they are like my family. Showing empathy by taking the time to interact, listen and respond thoughtfully are critical in times of crisis. Really caring for your team is critical. I am certain my employees know that I care, and I have learned over time that leadership by caring is a skill that pays for itself repeatedly.
Productivity and Efficiency Matters
If the pandemic has taught contractors anything, it is to focus on productivity because you can lose any margin if a job’s process slows down. I think this is one positive aspect of the pandemic. We all had to look at the entire fabrication and installation process under new and challenging circumstances, and we found a way to respond safely and effectively. While there were some bumps and hiccups in the very beginning, our staffs have developed new routines in the office, in the shop and on the jobsite. SMACNA and New Horizons Foundation really helped by quickly developing a productivity study based on member’s feedback and extensive interviews.
Local Government Matters
Usually when I think about the government, I tend to think about our federal government, like the President and Congress. And they have still been vitally important during this time, especially in getting our businesses protected and covered financially.
But one of the many things this pandemic has reminded me is just how much of an impact our local government – state, county and even city or municipal – can have on the construction industry. Local governments have been the ones setting rules on whether businesses can operate or not, and they have been the ones opening and closing construction sites, group gatherings and much more.
I know I tend to think more about my representatives in Washington D.C., but this pandemic has demonstrated that knowing my local representatives has never been more important. I know both your local chapter and SMACNA’s Capitol Hill team would be happy to introduce you to your local representatives and help you foster stronger connections.
This pandemic has also taught many of us that prefabrication is a valuable tool that increases productivity while improving safety on the job site. Less time on the job site can be a big benefit to maintaining the health and safety of staff during a pandemic, while also achieving the duel goal of providing optimized productivity.
Lastly, I would like to point out how valuable it is to be a member of SMACNA, and to receive critical information that helps us improve the competitiveness of our businesses. Critical information is shared consistently whether it is through emails, publications, phone calls and/or events on topics that impact our cost structure, operations, safety, finances, and technologies.
Hopefully in 2021 all these lessons learned in 2020 have made us more resilient and more competitive, positioning our businesses for future growth in 2021 whatever it may bring.
Angie Simon, SMACNA President