A Unique Project

Its not every day we get to build a bridge, but with the large sites we get into, it isn’t uncommon to have something like this as part of our infrastructure package. This one was very cool and not without its challenges, but thanks to our team with Kristen Miller at the lead it all went very smoothly. The bridge itself is a 100 year old truss bridge which we purchased from the Stare of Indiana. We had it cleaned up and structurally retrofitted then shipped in two main parts to our site. We constructed it to the side of the driveway and when it was complete had a couple of cranes come over and help us lift it into place.

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Purpose – the meaning of life… and a company

In Douglas Adam’s book, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, it took the supercomputer, Deep Thought 7.5 million years to come up with the Ultimate Answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything. Hopefully, when we start an organization, it doesn’t take us that long, especially when the answer is as simple as 42.

From the start, I knew my company’s Purpose, but I could never articulate it well enough, at least not in a simple coherent sentence. Why that is important is as simple as the number 42, that is, the people around us need a cause that they can believe in. What’s beautiful about a cause rather than a mission statement or a values proposition, is that it can be simple- in fact, the simpler the better.

Image of Earthtone Sign saying Earthtone People

The striking thing is, how important it really is for your people (I mean your employees of course, but I tend not to use that word). It wasn’t till last year after 24 years in business that it really came to light how crucial it is to have a clear and defined purpose. Up till then, we had terms like Mindful Building which we had trademarked in the early years, we had a set of values that everyone embraced, and we actively work on these values with monthly recognition for people who embody them. We also have a mission statement, though it is wordy and unwieldy, and I still can’t recite it word for word. It wasn’t until I was challenged in a vision meeting with a group of our people that it dawned on me what our purpose was.

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Simon Sinek’s amazing book, Start with Why, is likely to be the ultimate guidebook on how you come up with your purpose. In it, he talks about how your customers are more interested in Why you do what you do than what it is you do. But your people will get behind why you do it too, and if they believe what you believe, you’ll build a company with a unified purpose and your values and vision will be aligned. It also happens to be one of the most critical parts of attracting great talent.

Fortunately, it did not take 7.5 million years for me to come up with the answer to our WHY, but it did take almost a quarter century to codify it. If you already know your “WHY” and have a purpose articulated that is clear and shared by everyone in your organization, then all you must do is continue to keep it at the core of every decision you make. And continue to instill it in your culture. If you don’t have it yet, I encourage you to take up that work and figure it out. Watch the difference in your teams when you do.

Our why- it’s simple: We believe in Helping People Build a Better Future

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Warm Up & Stretch

Would you start a marathon without warming up first? How about going to the gym and lifting your max weights on the first set?

Construction workers and those in many industries are doing the equivalent of a marathon every day. Lifting weights, up and down ladders, working in and out of plane positions and doing repetitive movements. These can all take a toll on our bodies if we don’t properly prepare ourselves for the days activities

Make it a habit – warm up and stretch every morning before you start work – Just like we do.
10 Daily Stretches for Construction Workers >

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Bring Apples and Pears – No Donuts

Let’s talk about the diet of construction workers. From safety meeting donuts to sugary and highly caffeinated drinks to fast food there is an epidemic of poor nutrition in the construction industry. It’s time to wake up and realize that we are an industry fraught with diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and a myriad other diseases. We can change that.

As leaders and managers we can stat by bringing awareness. Here’s one idea – start by bringing apples to your next meeting!

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5 Steps to Switching Contractors

In any housing economy where there is a shortage of high caliber builders we often see quality spiral downwards. As more folks look to the building industry as an opportunity to make a quick buck, the more problems and call backs we see. While there are thousands of highly qualified building companies around the Bay Area, there is definitely still a shortage. And given the recent years of catastrophic fires that devastated thousands of homes, is it any wonder that many that swung a hammer in the past have seen an opportunity to jump in on the housing construction industry?

Quick Buck

While many are well meaning, in the Bay Area we are not short of the fly-by-nights and “quick buck” guys that see a way to make money quickly. Unfortunately this is often at the expense of an unsuspecting homeowner. Even the “best” of them often find themselves in over their heads and frustrate clients with delays, added costs, and mistakes. When a client finds themselves in this position during construction, it can often feel overwhelming and extremely frustrating.

Rarely is a construction project absent of the odd misstep or schedule delay. After all there are thousands of parts and hundreds of people involved building a home that is often custom (i.e. never been built before). But repeated issues, repeated delays, poor communication, and surprise added costs over and over should not be the norm. In this case, the homeowner has every right to stop and re-evaluate the relationship.

If a homeowner does find themselves at this point, we recommend to take a pause and have a serious conversation with the contractor. Create a reset of expectations and re-establish clear and written commitments.

If the project is at the point where it’s obvious that quality is at stake, the budget is going haywire, or the timeline is way off, it may be time to consider switching contractors. While it may be tempting to try and stick it out and see the project through with a “better the devil you know” attitude, the client may be better off mentally and financially to pull the plug and fire the contractor.

But how hard is it to switch builder’s mid-stream?

Surprisingly not too difficult if the strategy is approached in concert with a reputable firm.We at Earthtone have taken over a number of projects under such circumstances (like this one) (and this one) , and we have a five step plan that works to get most projects back on track:

  1. Make sure your contract has a termination clause. Most contracts do, but even without one you should have legal basis to terminate based on breach of contract if the contractor isn’t fulfilling obligations. Check with an attorney here. Do not make any further payments to the contractor until all issues are resolved and potential liens are cleared. A homeowner may not find out for many weeks or even months if there are outstanding financial ramifications.
  2. Select a contractor with experience in taking over projects. Then have the new contractor conduct a thorough audit of the project status, the financial status, and the inspections and permits history.
  3. Next the contractor will need to evaluate everything that has been done, checking for adherence to plans and details, local code; and of course structural specifications, waterproofing and drainage details, etc.  Required corrections should be thoroughly documented and where possible an estimate to remediate issues should be prepared. In some cases, an estimate may not be possible if things are hidden.
  4. The contractor will also help audit the subcontractors and suppliers to see who has been paid and what’s outstanding. He will also make an analysis of those vendors and check their suitability to complete the project. Ideally the more that can be retained the better, but if a sub is part of the problem they’ll need to be culled.
  5. Once a thorough audit has been conducted, the new contractor can provide a thorough estimate to complete the project. Should all be in agreement, a new contract can be written and the new contractor will get you back on track.

Obviously there are many nuances to this, such as getting the permit records changed and working with your lender to get the financing re-set, and we can help with all that.  But even if you’re not there yet and you just want an opinion or second set of eyes, we are happy to help. Feel free to call for a phone consultation.