It seems that everyone has a smartphone and a tablet or laptop computer today. All of these devices can be useful; however, they’re not always ideal. Our Project Managers can now reach Erno and me 24/7 by calling, emailing, and text messaging — sometimes all of the above. And they’re not the only ones who have this access. We receive emails and calls at all hours from everyone that we do business with, including subcontractors, architects, and designers. They all have our email and cell phone information — and they use it.
Of course, being connected has several plusses. Smart devices give us access to information and allow us to solve problems and answer questions, fast. Subcontractors can take a photo of a field condition and email it for quick review. We can then assess the situation and call or email with direction. Electronics can also be effective when dealing with suppliers. A good example would be the lumber company that needs sign-off on TGI system drawings and a cost estimate. They can email those plans and we can sign off on them electronically. We also use these devices to check material prices, review subcontractor agreements, and purchase materials. It can all be done from the job site, or at the local coffee shop.
The minuses typically revolve around how electronics affect productivity. We constantly see guys on the job hunched over their cell phones, typing away. Most of the time they’re flirting with their girlfriends instead of using the phones for work. These distractions can break the flow of job progress. If we’re responding to email, voicemails, and text messages, it is hard to focus on tasks that require attention, such as estimating.
So how does a builder set boundaries when it comes to being available? Everyone needs to develop his own system. We ask our Project Managers to be available for clients at all times. This is the policy we’ve developed. As a result, they get calls at all hours, but only every once in a while. We may need to respond to a simple question or fix a broken furnace or water heater. We had a client’s son lock himself in his bedroom one time, and we had to come out late at night. If these types of calls were coming in after hours regularly it would probably be difficult to manage. For now it works out, and it’s a good way to keep clients happy.