So this week already I have been reminded multiple times of the importance of the phone call to resolve a dispute.
We have an ongoing project that I manage, that is ALWAYS having issues. We are a Sub to one of the top 30 contractors in the world at the moment, and I don’t know what it is, but this project is kind of a continual headache. It’s really funny because I am managing another project for the same Contractor at the same location, and the other projects team really has their shit together.
Anyway, I get a call on Monday from our superintendent about some extra work that he performed that the Super now does not want to sign for. We had discussed this work over a week ago. In essence the Contractor needed to advance the schedule so we would come in after the other finishes and perform out of sequence work. Should be a simple thing, we track the additional hours spent prepping and bill for the labor and any additional materials. I even turned around and called my engineer go between, and informed them that this would be coming down the pipeline.
Fast Forward to Monday and I get the call from our Foreman that the Super is refusing to sign the ticket. I hang up the phone and immediately start to write out a scathing email about how we “performed this work in good faith” and “have instructed our Foreman to not do extra work for that Super again.” Along with a bunch of other accusations and demands. As i was writing up the email, I turned to Cliff and proceeded to tell him all of the Bullshit that was going on and started to read him the email.
He stopped me mid-sentence and asked if I had called the Engineer in charge. I immediately thought of a segment from The Construction Leading Edge Podcast where he interviewed David Moody. In the segment Moody is talking about what he thinks the new generation of Constructoid’s need to work on. He talks specifically about the need to be able to pick up the phone and have a difficult conversation rather than starting a chain reaction through Email. It really hit home, because since having listened to that episode, I told myself that I would never be the guy too afraid to pick up the phone.
I stopped what I was doing and immediately called the Engineer. I told him that Cliff had suggested that I call him before just shooting off another email (I like to give credit where I feel it is due.) and told him about the situation. He then proceeded to tell me that the story he had received from his Superintendent which differed from my foreman’s account of the story. We agreed to tell our guys to try and work it out, and that I would reach out to him if they weren’t able to resolve it. In the end they were able to come to a resolution. We received a signed ticket for the Time and Materials, and everything was fine.
Today I received a phone call from a Different PM for a project we are on for a different Contractor. I had emailed him a few T&M Tickets that were turned in that didn’t have a record number, asking him to provide one. I could tell when he started talking that he was worried about how I was going to react. Our guys have been re-doing some work in an area and tracking it as T&M. The work was labeled as Non-Compliance. I learned from Cliff a long time ago that our Policy is always: If it’s our mistake, we fix it. It doesn’t matter if we are going to lose money, we fix our mistakes. So I told him that I needed to research a little and see if it really was our mistake. He calmed down quite a bit once he realized that I wasn’t going to fly off the handle. He even suggested that The GC is likely partially at fault due to some of the work having been poorly protected after installation. We are researching it to figure out percentage of Fault and they will share in the cost of the repair.
Always remember the usefulness of a sincere phone call. There have been times in my career that I have had to call contractors and confess a mistake or ask for help with something. Yes it is a vulnerable situation to be in, but most of the time the guy on the other side of the line will recognize that. They have likely been there before.