Let’s bust some construction myths and separate fact from fantasy.
Top Construction Myths
1. Construction is easy
Fact: Don’t get into construction if you are looking for a 9 to 5 job. Contractors work long hours in the heat, cold and rain. Construction isn’t easy, things will go wrong and do go wrong. I’ve worked long into the night when cranes and equipment have broken down. I’ve worked weekends to get projects completed. I’ve worked for tough unpleasant clients. Construction definitely isn’t easy!
2. It’s easy to start a construction company
Or, I’ve been in construction for many years so it will be easy to start my own construction company.
Fact: Many construction companies fail. It’s not because their owners were lazy or didn’t have construction experience, rather their owners didn’t understand what was required to manage a company. To manage a construction company you have to find the right projects with the right clients (ones that will pay you on time) at the right price. It’s about managing people and cash flow. It’s about understanding registrations, paperwork, and red tape. It’s about invoicing for completed work. Few are successful at starting their own construction company.
3. With the latest technology, I can manage my project from the office
Fact: Nothing beats walking the construction project and talking to your team. You can see what’s happening, look at the quality, get a sense of the team’s morale, look at the productivity, check the safety and understand the problems at the coalface. As important, is the team can see you – invariably they’ll respect you more.
4. The latest technology will make our construction projects more successful
Fact: The right technology can definitely help us achieve success, but, no technology can turn a poor project manager into a good project manager. Not even the best technology in the world can turn a poor contractor into a good contractor.
5. All construction projects are the same
Fact: No project is exactly the same. There are different clients, subcontractors, suppliers, construction team members, and designers. Each project has its own unique project conditions. Contract documents vary. The weather is different. Every project presents its own unique challenges and problems.
6. Construction schedules are a waste of time
Fact: Good construction schedules protect clients as well as contractors. They help the contractor manage their project, showing the path to get from the start to the finish – kind of like GPS showing us the route to follow to reach our destination in the shortest time, with the least tolls. A construction schedule informs the client when they must provide information and access to the contractor. The approved construction schedule is used to adjudicate all delay and acceleration claims.
7. We won’t submit variation claims because we don’t want to upset our client
Fact: When there’s trouble on a project it’s everyone for themselves. Even good clients will quickly forget how nice a contractor has been in the course of the project when things go wrong. Clients don’t want nasty surprises at the end of the project. If there’s a legitimate variation claim submit it in accordance with the contract. The contract document is the rule book. Nobody can object to you playing by the rules.
8. Contractors make lots of money
Fact: For every rich contractor there are probably dozens that are struggling to make money, and many become bankrupt every year, often with devastating consequences where they lose everything including the family home. Yes, sometimes contractors will strike a profitable project, but they’ll also have several ordinary projects and even somewhere they lose money.
9. They must be lucky because their projects are always successful
Fact: A professional golfer said that the more he practiced the luckier he got. With construction it’s similar. The more we plan the luckier we get. Planning a project before starting, and then planning our projects every day and every week ensures we can avoid many of the problems and crises that beset other projects.
Yes, sometimes the weather is kind to us, and other times it can mess our project up. Sometimes we have good clients and some are bad. But, proper planning helps us lessen, even avoid, the worst of these problems. Understanding our clients we can avoid working with the worst. By planning our projects properly we can often avoid the worst of the weather.
10. Construction isn’t a ‘people’ business
I’m not good at talking to people so it will be ok if I go into construction.
Fact: Construction is a ‘people’ business. Construction takes teamwork. We have to communicate effectively every day. No project is built by one person. We must communicate with the client, designers, and our team. Poor communication is the enemy of construction projects. There is nowhere to hide from people on a construction project.
11. Nobody will notice
Usually, a comment to cover defective work.
Fact: Unfortunately people do notice. Some items that you hope won’t be noticed appear on the client’s punch lists when the building is almost complete, and then the item is difficult to fix. Even worse, the item becomes apparent years after the facility has been completed. Water is the best lie detector ever, and will eventually expose defective waterproofing, roofs, and plumbing. You can never count on nobody noticing your defective work. Anyway, we should all take pride in our work.
12. We’ve always done it like this, it’s safe
It’s ok nothing will happen to me. I don’t need to wear personal protective equipment.
Fact: Every year there are hundreds of people killed and injured on construction projects. I’m sure there are many walking around with missing fingers who always used power tools in the same careless manner – until their luck ran out! There are many in construction that are thankful that they were wearing their protective equipment the day things went wrong – it saved their lives. Over the years I’ve had several close calls so I know never to chance fate in construction.
I’m sure we’ve all heard someone say something absurd that they quote as an indisputable fact. Maybe we tried to argue with them, or maybe we just shook our heads? Believing in myths and making the wrong assumptions can lead to problems.
What construction myths did you believe in before you started in construction?
What are some of the construction myths that you’ve heard?