By Matt Doyle, vice president and co-founder of Excel Builders.
Summer is one of the busiest seasons in construction, especially if you live in the northeast U.S., where heavy storms and cold winters make building schedules unpredictable for a good chunk of the year. It's always great to see a sudden surge of new business, but I'll be the first to admit that we haven't always handled the feast-and-famine road as well as we could have.
The summer surge is wonderful for our business, but not always for our employees or future growth. Our busy season always comes with a lot of stress for our employees. In the past, we lost focus on long-term goals under the weight of the new work.
The practices that we used all year round were not working for us, so I've recently started using different ways to prepare for and take advantage of our busiest season. I hope you'll be able to learn something from the strategies that have worked best for me.
Scale Employee Privileges With the Weight They're Carrying
Everyone's responsibilities increase when the summer rolls around, and I can't always predict by how much. Last summer, I experimented by allowing employees access to privileges normally saved for long-term seniority, based on their workload. As my people successfully carried more responsibility successfully, they got more power over the timing and length of their shifts and breaks.
For example, if someone worked four hours later than necessary for me to guarantee something was done, I didn't bat an eye when giving them those four hours of sleep back from their morning clock-in time. You can try this too using incentives that best match your business. Relaxing standards doesn't always result in a better workplace, but under high stress, greater privileges gave my employees a bigger sense of ownership over their projects.
When done right, this makes your people feel like members of an elite team. Allowing for the best working style for each member can reveal how talented they are when working in a certain way.
Plan Vacations Well in Advance
Keeping the same vacation standards throughout the year is simply not a good strategy when you have a business that really explodes in the summer. Last year, I got everyone to reserve their requested time off well before we got hit with new work.
I would recommend beginning this process around the time of winter vacations. You can expect some pushback from your employees, but mine were largely on my side after we went through one summer where the vacations never left the team understaffed.
The change in workplace satisfaction throughout the whole season was an improvement, even if some people had trouble getting the weeks they wanted. I think the flex time incentives we introduced also helped many team members work in some fun summer afternoon plans, even on days they didn't have off.
Busy or Not, Always Be Networking
I have a problem with letting my networking slide a little during the summer. After all, I rarely have time to travel during these times, and what point is there in marketing and branding when the whole team is already doing all they can handle?
I resolved last year that I was going to keep networking regardless, just out of principle, and it was the right decision. I couldn't visit too many events, but I hit some trade shows and conventions that I've missed in summers past. It shouldn't have surprised me that every event is better attended during the summer, and that the people are in better moods.
Even with my limited schedule, the connections I developed during the summer have been far more fruitful than the ones I gathered for the rest of year. You owe it to yourself to hit the summer conventions if you've never gone. In my experience, there is no better time to make friends who are in your own field.
Use this summer to your advantage, both by setting expectations with your employees, and by taking advantage of the nice weather to make new business connections.
Matt Doyle is the vice president and co-founder of Excel Builders, a revolutionary company in the construction industry that builds next-generation custom homes.