Job Title: Manager Of A Family-Owned Construction Business
Type of Company: My company installs and maintains underground and above ground utilities. We dig trenches and put in the duct work for wires which are used for electric and telecommunications. We also install wires on utility poles and bring them to buildings.
Education: BA, Speech Communications, Boston College
Previous Experience: I was a laborer, and then a foreman, for the same company before becoming a manager.
Job Tasks: I have 3 different roles: fleet manager, hiring manager, and operations manager.
Being a fleet manager can be the most fun. I get to buy and sell heavy trucks and equipment! I get to travel around the country attending auctions where used equipment is bought and sold. This means I get to jump on a backhoe or bulldozer and play with it to see what kind of condition it's in before buying it; this is the best part of my job.
I'm also in charge of hiring, which can be the toughest job in any company. It's very hard to find good help and the company's profitability hinges on getting good people. It's more art than science, as people in this kind of construction are a certain "type" and the work we do is not easy. Truck drivers have to be willing and able to get out of the truck and grab a shovel or broom to finish a job. They also have to know how to operate a backhoe or bulldozer so they can transport these machines. The machine operators have to know how to use a backhoe in a busy city street while digging next to a gas main or electrical line. Finding people experienced doing this is difficult and we usually hire a candidate who can be trained.
The operations manager job involves keeping our headquarters functioning, which means keeping our HVAC systems working well and responding to problems from roof leaks to water heater failures.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part is buying and selling heavy equipment. I get to travel to Florida every February to buy equipment as there are several major auctions going on in central Florida at that time. It's also very rewarding to discover a new way to do certain things that has never been tried. We just figured out a way to modify a piece of equipment to do a better job of grinding the asphalt in a road to get it ready for final paving.
The worst part of the job is dealing with difficult employees. It's the same in construction as in any other field. Most people feel as though they are underpaid or that someone else they work with is overpaid. Once you deal with this issue for enough years, you will laugh at the politicians who try to make laws ensuring "fair" wages. You will quickly realize that there is always "unfairness."
Job Tips: The only way to do a job like this is to begin, quite literally, in the trenches. You have to be a ditch digger to fully appreciate what workers do on a job! It's the perfect job for a student as you will learn the value of an education so you won't have to labor for the rest of your life.
It is also helpful to work for a landscaper or some other type of business where you work with your hands; this will give you useable skills. Best of all would be to work as a foreman or someone in charge of a crew. Managing people is the hardest part of the job. Everything else can be learned.
An ambitious person can gain the greatest education and knowledge by starting his own painting or landscaping business. It's a learning experience that no school can ever give you.
Looking back at college, the most useful courses I took were business law I and II. It's imperative to learn about the law of contracts, no matter what field you go into. I also feel as though my public speaking classes were very helpful. It's not as easy speaking in public as it appears and a confident speaker makes a more effective manager.
Additional Thoughts: My situation is a little different in that I work for a family-owned business and I'm a family member. This is both good and bad as it's not always easy working with family. But if you can get along well enough to see each other every single work day then it can be rewarding.
What might surprise someone following me around might be how no day is completely predictable. Situations arise every day and must be dealt with. The buck stops here when you're part owner of the business! On any given day we have vehicle accidents, people not showing up for work, equipment malfunctions, even trucks tipping over!
Keeping a cool head while others around you lose theirs is an invaluable skill.
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