Today's Guest Article Is From Jason Sturgeon Arcade Consultants
Jason Sturgeon was interviewed for the Contractors Success M.A.P. Podcast and was very generous with his time and provided some extremely valuable insights for how you can remove some of the chaos in your construction company and have more freedom and peace of mind. The article below is a recap of some of the precious gems he shared on the podcast.
The first step of every client’s journey with me is the initial conversation. Whether across a table over a cup of coffee or lunch, on the telephone, or across distance via Skype, it’s important, as a consultant, to have a deep, meaningful conversation about what an organization needs, how it breathes and what the working pieces are, before we can talk about solutions. The exchange of information, during these chats, is not one sided, either. Prospective clients need to know more about me. Who am I? What, exactly, do I do? How do you know that I’m the right consultant for your organization?
Over the course of many of these conversations, it has become clear that the first few questions are always the same – clients need all the same answers before they are ready to move on to the part of the conversation that pertains more directly to their own situation, and I am happy to have that discussion.
However, it recently occurred to me that if this is the first information that clients look for when they get me on the phone, perhaps it’s information they should have access to before we even get to that first conversation. In that interest, I offer, Arcade’s FAQ:
What qualifies you to be a consultant? What experience do you draw from when you give companies advice?
I started my career in construction when I was 15 years old, installing roofing and siding for my brother’s company over the summer to pay for my college education. While I learned about construction management in school, I worked my way up through the ranks of first, my brother’s company, then a local builder of vacation homes, only moving into construction management after I finished my degree. As I worked in construction management, again moving upward from project to project, I found that my experience in the trades was a huge asset, because it gave me a perspective that few of my coworkers had.
As I completed each project in my construction management career, I gained confidence in my skills at inspiring and collaborating with the team around me, and by the time I was managing my own projects, my teams were the envy of the organization – tight knit groups who knew how to communicate, delegate and most importantly, they knew how to succeed. It brought me a great deal of satisfaction, building that kind of work environment, but at the same time, it was frustrating, looking at the company around me and seeing all the work that needed to be done. The decision makers at my place of work were well aware of the success of my projects, and wanted me to help them build that kind of morale and productivity on a bigger scale, and asked me to collaborate on several initiatives, but in the end, all my ideas got bogged down in inefficient corporate processes, and as ‘just a PM,’ I just didn’t have the pull to get any significant changes made. So I decided to take my show on the road, and help other companies to build the kind of success that I’d only had the power to effect on a small scale as a PM.
Now that I am consulting, I find that both tracks of professional experience, trades and management, give me a unique insight that lets me see the companies I help from a variety of angles and communicate freely with team members at all levels of the organization. Being able to spend my days helping people to make their workplace a place where everyone wants to spend their time is something that brings me a great deal of satisfaction, and I feel that I have a unique perspective at bringing unconventional solutions to the table.
The first, obvious question that prospective clients ask me is “Okay, so you’re a consultant. What does that mean? What kind of problems do you solve?”
I like to think that there are few problems or issues that I don’t solve. In fact, if I had to boil my service down to its essence, problem solving is what I provide. From clear, concise training on practical issues, review of accounting systems, IT troubleshooting and management, HR issues, morale, team building, company culture, and even smoothing interpersonal conflicts and communications issues in the workplace, I try to offer help solving any problem I can see.
While I offer a lot of the usual, expected services, in many ways, the most satisfying aspects of my work often come in solving unexpected, previously unrecognized problems. For example, I recently interviewed a promising, motivated young woman who was struggling with morale and her team, and over the course of our meeting, it became clear that while her comprehension and ability to speak English was quite good, her accent was proving to be a barrier with her coworkers. I did some research and found an accent coach with a proven track record in helping people in just such straits. When I reported back to the company owner, I recommended that the company pay for the employee’s coaching, and give her time to devote to her studies during a small portion of the work day. Not only will this send a message of warmth and support to a young employee who has been feeling isolated and not a part of her team, it will help to improve her productivity and boost morale all around. It’s a win-win situation that the employer is more than pleased to implement, but the solution hadn’t occurred to anyone involved. So while I provide many services, in many spheres of business, I think my most unique and perhaps my most valuable service is that of finding problems that have not yet been defined, and offering solutions that lift everyone in the equation.
Another question that I hear from many prospective clients is “What makes you unique – how are you different from other consultants?”
One of the factors that makes me unique, in my experience of the consulting field, is my experience in the trades. I recently had a conversation with an attorney in the construction field, and I suggested to her that she spend a certain amount of time every month, shadowing employees in the trades. There is a perspective you gain, when you have actually spent time ‘in the trenches’ so to speak that business school can never impart.
Another difference, based on conversations with clients who have had previous unsuccessful experiences with consultants in the past, is my transparency in process. At every stage of the process, I build estimates of what any given service will cost, and give the client the opportunity to decide precisely what services they want to purchase, and then if that hourly total ever gets close to the estimate without a successful resolution, I go to the client and we talk about why we’re looking at a higher price and whether they want to proceed. By giving clients a high level of control over what they spend, and plenty of notice about what numbers they’ll be seeing on my invoice, we avoid that sense of ‘sticker shock’ that can be so common in the consulting business.
The next question I hear most often, is “What kinds of companies do you work with? How do I know if my company can benefit from your services?”
The first and foremost thing that a company should consider is that a company who is ready for my services is a company who is ready to put in the requisite work to effect change. Change, even very good and necessary change, is not comfortable, and it’s not easy. Companies who are looking for a quick fix, for that ‘one cool trick’ that so many web ads promise, who are not ready to roll up their sleeves and work to build something better and stronger are not ready for the coaching I provide. Hearing a laundry list of all of the weaknesses of the organization that you have worked hard to build is not easy, and looking ahead at the effort and the sheer labor of the job before you can be daunting.
Luckily, the second truth of hiring my services is the fact that my companies are never alone in this process. While I fully expect them to carry out the work of rebuilding, I also am with them every step of the way, offering solutions, options, ways to streamline the process of change, and a certain positivity that can be worth a great deal during times of hard work. I find that often, it isn’t so much the amount of work to be done that deters people, it’s the sense of not really knowing what to do, or how to proceed, and that’s something I can help with.
Finally, companies considering my services should know that when you invest in my services, when you invest in me, you can expect me to invest in you. One of my training sessions talks about finding out why your employees come to work every day. The first (mistaken) answer that everyone offers is that people come to work for the paycheck – that they show up for the money. My response to that is that there are a lot of ways that most people could make a dollar – but day after day, they choose to get up and bring their talents to your organization. Why? Finding that answer is the heart of building a workplace that is populated with an interconnected team of empowered individuals, rather than an assembly of widget-makers.
That same principle applies to you, and it applies to me. There’s a reason why we do what we do, day in and day out. Sure, I need to pay my bills, but that’s not why I do what I do. The reason I am in this business is because I am invested, in every single client who comes to me, whether it’s for a full scale overhaul or to resolve a specific acute issue. I find the motivation to get up every morning knowing that I’m going to meet with someone who was stressed, overwhelmed and ready to give up last month, but today, is relaxed, confident and breathing easy, thanks to my input, or I’m going to hear from someone who called me in a panic last week with a heated dispute, and is now back on track, mending the work relationship with that contact. Your victories, whether minor or game-changing are my motivation, and you can count on me to help you win them.
“Okay, let’s say I’m ready for change. What, exactly, is it that you do?”
Whether a company is a small operation with only a few employees or a big corporation with sophisticated HR needs, I have services to offer. Whether you have serious, functional issues and need a heavy duty overhaul or just need a light tune-up, I can offer the level of solutions that you need. Whether you are local and in need of extensive on-site intervention, or whether you are located on the other side of the country, and better served by webinars or online training sessions using systems like Mindflash, I have the interpersonal and technological savvy for the job. The most important factor is that you are ready for both the effort and the discomfort of change.
Again, I pride myself on offering a vast array of services and coaching. However, to simplify it for the purposes of this question, we could look at my website, where I organize my services onto three separate pages: Full Scale Business Consulting, Training and Dispute Resolution. The lists of services for each heading are actually fairly long, so I’ll spare you listing them here, though you could get a more detailed view by checking out www.arcadeconsultants.com and looking under those headings.
However, Full Scale Business Consulting is just what it sounds like. I perform a complete analysis of a business on a variety of levels from nuts and bolts aspects like accounting and IT to business practices like Mission Vision Values, safety policies, and marketing, through human resources concerns like morale, organization charts, social media and a good deal more. I prepare a report that outlines all of these aspects and then the decision makers and I develop a plan for moving forward that includes coaching at every stage of the process.
Under the Training heading, I offer a variety of different training modules, from understanding Contracts and Change Orders, through using various software solutions and conceptual topics like communication, company culture, learning styles and time management.
Finally, under Dispute Resolution, I offer services in helping with resolving various matters, in either a mediation role, or as a negotiator – anything from something as simple as writing a letter to as in depth as providing comprehensive substantiations and risk analysis workups. When companies find themselves in a situation where they just want to get out from under a conflict that is becoming a liability, I help them resolve the matter as quickly and painlessly as possible.
What else do you want to know?
Now you know who I am, what I do and why. Wondering what I could do to help your organization? Want to know more about my process or services? Give me a call at 425-269-4886 for a free initial consultation today! www.arcadeconsultants.com