When you drive by a construction site, what do you see? Equipment, machines, building materials and piles of dirt are probably the first things that come to mind. But if you look closely, you’ll see the most important part of any construction project: the people.

You’ll see the trade workers, maybe the project manager, maybe an inspector and maybe even an owner. Regardless of who you see or who you are -- Bill Gates, Michael Dell or Warren Buffet -- an owner of a project is 100% dependent on these people who may or may not speak English, who may or may not have a high school education. But they are literally and figuratively digging the ditches that are the foundation of your building. From those who are digging the ditches to CEOs of great big companies with great big buildings, it’s all about the people and the relationships between them.

It’s through these relationships that the building is designed and engineered. There are contractors and subcontractors who actually put the building together. Then there are officials and inspectors who check your progress and bankers and lenders who are helping with the money side of things. Through all of that, it’s nothing but relationships and people. So how to do you create and maintain these all-important relationships?Here are a few suggestions:

  • Set and manage expectations. It’s crucial to make sure everyone is on the same page. Our industries of real estate development, design and construction are set up through contracts to make sure every important point and contingency is spelled out. The expectations are set through the language used in those contracts.
  • Do what you say you will do, and treat others as you want to be treated. These things are true in every aspect of life, but they are important when it comes to business. If you mess up, own up to it and figure out how to make it right. If the other person messed up, give them grace and use it as a learning experience. Not to say there shouldn’t be consequences, but the relationship will be stronger if you’re able to correct the situation and move forward with clear on expectations.
  • If the other person is repeatedly failing, you need to look at what you might be doing incorrectly. Are you training enough? Are you being clear with your expectation and deliverables? Do you need to move them to another position? Do you need to let them go?

What we do is very technical, and the pieces of heavy machinery and those big beams are part of it. But in the end, construction is not about those technical aspects. It’s all about the people.