It's an old adage in the industry: Work on the business, not in it. Sounds great, but how to do it when you have six sites to visit and a dozen fires to put out? For Jeff Titus of Titus Built in Wilton, Conn., the answer was to delegate.
He created an operations manager position to oversee every project under contract. Once the construction contract is signed, Titus says, the operations manager takes over, managing lead carpenters, keeping projects on budget, handling homeowners, and ensuring job profitability. “He's my eyes and ears in the field,” Titus says.
With all of those responsibilities in someone else's hands, the owner has time to delve into the company's financials, analyzing completed projects, tracking spending, and planning for the future. Titus knows he is asking a lot of one person. He has hired three operations managers since establishing the position in 2002. “It's such a critical position,” he says. “You need to find someone with the right combination of diplomatic skills and hands-on construction knowledge … someone who has the ability to oversee job profitability and who is cognizant of schedules.”
Though he would like to, he has yet to hire for the job internally. And because the role is so multifaceted, some degree of training is always required. “You try to play to people's strengths and make up for the deficiencies,” Titus says.
Entrusting so much to one employee was daunting at first, he says, but close performance monitoring mitigates the risk. Thorough job autopsies — with particular attention paid to customer satisfaction and job profitability — help assess performance. Most importantly, acknowledging that he doesn't need to have a hand in everything day to day has freed Titus to focus on his company's future.
—David Zuckerman is a freelance writer based in New York.