Part of growing a company is defining and redefining job descriptions and project procedures and figuring out your company’s unique best practices. When Greg Harth, owner of the 15-year-old Harth Builders, in Spring House, Pa., wanted to “make sure the expectations we fulfill on the front end [sales] are the same on the back end, on the production side,” he decided to create a procedures manual for his lead carpenters.
TWO JOBS IN ONE
Usually, the lead carpenter position has management and production responsibilities. At Harth Builders, lead carpenters are responsible for building the job, fulfilling expectations on scheduling and budget, and creating raving fans.
Harth focused on the management portion first. At weekly meetings, his three lead carpenters discussed their job descriptions and how they handle issues. One person would write a preliminary process and the other two would edit and contribute their ideas.
For example, they wrote down all the things they do to come in on budget. “One might be getting multiple quotes or … one could be having all the materials delivered as opposed to going to different vendors, or remembering to return all the unused materials,” Harth says. Once they compiled that list they created various buckets — such as managing resources, planning, and long-term quality — and fleshed those out.
They eventually came up with three one-page documents: “How We Manage a Budget,” “How We Manage Client Satisfaction,” and “How We Manage a Schedule.”
It’s interesting that the word “we” is in the title of each document. Harth wanted to find what he calls “the Harth way.” It’s important to him that the employees who do the work document their knowledge gained, and he wanted to create a formal way for employees to share best practices internally.
At this writing, Harth Builders is still working on the production parts of the procedures manual — which will take longer than some of the other manuals because there are so many procedures to cover. The company is using the same method as it did for the other manuals, but with the addition of photographs because “photos will help tell the story,” Harth says, adding, “production employees are often visually oriented.”
Harth sees the procedures manual, in particular, helping the company in three ways:
- It will shorten the learning curve when Harth brings on new staff members.
- It will aid with cross training. Since each lead carpenter has his or her individual strengths, systematized procedures will help leads to produce those parts of the job with which they are not as familiar.
- It will improve efficiency. As part of the procedures manual, lead carpenters compile a list of the tools that are needed for each particular job.
Harth recognizes that the manuals will never be complete. “[They’re] living, breathing documents updated on a regular basis,” he says.
—Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.