Most of my seasoned guys are used to doing $250,000 jobs, so managing smaller jobs has been an adjustment for them. These small $10,000 to $50,000 jobs are coordinated by one person who manages the subcontractors (electrician, plumber, HVAC, tile), and today, due to the economy and tight budgets, has to return to more hands-on work, including doing drywall, trim, demolition, framing, insulation, and whatever else can be done effectively with our staff.

Though none of our employees want this to be a permanent change, they understand that we need to curb costs and use existing staff efficiently. With a $250,000 project, they are doing a lot of administrative work; with a $30,000 bathroom, they are physically hands-on day to day. It’s important to make sure that everyone understands the economy, the company’s plans, and how important it is to be productive.

With the seasoned guys doing more of the hands-on work, the younger guys are following their lead and are also stepping up to the plate. We hired a helper last year who didn’t have any construction skills, but he wanted to learn. His attitude was so good that we kept him even in the tough economy. He was willing to start at the bottom, learn the trade, and prove himself along the way. We have a training program, but he is going beyond that, taking the initiative to learn new skills and be a part of the team no matter what is asked of him.

72% of carpenters are aged 25 to 54 — StudentScholarships.org

In our 37-page training manual, we stress that the client is everyone’s responsibility. It’s tough for a new employee to balance his individual responsibilities and the client’s needs. We tell our guys that when it comes to clients, you have all the leeway you need to keep your clients satisfied. We tell them to listen and to look for ways to make this a positive experience for the client. New employees learn this through watching seasoned guys and through mentoring.

—Andy Hannan is production manager of Mark IV Builders, in Bethesda, Md.