by Ian Vallely
I believe that everyone is entitled to my opinion!
Managing to survive
Michael Ball, the chief executive of chimney systems supplier Schiedel, makes a particularly valid and important point about business survival when trading conditions are tough. He says: "On project work, which is borderline in terms of margin, one thing can go wrong and you can lose a lot of money so we have introduced systems and processes that allow us to keep much tighter control on projects."
For Michael, this means focusing on cost management in individual projects. As he points out: "There's not that much money floating around the industry and when the work gets tighter everybody finds themselves fighting for a bigger slice of a smaller pie.
"In practical terms, if you're not strong enough in your business management, what you ultimately have to do is reduce your margin."
He's right. However, strong business management is not just about tight cost control. Today's ferocious business environment also demands managers with a sound knowledge of management processes and functions, how to make the best use of their time, a crystal clear vision of how to achieve their corporate objectives and, most important of all, strong people management skills.
The latter - known in the jargon as 'managing human resources' - means acknowledging that the people in an organisation are the most important part of getting things done.
At its core is personnel management which is directed at recruiting the right employees, training them, arranging for them to be paid, explaining management's expectations of them and justifying management's actions to them.
The personnel function is the responsibility of all managers in an organisation. And it is crucial work. As Paul Mills, chairman of the ACRIB Education & Training Committee, says on page 33 of this issue, a company's greatest asset is its qualified and skilled employees and they need to be encouraged, motivated and directed. However, without effective training, how can anybody be expected to perform this vital duty?
Too many organisations neglect human resources management and that is short-sighted and dangerous. Management expert Jane Weightman puts it well when she says: "In a turbulent, demanding, global marketplace, business organisations are having to become more flexible and adaptable; more responsive both to their own staff and to customers...
"In a world in which a company's products, services and technology can be replicated by competitors with increasing speed, there is a growing realisation that people can become the most distinctive asset of an organisation."
This needs to be understood throughout building services companies and ensuring that it is must surely be management's responsibility.