In this economy, companies
must make cuts large and small. Some of these reductions are
painful, while others have turned out to be smart practices that
should carry on through the recovery and beyond.
Following are four builders who have reduced their costs while
Paul Porter, CEO
Premier Pools and Spas
Rancho Cordova, Calif.
We’ve reworked our labor rates with employees. We’re
busy now, but during winter we rotated people so they worked three
days one week and four days the next, for a total of seven days
every two weeks. Then they could supplement that with
Our goal was to keep as many of our employees as we possibly
could, and keep it fair. It was a little painful, but everybody got
to keep their jobs.
The rotation of hours was done primarily with office staff. We
gave them options of what they’d rather do — have
layoffs for the winter or work a reduced week. An overwhelming
majority chose the reduction. Most of our people have been with us
15 to 20 years, so they wanted to do whatever they could to keep
the team together.
We’ve had a strong spring and summer so far, so
we’re back to everyone working a full schedule.
Dale Overson, president
Barrington Pools Inc.
We’ve emphasized conserving gas to help keep our prices
competitive. This has been possible by changing how we use our
Before, supervisors often took their vehicles home at night,
sometimes driving 100 miles roundtrip. Now, trucks must be left at
the yard. That has saved a ton in fuel, tires, oil changes, and
general wear and tear.
During the day, crews must shut off the trucks when
they’re not being used. In the past, employees might warm
them up for an hour on winter mornings, and during summer leave
them running to stay cool. We use our tracking system on the trucks
to monitor fuel usage. It’ll indicate when the vehicle is
running for too long, and we can talk to the employee. The trackers
also tell us when a driver is speeding.
We’ve also changed the kinds of trucks we use to a certain
extent. Some now have dual-cabs, so we can transport up to five men
each, instead of two. In addition, we switched out some trucks for
others with better mileage.
A few of these are diesel, since I also want to help eliminate
our dependence on foreign oil. If about one-third of America were
on diesel, we wouldn’t have to import fuel, which would drive
prices back down. I’m investigating the possibility of
propane vehicles, but you can only get about 100 to 150 miles on
those right now, and there aren’t many propane stations to
With these changes, I’d say we’ve reduced our fuel
costs by about 20 percent.
Cecil Fraser, owner
Lake Forest, Calif.
We’ve taken several measures to cut back the number of trips
we make to each site.
Our network now can be accessed online, making it possible for
our construction manager to have a roving office. We put him in a
fully equipped truck, where he can print, go online, check for
billing and the like.
From his vehicle, he now has access to all files, drawings,
contracts, photos — anything you’d have sitting in an
office. He can move logistically through the day and never have to
come back to pick up documents or find answers.
Now, if the manager has to wait at the site for a crew or
customer to show up, he can just make his phone calls and do his
work until they arrive. Before, he’d have to just sit there
and wait, leave to do something else and come back later, or
reschedule altogether. It just makes the day a lot more
We also put more responsibility than before on our
subcontractors. It comes kind of naturally and saves our
construction manager time. Our subs aren’t as busy as before,
so you can ask the excavator, “Could you stop at that job to
make sure you’re happy with the access and see if there are
any problems from your point of view?”
It’s the same with the plumbers and electricians, as well
as steel and gunite crews. We don’t change subcontractors
unless something horrific happens — we treat them as an
extension of our in-house resources. Right now, they’re
proving to be just that.
Mark Ragel, president
Patio Pools& Spas
We’ve linked our scheduling and materials procurement
software so we can buy what we need when we need it.
I purchase only what I’ll use the following week. The
scheduling software “talks” to the material procurement
software and says, “These are the jobs that are going to be
ready in the next seven business days.” A staffer fine-tunes
a report showing what we need, and then makes the purchase.
Instead of having just-in-case inventory, you get just-in-time
inventory. Doing this, I’ve seen about a 30 percent reduction
in inventory. Our goal is 50 percent of where we were two years