CREATE AN ON-SITE “RELO” TEAM
by Steve Wyatt
Because managing and decision making cannot be done effectively from a
distance, successful site relocation must be done upfront and personal.
You or your relocation team, or both, must be on hand to ensure operations flow smoothly. Otherwise, your story may be similar to the following example.
Site Relocation Example
In order to escape a 60% annual worker-turnover rate and gain a better
quality of life for family members, a family-owned company relocated
to a site about 175 miles away. One of the sons went ahead to get the
building ready; the physical move was to occur in stages. The plan was
to bring each stage of production up to speed in the new location
prior to phasing out that activity in the former location. The company
could not afford a break in service to its customers. Further, because
of the company’s federal contracts, the building had to meet full
government inspection prior to producing capacitors to fill its govern-
The plan did not work well. More than a year later, the family members
were still racing back and forth the full 175 miles, carrying equipment
and capacitors in various stages of production.
The firm did develop a plan for managing the move, but it did not work
the plan. It also tried to cut corners in retrofitting the building.
One of its cost-cutting methods was to hire two carpenters by the hour
to construct one interior wall 42-feet long and 8-feet high; paint
three offices and a hallway; and set a new steel door through a block
wall. At most, this was a three-to-four week job. Eighteen months
later, the two “by the hour” carpenters were still on the job.
The son in charge of the retrofit, as electrical engineer, had been
told by everyone not to hire carpenters by the hour–to get a contract.
The slower the carpenters worked, the more heat the young man took,
and the more his ego got in the way. “I’ll get it done,” he insisted.
Part of the problem with this particular move and the carpenters was
just a fact of life in a family-owned business–people’s egos and birth
orders get in the way. Perhaps as the oldest son, the young man thought
he had to exhibit command and thus stick to his original plan to hire
carpenters by the hour, even when it was apparent that this was not
the most efficient method. Another problem was the owners’ lack of
business knowledge about construction and contracting. A time and cost
contract could have saved the company significant time and money.
Still another problem was a lack of common sense. By first getting on
the telephone and calling contractors to find out how long the job
should have taken, the time problem would have immediately been red-flagged.
There was, however, an even bigger reason for allowing two carpenters
to hold up a multimillion dollar operation: The other parts of the
relocation plan were not working. The carpenters and the young engineer became scapegoats for other family/company members who were not
doing their jobs.
While it is easy to say that such a situation could never happen to
you, there are indeed many ways for the physical relocation plans of
a company to become ensnarled. The first step to making a move work
is to adopt a “get-it-done” philosophy.
Following is a review of how to develop a critical path of procedure
and set realistic time frames. Successful moves involve selecting a
goal-oriented site relocation team. These tough-minded team members
must be able to work out of their briefcases, motel rooms, and rented
office space. This advance party has specific functions, such as:
* Providing communication about and coordination of the move;
* Establishing a pool of employee applicants;
* Selecting and providing initial training of employees;
* Overseeing leasing and preparation of temporary work space; and
* Managing the construction or retrofitting of the permanent structure.
A three-person team, with whatever support is needed, can form the
relocation group. If you have to do all of this yourself, you will be
exceptionally busy. If you are a one-person relocation unit, at the
very least employ someone part-time to inspect the construction or
retrofitting activities. A recently retired construction superintendent
is ideal in this role.
Consider the three relocation team job descriptions shown below.
A Relocation Team Leader:
* Coordinates activities of other personnel;
* Establishes communication among and between company officials,
architects, building contractors, employment security office
personnel, legal representatives, suppliers, and new employees;
* Organizes initial office operations and procedures, including
liaison with the payroll office;
* Establishes initial filing and records systems for efficient
retrieval of information;
* Supervises and approves the work plan of the personnel generalist
and the construction liaison specialist; and
* Plans the delivery and setup of equipment.
A Relocation Personnel Specialist:
* Conducts a wage survey within the labor market to determine
competitive wage rates;
* Prepares the budget for a personnel operation;
* Plans and carries out policies related to all phases of personnel
* Recruits, interviews, and selects employees to fill vacant positions;
* Plans and conducts new employee orientations and oversees employee
* Maintains hiring, promotion, and termination records; and
* Ensures compliance with the Equal Employment Opportunity.
Commission’s rules and regulations.
A Construction Liaison:
* Reviews and approves change orders in construction plans;
* Inspects construction work to ensure that procedures and materials
comply with plans and specifications;
* Measures distances to verify accuracy of dimensions and a structural
installation and layouts;
* Verifies levels, alignment, and elevation of installations;
* Observes work in progress to ensure that procedures followed and
materials used conform to specifications; and
* Examines workmanship of finished installations for conformity to
standards, and approves installation.
The relocation team must have a “get-it-done” philosophy of meeting
all problems head-on. The best way to present this philosophy is to
make it clear to all involved that the team speaks for the company
and that the company is in charge. Too often, architects, engineers,
and building contractors work under the assumption they are in charge
–that it is their building until it is finished. There is some legal
precedent to that attitude.
However, if you meekly allow the architectural firm alone to supervise
the job, you will find that their idea of keeping the contract honest
is to send out a junior architect who is just out of school and doing
a two-year internship. Construction superintendents often intimidate
these junior architects and do as they please anyway.
A determined, “get-it-done” philosophy does not require being unpleasant with people. It is simply a process of exercising the power you
have because you are paying the bills. To make certain the bills and
everything else stays in line requires a plan, which in turn requires
a planning method.
Steve Wyatt is an independent business consultant based in Claremont.