The pharmaceutical industry has made giant strides in its ability to create medications that minimize or manage pain.

Several years ago my sister succumbed to breast cancer. When the cancer was in its advanced stage my sister came to live with my wife and I in hopes of making her as comfortable as possible. I don’t pretend to be a medical pain expert, but it’s surprising how much you can learn about pain treatment when a family member is in severe pain. The pain she experienced was so severe it changed her entire life from the day it started. She couldn’t work the job she loved, nor could she could drive, eat or sleep until the doctors managed her pain.

Pain, in most cases, usually results in some sort of change depending on the severity. And the pain need not be physical, from disease or trauma.

Where Does It Hurt?

In business, owners, managers, and employees deal with pain in a variety of ways. I recently met with a GC who employs several estimators of which one estimator successfully far out produces the rest of the estimating staff. What “pains” the GC is that the high-producing estimator creates a lot of conflict within the estimating group. According to the GC, “he is high-maintenance, insecure, always angry with someone, very difficult to manage, and is completely contrary to our company’s mission and core values.”

I had to ask the dumb question: “why don’t you get rid of him?” The GC’s response was, “we will, but right now we need him.” I understand the importance of timing, leverage and making sure that every possibility is covered before making a major change, but in this case the situation has been going on for a long time. In other words it doesn’t hurt enough, at least not yet.

Financial pain--as in dollars and cents--seems to take priority over other types of pain. As long as profits are where they should be or higher, owners-managers will endure other types of pain.

Although we are in the construction business, most will agree that we are really in the people business, and people cause most of the pain we experience. If you listed your company’s top 10 pains, what would they be? Some might be, “profitability, financing, insurance, liability, or possibly sky high overhead.” When profitability is low, credit is tight, and risk is high, you may have identified the problems your company is having, but not the reasons why.

Let’s look at some seemingly less painful problems:

• Your project managers don’t handle clients the way they should.
• Your material supplier’s pricing and service is not what it once was.
• Your field has a high turnover rate and production is down.
• Managers don’t value their staff the way you had hoped.


A simple question must be asked regarding all of these problems: Why?

Let’s address the first problem, project managers not handling clients the way they should. Here are a few reasons this might be the case.

• The PM doesn’t know how to treat the client.
• The PM doesn’t know how you want the client treated.
• The PM thinks he knows how to treat the client.
• The PM doesn’t care how he treats the client.
• The PM’s belief system is different from that of his employer.

These reasons are simply obstacles that, if identified, can be removed. Obstacles are interesting because we sometimes don’t know how they got there. There are some people who go to work each day and then spend the entire day going under, over and around obstacles in order to get their work done. Obstacles are frustrating, and they drain a person’s energy level no matter whether he or she is the owner of the company or an employee.

The manager who doesn’t value his staff will have a serious impact on the company. Here are a few possibilities for this attitude. Perhaps the manager:

• Didn’t want to be a manager in the first place.
• Is an introvert and prefers working alone.
• Was promoted into management because he/she did so well as a staff member.
• Doesn’t value people, never has, never will.
• Just wants to get the job done.
• Has a belief system that is different from his employer’s.

The reasons how they got there is not as important as removing them. The strange thing about obstacles is they just seem to appear out of nowhere and the tip-off to an obstacle is pain.

Pain is often the “tip off,” or indicator of a problem, whether it be health-related, financial, personal or business-related. If we pinpoint where the pain is coming from, we can usually identify what’s causing it and do something about it.

Just about everyone wants to be “accepted” no matter if it’s into a family, company, or any other type of relationship. Let’s say that you were just hired as a manager for a corporation with several locations and you manage a small office in San Francisco. You may be a great manager and run a successful operation, but many of your peers throughout the company don’t accept you because you may be seen as “difficult”. That may be true or just a perception.

This causes pain for the new manager, peers, and ownership. In addition to the obvious pain it causes, the company as a whole feels the pain because “acceptance” is key to growth. If peers within an organization don’t learn to accept new and different people, the success rate of new locations and people is minimized.

Change is not usually painless, but if everyone knows what the changes are and what the intended benefits are, the pain is lessened. Information is like pain medication; it eases the pain and helps people board the bus faster.

Pain must result in change. In business we must find out where the pain is coming from to zero in and identify obstacles and remove them. Is it coming from estimating, project management, accounting, supervision, competition, quality, service, or the front office?

Are you or your company guided by any non-negotiable rules? It’s hard for some people to imagine an organization or individual to have certain rules that are not negotiable while living in a world that encourages negotiation.


A company’s belief system is a set of rules that outline the company’s mission and core values. Every decision made is first filtered through the company’s mission and core values. Before a decision is made, the manager or owner must ask, “Does this align with who we are? Is this in any way contrary to our belief system?” You might ask, “What does a belief system have to do with a project manager who doesn’t handle the client properly or the manager who doesn’t value his staff?”

A belief system helps owners-managers determine who is on board with the company’s mission and core values. If a project manager or manager is not treating people as defined in the company’s mission-core values, a decision is made to either train these people or suggest they work for a company who embraces their belief system.

It’s important for employees to know their company’s belief system and to embrace it. It becomes the guiding principle for each employee to know, understand and base their decisions upon.

Pain can be quickly identified if employees don’t follow the company’s belief system. W&C