Learning about other businesses or industries, and comparing differences and similarities, can be educational, ironic and frustrating. Every industry has its own particular nuances and particularities that make it unique. This is what makes business and other industries interesting. At the end of the day, it is the similarities between all businesses which is why a good business person is a good business person, regardless of what business they are in. A savvy businessperson is able to shift from one industry to another. While the products or services may change, the principles of good decision making are based on the ability to sift through the mundane data and focus on the vitals. I suspect this explains why a situation in one industry can seem the same in another. It is not surprising when two construction trades are similar; after all, it is construction.

Dynamics and situations of business may seem so different on the face but are they really? There may be new players, different widgets and services but problems can be similar and some situations arise that are the same.

It’s Not Unique

My wife has been in the travel industry a long time. She commented one evening that she is tired of hearing travel agents say, “I have a unique client.” She knows what they want before they even continue. They want to travel to Europe, they want to be away from other tourists, and they want to experience the real Europe. The hotels must be quaint, full of Old World charm and that it must be on a budget. The more accurate term for this client is common as there is nothing unique about that request.

I considered that situation and noted we too have that situation. Subcontractors bid to get work, the general contractor or construction manager frequently will make the statement that this is not your typical project or client, because they want quality craftsmanship and they need to fast track the project. The final piece is they need this all done within a tight budget. They often will say something similar to, “This is a unique and important client and we all have to step up our game.” In reality, there is nothing unique about that client. That is rather common. This universal truth of fast, good and cheap is why almost every general contractor has these three values on their website as their mission statement. Of course the wording is better but the message is there. General contractors claiming they deliver top quality work, on time and for less money than the competition is not unique. It is what the building owner wants to hear.

Keep a Straight Face

I have been with subcontractors while we walk by a corporate motto sign with these three values, and they actually shake their heads. The grass is not really greener on the other side. It is almost the same everywhere we go. Clients want quality craftsmanship done fast and at a budget rate. It is almost hard to keep a straight face when a young college graduate thinks this is new and they have found the secret to success. I suspect what is unique is if it is your building being constructed, or your first trip to Europe, that this process is special to that client. However, whether it is the trip of a lifetime to Europe, or a new corporate tower, it is just business to us. Putting yourself in their shoes, a trip to Europe is exciting and offers the ambiance of historic towns, castles and old pubs. The corporate tower is a symbol of pride and shows your firm has made it big, and unless you are made of money, budget is always a concern.

There is such a thing as the unique client. This is the one who says money is no object. My wife has had some of these clients who go to Europe and can spend a staggering amount of money on a vacation. She has clients who can spend up to $10,000 a day. We occasionally have our unique client, too. Examples would be the mega casinos in Las Vegas—they often consider schedule far more critical than cost. Projects in Dubai often forgo price for a unique design or pushing engineering to new limits. These are truly the unique clients. Of course, the time that young fresh construction manager tells you they have a unique client who needs it fast, good and cheap, you may be better off to act impressed and keep a straight face.