A bottom’s up meeting is far from anything the name implies. It’s a meeting agenda designed to improve culture, define structure and evaluate performance and it revolves around job cost meetings.

Job cost meetings in our industry are likely the most important meeting subcontractors can have. If the primary goal of your current meetings is to see that each job is on budget, you may be missing a perfect opportunity to improve your company’s culture, define its structure and evaluate staff performance.

A job cost is like a set of plans in that they both endeavor to tell a story to whoever reads and understands them. In most cases, a senior level person reads and interrupts a job cost, and after having done so, starts telling project teams what’s wrong with the job cost. Many of you reading this article have been told you’re under-billed, under-progressed or that your progress on percent complete means that the job will go over budget by X-amount of dollars.

If not these things, they go to change orders and why change order work has not been converted, updated, or why they’re not approved. The list of what’s wrong with the job cost will sometimes take a dive into the details—and in the end—it’s the project’s team that does everything it can, and sometimes things it shouldn’t, to get the job cost to report better numbers.

Briefly, in a bottom’s up, there are normally three to four people involved, each presenting job cost information as they understand it. The meeting begins with a project administrator delivering financial facts and by letting everyone know of certain needed or missing administration items/information. Once the administrator finishes, the person in the field running a particular job presents his/her own understanding of the job cost, as well as identifies field needs, successes and failures.

This presentation is followed by the superintendent’s view and understanding of the job cost and his/her view of what was said by the project administrator and the person running the job. After that, the project manager then reports on his overall view of the job cost, and addresses comments made by those who previously presented. During the entire meeting, the project administrator creates/updates the projects action list as a result of each presenter’s comments which are distributed to attendees by the next day. The administrator is then responsible for tracking action items completed by the date indicated.

The last part of the meeting is when the executive (aka “the Big Boss”) speaks up and is hopefully able to say, “I can tell by your presentations that each of you are fully engaged in the success of this project. Your action lists will be distributed tomorrow, please complete your action items by the date agreed upon.” 

The average job cost meeting for a particular job should take about 30 minutes plus or minus, depending on the number of people presenting. Why have meetings that start at the bottom and go up the chain of command rather than just having the boss tell everyone what’s wrong with the job cost?  A bottom’s up meeting agenda engages, educates, and inspires people.

Although your primary goal in having a job cost meeting is to review the financial status of a particular job, the underlying goal is to teach and inspire team members to be fully engaged all of which improves culture.

Defining Structure

A bottom’s up meeting begins with a presentation from the project administrator, followed by the field person running the job, then the superintendent, followed by the project manager.

As each person presents, the person above them listens, and although some facts may come out that higher ups don’t want to hear, the facts do come out because each presenter is fully engaged in the success of the project. In other words, they own it, and they will talk about internal/external issues impacting their project.

Presenters also know that they can bring up project problems during their presentation they need help in solving, which clearly defines structure. More important is that while structure is being further defined during these meetings, a sense of team is being built.

Evaluating Performance

Job cost meetings provide a unique opportunity for managers to evaluate performance as follows:

  • Quality of presentation
  • Engagement level
  • Academic understanding of job cost
  • Ability to predict outcomes
  • Ability to solve problems
  • Develop relationships
  • Seek guidance
  • Actual outcomes
  • Profit
  • Client relationship

Evaluating an employee’s performance based on his or her presentation is the key in determining engagement level.

  • Was the employee’s presentation relevant?
  • Did it accurately tell the projects financial story?
  • What did the presenter leave out
  • and why?
  • Is the presenter seeking or
  • needing help?
  • How well does the presenter predict outcomes, solve problems, and work as a team?
  • What was the final outcome in terms of profit and client relationship?

Although the primary goal in reviewing a job cost is to determine the financial status of a job, a bottom’s up meeting accomplishes the same thing while improving culture, defining structure and evaluating performance.

Stand and Deliver (The Movie)

In the 1988 movie, Jaime Escalante becomes a math teacher at James A. Garfield High School in Eastern Los Angeles, a school with a large Hispanic student population. The students are way below their grade-level in terms of academic skills, and they have a lot of social problems. Escalante is determined to help the students succeed. He soon realizes the full potential of his class and sets a goal of having the students take AP calculus by their senior year.

Jamie Escalante, and what he did at Garfield High School, is the true story of a teacher who saw the untapped potential of his students and who wanted to change the school culture by instilling in his students a strong sense of desire to succeed.

In our industry, as in most, people are looking for value and want to be valued. In the movie, Escalante’s students engaged to the point that they passed the AP Calculus exams not once, but twice as a result of administrators not believing that the students were capable of passing the first test unless they cheated. 

Not Capable

How did Escalante move his students from incapable to believing they were capable? If we have things to teach our employees, shouldn’t we be teachers first and business owners and executives second? How did Escalante and Wooden move people from incapable to capable? I’m guessing that both had a unique ability to build confidence, and to inspire people to take responsibility and fully engage 100 percent?  

Escalante and Wooden did what others believed impossible and they did it by doing a few small things differently. What are some of the small things we can do differently to improve culture, define structure, and evaluate performance? Maybe a 30-minute weekly job cost meeting or maybe as Wooden suggested, we all become teachers.

If we replaced just one word in the Wooden quote by removing the word society, and replacing it with the word business, it would read, ‘I think the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our business than any other single profession’.

It’s a small thing, but if you would like a sample job cost meeting agenda, please go to subcontractor-consultant.com.