Absorb, Apply, and Fly

July 2, 2014

One thing our inaugural class of Under 40 in Construction Equipment Award winners seems to have in common is an incredible drive to learn and use what they’ve learned.

As asset management becomes increasingly multidisciplinary—incorporating technology, accounting, maintenance management, training, communication skills, personnel recruitment and more—being able to absorb and apply new information is essential.

Terrence McNamara, formerly equipment manager for C.C. Myers, Inc., now with Teichert Construction in Sacramento, Calif., is one of the best examples yet.

McNamara started as an executive assistant in the corporate office and rose through the ranks by representing C-suite execs in meetings (no, he didn’t go to business school), tackling major IT initiatives that required him to learn the processes of all the company’s divisions (no, he’s not a programmer), becoming the public relations face of the company during massive, traffic-disrupting projects (no, he’s not a PR guy), and recruiting college talent for various jobs (okay, he does have an HR certification).

Each step of the way, the 37-year-old was a sponge for knowledge about every position and department in the company. What he didn’t personally touch, he made it a point to know about: He never turned a wrench in the shop, but knows enough to know he needs the best technician who can, and that downtime is deadly to construction operations, his utilization, his chargebacks and the company’s bottom line.

Is it any wonder McNamara completed flight training as a private pilot in 40 hours, the absolute minimum required by law, versus the national average of 70 to 80 hours?

“My instructor and flight school never had a student finish in the minimum time,” McNamara says. “I was interested in doing it as economically as possible, so when I decided I wanted to do it, I sat down with the instructor and formulated a plan with a goal of finishing in 40 hours.”

Once the plan was in place, McNamara and his instructor agreed to check progress against the goal on a weekly basis.

“It was the plan and the ongoing communication about the plan and the goals that got us there,” he says. “Stating the goal is incredibly important. If the goal had been to be an amazing pilot, we still would have achieved the objective of getting the license, but I bet we wouldn’t have done it in 40 hours. I’m a competent pilot, not an amazing one.

“In addition, using the right piece of equipment for the job is key not only to controlling cost, but also to maximizing the benefit,” McNamara says. “In my case, I flew a Cessna 150 as the training airplane. It’s smaller and slower than the Cessna 172 that most pilots train in, but it also costs $35 per hour less—that’s a $1,400 savings on my training cost.”

McNamara explains that it also carried some challenges the larger plane didn’t, like needing to calculate weight and balance for every flight. And, the pilot can’t count on extra power from the engine if an unplanned situation occurs in the sky.

“Sometimes not doing something, like letting the weather cancel a flight instead of risking it, can be an option, too,” he says.

“Those are lessons I might not have learned as well in another aircraft. At the end of the day, I think being a pilot and going through flight training has caused me to be better at planning, forecasting, and having a backup plan.”

Spoken like a true fleet manager.

Click here to nominate someone for the 2014 Under 40 in Construction Equipment Awards.

About the Author

Frank Raczon

Raczon’s writing career spans nearly 25 years, including magazine publishing and public relations work with some of the industry’s major equipment manufacturers. He has won numerous awards in his career, including nods from the Construction Writers Association, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, and BtoB magazine. He is responsible for the magazine's Buying Files.