What the CEO Wants from You

By Mike Vorster, Contributing Editor | January 19, 2015

Ron is the CEO of a large and busy construction company. Life has been a blur, but the business is a success. It is growing and making money. Ron is a busy guy.

He is also your boss. You manage his fleet and are responsible for making sure that the jobs have the right iron in the right place at the right time. You see Ron briefly once or twice a week when he swings by the shop, and you meet about once a month to go over things. Other than that, he gives you a lot of freedom to get things done. You enjoy working for him, and after nine years, you still marvel at the complexity of his job and the magnitude of the problems that come his way every day. His success is your success.

This is my 100th "Equipment Executive" article. Thank you for your inspiration and guidance. Thank you, particularly to all the great pairs of CEOs and equipment managers who work together to achieve great success. I hope I have captured some of their spirit in this and the other articles, available at Construction Equipment Executive Institute.

But do you know what Ron really wants you to do? Here is my Top 10 list:

1. Embrace and lead the company’s safety culture.

Ron has high expectations when it comes to safety. “Everyone home safe, every day” is more than a slogan, it is a way of life. He does not tolerate accidents or injuries of any kind and has made safety an overriding priority.

Mechanics and service technicians work with things that are heavy, sharp and hot. They climb on and off machines and often work at height or in confined spaces. Tasks are inherently hazardous and often performed alone or without direct supervision.

Safe work must be part of everyone’s personal culture, and Ron expects you to lead and exceed expectations.

2. Ensure full compliance with regulations.

Ron has enough problems on his hands without having to deal with investigations, citations, court appearances, and fines due to the violation of a regulation. He simply cannot afford the time, the negative publicity, and the cost.

He wants you to create a culture that sees compliance as the right thing to do. Make sure that everyone is well informed of environmental and employment regulations and have systems in place to ensure that everyone is aware of their responsibilities. Measure, record and audit required compliance training.

3. Put your people first, see to their growth and development.

The people who work on your team are your scarcest and most valuable resource. You will not succeed to any greater extent than they do; their skill is your only true competitive advantage. Ron knows this, he believes in it, and he practices it. That is why he hired you. He expects you to build and continue the legacy.

Ron knows that good people look for new jobs when they believe their old job is no longer making it possible for them to grow and succeed. He does not like high turnover in his business, and he expects you to build your “people bank” by making good long-term investments in excellent people.

Develop and train at every opportunity and be especially aware of training needs brought about by changes in technology. You simply cannot maintain and repair the machines of today with the skills and abilities of yesterday.

4. Deal fairly with all your business partners; build long-term relationships.

You carry Ron’s reputation and the company’s name into every deal you make. He probably knows most of your major suppliers at a senior level, and he does not want to hear about transactions that have gone badly. He wants to know that the company’s money is wisely spent and that your business relationships maximize value and solve problems.

Business partnerships are good for both partners. Everyone expects you to be firm and fair, and no one expects you to accept less than the best. Respect the position of your partners in every transaction; know that it is a two-way street.

5. Make decisions in the best interests of the company as a whole.

Ron has appointed you as the person responsible for managing the company’s fleet, and he expects you to ensure that jobs have the reliable and cost-competitive equipment needed to succeed. Individuals within the organization understand their roles, responsibilities, authority and accountability, and budgets are in place to measure performance. Everyone wants to succeed and make their numbers.

Internal competition is good when everyone is aligned and when everyone understands that they work for the same company. Internal competition is bad when alignment is replaced by gamesmanship and when individual goals replace company goals.

Ron expects you to champion the equipment group, but he also expects you to work with your fellow managers to keep internal conflict to the minimum. He wants you to be a team player with a clear focus on the best interests of the company as a whole.

6. Maintain the fleet as a critically important company asset.

Ron is not “an equipment guy,” but he knows enough about equipment to know that prevention is better than cure. He knows that a good maintenance program will simultaneously lower cost and improve uptime.

A fully functioning preventive and condition-based maintenance program is an outward and visible sign of your respect for company assets. You have made the investment using scarce and expensive capital; maintain it and get your value out of it. 

7. Budget and control your costs.

Ron knows that internal equipment rates are exactly that—internal—and that you are not master of the revenue or cost recovery side of the equipment account. Although he wants you to balance cost and revenue in the equipment account, above all he wants you to maintain your focus on cost and cost management.

You need to ensure that deployment and utilization are correctly recorded and that jobs are correctly charged for the equipment they use. Other than that, focus on attacking the causes of cost and reducing the true cost of owning and operating the fleet.

Cost management starts with a good budget. There will be changes, but if you do not plan your spending, then there is no way you can manage your cost. Have realistic and reliable budgets; know what you are going to spend before you spend it.

8. Deliver on the big issues as required, on time.

Construction is about starting, building and completing projects. Ron knows that the startup and close out phases of a job are critical, and he spends a lot of time with project teams to make sure that these phases go well. He knows that capital is a scarce and expensive resource and that capital budgets must be carefully set and managed. He expects you to play a major role to deliver on these big issues.

Capex planning and budgeting ensure that the fleet has the capacity to support current and future operations. These critical activities detract from time available for maintenance and shop operations, but they are part of your business. Be part of the planning process; know that if you get the startup and acquisition phase right, many things fall into place.

9. Live and build the company’s values.

Ron is proud of what the company stands for. Your equipment, your service trucks, and your technicians are in the public eye; they work on every project and interact with every project team. He is especially proud of the iron that carries its name, and you are in a unique position to support Ron as he works to build a special place to work.

10. Ensure that your integrity is without question.

This is last because it’s the most important. You interact with many people, and some will seek an inside track through special favors. Don’t go there. Everything depends on that curious mixture of character and competence called trust. Never let it be questioned.

Ron gives you flexibility because he trusts you. He knows you represent the company in every transaction and expects your word to be as good as his.