Powerful Tips on Effective Communications from a Self-Made Contractor
This guest article is a lightning round with Darryl Kellough, co-founder and co-owner of Southside Constructors, Inc. Darryl is both a contractor and an engineer. He holds degrees in engineering, business, construction management, and real estate. Despite his self-made success and education, Darryl remains a hands-on leader with a common touch.
JD: As President of your company, what types of decisions do you delegate?
Darryl: We embrace the unit president concept where each team member is the 'king of their kingdom' and responsible and accountable for respective micro decisions. Superintendents are responsible for all job site decisions and project managers are responsible for establishing contractual relationships with vendors/suppliers. Our team has the authority and responsibility to seek and establish contractual relationships with Owners. I will review the macro schedule and financial data to ensure the micro-decisions align with overall company objectives.
JD: Is there a person on your staff who communicates technical information better than others? What are some of the characteristics of those communications?
Darryl: Absolutely, and it boils down to preparation and understanding of the data. It also is bolstered by the confidence in successful outcomes. Some individuals will attempt to bs their way through a situation/subject. When a team member has the courage, knowledge, and history of successful outcomes to debate/discuss…it behooves me to listen.
JD: Is there someone on your staff who communicates technical information to you poorly? Why?
Darryl: No…our team continues to strive in skill development, enhanced confidence in their respective positions, understanding the necessity of preparation, and focus on presentation preparation and articulation. Each team member understands the necessity of proper communication and strives to hone skills through presentation opportunities.
JD: As a contractor with an engineering background, you often must communicate technical information to owners with little construction or engineering background. What are some of your tips for being effective?
Darryl: Size up your audience and cater your discussion to its skillset. One must be careful not to assume the audience's intellect, or the communication may come off as condescending.
First, ask questions and use answers as navigation beacons toward desired outcomes. Do not dominate the conversation. Be gender-neutral in communications…be professional…speak to a woman as you would speak to a man. Be careful with humor, as one may perceive it as funny while others may perceive it offensive.
JD: Think about a time when you were effective at communicating something you did not think the owner would understand. What did you do? Did anything surprise you?
Darryl: Tough discussions should always be in a face-to-face environment…never on ZOOM! Discussing budget and schedule impacts are always potentially volatile conversations. If I or my team have not kept the Owner informed, we deserve a butt-kicking. The keys are timely communication with facts, being prepared in the discussion, listening hard to the Owner's concerns, and seeking to develop a win-win solution.
JD: What are some of the things you do when a third-party engineer or technical salesperson is ineffective in their communications with you?
Darryl: Again, face-to-face communication. Listen and gain an understanding of their position. Keep a responsive, professional tone and never 'cop' an attitude. If not able to offer an initial solution to their concern, ask for a follow-up meeting to provide better solutions resulting from research and preparation.
Darryl Kellough is co-owner and principal of Southside Constructors Inc. He is responsible for assuring overall company success through various functions, including design assistance, profit-loss analysis, operations, marketing, human resources, policies and procedures, and scheduling. Darryl and Tim Laframboise founded Southside Constructors, Inc. in 1999. The two have successfully managed more than 4 million square feet of building projects and more than $300 million in constructed value.
Darryl received a Masters of Professional Studies in Real Estate from Georgetown University, a Master’s Degree in Construction Science Management from Clemson University, Masters in Business Administration from Pfeiffer University, and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He holds 16 licenses and certifications in construction, project management, quality management, and safety.