Make Your Business Great Again

OP COMMERCIALBy Steven Cvitanovic

In today’s world of 24-hour news cycle and Twitter, it is impossible to avoid the dialogue generated by the election and subsequent inauguration and administration of Donald Trump. Journalists and pundits across every medium are debating whether Trump is a Putin sympathizer hell-bent on ruining America or whether he will single-handedly “Make America Great Again.” Much discussion also focuses on how Trump’s immigration and trade policies will affect the construction industry.

The Trump Effect, however, is not the point of this article. Instead, let this article remind you of your company’s ultimate goal: remain competitive and profitable. In this period of uncertainty, ignore the tweets and headlines and focus on making your business great again. Here are a few things to consider:

Deepening Ties

You may think this is out of left field, but hear me out. Many of your neighbors, employees, and customers are in turmoil over the election. As President Trump would say, “Sad!” So, do something to bring your community and workplace together. It is easy to forget the positive impact we can make on the lives of others, but it is also easy to make a positive impact with just a little focus. Community service is the right thing to do because it helps others and it feels good. Corporate community service activities are also great team-building exercises and improve the esprit de corps of an organization that itself might be in turmoil because of the election. Many people in your organization already perform community service, and organizing an activity around something they already value will be greatly appreciated by them and the community in which you live.

Contract Documents

If you do not know when your contract documents were last updated, it’s probably been too long. Unlike wine, contract documents only get worse with age. Over time, changes are made to the template, important language is dropped, and poorly written revisions are incorporated. Get those contracts into shape again. Start by reading them. I know – boring! Sit down with your team and simply read your contract documents to see if they make sense and still meet your needs. Seek out other contract forms for the sake of comparison and for identifying possible changes to yours.

Policies and Procedures

Employment law is ever-evolving. Changes are always taking place at the federal, state, and local levels, and failing to keep up with those changes could trigger a claim. Your human resources department needs to be given the tools to track all these developments, so it can update your company’s policies and procedures accordingly, particularly if your company is national.

Recruitment and Retention

A business is only as strong as its employees. Making quality hires, training them, and retaining them are therefore critical to the success of any organization. Ask yourself: what am I doing to attract talent? What am I doing to retain talented employees? What am I doing to identify talented employees for other positions within my company?

You also need to consider whether you are adequately prepared to sell your company to potential employees. Do you have an elevator pitch if somebody asks you why they should come to work at your company? If the response does not come natural, and instead comes across as cliché and memorized, you have a problem. “Terrible!”

Worker Safety

Families count on you to provide a safe working environment for their loved ones. What are you doing to improve the safety culture at your company? How are you training your employees to avoid unsafe activities and report unsafe conditions? If there is an injury, what are you doing to prevent it from happening again? Finally, how are you working with your subcontractors to ensure they, too, value safety as much as you do?

Liability and Builders’ Risk Insurance

Everyone knows insurance is a major cost of doing business. What are you doing to ensure you have an insurance program that matches your risks, meets your coverage needs, and is competitively priced? 

If you are a general contractor insured by owner-controlled insurance programs, request a copy of the general liability policy and give a copy to your broker to review.

Finally, owners typically place Builders Risk coverage. Yet, the Builders Risk that is actually placed often does not have the coverage required by the contract documents. “Dumb deal!” Get your broker to review the policy and find coverage holes that could present a problem.

Cyber Security

Hacking is growing at a rapid pace. Think it doesn’t affect you? That’s #FAKENEWS. If you have developed a process, system, technique, or tool, you have intellectual property that could be very valuable to somebody else. What are you doing to protect it? Do you have dual factor authentication for remote access? Have you hired a professional to assess your computer systems, and provide recommendations for improved security?

You also have to consider whether your computer network is reliable. Computer networks are inherently unreliable, and yours can go down at the most inopportune time. What are you doing to ensure your network is functioning at least 99.9 percent of the time? 

Green Building / Sustainability

Green Building and Sustainability is here to stay. What are you doing to keep up with these changes? How are you working with your owners and owner consultants on construability issues? Finally, general contractors should not be in the business of guaranteeing to an owner that green building performance goals will actually be achieved. “This should not happen!” 


At the end of the day, no one knows what Trump will actually do, and what affect his actions (or inactions) may have. You cannot, however, let this period of uncertainty derail you from evaluating the overall state of your business. It is important, therefore, that in the first quarter of 2017, and beyond, to remember the pilot’s oath: no matter what happens, never stop flying the plane. “Smart!”

Steven M. Cvitanovic is a partner with Haight Brown & Bonesteel, and the leader of its Construction Law Practice Group. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling owners, builders, and contractors, and has handled all phases of construction litigation matters involving performance and payment disputes, construction defect, licensing, mechanics liens, prevailing wages, risk management, and surety law. He can be reached at [email protected] or 415-281-7608.

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