REMEDIATION CONTRACTING: A VIEW FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE
I have spent most of my career on the other side of the fence from environmental remediation contractors. For 18 years I have hired and fired many contractors. I have also enjoyed a robust relationship with many contractors, and I have had run in with sub-standard contractors. I am a relationship person, which is my driver. Self-admittedly, not everyone is a relationship person, some are money and the lowest bidder, and some have a stable of contractors to whom they pass around work. Some contractors have helped me look great in front of clients, and we have made lots of money on repeat business because they made the consultant look good, and some have made me look foolish, and lost a client or two based upon the sub-standard work. Admittedly, I now work at one of my favorite contractors that made me look exceptional, many times, lets dive in a bit more.
When I started to think about this article, I chuckled a little, I have seen some exceptional things in my career. I have seen a contractor condense a remediation schedule from an expected 6 months down to 2 months 18 days to remove 3 million shredded tires from a Site. I have also had an insurance company tell me that my contractor, who drilled through an electrical line at a gas station, falsified their Certificate of Insurance to my consulting company. That was a doozy, I thought I had seen most of it at that point, but it turns out when money is at play, it can bring out the best and in some cases, the worst. I also remember the time that the landfill called me to inform me that a truck carrying our load of waste had turned over at the landfill, because two of its tires popped while dumping! Somehow the trucker attributed this to our contractor loading incorrect and not the trucking company putting bald tires on the truck. Again, when you think you have seen everything, remind yourself, there may be more to come. I also remember telling the contractor that the bottom of the hole was soft, and not to put machinery into the excavation, but alas, not everyone hears when you talk!
I have tossed more truckers off of a Site, than I can count. I have had to report sexual harassment of a fellow co-worker from a contractor, while overseeing a remediation project. I am sure I have not quite seen it all, but I have seen a lot. As I reflect on what makes a good remediation contractor, the matrix is not all that crazy, honestly. There is no magical algorithm hidden in the computing cloud. Contractors even more so than consultants are easy on the success matrix. First, did they do what they said they would do. Second, did they do it in the time that they said they would. Third, was it done safely and complying with federal, state, and local laws. Fourth, did they comply with the facilities rules where they were working. Last, but not least, was the short term and long-term quality of their work, what was expected, promised, and/or warranted. And did they do it as a partner. Did they make both of us look good? Did they go out of their way to make the consultant look good in front of their client?
One of my mentors was very found of the matrix triangle of Quality, Schedule, and Budget. The Client picks one to set, the contractor picks one to set, and the other is set by those two. For instance, if the Client picks budget and they want it low, then the contractor picks the schedule, because it needs to be fast, which means the quality is likely to be low. The two factors influence the third factor, and both the Clients and the Contractor needs to remember that! And, while we would all like to have our best day, every day, some days do not go as well as we all might want. The real definition of a good contractor is persevering through adversity, weather, bad days, and equipment malfunctions, hopefully they figure out how to execute as best as they can with the cards they are dealt, at the end of the day, which is all we can ask.
This is a start of the discussion about choosing a contractor our industry veterans will discuss in our upcoming webinar on the Criteria for picking an environmental contractor. IKON Environmental Solutions invites you to join us for our upcoming roundtable discussion on Contractor selection. Register here for the Webinar. For additional information or for help with environmental remediation contracting contact Andy Adams, Greg Blomquist, and John Savage.