Construction marketing: The (unwritten) law of unintended consequences

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Over the years, I’ve learned some important lessons in life.  When you use your power too bluntly; when you push your own interests so hard that you defy, for want of a better word, moral fairness, you’ll almost inevitably provoke resistance and a costly backlash.  Conversely when you are generous in spirit and intent and put the interests of those around you (including clients and employees) ahead of your immediate needs, you often discover surprisingly positive results.

Of course these attitudes must be tempered with reality and, if you want to explore how the Principle of Reciprocity can be applied scientifically, please re-read Matt Handal’s informative posting.

Nevertheless, I’m seeing some clear examples of how the push and pull taken to extremes is costing (or creating surprising opportunities). I will be vague about some specifics to avoid breaking my rules of speaking negatively about any individual or organization in these blog postings

Here are two examples to encourage your thinking:

Unionized contractors win strong pro-labour legislation; provoke the “organization” of open shop contractors into political force.

The labour movement has a proud and important history within the construction industry and I’ve always believed that organized labour can be a truly effective and valid system especially to prevent exploitation and, frankly, to manage labour requirements for large projects.  After all, it is hard for employers to scale up and down their work force requirements in a fair way for really big projects so the hiring hall creates an equitable option.  But when things get too one-sided, the Merit contracting movement gains strength, with programs and benefits to match many of organized labour’s strengths.  More importantly, it gains enough money to become a meaningful political force, and this can result in the toppling of pro-labour movement governments and the exact opposite political results of what organized labour is seeking.

A victim of a major insurable claim insists on taking only what she really needs.

An insurance adjuster told me how virtually every insurance claim she reviews has some fraud or exaggeration beneath the surface.  After all, it is tempting to turn a piece of throw-away junk into something worth a small fortune when you are filing a claim, and often there is no evidence to dispute your assertion.  So the insurer pays (and builds the claim cost into the premiums, creating a less-than-honorable circle of profit and deceit.)  However, the adjustor told me of one case where a family had their home destroyed in a fire and the client went out of the way to say much of the stuff in the house that could be subject to a claim wasn’t worth replacing.  So how did the adjuster handle the file? She noted the client’s honesty and asked service providers and suppliers  to ensure that the valid claim items were replaced with top-of-the-line products and services; far beyond the norm.  In the end, the client (through her surprising honesty) ended up being made far more than whole.

I am not taking sides or asking you to put your head in the sand.  (As publishers, especially, we are careful to respect both the union and non-union perspectives.)  However, when you think you are gaining the edge through some manipulation or coercion, you may be paying much more than you expect.  And if you let go of your selfish needs and (without being a wuss) truly consider the overall picture — especially the legitimate concerns of your clients, employees and suppliers — you may find you end up ahead of the game.

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