The Super Superintendent
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“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”: a phrase coined by Benjamin Franklin long before the Superintendent title existed.

The advice presented in this axiom is certainly taken up by those whom our Career Matchmakers identify as the most-marketable construction Superintendents.

References for candidates who fit this description often tell us things such as:

  • “He is the first on the jobsite and the last to leave”.

  • “He knows who comes and goes on the work-site for which he is responsible”.

  • “He takes ownership of his responsibilities”. (also read: Don’t Assume They Own it!)

These candidates’ sub-contractor references will often tell us that they know how to drive a project schedule and sequence the scheduled trades, and that they also provide the necessary project updates and parameters.

Their executive references will verify that they are proficient in all the appropriate technological platforms (such as Procore, PlanGrid, BuilderTREND, etc.).  More importantly, these references will verify that the candidates communicate respectfully with everyone, recognizing both the importance of the project at hand as well as the importance and dignity of each person on the team.

The best superintendents tend to be extremely healthy, in part because they are constantly walking about the jobsite and engaging with others around them.  They have no time for a cigarette break, and they will often use their meal time to catch-up with their administrative teammates.  When they are not on an active jobsite, they designate someone to cover for them, and seek regular updates if they are absent for any significant length of time.

In the course of my twenty-five years of staffing, I have found it is common to interview a seventy-year-old Superintendent with a physical fitness superior to that of many fifty-year-olds.  They love their jobs, and even after retirement, many of them are involved with hobbies that permit them to continue building and creating.

These most-marketable field managers also tend to be quite wealthy.  In addition to possessing a wealth of knowledge about the industry (which they are often willing to share), they are usually compensated well too.  A high-quality Superintendent will rarely have to worry about finding offers, for such managers are always in high demand.

The “A”-rated Superintendent is also aware of the work environment with which he best fits.  He understands the importance of safety, and so will want to work for executives who value it as well.  He understands the importance of sub-contractor relationships, and will therefore seek out employers who structure contracts properly.

Whilst these managers will doubtlessly be wise to an inadequate support staff, they also are typically the first ones to offer to mentor a less-experienced professional.  They are loyal and complete a project to which they are committed even if the employer is not the best fit, because they realize the importance of adhering to what they said they would do.

These general qualities are then combined with the individual’s specific flexibilities and qualifications in order to determine which job and compensation opportunities are available to him.  It certainly helps if the candidate is willing to travel, relocate, or work night shifts as needed. Other factors include experience leading large teams on sophisticated projects, as well as the ability to assist in preconstruction between projects.

One indication that a superintendent candidate falls into this category is that his planning, communication and execution skills are exhibited not only on a project, but also in his daily life.  They are true leaders by servanthood, and those around them notice it.

Another one of Benjamin Franklin’s famous quotes is, “Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.”  Franklin was known as a scientist and inventor, and while many of his early pursuits concluded in failure, he learned from these mistakes, in the hope of overcoming his weaknesses with self-discipline.

If you are not currently achieving your career goals as a Superintendent, we are always available to help you with a career plan.

Next week, we will be addressing the qualifications necessary Field Operations Managers and Company General Superintendents.

Until then, be healthy, wealthy and wise,

Suzanne Breistol

3 Comments
  • Alex Stephens

    I am one of the ” select few” mentioned in this article. All I can say is that I wish more employers saw us this way. I’ve been doing this job for 40 years, I’ve been a Project Manager and I’ve been a Senior Project Manager but…the real joy in construction comes from having your finger on the pulse of the job. Yes, we know everyone on our site by name, we speak a smattering of languages ( enough to get by) and we know how to do, or have done just about every job on the site. Including our bosses – we just choose not to.
    If something goes wrong the “Super” owns it. If something goes right, the PM gets the credit. None of us do this job for the credit or the accolades, we do it because we love it, it’s as much a part of who we are as our first name is.
    I just worry about the future. We have way too many young guys joining the field who know nothing except how to use a keyboard and mouse. They may know the construction software but they don’t know the field. It used to be a requirement at many colleges with construction management programs the each student participated in work/study. They go to class part of the day and they intern with a construction company the rest of the day. These programs have gone away for the most part and for the same reason that drives our business daily. Liability. Insurance and Lawyers now hold more sway than experience and a desire to provide a top notch product. Too bad.

  • Rick Varney

    Spot on!

  • Doug miller

    Not true these days

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