Surveyor's Footsteps: What’s Your Work Credit Score?
Are you getting emails like me asking about your credit score or offering to check your credit reports? On the TV and in the mail there are advertisements on ways to pay someone to protect our credit ratings. Have you ever subscribed to these services? I want to encourage employees of land surveying and engineering companies to consider building up a good work history, much like managing your personal and financial life, in order to get and keep a good work credit score.
Years ago, in the dark ages when I was 21, credit cards were not easily obtained. Many people started to build credit with a store card such as Sears, or a gas card like Sunoco. As people paid bills on time, along with utility bills and rent, they slowly built a personal credit history. Eventually, they could leverage this to borrow money for a house or car.
At your job in land surveying, you are building up a history much like your credit history. When you come to work a few minutes early, or stay a few minutes late to finish a setup in the field, you say something about yourself. If you complain about everything, then your complaints mean little, whereas if you rarely complain, people listen when you do have an issue. Should you ask an employer to borrow a survey book they take notice, and they also consider if you actually read it or were you just trying to impress them. When the head of surveys is explaining the day’s work to your party chief, do you appear to be listening? Like it or not, at work, your boss and co-workers are all keeping a mental assessment of your abilities and the rate of improvement. I doubt that people who pay bills consistently late realize they are being tracked and assessed. I am suggesting you are being tracked and assessed by your supervisors and co-workers, too.
At my first place of employment in land surveying, there were many part owners with various size pieces of the company pie. This came about due to the owner’s lack of funds, and in lieu of a paycheck employees were given shares in the business. I believe it turned out well for everyone involved. The man who started the company decided rather than tell a given employee they were fired, he worked out a deal with the good employees so he could keep them.
Unfortunately, not every business endures. Some surveyors can’t manage the finances, insurance and employees. I have seen many names on deeds of land surveyors and engineers that appeared to have been a flash in the pan and are long gone. When I started my business, it was said that most businesses fail in the first year, and if you survive the first five you are a success. Forbes stated that eight out of 10 businesses fail in the first 18 months.
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to a young professional land surveyor who is working for an older land surveyor. Having a license for a few years, this young surveyor now handles most of the day-to-day work. I sensed enthusiasm for land surveying and wondered about the potential of that person to own either a new business or acquire that of the present employer some time soon. It struck me that if that older business owner did not make the employee an offer, that person would soon find a place to hang his or her own shingle.
I have seen companies where the owner had trouble finding a buyer. Their records were passed from one company to another, and I wondered how they could possibly have failed. I believe that if they had planned out a transfer of ownership 10 years ago, their companies would have flourished and would be larger today than they ever imagined.
A company that comes to mind that survived the passing of ownership was sold using sweat equity. An employee made a five-year transfer by taking an increasing amount of the profits. That way, the current owner made 80 percent the first year of shared ownership, then 60 percent and so on, until the apprentice became the master. That approach introduces clients to the new owner, makes money for the current owner, and rewards a hardworking employee who has obtained his or her license.
Some land surveyors would like to have their name live on. I saw a business end that had existed 30 miles away. It had debt and I suppose was unsellable. Were I not busy at the time I might have offered to take over the business name, keep the records and give the owner 10 percent of the profits that came in under that business. It would have been easy by just keeping a phone line for that business name and running those work requests separately from my own. I would not take on the debt, but I would take on that name of the land surveyor as a new business, perhaps adding “And Associates,” and register the new business name. When many homeowners look at their deed, they see his name. He was a good man, and I think a crew could be busy year round just doing lot surveys brought in by all those advertising deed descriptions.
I would like to suggest to all those employees working for land surveyors to present yourself in a way that speaks of your ability to manage your life, your assets and live within your means. If one day you approach your employer about taking over the business or taking part ownership, they will need to see you as responsible. You will be asking them to trust you with their finances. It’s very different from a start-up business, where one or more owners are taking the risk together. If you are buying with only sweat equity, the owner is risking all on you. I also suggest you keep the present business name because, as I mentioned previously, that name is free advertising.
Years ago, I worked with a man who was too old for his teenage behavior. He married a young lady and then came in to our employer and asked where was his raise for getting married? Henry said, “I didn’t sleep with her. Why should I pay you more because you do?” The employee was genuinely surprised. He thought that like in days of yore, when a man got married, they were paid more. This may have once been true because married men had to be more responsible and so worked harder than their single comrades and were wiser with age. Henry had previously offered this eternal “rodman” the chance to be “instrument man,” leading to “party chief,” but that meant more responsibility. The new groom wanted to do the same work and be paid more. He would never be the sort of candidate to bring into owning part of a business. Eventually, that company was passed down to a few responsible employees. [Editor’s Note: To encourage and reward what he perceived as responsible behavior, Henry Ford used different pay scales for married men vs. single men and for men who were single, living with parents, but contributing to their family’s upkeep.]
Might you be the person to consider taking part ownership in a business? How are you about working overtime? Often enough, I get phone calls after five o’clock and on Saturdays, and if something goes wrong during the day, I will be on that site or at the computer that night. Contractors start work before 7 a.m. Can you imagine, as owner of the business, the sign on your desk that forever reminds you “The Buck Stops Here!”
For those that have just started in land surveying, there is no need to focus on owning the business soon, but you could focus on what your work credit score is now and how you can improve it. Time flies when you are having fun; land surveying and the years will pass by quickly. Proving yourself worthy before the need arises can result in opportunity knocking and your superiors saying “it’s for you.”