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My old business partner came up with an excellent policy that served our construction business well. It goes something like this - periodically review how much everyone in your organization comes up in conversation. This includes employees, trade contractors, suppliers, and even customers. Whoever you talk about the most in any month needs to go. Think about it – you rarely talk about people who do their work well without complaining. You end up spending all your time talking about those who give you the most trouble. They are late. Their work isn’t up to par. They complain. If they are customers, they probably don’t pay well and most likely won’t be a good source of future leads.

Tracking keeps the team in shape. Tracking how much time you spend discussing specific people or companies takes some work. Look at minutes from staff meetings, emails and texts, and even phone calls to the offenders. You may not decide to get rid of someone each month, but it gives you a good indication of who needs corrective action. This may start with a meeting, a written reprimand, or a specific set of goals for them to meet within a designated time frame. If they don’t self-correct, they need to go. Someone may not be performing well and you rationalize your reasons for not replacing them. You know their limitations, it takes effort to work around them, but you are wiling to settle out of fear of the unknown. It is tough to switch team members, particularly when things are busy, but it is important to upgrade your team to the best possible players.

Tracking is good for individuals, too. In the case of employees, very often someone who isn’t working out in your company isn’t at fault. They just may not be a good fit with your team. Their reluctance to quit combined with your reluctance to fire them holds everyone back. While it is rarely pleasant to fire someone, and not fun to be fired, in most cases everyone ends up better off in the end. I have had to fire many employees over my years in business, and I always told them that they would be better off, and would probably thank me one day – and several of them have. Once they get over the shock of losing their job, most people realize that have an opportunity to start over. Most people eventually find the right position – often with a competitor, or in some cases, in a new career that suits them better.

Talk to the ones you don’t talk about. When deciding who to fire, don’t forget the unsung heroes on your team. Those people and companies that do solid, consistent, high quality work without complaint. You should also keep track of those you talk about the least and make sure they know they are appreciated. If you are using several different trade contractors for the same work, consider expanding the role of the best ones before your get rid of the one you talk about the most.

Tracking the time you spend dealing with different members of your team is an easy way to identify the weak links. When you replace the people that are giving you trouble you end up happier and more profitable.

—Carl Seville ( is recovering from a 25-year career in construction and remodeling. He now writes and teaches about, consults on, and certifies green single- and multifamily buildings. His blog, The Green Building Curmudgeon, can be found on

Outside Resources: How to Fire Someone (Well, Almost) How to Fire a Friend