A Lesson from Project and People Management

Authored by Mike Kimel

I straddle a couple of economic worlds.  In my day job, I run the Pricing and Market Analytics group for a foreign manufacturing company.  But I also retain at least an ear to the ground in a small business my wife and I started about seven years ago.  We buy, fix up, and rent out residential properties in Northeast Ohio.  My wife runs day-to-day operations.  In the past few years, we’ve also taken on a long time family friend as business partner.  Like my wife, he has a lot more daily involvement than I do, though like me, he has a white-collar job.

The juxtaposition between the three of us got me thinking about the difference between what my wife does and what I do at my job.  To a large extent, I manage people and projects.  My wife does the same thing.  But if I have scheduled someone to do X, I don’t have to worry about whether they will show up falling-down drunk, or even whether they will show up at all.  In two decades of work, those issues have never come up.   My wife, on the other hand, deals with that kind of thing regularly.  Not with every plumber or perth electricians or construction worker, mind you, but it happens a lot.

None of this is to say that Blue Collar work is worse than White Collar work, but my experience is that more Blue Collar people would trade places with White Collar workers than vice versa, all else being equal.  However, where people end up in life owes a lot to luck, ambition, desire, willingness to work and presentation.  The inability to keep one’s vices in check, however, can and often will  negate everything else, and there are a lot people who have demons they cannot control.

One more observation.  People who get fired from a work site because they are drugged or inebriated enough to threaten themselves or others can get belligerent.  The boss who fired them, even if it comes after the second or third “second chance” is always, to them, an expletive.