An illustration of employees exiting a job on a conveyor belt
Are you treating the symptoms or the condition?

Everyone can recall a time when they had a good old-fashioned head cold, and they took some aspirin and cough syrup to alleviate the awful feelings. Shortly after, the fever subsided, and the endless hacking ceased. For a brief time.

Four to five hours later, the symptoms returned, and the general feeling of malaise seemed to linger for days until the body finally shook the bug. Cold medicines have a purpose: to help the body deal with the effects of a virus or infection as it heals.

However, for many, people believe that treating the runny nose, cough, fever, etc. is solving the problem when, in fact, the runny nose, cough, fever, etc. is simply the body’s response to the infection in the first place. It’s just that these things make us all feel so miserable.


Companies can end up applying their own brand of cough syrup. Put another way, companies often see a problem and treat it superficially. Speed is imperative in today’s market, and deep examination can take time. Applying an immediate solution is both prudent and helps to get things done quickly.

However, do the symptoms resurface quickly? And does the condition often come back significantly worse the second time around? It is important that organizations do not fall victim to treating symptoms, but identify the root causes to navigate their business for the long term.

‘Our people are leaving, & it is because we don’t pay them enough.’

There are strange things afoot in the market. You think you are paying in the upper quartile only to learn a project manager or director of operations is lured away for 50% more than you can pay.

Don’t confuse one-off situations like this for a bigger issue. Massive flight issues may be the sign of bigger problems.

The problem is this: When your people come to you to resign, they tell you they are leaving for more money. Why is that? In some cases, the truth might be painful. How often have we told people to leave on a positive note? If your team heard the brutal truth, you might be roused to action. Sure, you can pay your people more. Who wouldn’t take a raise or bonus?

On the other hand, should you consider digging deeper on your flight problems? Could they be things like lack of career progression, lack of positive reinforcement, lack of accountability or even a lack of structure?

‘We’ve tried using in-house referral bonuses & they just don’t work.’

So, you’ve tried to incentivize staff members to recruit friends and family to come work for the organization — and no one took the offer, even when offered copious amounts of money. At what point do you stop blaming the incentive program? If your people are not satisfied, why would they refer a friend to come join them?

Yes, misery loves company, but it is safe to assume those people might not be friends for long. Before aspersions are cast on the referral system, look at the overall culture within the firm.

How would people describe the culture? Would they say it is familial, team oriented and collaborative? Or would they say it is combative, siloed and uncommunicative?

‘We’re not making money because our people are not producing.’

This is the age-old question: Is the pricing system flawed or is the operations model broken? Chances are the answer lies somewhere in between the two. Staff can be incredibly productive regardless of how you are pricing your company’s products and services.

The better question to ask is how much dialogue occurs between operations and pricing. This is another classic silo encounter where an absence of dialogue creates not only friction but also deeper financial issues.

‘Brand X is our best customer — they give us all of their business.’

It certainly feels good to be wanted. Brand X may give all of their business to you, but what is it costing you?

From a revenue perspective, they may be a top-line client, but after the chips are counted, do you make money with them? If you are more efficient than the competition, that is one thing.

How often does your organization dig into the numbers and really understand where the profit is actually made and how it can maximize relationships based on the right factors?

‘We aren’t productive & need to train our people.’

Businesses certainly need to train and educate more. This goes without saying. However, it is important to consider this: If the propane business does not have a codified set of processes and procedures, what is the purpose of training?

Put another way, what are you training on? Training should reinforce the operational model and ultimately illustrate the right methodology. Training should not simply be a one-time event or a panacea used to collectively fix an organization.

It is safe to say that there is no silver bullet or magic pill to treat many of the ails that affect businesses. In fact, even as leaders work to solve for the problems, they have to sift through answers that at first glance appear correct.

Even in the world of medicine, doctors have to try a variety of prescriptions because every patient reacts differently. The key is not only taking the time to analyze the problem but implement the right solution. And don’t forget the chicken soup.

Gregg M. Schoppman is a partner at FMI Corporation, management consultants and investment bankers for the construction industry. Schoppman specializes in the areas of productivity and project management. He also leads FMI’s project management consulting practice. Prior to joining FMI, Schoppman served as a senior project manager for a general contracting firm in central Florida. He has completed complex construction projects in the medical, pharmaceutical, office, heavy civil, industrial, manufacturing and multifamily markets. He holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in civil engineering, as well as a Master of Business Administration. Schoppman has expertise in numerous contract delivery methods, as well as knowledge of many geographical markets. Contact him by email at


The 2023 State of the Industry Issue