Sports and Construction – Lessons Learned

On January 17, 2012 by

Growing up in South Louisiana, originally from Baton Rouge and now residing in New Orleans, I’ve had a really rough week being a sports fan. After LSU laid an egg in the BCS Championship game and the Saints came up seconds short in the NFL playoffs, I began to ponder, what can we learn from this? Being a construction law attorney, I wanted my clients and readers to learn form the mistakes and shortcomings of my favorite teams.

Some general themes we can take away from both losses are that the teams who are most prepared and execute the game plan the best will be the most successful. In both instances, LSU and the Saints did not execute and were not as prepared as their oppoinent. In the construciton world owners, general contractors, subcontractors and suppliers succeed when they are fully prepared for the project at hand and fully execute the company’s specific game plan for success.


LSU worked very hard all season to get into the big game. This paralles a budding company doing all it can to land that very promising bid for a substantial project. A contractor prepares for months and years to get that big once-in-a-lifetime project. When the big stage rolls around, the contractor needs to make sure, he/she does everything correctly so that they get paid and produce quality.

In LSU’s case this contractor would have not been successful in negotiating a quality contract that is mutually beneficial to each contracting party. They would not have filed all of the preliminary documents such as a notice of contract. This is a company that would have had numerous delays along the way, many of its own doing. During the course of the project this company would have not made any adjustments as the project went along continuing to further bury itself with no chance for success. When then end of the project rolled around, there would be no substantial competion filed, no adequate demand for payment, no lien filed or any other tool used to secure payment. This company would be last in line to get paid, and when its all said and done, the dream project would have been a disater, possibly putting this company in financial ruin. I encounter this type of company all the time and unfortunately, by time it gets to my desk, there is little or no hope of securing full and final payment.


The Saints on the otherhand had a game that played out just a bit differently. Had it not been for mistakes early on and poor late game defense, they too would have advanced and been in the NFC Championship game. This is analogous to many issues that suppliers have when trying to successfully obtain full payment at the conclusion of a job.

By the time I get a call from a supplier who is not being paid on a job, many of the typical right protection devices are no longer present due to the mistakes that suppliers have made early on. When supplies are delivered to a job, notice to the general contractor, hiring party and property owner need to be given to preserve lien rights. Also, suppliers need to make good practice of obtaining a personal guarantee from the contracting party. Further, suppliers need to set up an “open account” in the supply contract, which will statutorily preserve rights for attorney fees and costs. All of these precursor items can be set up in the begining and save a supplier lots of time, money, and stress at the end of a project.

When I finally get the call from the supplier to aid in collection efforts, we make a strong last minute charge to file a lien, send a demand letter asserting rights under open account, and file suit to protect these causes of action. Depending on the set of facts at that juncutre will determine our chances of success. In the case of the Saints, too many early mistakes and a shoddy prevent defense, led to their downfall. If this were a supplier then they would have gotten pennies on the dollar at best on this project, no matter the last minute heroic efforts.


We need to look at the success and failures of others and learn from mistakes and good calls. There are lessons to be learned here. My teams will live to fight another day, but many companies do not. In these economic times an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, to steal a medical analogy. Set up your game plan to do it right from the start and you will end up with success, unlike the teams noted above.

On Jan 17, 2012