10 Personal Tools Every Construction Contractor Needs

I’ve discovered Construction Contractors and Subcontractors are among the most adept and proficient folks around. They wear such a profusion of hats (skilled tradesman, project manager, marketer, salesman, HR manager, supply-chain manager, customer-service representative, PR manager) it can be mind boggling.

Yet there are 10 Personal Tools they need to use no matter which hat they happen to be wearing at any given time.

The quality traits (tools) of excellent construction contractors

  1. Planning Ability

Simply determining to begin a business built on your skill set as well as your desire to learn more about what it takes to “be in business” is a great start. At every turn, your ability to plan and prepare for what is coming down the road will make a difference in how you manage, build, and maintain your business.

  1. Strong Work Ethic

You have to have a ton of ambition. It goes beyond just getting up every day and going to work. You actually enjoy fixing the problems that arise. And you’re actively looking for more jobs which mean you have more problems to solve.

  1. Strong People Skills

You not only have to manage the guys and gals in the field and office, you also have to work with the customer – who can range from general contractors to home owners and anywhere in between. You’re also good at letting other people’s strengths shine through.

  1. Confident

You have to remain confident in your overall ability to complete the many tasks at hand. That doesn’t mean you think you can never make a mistake. It does mean you’re sure you’ll be able to learn from those mistakes and continue moving forward.

  1. Open Minded

Going hand-in-hand with your ability to remain confident is your ability to remain open minded when new ideas, new concepts, and new means to accomplish a task are presented to you. You’re willing to weigh the evidence before making a final decision.

  1. Money Management Skill

When capital is limited and needs to be utilized wisely, you know how to manage for right now while still planning for the future. You know how to keep a handle on cash flow and how to use financial reports for building your business.

  1. Networking Ability

You’re a relationship builder. You pay attention to what others tell you. You’re willing to help others even when it doesn’t seem there will be a quid pro quo. You make others feel at ease when they’re around you.

  1. Delegator

Even though you likely began your construction contracting business wearing a multitude of hats you know when to give one or more of those hats to others. You know how to give people a task to complete without micro-managing how they complete it.

  1. Risk Taker

You understand that taking a risk is the only way to move forward. You look at all the ways you can think of to mitigate the risk, you take those actions, and you still know that failure is possibility.

  1. Integrity

Honesty and trust are central to your integrity. You demonstrate your integrity by being trustworthy and dependable. You are principled and can be counted on to behave in honorable ways even when no one is watching.

Stocking your tool box

Having as many of these tools as possible in your personal tool box will make your job as a construction contractor flow better. You may not have every single tool in this list shined and ready to use. But, if your desire is to scale your construction contracting business then you’ll discover these are personal traits or qualities that will work well for you now and in the future. If you find you have personal weak points, be sure to surround yourself with folks who are strong in those areas. Some things you should consider are: hire a business coach, seek a mentor, outsource some areas, look for qualified advisors, build a good team.

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Why yes, Schulte and Schulte, LLC is a great option for your bookkeeping and accounting outsourced needs. And by golly, we’re team players. Give us a call 480-442-4032 or toll free 866-629-7735

Going Paperless in Your Construction Contracting Office: Are You Kidding Me?

Before going further, I better get this thought out there. Instead of calling it the paperless office, let’s call it the less paper office. There are myriad reasons why paper is probably not going away soon. The realities of paper in the construction contracting industry force even the most tech-savvy owners to contend with external forces such as customer needs and regulatory or legal requirements.

Yet, there are ways to eliminate much of it and simple ways to deal with what is left. The way it shapes up, you can either manage it or it can manage you.

Where does all that paper come from?

Vendors, wanna-be-vendors, customers, fellow contractors, government entities, service organizations, your copy machine . . . and on and on.

But, you can begin to stem the paper barrage when you realize every piece of paper coming into or generated in your construction contracting office is likely to fall into one of these four categories:

  • Archival (such as completed contracts, insurance policies, or real estate records)
  • Reference (like warranties, active contracts, or your policies and procedures)
  • Actionable (for instance reminder notes, call slips, or your daily roster)
  • Trash (you know – everything else)

If it feels as if it is raining paper and your office roof is leaking it is time to deal with the paper overload.

What should be done with it?

The simple answer is to digitize as much as you possibly can, keeping in mind the four categories seen above. The less paper stuffed in file drawers, piled on top of desks, and wafting in the breeze on office walls the fewer “emergency paper searches” and “last minute re-does” you’re going to have.

One app we at Schulte and Schulte, LLC recommend for helping you move closer to the less paper office is Hubdoc. You can find out more about it by reading this article written by our own Technological Operations Leader, Steve Lewis.

The harder answer is you may have to make a concerted effort companywide to clear the paper clutter. Moving to a new digitized system may take some time, but the reward will be seen on both the financial meter as well as the hassle meter.

If you’re still wondering Why it is a good idea to ditch the paper, this 10 point list will give you a bigger picture.

The down and dirty of dealing with all that paper

I borrowed stole Barbara Hemphill’s brief list of questions to ask yourself when determining what to do with clutter – in this case, paper clutter.

  1. Do I really need to keep it?
  2. In what form should I keep it? (paper or digital)
  3. How long should I keep it? (risk management is involved here)
  4. Who is responsible for it?
  5. Who needs to have access to it?
  6. How do I find it once it is processed?
  7. How do I back it up?
  8. What is the worst possible thing that could happen if I toss it and need it later?

In the end, when it comes to either paper or digital documents, legal counsel and your tax preparers advice are what I recommend when you need to know what to keep, how long to keep it, and how it should be stored.

Set your less paper goals now

I’ve noted it is probably impossible for most construction contracting companies to go completely paperless now, yet a move towards doing just that can save time, money, and space. When you and your staff no longer find the need to focus on document processing and searching, you can focus more on doing the things that keep your business going and growing. While an entirely paperless office may now live only in daydreams, an office which uses less paper is without doubt an achievable goal.

Moving to the less paper office will make you and your staff more effective and better equipped to meet the day’s challenges, as well as give you a head start on scaling your construction contracting business up to the next level.

 

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This is the another in a series of articles concerning getting your construction contracting business more organized on your way to scaling your business. You can go here to find more articles in the series.

Before You Give the Paper To-Do List a Pink Slip Consider This

Yes, you know high on our priority list at Schulte and Schulte is helping our construction contractor clients ditch the paper. Yet, here I am saying, “No! Get some paper and a pen. We’ve got work to do.”

Sometimes scaling your contracting firm is aided by something as simple as a pen and a piece of paper. The truth is, there are a number of reasons for putting pen to paper when it comes to the short list of action items you need to be reminded of each day. I’ll mention the four I find the most important.

It helps you remember

One of the reasons for hand writing a to-do list is you remember better that which you write. It seems the very physical act of moving ink (or carbon) across a piece of paper helps your brain with its multitude of memory tasks. One example is a grocery list. Write it down, and even if you forget to take the list to the store, you’ll have a better chance of remembering what was on it. Try that with the list you made on your “forgotten” phone and you won’t have the same outcome. This article from Dustin Wax at Lifehack explains more about the science behind why we remember what we write.

It allows you to “see” the progress

You can see progress with a to do list and that feels good. Seems many people (I’ll admit, I’m one of them) feel so good about checking things off the list they even jot in an unplanned task which they’ve just completed so they can check it off.

It gives you a sense of relief

There is that “whew” moment, a sense of relief when being able to cross certain items off the list. Perhaps the action item was one you’ve been needing to accomplish for quite some time or one which you dreaded doing. Either way, checking it off your list can aid you in that welcome sigh of relief. It is as if that little X or mark-through is the period at the end of a sentence. Or better yet the exclamation mark. Done!

It is a benevolent task master

This is probably the most important reason I find for having a well written to-do list.

You’re able to focus your energy.

You don’t enter your office, shop, or job-site wondering what should be done today. You have a list.

It enables you to remain strategic.

You aren’t (as) tempted to do things which are more time fillers than actual work moving towards specific important goals.

It allows you to be proactive rather than reactive.

Because you’ve allowed your calendar to inform your to-do list you know what next action step to take. (More on this a little further down.)

It is an important tool for returning to the tracks if you’ve been derailed.

Perhaps I should have said when you’re derailed. When you’re interrupted, you don’t need to stop to rethink which task you were working on, you simply look at the list.

It reminds you to have fun.

Even though you probably won’t put silly things on your list every day, you may find it a nice break to occasionally add something that is simply goofy to your to-do list.

  • Give someone in your office a copy of War and Peace, then ask them to proofread it.
  • Prank the boss or someone away on vacation (balloons, toilet paper, or aluminum foil comes to mind)
  • Walk sideways to the photo copier – every time you go there all day long
  • Skip rather than walk
  • Put a sign on your photocopier that says “New Copier – Voice activated – please speak your command” Watch the fun.
  • Carry your keyboard over to someone else in the office and ask, “do you want to trade?”

Now that you know why a paper to-do list is helpful, let’s move to how to formulate a truly workable to-do list.

What a cave man teaches about using a hand-written to-do list

I recently read an article in which several “up and coming” young entrepreneurs were asked to give their best “secrets” concerning the use of a to-do list. Some of the answers were useful, some not so much. Of the dozen respondents, there was only one who espoused the need to move from paper to a digital system. And it was that one which made me smile because of the mental image I had after reading her response.

I was listening to what she had to say until this sentence popped up, “Don’t limit yourself to the Stone Age when it comes to something as important as your productivity.”

Yeah, the Stone Age. So, of course I started thinking about this fellow grabbing out his chisel and tapping away on the wall of his cave to produce his to-do list for the day.

  • Find long-haired woman and drag her to cave
  • Throw spear into large mammal
  • Learn how to make fire
  • Berries
  • Dog

This was a pretty smart caveman-type-person. Let’s call him “Grug.”  Grug knows the value of a to-do list, and he is on the right track. But, he can improve his to-do list skills. Here is a quick critique of his entries.

Find long-haired woman and drag her to cave.

Grug, made the mistake many make with this item. Finding said woman and dragging her around is more likely a project. A project that may indeed have many steps, each of which can be separated out and added to Grug’s to-do list as needed on any given date.

If Grug had let his calendar inform him concerning on which date this project needs to be completed, he may have made a to-do list entry more like, “locate nearby village with long-haired women.” Future action steps on future to-do lists might include, “scope out perfect woman,” then “note when woman goes to water source,” and so on and so on. Grug’s to-do list should be the place he breaks down his long-term goals into actionable steps.

Throw spear into large mammal.

If this is a step in Grug’s short-term project of Feed the Fam, then he did a great job of adding to his list. This is likely an actionable step he can take today because he has completed the step of finding the beast already.

Plus, Grug remembered to start his entry with a verb. It helps Grug know immediately what needs to be done. He need not look at his list with perhaps the single word “mammal” and wonder, “What is this all about?” instead, he knows, “This is my next task and this is how I should do it.”

Learn how to make fire.

Good call, Grug. We’re with you on this one.

Berries and Dog

Oh no, Grug has forgotten his verbs. Chances are he might not have a clue why he wrote those entries. Pick berries? Dispose of rotting berries? Pet dog? Find dog? Feed dog?

One more thing – Grug should have used a tablet *giggle* to write his list. Cave walls don’t transport easily.

There are three main principles we learn from our dear friend Grug:

  1. Use your calendar to inform your to-do list, breaking down your projects or plans into actionable steps.
  2. Use a verb at the beginning of each item on your to-do list so you know right away what to do when you look at your to-do list.
  3. Keep your to-do list manageable and portable.

On that last note, a small notebook or a 3X5 card work well. If you want to have a running reminder of what you’ve already completed the notebook is a good choice. If you’re happy to have completed the list and will let the project speak for itself then tossable 3X5s might be your paper of choice.

What if Grug adds items to his to-do list that include dealing with his co-cavemen?

Grug should keep his to-do list for his own actions, but he can very well indicate on his list that he is delegating certain tasks to others. He should also include any pertinent data right on his list. For example, he should include contact information or at the very least where to find the information. And, if he plans to get in touch with Galg he should include what he is getting in touch with Galg about. He might say something like, “Call Galg about footwear idea.”

Getting back to the 21st century

If you have more to do than your memory can hold, figure out a better way to keep track of everything than just keeping it in your head. Building your modern construction contracting business depends on taking smart actions at smart times. Get in the habit of creating smart to-do lists and you’ll wonder what you ever did without them.

This is another in a series of articles all about organizing your construction contracting business. You can go here to find more.

Store Smart, Hunt Less: The Best Ways to Organize Your Construction Contractor Shop

When you or your workers waste time looking for material, tools, or equipment, dollars are flying out the door

If you’re organized, even a small shop can be a comfortable size. If you’re not, well, then a shop of any size will get crowded.

Have you been in your shop and heard, or said things like this?

  • Has anybody seen the box of washers?
  • Do you know where the shop-vac is?
  • What happened to the long, flat-head screw driver? I was just using it.

If you have, stay tuned, I’ve got some ways to help you move from the contractor’s dreaded “treasure hunt” to an efficient and serviceable shop even Ben Franklin would approve of. Because you know . . . when you or your workers waste time looking for material, tools, or equipment, dollars are flying out the door.

Organized + Systemized  

Whether your construction contracting shop is used for storage only or also includes some amount of fabrication it makes sense to have all the items in it organized in a handy and useable way.

Here are three goals to keep in mind as you go about the task of organizing your shop

  1. Providing a safe environment
  2. Managing inventory
  3. Being able to find what you need when you need it AND seeing to it your workers can find what they need – without needing you.

Buy In to tackle the organized shop project

If you’re a one-man operation, then the only person you need to get to Buy In is you. And that may be a bit tricky. Remind yourself of the outcome before and during the process. You may even decide to reward yourself with a new tool or some other desired item when the shop is all organized and living in all its glory.

And, if you see you’re going to need some help with this organize-the-shop project, you’ll need to see to it the others working with you understand why this change and the labor involved will make a difference not only for your company but also for them. You might start by reminding them of the third goal as mentioned above, “Being able to find what you need when you need it AND seeing to it your workers can find what they need – without needing you.” You may also consider a small bonus, or a gift card for dinner out, or a shop-wide we-did-it party at the completion of the organizing venture.

Need more info? Check out this article from Entrepreneur about getting employee buy in.

Depending on the size of your shop and the number of items in it, this project may take only a long Saturday, or a few work days. It may also be such a big project it will need to be divided into several parts and completed in stages. This is where you’ll find the next step to be vital to conquering the messy shop blues.

Organize an organizing plan

Unless you’re ready to add more space to your shop by adding on or moving to a larger facility you need to deal with the square footage you already have.

Start by looking at the layout. Do you have a blueprint or schematic of your shop you can check out? If not, grab your tape measure and get busy.

Having a plan or even a prioritized list saves you the effort of stopping, deciding what’s the next thing to do, and then rebuilding momentum each time you move on to a new task.

Determine the necessary components

Begin with or establish new places for your stationary tools

Then consider all your options in these areas

  • Go vertical with a multitude of shelving and rack options
  • Think of using overhead ceiling racks
  • Determine your need for specialized holders (such as a wire spool holder)
  • Bring in component drawer sets or toolboxes

If you set up your storage system with some empty cubbies, empty drawers, and empty shelf space, you’ll be buying yourself some time before having to re-reorganize.

The principle organizing principles to consider

  • Know the difference between a want and a need (You know what I mean.)
  • Sort by category (the category that makes the most sense to you, for example by job type or by tool type)
  • Store like items in the same area or space (for example, all fasteners in one storage area)
  • Keep larger and heavier items low (and on wheels when that is an option)
  • Make it easy to get to (only one barrier layer – no drawers inside closed cabinets, for instance)
  • Store items closest to where they will be used (get multiples of the exact same tool, if it will be used in several different places during any given day)
  • Keep frequently used items most easily accessible (Think “coffee cup” and you’ll know what I mean.)
  • Consider developing “ready to go” boxes for items you will transport frequently
  • Remember – getting rid of something makes room for the future

Now get to it

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could push the do-over button? Well, depending on the size of your shop you may actually be able to do something pretty close to that. If your shop is small the first step may very well be akin to pushing the do-over button because you can take advantage of the option by moving everything out of the shop space. Ah, now you can do-over by following the steps below before moving items back in.

If your shop is larger or if you need to organize in stages because of time limitations, you can still use the same formula

Set aside the time necessary

  • Put it on the calendar
  • Remind others involved
  • Stick to it

Clean out the entire shop or a designated space in the shop

  • Sweep and clean
  • Make any facility repairs necessary (including painting if you choose)

Sort

  • Group like items together
  • Arrange items by function or frequency of use
  • Label what goes where (Skip this step at your own peril.)

Get rid of the junk

  • Toss it
  • Donate it
  • Sell it
  • Notice how much more space you have (and smile)

Put your material, tools, and equipment in the “smart” places they belong

  • You probably won’t get everything perfectly right the first time
  • Tweek it in about a week after you’ve discovered the weak spots

Finally

Rinse and repeat until you have all spaces and areas clean, organized, and functioning well

This is one in a series of articles concerning pieces of the organizing puzzle for your construction contracting business. You can go here to find more.

The Tickler File, an Age-Old Tool for the Modern Construction Contractors Office

We’ve found most people fit in one of three categories when it comes to understanding and using a tickler file.

In which category do you fit?

  1. I’ve never even heard of a tickler file.
  2. I tried it and it didn’t work.
  3. I use and love my tickler system.

If you’re in the number one slot, hang on I’ll explain not only what it is, but how to use it.

If you’re in the number two space, please give me a chance to show you some new ideas, techniques, and approaches which might just move you into the number three category.

And, if you’re in the third spot, yay! You already know how this simple tool makes running your construction contracting office so much easier. Plus, there may be a few ways to use your tickler file you hadn’t thought of before.

So, what is a tickler file?

You may have also heard this file described as a pending system, a bring-up file, or a holding box. It doesn’t matter what you call it, the point is it’s a great tool for keeping your brain as well as your office organized.

The best way I can describe it is, “The tickler file is a system meant to tickle your memory, it’s a fantastic way to help you keep track of details you don’t want to have roaming around in your head, hiding out in virtual space, or lying around on your desk.”

We’ll start with the physical aspect of a tickler file, then move on to the latest concept of an integrated system (which includes your computer or other digital device) for tickling your memory.

While the tickler file has been around for a long time, David Allen a productivity consultant, re-popularized the idea with his bestselling book Getting Things Done.

In his system there are 31 file folders labeled 1 through 31, followed by 12 folders labeled with each month of the year. These folders are then placed in an easy to reach spot. For example, you could choose to use a desk file drawer or a desktop file box.

The file number which should be in the front of the file each day is the one corresponding to today’s date. After you’ve emptied today’s file, you move that number to the back of that section. The month which should be in the first slot of the 12 months is the month following the one you’re presently in. When you move “next month’s” files into the appropriate daily files, you also move that month’s folder to the back of the month section.

What goes in the files?

Documents you’ll need again soon, follow up notes, coupons, reminders to call back, bills to be paid, status reports, evaluations, tax related items, requests for feedback, event tickets, flyers with directions or instructions, warranty expirations, forms to be filled out, — really, simply any item or piece of paper which needs to be reviewed or acted upon can all go into the proper day of the month or left holding within future months.

Here is the rule-of-thumb I use when deciding which pieces of paper find a temporary home in my tickler file – if I’m not filing it or tossing it, it is a good candidate for my tickler file. Let’s face it, a tickler file truly is more effective and useful than looking all over bulletin boards, magnet boards, taped or tacked on walls, or a stack on your desk in order to find the paper you want. Plus, with a tickler file the risk of completely forgetting something beneath the stack is eliminated.

A real-life example of something that is hanging out in my tickler file right now is a flyer I received from Fry’s Super Market. It states that on the dates February 17th through 19th every VIP customer (meaning if you have a Fry’s card) will be able to save twenty cents per gallon of gas at the new Fry’s location in our neighborhood. Chances are great that on one of those dates I’ll need to purchase gas. If I don’t take advantage of the offer on the first date, I’ll move it to the next day, then the next. If, for some crazy reason, I haven’t used it by the end of the offer that piece of paper will find its way to file 13.

What comes out of the files?

Nothing. Well that is, nothing comes out of the tickler file if you don’t use it. Yet, if you get into the habit of faithfully using your system everything comes out at some point. It will either be acted upon or filed when the time is right. Which reminds me, only put in stuff that is really better done at a future date.

Also, in the past I would have advised sticking to the desktop box storage system because of the “out of sight, out of mind” concept. But now-a-days, there are ways to get around that problem and I will tell you about it a little further down. For now, I’ll introduce you to another way to build your physical tickler file.

Shrinking the tickler file

One reason the tickler file was so popular in the past is paper was a major problem in all offices. These days – not so much. Yet, there are still paper items which we all must deal with and that is where a shrunken version of a tickler file comes in quite handy.

The major concepts concerning the use of the full-blown version and the shrunken version are about the same. The difference is felt mostly in the space and time devoted to housing and using the tickler file.

Let me introduce the shrunken version I developed and use specifically for two reasons, 1) my office space is very small, and 2) I don’t have a large number of paper items to deal with.

I use only 8 folders and they’re labeled like this:

  • Monday
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
  • Friday
  • Next Week
  • Next Month
  • Later

Just like the full-blown version, upcoming action items are placed in the appropriate day of the week, or one of the other noted files. At the end of the week, I check the “next week” folder and slot items from it into the daily files. I also place the “next month” folder into the midst of the daily files when “next month” takes place in the middle of a week. If there are items in the next month file which are to be used in week three or week four of the month I place them in the “next week” file and slot them in during the weekly review. Also, always check the “later” file at the end of the month. You may need to bring some items forward.

Did you say electronic tickler file?

Why yes, there is a way to have an electronic tickler file. Just be aware, like the (almost) paperless office the electronic system is (almost) paperless.

Matt Perman, on his site, What’s Best Next posted an article titled A Few Quick Examples on How to Make Your Tickler File Electronic. Check it out. It may be all you need.

Use it or lose it

Setting up the system takes minutes. Using the system also takes only minutes a day. BUT, getting into the habit of using a tickler file system is the hardest part. I know, I’ve tried on more than one occasion. In reality, the hardest part about using a tickler file is actually starting to use it.

Remember I mentioned I would tell you about the ways to remember to use your tickler file? One way to solve the problem is to place a “trigger” in your space. For example, you walk into your office, put away your personal belongings, and right there in the spot where you’re putting your purse or your lunch there is a note that says, “Check the tickler file.” Yep, make it the first thing you do each morning and that soon becomes a habit.

Another way to remind yourself is to put a repeating task on your digital calendar. You open your calendar and there the notice is – Check Tickler File. Your next step is to reach for your tickler file.

I read where some folks sent themselves an email with a reminder to check the tickler file. Find the way that works best for you and use it.

Wait, there’s more

Lest I sound like the annoying salesman on TV, I do want to let you know there are also some added benefits of using a tickler file you may not have thought of. One fellow shared that when he tried (again) to get his tickler file system going he purposely added some things just to get in the habit. He enjoyed music and was trying to learn some new songs. So, he added the lyrics to songs on a few days, reviewed the songs, then refiled them in upcoming days so he could review again. He said it wasn’t long before he was in the habit and no longer needed to “seed” the tickler file.

Studying for a new license, need to learn about a piece of software, want to understand an app better? Drop a note in your tickler file reminding yourself to take 15 minutes to study. Put the note back in tomorrow’s date or a few days down the road. In just a few days, you’ve put in an hour or more towards learning what you need to know.

Want to tackle an “extra project” (like organizing the office) but don’t have time? Drop notes in your tickler file in which the project is broken down into nibble size pieces. They might look like this, “clean top right drawer,” “straighten files A through C,” “rearrange top shelf in storage closet.” You get the idea.

Choosing the right tickler file system

Now that you know about all the benefits you receive from using a tickler file it is time to decide which works best in your office. (By the way, any of these systems will work well at home too. Think about getting all the junk off your kitchen counter and you’ll know what I mean.)

The easiest way to decide which system is best for your office is to determine how much paper you must deal with on a daily or regular basis.

  • Lots of paper – Go with the 43 files, you might like this ready-made unit.
  • A little bit of paper – try my system
  • Hardly any paper – make use of the electronic file

Adding a tickler file in your office is an excellent way to use an age-old tool in managing your modern construction contracting business.

This is the first in a series of articles concerning pieces of the organizing puzzle for your construction contracting business. You can go here to find out more about what has or will be showing up in the collection.

That’s My Story, And I’m Sticking to It.

A carpenter, a stacker, and a few ducks

My dad was a master carpenter who moved up the ranks, retiring as a construction superintendent with many awesome builds under his belt. My mom was counted among the last of the American generations of women who stayed at home taking care of the home front. (The photo accompanying this article is my Mom and Dad’s wedding picture.)

The difference in how they saw the job of “being organized” was immense. Mom was a perpetual and ardent “stacker.” Her piles of magazines, bills, linens, and anything else which could be piled one on another were scattered throughout the house. Dad, on the other hand, used markers to outline around the tools which hung precisely on his shop walls. He labeled and knew where each type of screw was stored, where the touch-up paint was located and how long it had been there.

From that background came little ole’ me. What developed was a semi-stacker who knows that efficiency, therefore productivity, are increased when everything has a place and everything is in its place, yet still must work the process on occasion in order to be sure the ducks are indeed in a row.

Therefore, I’ve had to learn a few tricks of the trade

I was blessed to have studied under Barbara Hemphill of Taming the Paper Tiger fame. She is a well-versed business woman, a fantastic master of organizing solutions, and a mentor certainly worth heeding.

I’ve given you all this background in order to let you know the upcoming series of posts we have in store for you concerning pieces of the organizing puzzle for your construction contracting business come from a mixture of research, previous knowledge, acquired skills, and a desire to make it easier for our clients to build their building businesses.

Some of the goodies we have planned for you are:

In the office:

In the field:

I hope you’ll come along for the ride, find useful tips for improving your construction contracting business, and let me know if you have specific organizing headaches you would like to see addressed.

BTW if you are not already a client of ours, if you happened upon this page through a google search or some other means I need to let you know Schulte and Schulte is a bookkeeping and accounting firm specializing in working with Construction Contractors and Subcontractors who are ready to scale.

Want to know more? Give us a call 480-442-4032. We’ll be happy to discuss the possibilities with you.

5 Bookkeeping Mistakes Made by Construction Contractors

Mistakes construction contractors make when trying to scale

Because you own or manage a construction contracting business, you have a legitimate desire to oversee every aspect of that business yourself. Yet even the savviest contractor sometimes makes mistakes, especially when it comes to bookkeeping.

There’s no question that maintaining accurate financials is a fundamental part of maintaining a healthy contracting business. And, being aware of the most common bookkeeping mistakes can save you from time loss, headaches, and even potential penalties.

Here are the top accounting mistakes made by construction contractors:

 

Improper handling of petty cash receipts

Trashing your “petty cash” receipts can add up to “larger cash” losses. Keeping these bits and pieces of receipts is helpful for many aspects of your business including budgeting, claiming tax deductions, and tracking overall cashflow. And, let’s not forget that having documentation in case of an audit removes much of the stress involved.

Steven Bragg, over at Accounting Tools  offers this information concerning Petty Cash Procedure

Improper comingling of business and personal finances

We’re not going to take too long here. The main thing we have to say on this subject is Don’t Do It!

Be sure to have separate accounts for your personal and your business affairs; otherwise it gets really messy! Besides the fact of not knowing exactly where your business stands at any given moment, there is that important aspect of paying someone to clean up the mess when tax time rolls around.

Improper or no backup system

Making sure all your financial information is backed up (duplicated) and stored in more than one location is of utmost importance. As you most likely know from experience, bat guano happens.

Beyond the day to day need to engage your financial records there is always the IRS to consider. This article from American Express found on their Open Forum page discusses some methods of recapturing required information necessary to appease the tax-man. What the article doesn’t address is the expense and time loss involved in the restoration process. And, it is the closing sentence in the article which is best to keep in mind if you wish to avoid the headache associated with restoring or retrieving lost information. It reads, “Business owners should seriously consider off-site storage of important documents.”

Improper classification of employees

Most construction contractors have some combination of full-time employees, part-time staff, and varying sets of subcontract teams. And, there are times when one person on your team may slide from one status to another as work demands. Keeping up with who gets a 1099 and who receives a W-2 makes a huge difference in your operating costs as well as your tax filing situation. Keeping compliant and avoiding misfiling taxes is imperative to the wellbeing of your construction company.

This article from Pro Construction Guide is full of helpful information concerning the who’s how’s and what’s of determining employee status.

Improper designation of bookkeeping duties

Thinking you, your spouse or your cousin’s next door neighbor are a good, cheap way of getting your accounting done can be a very costly mistake. Not many construction contractors are self-professed financial experts. Along the same line, while software and technology can compensate for a lack of bookkeeping expertise, it can only go so far. Plus, hiring an in-office person off the street who has no construction contracting bookkeeping experience looks much like the blind leading the blind when it is time to put your financial records to use in building your building business.

Leaving your business accounting to an experienced bookkeeper who’s already learned the ropes about your construction contractor bookkeeping needs allows you to gain much more clarity concerning your business’s past performance as well as gives you information concerning which “next steps” to take in growing your business.

Get in touch with Schulte and Schulte today to get your construction business’s financial records working for you, and best of all, you can dodge these mistakes altogether.

HUBDOC: All Financial Docs In One Place

In this monthly post, I’d like to take some time and introduce you to one of many apps that we at Schulte and Schulte endorse and recommend to our customers.

As a firm of construction accounting specialists, of course we would love to help companies in the construction industry with their books and finances, but we also would like to suggest different apps or software that we feel may help our clients out. During this monthly feature, we will be taking a look at several apps that we love at Schulte and Schulte, and dig a little bit deeper into our favorites.

This month, we would like to introduce you to Hubdoc.

 

 

Hubdoc has been an absolute lifesaver for us and our clients in tracking down all of the different financial documents that our clients create and receive. Hubdoc automatically pulls your online bills and bank statements into one secure hub so that these don’t have to be chased down anymore. These documents can be pulled right from your email account, or if you have paper documents, they can be scanned onto your computer and then uploaded to Hubdoc by using a unique email address you are given or by dragging and dropping from your files. They also have a smartphone app that will allow you to take a picture of a receipt or document and upload it to your Hubdoc. Pretty slick!

 

Some of the features of Hubdoc that we have come to love and depend on are:

  • Data management, not data entry
    • Every time a document is fetched or uploaded, Hubdoc extracts the key data and seamlessly creates entries in QuickBooks Online with source documents attached.
  • Automatically audit-proofs your business
    • Through integration, Hubdoc transactions are automatically matched with the bank feed in QuickBooks Online. Audit-proofing your business has never been so effortless.
  • Supercharged automation with vendor rules
    • Vendor rules are a powerful way to take greater control of how receipts, bills and statements are coded into your cloud accounting and cloud payments solutions.
  • Easy collaboration with your advisers – like your friends at Schulte and Schulte!
    • With Hubdoc, your advisers have the documents they need, when they need them. And you have confidence your docs are organized, secure in the cloud and accessible from anywhere.

 

If this sounds like a helpful app, please get in touch with us! We would love to assist you in getting a free trial set up, as well as an opportunity to walk you through the ins and outs of Hubdoc.

5 Tips to Help You Streamline Your Construction Contracting Business

There are deadlines to meet, customers to satisfy, and (let’s face it) the important dollar to chase.  You work hard to build your contracting business. Finding ways to streamline the regular functioning is an ongoing process. Today, we present five “tools” for you to use in making your business run a little more smoothly.

 

Close the door!

Even if you decided to start your own construction contracting firm because you didn’t like your former boss’s real or implied closed door policy, you really need to close the door sometimes.

Both doors. Close the virtual door as well as the actual door – for a half hour or so. If you’re a morning person, close the door in the morning. If you function at your best later in the day, that is the time to close the door. Make this a regular part of your daily routine.

Use the private time you enjoy behind the closed door to plan, assess, gather your thoughts, refresh, breathe. A word of warning — it may be harder to teach yourself to take this time than it will be to teach those around you to honor this time. But, it is worth it!

 

Say “No” like you mean it!

Whether your contract is with your ideal client or that pesky frequent-change-order dude there are still times when you simply need to say, “No, I won’t be able to do that.” It isn’t because you don’t want to satisfy your customer, your colleagues, your staff, or whoever has made the latest request. It is because you are the one responsible for setting your healthy boundaries.

It’s not uncommon for the owners and managers of construction contracting firms to over-extend themselves. (Heck, even we bookkeepers can find ourselves in this quagmire on occasion.) Bad thing is, too many “yeses” leads to too many “stresses.” Learning to say no and avoiding the guilt trip that accompanies the response frees you to make the “Yes” call on the important matters.

 

Get, learn about, and use good Apps and Tech Tools!

You already know that using the right tool for the job is imperative. Don’t neglect the right tool for your office.

A couple of apps we use and recommend frequently are Hubdoc and Knowify.

Hubdoc is all about document automation, it lets you turn paperwork into data which is actual useful.

And, Knowify is a tool for managing your entire contracting business in one place.

Oh yeah, we ought to let you know, we have an entire series coming up all about these two apps as well as a few others. We’ll give you the “down low” and let you know how to put them to good use in your construction contracting business.

*Update* Check the first in this series about apps we recommend. It is all about Hubdoc.

*Update* Here is another article by our Technological Operations Leader, Steve Lewis, letting you know more about Knowify 

*Update* Find out all about Jobber and how it can work for you.

*Update* Look at what Steve tells us about CoConstruct — cool stuff!

*Update* Steve let’s us in on the story about 17hats.

Build the Team you can count on!

It is hard to get good help these days.

Especially in the construction industry.

Here are some ideas as well as links to some of the places you may want to search for that “good help” you’re in need of.

Field or shop employees

Whatever forces (and there are many) have brought about the difficulty of finding skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen in the construction industry these days, there are still some methods which may be worth trying to find that “just right” new hire.

This rather lengthy but quite informative article is worth perusing if you’re having difficulty finding and keeping excellent field and shop staff.

We noticed a couple of local sources for schools which you may wish to contact. One is at the high school level, and you can go to the website here and the other is college level, access it here.

Two sources found here and here are available if you’re willing to pay for staffing.

And, if you simply want to pay for ads you can check out Monster or go with one or more of the local newspapers.

Plus you can try one or more of these 5 no cost or low cost methods of advertising your need for skilled workers

  1. The tried and true, longstanding method of word of mouth is still viable and useful. Tell your present employees, your friends, your colleagues, your social contacts what type of person and skill you’re searching for.
  2. Hang a banner on your shop or office building.
  3. Place a Craig’s List ad.
  4. Put an ad on your website.
  5. Create a clever video ad to be used on all your social media sites.

Office staff 

While it may seem easier to find office staff there is still the need for caution and due diligence when you’re ready to hang out the “help wanted” sign. Some places or ways you may wish to try are the local newspapers and Craig’s List for simple ads, word of mouth, on your website, or through a staffing agency.

And, because we ourselves are an outsource firm we can’t pass up the opportunity to mention outsourcing as a viable alternative to in-house help. You may want to hire a virtual assistant for administrative tasks, or find a marketing guru, seek a social planner, or . . . well you get the picture. Whether you need someone long term or for a one-off there are plenty of outsource sources available.

Having the right people on your team will also allow you to delegate more easily.  Of course, building your team will take time, yet once they are in place, your shop and office will be better prepared and better qualified to get the job done!

 

And lastly, 5 Simple Tricks to Shrug off the procrastination monster!

  1. Think about what excites you. Decide why this task will help you reach your goal.
  2. Change your perspective. Who will benefit when you get this job done? Your client? Your family? Your employees? Envision their pleased reaction when you complete the task at hand.
  3. Make and use a to-do list. Whether electronic or on paper this list is vital. Checking off completed items not only gives you a moment of satisfaction, it also gives you the boost to carry on.
  4. Devote small increments of time to a big task. Avoid overwhelm by predetermining daily time or space limits regarding that one big thing that really must be completed.
  5. Be realistic. Set reasonable targets. Unrealistic targets feed procrastination – you’ll be tempted to think, “Why start on this, it’s impossible to get done.”

 

All streamlining is about is finding the right time to do the right thing. So now is the time to choose the next right action. When you find you have distractions or doubt, come back to this essay. You’ll find something to help get you back on track. Run with it!