Budgeting and Estimating

Estimates and Budgets for construction contractors simplified through software

Proper budgets and estimates

If your commercial construction contracting business is to survive, then you must be equipped to provide proper budgets and estimates. More importantly, if your construction business is to be profitable, then having budgeting and estimating skills in place is essential.

Develop a total project budget

Developing a project budget includes:

  • Analyzing requirements and drawings to verify the scope
  • Determining cost and time parameters
  • Allocating enough for contingencies and cost escalation

Moreover, once the project is underway, the budget allows you to:

  • Remain vigilant concerning variances
  • Make decisions based on actual costs

Therefore, using a project budget establishes useful guidelines for completing profitable jobs.

Benefits of proper budgets and estimates

While there are some easily spotted benefits to using proper budgets and estimates such as:

  • Avoiding inaccurate bids
  • Curtailing the constant use of change orders
  • Collecting sound financial information on which to base decisions

There are other benefits which are less easy to measure, for example:

  • Realizing a greater ability to make continuous improvements and anticipate problems
  • Growing an improved sense of clarity and focus
  • Achieving more confidence in your decision-making

Estimating – the cornerstone of construction projects

Accurate cost estimation is critical for creating and maintaining a feasible budget for construction project costs.

Estimating is the process of evaluating or calculating the amounts of material, labor, and equipment necessary to complete a project. Therefore, it becomes the cornerstone upon which all else rests. Above all, getting project budgets right and controlling costs is essential to project success.

And, like any other phase of construction contracting, having the right tool for the job makes the difference. Thanks to technology, estimating has been dramatically simplified and streamlined.

Knowify makes it easy

The team here at Schulte and Schulte knows, uses, and recommends the use of the software developed by Knowify. They provide a step-by-step process which moves from bidding, to the proposal, to billing.

In no order, I’ve listed a few of the features or functions construction contractors note they can apply when using the system developed by Knowify.

  • Labor costs tracked precisely
  • Avoid missing items when invoicing
  • Change orders sent and approved quickly
  • Monitor the profitability of each current job
  • Better track materials
  • Better organization of invoice tracking and employee productivity
  • 2-way sync with QuickBooks
  • Ability to create AIA style billings

Moreover, one contractor said Knowify is a “one-stop-shop for estimating, time-tracking, invoicing, and scheduling.”

To sum it up, Knowify helps build a budgeting plan, measures results, and improves overall operations.

 

We desire to familiarize you with business concepts, which will make it easier for you to be a better commercial construction subcontractor through our blog posts. Some are new ways of looking at things, and others are refreshers. 

Schulte and Schulte Provides Accounting, Contract Document Management, and Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors.

So you can Run With the Big Dogs! Call us 866-629-7735

Ask the Right Questions

Ask questions to grow your team, your leadership skills, and your construction business.

Want to know what your employees want, so they feel satisfied with their job? Ask them! It isn’t as daunting as you may think.

There are reasons you should be asking the right questions of your team members, both your employees and subs.

  1. It makes them know you care.
  2. You’re better able to lead.
  3. It improves your construction business.

It makes them know your care

The questions you ask go beyond “How’s it going?” to showing you do have an interest in their well-being.

The following list can give you ideas about what types of questions you should be asking.

  • What do you like most about your job?
  • Which task do you find most difficult, tedious, bothersome?
  • Where do you want to be in one year, five years?
  • Are you stuck somewhere? What challenges are you facing?
  • What is [your construction company name] doing, or could be doing, to make you more successful?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10 how happy are you working here?
  • Either at work or outside work, what’s the best thing that happened to you this week?
  • If you owned [your company name,] what’s one thing you would do differently?
  • Who else on the team made a great contribution to the efforts this week? Did he or she overcome an obstacle? Fix a bad situation? Solve a lingering problem?
  • Are you clear about your role? Do you know what you should be doing?
  • Do you feel connected to the rest of the team?
  • What kind of training would you like to receive to help you accomplish your career goals?
  • What’s your most recent accomplishment at work?
  • Do you feel respected by your direct supervisor?
  • Is it fun working here?

You’re better able to lead

Assuming you know what is going on in the lives of your team is a dangerous path to take. Asking the right questions gives you the insight you need to step up your own game.

  • Who can give the older hands help with digital devices?
  • Who’s best at helping new team members learn the ropes?
  • Which process can be fixed or improved?
  • What do you like most about working here?
  • Tell me the number one reason you took a job here?
  • What did you like best about your previous employer?
  • How effective are our team-building activities?
  • Do you feel like coworkers respect each other here?
  • What would make me a better leader?
  • What motivates you to go above and beyond at work?
  • Do you believe [your company name] gives authentic recognition to the people here?
  • What drives you crazy here?

Many of these questions can be off-the-cuff as you talk with your crew and staff throughout the day. Others, you might reserve for one on one meetings.

This blog post about leadership, found on the website of Lighthouse gives a great deal of information concerning having one on one meetings with your staff.

Perhaps the most valuable piece of advice from the post is this:

“Action is what leads to change and improvement. It’s what starts the flywheel going to make these the mega-valuable meeting they are.

This is why the 2 questions to ask in every one on one meeting are:

1) What can you do to take action or make progress on what we talked about today?

2) What can I do to take action or make progress on what we talked about today?

By asking these questions, you’re working *together* to make things better. It creates a psychological contract between the two of you to both keep your promises.”

It improves your construction business

Eleanor Estes, CEO of TPI, Inc., one of the top IT and engineering recruiting firms in the country says, “As a leader in your organization, you set the culture – you establish the norms, and your example should trickle down throughout the company. Your company is a place that is made up of many different people. And if you are doing it right, the people you hire will enhance your company so that the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts.”

That leads to asking further questions which can help you find ways to build your team as well as improve your commercial construction business.

  • Do you think [your company name] supports you in your professional development?
  • Can you use one word to describe our company culture?
  • What are some ways that we can improve communication at [your company name]?
  • What’s one thing you’d like to see us continue doing here?
  • How well does your supervisor support your developmental goals?
  • Do you feel comfortable providing feedback to your supervisor?
  • Would you refer someone to work here?
  • Do you believe the management team is all on the same page?
  • What do you think is our company’s biggest strength that we should be focusing on?

Ask the right questions. And, listen to the answers. Use the information to help your team members grow, improve your leadership ability, and enhance your commercial construction business.

 

We desire to familiarize you with business concepts which will make it easier for you to be a better commercial construction business owner through our blog posts. Some will be new ways of looking at things, and others will be refreshers.

Schulte and Schulte Provides Accounting, Contract Document Management, and Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors.

So you can Run With the Big Dogs! Call us 866-629-7735

 

Safety and Your Construction Crew

Help your construction crew understand safety is for them

Safety counts

The most important tool in your “safety toolbox” is found in the minds of your workforce. Therefore, the first hurdle to overcome is the mindset which incorrectly identifies safety and productivity as enemies of one another.

Consequently, it is your job to make certain your subs and employees understand that safety and productivity walk hand in hand.

From the human point of view, no one wants to see someone be injured or killed. That simple.

In addition, from the stats point of view, when safety measures go unheeded (and someone is injured or killed) productivity takes a hike. Also, that simple.

Safety now

Let’s take it down a level. Remember having this conversation with your children? “Stop that! Someone is going to get hurt!” Then, you hear back, “Nobody has gotten hurt so far.”

Similarly, there are times even adults tend to play the nothing-bad-has-happened-so-far card. You know what I mean, you’ve seen it:

  • Not using PPE
  • Disregarding proper procedure when using or repairing tools and equipment
  • Improperly placing ladders or temporary access apparatus
  • Neglecting to disconnect electrical power
  • Entering unprotected trenches or other spaces

Mark Twain, in Innocents Abroad said, “He cuts a corner so closely now and then . . . that I feel myself ‘scooching.’”

For instance, it’s likely you’ve been on a job site where you felt the need to “scooch.” Removing the scooch isn’t easy, yet it is worth it.

The bravado factor

 

A LiveScience article titled, Why Do People Take Risks, mentions that some “. . . desire to venture past the limits of safety in pursuit of a rewarding experience.” Likewise, in the construction industry, the rewarding experience may be as basic as a paycheck. Or, it could be a misguided attempt to fit in with the crowd or please the boss.

The second hurdle of the safety quandary is the bravado factor inherent in many of the people drawn to the construction industry. Certainly, it isn’t that they have a death wish or a desire to be injured. They often see the risk as less than others might perceive.

Safety is No Accident

Instilling a safety-first mentality in your subs and crews is imperative.

Make certain they understand you want them to stick with safety procedures. Help them see it will help keep everyone (including their fellow workers) safe.

Yeah, I know, safety training can be expensive and time-consuming. That’s because safety is so blasted valuable, in every respect.

Safety story

A rich man needed to hire a chauffeur to transport his dear wife to their beautiful new home. A mountain top home. Therefore, the driving job required great skill as the road to the home clung to the side of the mountain. This single-lane road had an edge with a deep drop to the driver’s left.

The rich man took all three candidates to the site and gave this instruction, “Show me your skill for driving on this treacherous road.”

The first candidate drove slowly, slowly up the hill with his tires only inches from the precipitous edge, in an attempt to prove his skill. He was told he would not be needed.

Subsequently, the second driver took the same route with his tires only inches from the drop. And, eager to prove his skill, drove at a higher rate of speed. He too was dismissed as a candidate.

However, it was the third driver who got the job. He was the only one who drove as far away from the edge as the car would allow.

You get it. Most importantly, be sure your employees get it too.

It is our desire this article (among our growing library of construction-centric informational articles) helps commercial construction contractors build better building businesses. http://www.schulteandschulte.com/blog/

Providing Accounting, Contract Document Management, and Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors.

So you can Run With the Big Dogs. Call us! 866-629-7735

 

Contingency Budget to Performance Budget

Contingency Budget to Performance Budget

Turn your contingency budget into your performance budget

You can get your commercial construction team on board for saving time,  reducing rework, diminishing safety issues, and integrating increased productivity on each project. One way to do it is by giving your team the opportunity to reap the reward through moving the money from the contingency fund to the performance fund.

Contingency budgets are real

Before you get too excited about the possibilities. Or, before you get mad at me for suggesting the prospect of fund shifting, let me explain. I know a contingency budget is called a contingency budget for a reason. A very good reason. Contingencies lurk around the corner.

Therefore, knowing there are contingencies over which neither you nor your crew have control, a contingency fund is still an excellent practice.  Some of the uncontrollable aspects include:

  • premature equipment failure
  • owner bankruptcies
  • regulatory changes
  • strikes
  • unanticipated price or interest rate increases
  • unusual or calamitous weather

Then understand, there are other things which come up which are more in your control, yet sometimes missed. They can include:

  • incomplete designs
  • scope errors
  • equipment breakdowns due to faulty maintenance schedule
  • estimating inaccuracies
  • technological upgrades you haven’t incorporated (yet)

Too many dastardly contingencies can, at times, eat up the  entire contingency budget. Yet, that isn’t always the case.

Reprioritize your contingency budget 

You have the opportunity to reprioritize the “insurance” of your contingency fund when you find it has not been needed in the usual way. Well of course, you could stick those funds in your pocket or in the bank. Yet, think of the opportunity you have. You can garner much more than the five to fifteen percent of a given project’s budget. (You know, the contingency fund.) When you get team buy-in as well as fewer problems, you’re on a golden path.

It begins with communication. Giving your team the “rules” before the game starts, gives them the opportunity to mitigate the risk associated with each portion of the contingency.

Consider what you want from your team: 

  • Fewer safety problems
  • Reduced rework issues
  • Increased productivity

Ways you can work with them to reach those goals: 

  • Improve safety training and provide more of it
  • Create better processes removing inefficiencies (These two articles, found here and here are gold when it comes to helping you and your team increase productivity.)
  • Provide specialized training for supervisors
  • And, (this is important) let them know how they will benefit by helping you turn the job contingency budget into their performance budget.

Risk management tool

Think of the time and effort you put into working with your team on moving your contingency fund to the performance fund as a risk management tool.

Here are a few more tips to help you in this effort.

  • Get the crew involved in doing regular inventories. That way, they and you know what you need and what you already have.
  • Set aside a certain amount of time at the end of each day to cleanup. As a result, your team understands it is part of their job. You aren’t asking them to do “extra stuff” after the day is complete.
  • Avoid inefficient layout of the shop, work vehicles, and work site. Let the team know they’re part of the effort to be organized. Here is an article you can check to get more information concerning organizing your vehicles.
  • Communicate often. Remember, communication is a two-way street.

It is our desire this article (among our growing library of construction-centric informational articles) is helpful in assisting commercial construction contractors build better building businesses. 

Providing Accounting, Contract Document Management, and Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors.

So you can Run With the Big Dogs. 866-629-7735  

Preventing Loss of Tools, Equipment, and Supplies

Preventing loss through the use of systems and strategies in the construction contracting world.

Preventing Loss of Tools, Equipment, and Supplies

Preventing loss of your stuff

I remember the overall depletion of my dad’s spirit the morning he walked out the door to go to work and discovered his tools had all been stolen. Tools which had taken years to accumulate. Tools which had somehow been magically transformed to fit the curves of his hands, his fingers, his being.

Yes, there was insurance.

No, it didn’t cover the entire loss.

It stinks! It stinks when you have to deal with insurance, downtime, and the feeling of violation. Yet, loss happens.

Preventing loss – where to start

The first steps toward loss prevention are strong locks, proper lighting, and adequate insurance. Beyond these and in reinforcement of them, there are numerous other steps you can take.

Preventing loss – it takes a system

Taking a proper inventory of your tools and equipment is elemental. While you’re at it, take photographs of individual items. And, remember to record the serial numbers.

Creating a checklist of items to be placed in vehicles or a proper storage facility at the close of the workday has at least two benefits. It goes a long way to help your crew understand the importance you place on and the care you take of your items. Plus, it it makes it easier for your crew to better support your goal of no tool or equipment loss.

Preventing loss through marking

Another loss prevention tactic you can use is marking your tools and equipment. Some possibilities include:

  1. Painting “your” color on your items. Two colors will aid in making your tools and equipment more distinctive as most companies apply only one. While many construction companies use red, blue, or orange, few add a stripe of a contrasting color. For example, you can choose turquoise with a wide line of yellow running across it.  
  2. Engraving or etching your items with your logo and other identifying marks is better than paint, (for obvious reasons) and gives you more options. You can add inventory numbers, your address, or a phone number to your items if you choose.
  3. Purchasing GPS Tracking or Bluetooth tool tracking is likely to be a bigger spend than the other options yet perhaps more useful. This story from October of 2018 will give you an idea of how this technology is useful to you as well as to the police. Consider too, some insurance companies offer a discount on the comprehensive portion of their policies when they know you’re using some type of tracking system. 

If you’re considering the benefits of GPS tracking, check out this article which discusses five high tech ways to control construction site theft.

A few other tactics to consider

  • Use a sign-out sheet for company tools
  • Schedule supply deliveries on an as-needed basis
  • Prevent on-site parking
  • Train your team to put their tools up when not in use
  • Offer rewards to those who turn in thieves or provide valuable information on crimes
  • Install alarm systems and/or CCTV on your office, shop, or tool storage areas
  • Train Fido to do his best work at night (yeah, even a nice dog can be a great deterrent to would-be thieves)
  • Put Geo-fencing to use through the aid of apps or other systems
  • Invest in thorough background checks of potential employees
  • Encourage the neighbors of your property or jobsite to report suspicious activity
  • Think about the use of security guards depending on location
  • Establish a system for verifying deliveries   

Preventing loss isn’t always possible

No matter what steps you take or how diligent you are, there are going to be some items which suddenly develop legs and walk away. Yet, there are measures you can take to slow it down and keep it to a minimum.

Having a plan in place if your shop, trailer, vehicle, or jobsite is burgled will make the next steps a little easier. The plan should designate who is in charge of each step which needs to be taken. Developing a checklist of steps will make this process easier. Include appropriate phone numbers or other contact information; local police, your insurance company, GPS tracking company, your landlord (where your business is located,) the GC or owner (of the jobsite) are all possibilities for your list.

By putting loss prevention practices in place, you can do your best to keep the “bad guys” out and the “good guys” honest. Developing a system for your commercial construction firm which addresses the issue of theft is probably not your idea of how to have a good time at the office. But then neither is all the nonsense you have to go through when you lose your tools, equipment, or supplies.

It is our desire this article (among our growing library of construction-centric informational articles) is helpful in assisting commercial construction contractors build better building businesses.

Because we are a virtual “corporate accounting office” for commercial construction businesses we can assist you no matter in which of the 50 United States your business is located. We invite you to get in touch here.

Building Construction Jobs

Construction building takes finding great employees who want to stick around.

Building Construction Jobs

Building construction trades need workers

Over and over, we hear from our clients and other construction contractors one of the biggest problems they face is getting field workers. The reasons for the reduced workforce have been gone over so many times, my guess is I’m not the only one who is sick of hearing them. Yet, if you’re just aching to know, this article lists a few.  I’m sort of over the “why” of the equation and would rather see a “how” come into play.

Of course, if I could give you a definitive “how” to get people back in the construction world, it would be game over. I could pick up my paycheck and move on to other endeavors. If I could sweep thousands of skilled and trained people on to construction sites, we would all be winners in a very short time frame. I can’t.

I’ve written a few articles about how to look for and how to try to keep good hands on board. They range from How to Hire a Knight in Shining Armor to a 3-part series concerning creating achievement-based bonus programs that don’t stink. You can find them here, here and here. And, they’re worth trying.  

But, could there be more?

Do you want to see people enter the trades again?

Building construction in my dad’s day

Watching my dad lovingly rub his hand across the piece of wood he had just sawed, sanded, or nailed in place was a part of my everyday world from childhood to adulthood. Dad saw the materials of his trade as more than simple objects. He loved to touch the wood, hold the tool, “see” that which would be. He leaned into his craft with soul.

Yeah, the finished project was good. The joy in saying, “I built that,” is not measurable. Yet it was all the bits and pieces which came before which gave him daily pleasure.

It was the:

  • coffee-marked blueprints
  • smoke-filled air in the morning meetings (yep, cigarettes were part and parcel)
  • silly or suitable nicknames of coworkers
  • crazy jokes and stunts they played on one another
  • help they gave one another in times of need

It was also:

  • sighting down a 2X4 checking for flaws
  • knowing what to do about the crazy knotholes
  • “seeing” what was to come and knowing what would and would not work
  • understanding how to hold tools properly
  • getting the best outcome from the tools in his hands

Later it became:

  • getting the most out of the crews in his charge
  • knowing who he could count on to get the job done
  • mediating disputes among workers or trades
  • planning and scheduling
  • hiring, laying off, and firing

Still later it became his dream of:

  • puttering in his workshop
  • refinishing and refurbishing furniture and other items
  • building the long-delayed wall of shelves Mom wanted
  • helping my hubby and me restore and remodel our first home
  • serving as a volunteer on non-profit building projects

Yes, even after retirement it was the love of craft which kept his heart singing.

Building construction needs a new workforce

Helping people see, hear, and feel the day-to-day that makes up the ethos of being in the construction trades is (or should be) a part of your regular planning and action.

Set aside at least one hour a week to plan and strategize how you will reach the unreached groups of people who will fit in your industry. Once you’ve gotten a plan together start acting on it. Put it on your calendar.

Here are a few tactics:

Make sure all the high schools and colleges in your area know you (or someone in your employee) will be available to present on career day.

Talk to the directors or counselors at community colleges or trade schools concerning how you can work together to help the students.

Work with your trade association’s efforts to train and educate your present and future employees.

Let your friends, neighbors, and colleagues know you’re hiring and training. (Tell the person waiting on your dinner table, the clerk at the grocery store, your hair dresser, and the person who is balancing the tires on your truck. Tell everyone.)

Speak with the folks at the National Guard concerning how you can work with them. 

Sign up with recruiting firms.

Visit halfway or transitional houses in your area and speak with the director about people who are ready to move on. Remember there are facilities like this for women too.

Get involved with any construction training centers in your area. If your trade isn’t represented, consider working with them to develop training.

Look for organizations like the ACCD (Association for Construction Career Development) found here in Arizona and get involved. 

Use all your social media channels to get the word out about your openings.

Put banners on your office and shop.

Building construction is head, heart, and hands

If ever a segment of the work-a-day world depended on the trifecta of head, heart, and hands, it is the construction industry.

From the build-dream to the build-completion all three units remain involved.

Before Dad became a carpenter, he drove truck for a lumberyard. It was his job to take “stuff” to the jobsites. So, he touched the materials. Then, he heard the job sounds. And, he smelled the wood. He saw the camaraderie among the workers. Yep, he was hooked.  

Helping people find their way into the trades is going to take time and it is going to take a paradigm shift in the thinking of many educators and parents.

Plus, it will take making a few changes in the thought processes of those already in the trades. For example, what if you thought of yourself (your construction company) as a talent development unit? Young people today understand the concepts behind mentoring even if they don’t use the word. They want someone who “gets it” to stand by their side.

It may take being willing to take a chance with someone who needs a second chance. It could be that the you have to learn new things in the areas of leadership, business acumen, or even the basics of entrepreneurship

Building construction is honorable and respectable

Sure, you need people who have skills. You also need people who have the ability to learn. And, you need people who understand they aren’t simply pulling wire, or laying shingles, or joining pipe. You need people who know they’re doing their part to give someone a place to work, a place to worship, a place to heal, a place to sell their wares, a place to lounge before boarding, a place to eat and celebrate, a place to relax while traveling, or simply a place to look at and admire on those travels. Look for people who can see how important their part is in building America.

By the way, we do a little happy dance when we can help our clients find someone for their commercial construction business. We’ve done that. And, we do another happy dance when we add names to the payrolls of companies we know have been looking for workers.

It is our desire this article (among our growing library of construction-centric informational articles) is helpful in assisting commercial construction contractors build better building businesses. 

Because we are a virtual “corporate accounting office” for small to medium commercial construction businesses, and because it is our goal to help those businesses Run With the Big Dogs we can assist you no matter in which of the 50 United States your business is located.

Call to see how we can be of assistance to you. Toll Free: 866-629-7735

Are Loyal Employees a Thing of the Past?

Are Loyal Employees a Thing of the Past?

Loyal to what?

In the construction industry, in 2018, the idea of loyal employees has taken a beating. Loyalty has gotten into the workforce ring and taken a severe beating – then been kicked in the ribs just for good measure.

Lest you be tempted to lay this no-loyalty scenario at the doorstep of any particular generation — stop. Look back at the late 1950s when the seeds were already being planted. The seeds of distrust which began unraveling the employer and employee social contract. The fear of being given nothing more than a gold watch and a fare-thee-well from an employer was real. Years of service may not even be considered in the final goodbye.

Move up a couple of decades into the 1970s and notice the employees who are being “let go” before retirement age in some kind of down-sizing maneuver. A maneuver which may have been made to cut the cost of labor by bringing in a younger (and cheaper) butt to fill the seat. Or, a maneuver which answered more to profit than to relationships.

Loyal to the trade?

Now, let’s jump ahead to 2007. Yep. You know what happened here. The following economic downward spiral caused a lot of construction workers to jump ship. It wasn’t at all about whether or not one would remain loyal to an employer. Many construction industry employers became former employers and were themselves out looking for a job – in other industries.

Therefore, only a decade later the construction workforce (in the vernacular) “just ain’t what it used to be.”

Which is only one of the many reasons why finding people willing to put on the boots and pick up the tools of the construction trades is a daunting task. Asking these people to also be loyal to a specific employer is . . . well, difficult at best.

Loyal to the employer?

Still, there is the hope for employee loyalty. There is the desire to find a great crew, train them to be even better, and grow a dynamic construction contracting business which will serve your clients well.

Expecting loyalty from your crew comes at a high price – your loyalty to them. And we’re seeing a resurgence of this very tactic at work in construction companies across the nation. From large, long-lived firms to small, start-up construction businesses there are bosses in-the-know. Bosses who are rising to the occasion and learning more about their employees as well as more about how to be loyal to them. We’ve touched on the idea ourselves in this post and in a three-part series found here, here, and here.

The folks over at Forbes have more to say on the subject of Where Have All The Loyal Employees Gone?

This article from Entrepreneur, Change Is Good. Now, How to Get Employees to Buy In, is another good source for learning more about how to achieve a level of loyalty from employees.

Loyalty in the end

In conclusion, it seems there is truly an opportunity for those who are willing to put in the time and effort to create a working team of loyal employees. It won’t happen over night. It can happen with well planned small steps leading to loyalty that is mutual.

Help your people see your vision on a daily basis.

Give your team reason to believe in you as well as in your company.

Allow as much autonomy as possible as soon as possible. (Trust is a two-way street.)

 

The goal at Schulte and Schulte has always been to provide the best service and most up-to-date information as possible to our clients. We know we’ve hung our hats on an industry which is cyclical. Therefore, we’re determined to do everything in our power to see to it that our clients stay the course.

We hope this article (among our growing library of construction-centric informational articles) is helpful in assisting our clients to build better building businesses. Want to know more about us? Get in touch here.  

Phones on the Roof

Phones on your construction site, good or bad?

Phones anywhere on a construction site

What do you think? Should there be phones on your construction site?

There are a number of construction business services which are based on the availability of phones and other mobile electronic devices. There are mobile applications for managing field operations on just about every corner. Yet, for the purpose of this discussion we’re going to stick with phones.

Everyone is doing it

Do you remember the days you tried to convince your mom you should be allowed to do something because, “Gosh Mom, everyone else is doing it?”

Yet, when it comes to phones, it does indeed seem that everyone is doing it. When I say everyone, I mean everyone. People who don’t seem to have two cents to rub together have a handy dandy cell phone in their clutches.

Phones on your construction site

So how do you handle the issue of phones when it comes to your field employees or your subcontractors? Do you have a policy in place? Do you just hope everyone does the job they were hired to do and leaves their phone alone?

Caution Shiny Object Ahead. Do you know about or use any of these “rugged phones?”

Yeah, it’s complicated.

Communication

Our mobile phones, in all their glory, were and perhaps still are meant to be communication devices. And who doesn’t want to be able to communicate? You know what I mean – what do you do when you leave home without it?

Seems simple enough. You need to get in touch with your foreman, so you call or text him. There is a major setback on one of your sites and so one of your hands let’s you know (in real time) by sending you a photo.

But, there is this also. One of the guys on one of your crews married Nancy-Nothing-To-Do who calls him all-day-long. Someone else has some very interesting photos on his phone which he passes along on a frequent basis.

Mobile phones are one of the best tools you can have for your construction business – and one of the worst items to ever cross the line onto your construction site.

Efficiency

Phones are, in many instances, the key to jobsite efficiency. Knowify, (a product we know, use, and recommend) says their “smartphone application for field technicians is a great way to automate your job costing in real time from the job site.” They go on to say, “Giving employees access to Knowify on their phones can save you time dispatching workers, entering their time sheets, and reviewing reimbursement and expense requests.”

Even the folks at Hubdoc have information concerning how to use the phone to make using their system easier.

And our friend Jenny Moore of Moore Details Bookkeeping provides a quick video showing how simple it is to use Hubdoc via a phone to aid in the accounting aspect of your business.

Photography

Four important ways phone photography is useful on your jobsites are:

  1. Provides you with documentation or proof of work – allowing you to give your GC or other client a photographic timeline as you proceed.

 

  1. Gives you verification in response to an incident, weather, or some other unanticipated condition – as needed by your clients, insurance provider, or governmental agency.

 

  1. Permits you the ability to see the job site objectively – cameras take it all in, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

 

  1. Rewards you with multiple marketing opportunities – especially if you publish only the good, not the bad and the ugly. 😵

This article from Construction Law Musings-Richmond, VA discusses “The 6 Essentials of Construction Photography.” Be sure to pay attention to number five.

Safety

Yes, yes indeed, there is a safety issue when it comes to phones on the jobsite. Just as there is a safety issue when it comes to phone usage while driving.

Working while distracted is just as dangerous as driving while distracted. The answer in your vehicle can be as simple as using hands-free technology (like Bluetooth) or finding a safe place to stop. The answer on the jobsite may seem somewhat more complicated, yet it boils down to the same principles.

  • Avoid multi-tasking
  • Determine what your task is at the moment
  • Be fully aware of your surroundings

For example, just because you’ve decided to stop walking to engage in a text message conversation doesn’t mean you’re safe. What about the crane operating near you or the dump truck backing into location?

An article from Simplified Safety explores information concerning the use of phones on construction sites. And the title is rather telling, “Are People Walking Around Blindfolded on Your Job Site?” 

Policy

If you linked over to the article mentioned above, you noticed at the end of that post is a section labeled Developing a Mobile Device Usage Policy. It is a good starting point for writing your own policy concerning the use of phones on your jobsites.

You may also like to look over this policy on the Gribbins Insulation website.

The point is, taking the time to write a policy concerning phone usage on your jobsites is not just important, it is imperative. If you feel you need help you may wish to reach out to a freelance Human Resources service such as HRextension.

Writing and enforcing a cell phone policy is important to the well-being of your employees as well as the well-being of your subcontracting business.

Things to consider

What do you think? Should there be phones on your jobsites? How do you make the best use of the phone you have with you all the time anyway? How do you let your subs and employees know what you expect of them?

You can contact us about saving your spot on our waiting list here.

Achievement-Based Bonus Programs That Don’t Stink – Part 3

Achievement based programs help you make things happen.

Achievement based programs help you make things happen.

Build the bonus program

Building an achievement-based bonus program will take some effort on your part, yet it need not be overly complicated. As a matter of fact, simplicity can be key to success. While there is room to base an incentive program on a quarterly or annual basis, it is likely shorter-term situations will be easier to design, build, and carry out.

Even if you do intend to incorporate long-term bonus programs it is a good idea to start small. Here are 3 reasons why:

  1. It is easier to design and carry out
  2. Your employees want their rewards sooner rather than later
  3. Successful bonus programs build interest amongst your employees making them eager for the next challenge

The size of your construction company, the typical length of your projects, and the number of employees you have will all factor into the length and frequency of each bonus program.

Just like building your construction business takes time, building your achievement-based bonus program will take time to establish and function properly. Eventually, your company may become known as the great place to work because of (such-and-such) annual bonus program. In the meantime, start developing bonus bits which will fit into the overall concept which is part of your company culture.

The 6 Ds  

Remember this from the last post?

At the highest level of implementation are two considerations:

  1. Motivating your employees to excel beyond their base job descriptions and regular duties.
  2. Exceeding your client’s expectations in both small and big ways.

Thinking of the above two considerations, use the 6 Ds to design your program.

  • Determine the objectives

 

  • Decide who will be eligible to participate (consider team or individual based)

 

  • Develop the achievement criteria

 

  • Devise the reward levels

 

  • Derive the funding formula (Where’s the money coming from to pay for this?)

 

  • Decree the method of payment

 

We’re going to break it down step by step.

Determine the objectives

What do you want your team to accomplish? Raise productivity or efficiency? Drive teamwork? Improve customer service? Increase safety habits?

Consider: It is easy to see that a team which works together will without fail be more productive than one that doesn’t. If your team is filled with a majority of workers speaking a foreign language, steps to improve their English skills will inevitably improve customer service. Improving safety awareness and habits is bottom line good for all involved.

Decide who will be eligible to participate

Will this be a company wide initiative, or will only persons performing particular job types be in the running? Will all your field crews be involved or one specific team? Will the office staff be the only ones eligible?

Consider: Devising a scheme which is available to every employee can be tough. Yet, in order for all in your employees to get in on the fun you may decide to have one plan running for field hands and a different one for office staff, or some derivative thereof.

Develop the achievement criteria

What must be accomplished in order to receive the bonus? What are the parameters involved? Will there be levels of reward based on levels of accomplishment?

Consider: Developing the criteria concerning reaching the goals may be the easy part, yet if parameters are left to chance there is room for great error. For instance, if speed is the only criteria, both craftsmanship and safety may be neglected.

Devise the reward levels

Setting attainable benchmarks along the way to the final goal eases the tension which might arise from seeing a big hairy objective. Even if the final goal isn’t met, at least some amount of achievement will have taken place and be worthy of reward.

Consider: Use hard deadlines, percentages, frequencies, or volume as units of measurement when determining the levels which can be achieved.

Derive the funding formula

Just how are you going to pay for all this stuff? Sure, the entire, overall, sweeping objective of having achievement goals in the first place is to improve your operation thereby improving the profitability of your construction company. But you have to start somewhere, right?

Consider: 1) Dig into your own pocket if you must. 2) Give low or no cost rewards with integrity, letting your crew know their part in the effort will pay off as you grow. 3) Contact Schulte and Schulte. We’ll show you how to begin now preparing for fantastic future achievement bonuses your crew will rave about.

Decree the method of payment

Tell your crew exactly what they can expect for each benchmark they reach. Then when they reach it – give it to them.

Consider: Have a party – onsite or elsewhere. Make a razzle-dazzle of the presentations, keep it humorous and fun while at the same time making sure your people know you really do care about them and you appreciate their effort.

A simple example

Before I get into the example I’ll give you a bit of background concerning where this story came from. I’ve recently become a bit of a construction-centric podcast junkie. (A topic which I’ll likely share with you in the future.) The following story came from one of the podcasts I heard early in my podcast adventure.

On the podcast I was listening to, a fellow who is a construction business owner was being interviewed. This guy believes wholeheartedly in incentive bonuses and he shared the story of the first time he tried it. He said that he looked at the jobsite, looked at the scheduled completion date, looked at his crew and came up with his plan.

He told his crew that if they could complete the job three weeks ahead of schedule he would take them all to a local steak house where they would all be treated to a first-class meal. If they could complete the job two weeks ahead of schedule he would have a big pizza party for the entire crew. If they completed the job one week ahead of schedule he would take them all to the fast-food joint and buy them each a hamburger, fries, and a soft-drink. As it turned out, the pizza party is what took place. He said it cost him a couple hundred bucks and came out of his own pocket.

How it worked

So, here is how his story breaks down in accordance with the 6 Ds.

He determined the objective of finishing early (I don’t know if he had the added parameters of safety and workmanship in his objective, but it would have behooved him to do so.)

He decided the entire crew would be eligible and it would be a team effort.

He developed the achievement criteria based on the measurement of time. One week, two weeks, or three weeks.

He devised the reward levels by establishing just what the crew could expect determined by when they reached the goal of early completion.

He derived the funding formula by looking at his checkbook and deciding it was worth it to him to see if his experiment would work.

He decreed the method of payment by letting his crew know exactly what they could expect based on what they achieved.

Further information

The Project Management Institute produced a rather lengthy study and article concerning Incentive Programs in Construction Projects.

Here are a few of my take-aways from their article.

  1. They strongly recommend the participation of employees in planning and implementing an incentive-based program. They say, “As for the ‘participation’ parameter, previous studies demonstrated that employee involvement contributes to the amount of information employees have about what is occurring, and to the feeling of control over and commitment to what is decided.”
  2. Their determination is that presenting a single objective is preferred over multiple objectives.
  3. Further, they advise a monetary program measuring group performance is somewhat preferred over a non-monetary one measuring individual performance.
  4. They say high quality of management contributes to a high likelihood of program success.
  5. My final takeaway — they say, “Under some conditions, participation may lead to higher-quality decisions.”

This has been the third in a 3-part series. You can catch the first here and the second here.

Now that you see the potential in developing an achievement-based bonus program it is time to get in touch. We can help you analyze and develop the financial end of the process. Click here or call 866-629-7735.

Implement a “Give it Away” Policy with Your Construction Team

Develop an above and beyond policy your team uses for dealing with clients

Develop an above and beyond policy your team uses for dealing with clients

Last time, I talked about making decisions concerning whether a change order is necessary when dealing with requests from clients. If you haven’t read that post, take time to do so. Otherwise, what I’m saying from here on out might not make much sense to you. Because, this time I’ll tell you how to go one step further in the process.

Ever thought about telling your team to give time and service to your clients at no additional charge? Ever thought about implementing a Give it Away policy?

Whoa, I know what you’re thinking. “I can’t possibly allow the crew to give it away, I’ll go broke!” That would possibly be true, unless you have a specific strategy in play concerning what and when to give away.

There are 3 levels involved in developing a Give it Away policy

Model the behavior

Model the behavior you want your team to emulate. Be the man or woman of integrity, conscience, and kindness you want every person on your team to be. When at all possible go the extra mile, give your clients more than they expected, be the guy or gal they want to recommend to others.

Teach your team

Teach your team what is acceptable in the give-more-than-expected category. Each trade will have its own set of approved above and beyond measures. Take the time to think about what will be on your “yes we can” list and make sure your team knows what they are. You’ll also have to let them know there may be things which pop up that aren’t on the list. Give them the metrics for discerning which are worthy. Should it be added to the list? You decide. And yes, there are likely to be mistakes made. Learn from it, teach your crew from it, and move on.

Reward the team

Reward those of your team who follow your guidelines and your model. Consider having a once a week Tattle and Reward session during your morning huddle. Fridays are a good day to practice this as events will be fresh in your team’s minds. It will likely take a few weeks to get the idea rolling, and its likely you’ll have to do much of the initial “tattling,” yet your crew will catch on. Encourage people to tattle on themselves also.

Here are some examples of what you want to hear from your team:

“I saw Dave helping our client unload some heavy boxes from his pickup.”

“I noticed Leslie installing a door knocker on Mrs. Smith’s new door.”

“I fixed the catch on the electrical box, so the client could open it from his wheelchair.”

You get the idea. The reward could be as simple as a round of applause for the person who is being tattled on. Or, you may wish to have a number of gift cards ready to be handed out to the hands who excelled. A five-dollar coffee shop card, a ten-dollar fast food card, a fifty-dollar gift card for a department store, or even higher denominations to a tool store might be in order. Some other rewards you may wish to include are branded coffee mugs and water bottles, lunch with the boss, books, lottery or movie tickets, a car wash certificate, or any item you know would be appreciated. It is up to you or a supervisor you designate what you’ll be giving, depending on the level of engagement from your crew members.

More for you to consider

The actions involved as well as the rewards given can range from the humble (screwed a latch back on a window) to the impressive (saved a client’s life.)

Training your team to be thoughtful won’t happen overnight.

The rewards you and your team receive by practicing going above and beyond won’t always be easily measurable.

Be sure to bring your sense of humor to the Tattle and Reward meeting, because . . . well you know, construction hands “just wanna have fun.”

If a mistake has been made, remember rewards take place in public, yet admonishments are taken care of in private.

Consider your social marketing angle and think about asking your team to provide pictures as often as possible. A phone and a specified email address could be all the tools they’ll need.

You can reach our construction accounting specialized team by calling 866-629-7735 or getting in touch here.