Order Generosity Stability

Order Generosity and Stability during a crisis

Being a construction contractor has never been an easy job. Being a construction contractor in mid-April of the year 2020 – well, that’s another level of difficulty.

You’ve probably thought of a variety of outcomes concerning the end of the madness surrounding the current pandemic. You may even have a “best case” in mind as well as a “worst case.” The truth is this is not the time for false optimism, nor will fatalistic despair be of any use. As with many things in life, clear thinking must step to the fore.

The virtual noise surrounding Coronavirus can be deafening. It seems the “common people” are stepping up with opinions, suggestions, and diatribes; while politicians and scientists alike are shooting from the hip.

We presently find ourselves living in the “new normal” brought upon us by COVID – 19. And, even if you don’t have Coronavirus, my bet is you’re sick of it.

The principles of order, generosity, and stability are three things you can still maintain in your construction business. They are three means you can use to focus on clear thinking.

Order

It is up to you to bring a voice of reason to your employees and subs. You have the responsibility to provide reassurance as well as expectation. Finding new ways and new rhythms of accomplishing essential tasks helps keep order for you as well as your staff.

Although you may feel like Henry Kissinger, who, while Secretary of State, said, “Next week there can’t be any crisis. My schedule is already full,” you, like he, must carry on.

You may want to follow Warren Buffett’s advice when asked how to address one’s employees or other constituents during a crisis. “First,” he said, “state clearly that you do not know all the facts. Then promptly state the facts you do know. One’s objective should be to get it right, get it quick, get it out, and get it over.”

Your honesty and integrity will help those around you find order in the chaos.

Generosity

Now is not the time to become stingy. It isn’t only a matter of giving to others; it also a matter of not taking from others. For example, I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why some people felt it necessary to hoard toilet paper during a pandemic. Yet there are those who have done just that. To what end (pun probably intended), I don’t know.

Being generous has always been a way to remove negative thinking. Being generous allows you to get more out of life. This article, The 8 Biggest Benefits of Being Generous is worth the time to link over and read.

Being generous with those in your employ as well as others around you is a significant factor in maintaining and growing your construction business.

“You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” – Mother Teresa

Stability

Ask yourself, “What are my choices now?” By doing that, you refocus on the one thing you can control – your choices.

Think about knowledge sources.

One) Who do you know and trust who has the knowledge you can use? Call or text them. Learn what you can. Bring that information to those who can use it.

Here’s an example: I wondered if giving blood would be a good way to contribute. So, I sent a quick text to my cousin, who works in a management position for the American Red Cross.

My question: Is there a blood shortage?

His answer: There was a shortage about 3 weeks ago. However, through national appeal that gap was closed. Additionally, blood utilization as a whole is Significantly down. This is due to elective surgery being down. Also, since people are at home there are fewer car accidents and other major injuries. So at present there is not really a blood shortage.

Two) When seeking online information, be aware of spoken as well as unspoken agendas. You can breakdown the critical part and share it with your team.

Three) Bring the conversation (even the one that is only in your mind) to ways of providing value and serving others. Your attitude and enthusiasm are contagious. And, you know what that means!

“Genuine hope is not blind optimism. It is hope with open eyes, which sees the suffering and yet believes in the future.” – Jurgen Moltmann

 

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. 

The Profit Constructors Provide 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

A Lean Mean Communicating Machine

Communicate well to keep your construction company in top shape even during COVID - 19.

Turning your construction contracting company into a Lean Mean Communicating Machine is imperative. In the best of times, communicating well quenches fires, builds trust, and improves your bottom line.

In this COVID – 19 time, communicating well allows you and your construction business to stay in the game, maintain traction, and grow in ways you may not have thought of before.

Five communication basics

Keep everyone informed.

Be honest with all involved.

Encourage communication from others.

Use as many communication channels as necessary

Make sure people know you care about them

Keep everyone informed

Communicate often. If necessary, create a short checklist of those with whom you need to communicate on a daily or weekly basis. It can include individuals or groups.

  • Employees
  • Subs
  • General contractors
  • Building owners
  • Suppliers
  • Service providers
  • Association members
  • Fellow contractors
  • Others with whom you do business

Letting others know where you are, what you’re doing to help them, how you intend to proceed can ease their minds and make the path ahead smoother.

Keep in mind the TL;DR syndrome. Too Long; Didn’t Read is real. You’ve probably experienced it. Keep your messages readable. The same goes for your spoken words. Brief and to the point wins the day.

Be honest with all involved

Tell them what you know, what you don’t know, and where you’re getting your information.

You’re going to be faced with questions for which you don’t have a ready answer. That is fine. Say you don’t know. You can also suggest other places the information may be found. Or, say you’ll try to find out and get back with them.

Encourage communication from others

Be sure everyone with whom you’re communicating understands you’re willing to listen to them and will do your best to address their concerns. Now, more than ever, listen to what they have to say. Try to see things from the perspective of those with whom you’re communicating. What are their fears? What immediate problems are they dealing with? As much as possible, have and show your empathy for them.

And, remember to look for their nuggets of wisdom. You don’t know who will give you information that will help you understand an issue in a new and improved way.

Use as many communication channels as necessary

You already know the usual channels. Phone calls, texts, emails, and your company’s intranet are among them. And there are other tools available to you. The apps Slack, and Zoom are two that readily come to mind. There are others. For example, consider creating a hidden Facebook group just for the use of your employees.

Don’t think all the communication must begin on your end. When you’re invited to attend webinars, online conferences, or other virtual events take advantage of the offer.

Make sure people know you care about them

Simply put, communicate well and often with “your people.” And remember you’re not communicating if you’re not listening. As you write or speak, anticipate the “what does this really mean to me?” questions.

Information is essential, but people also need encouragement and inspiration. Give it to them. For example, send a quick message to a group or individual telling them how well they are doing. Provide motivation and reassurance.

Keeping it light

Lastly, here is something you may want to remember.

Question: What does a dolphin say when he’s confused?

Answer: Can you please be more Pacific? 😊

 

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. http://www.schulteandschulte.com/blog/

The Profit Constructors Provide Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors.

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

Technically it is About Organizing the Tech

Organizing technology

Tech is a wild and wooly beast that can be tamed. It really must be tamed if you’re to survive in the construction industry. And, taming tech means getting it organized in ways that serve you rather than overwhelm you.

When you think about the tools tech has altered, enhanced, or replaced, you’ll get a better idea of how important it is to use the organizing mantra, “A place for everything and everything in its place” even in the tech world.

For example, do you look for the phonebook when you need to find a new supplier, or do your fingers dance across the keys?

When you realize a change must be made quickly on a job site, do you jump in the truck and head that way, or do you make a phone call?

When tech is used properly, everything from how the progress photos are analyzed to how the numbers end up in the ledger columns has moved from slow and tedious to fast and insightful

The bottom line, getting your tech organized has the potential to make your construction business more productive and profitable.

Getting Productivity Tools Organized

Even for the “organizationally challenged,” there is a tendency among us humans to want to find patterns, sequences, and systems. You’ve probably heard it expressed like this, “There’s got to be a better way.” Or like this, “Someone ought to fix this mess.”

At first, I determined to organize the following list in order of importance. Then, I realized that the order of importance depends on two qualifying factors:

  1. The person using the technology
  2. The day of the week it is being used

Yeah, that challenging. So, I took the easy route and listed them alphabetically.

These are the types of technological productivity tools that should be in your construction business toolbox. Typically, these tools will be in the form of SaaS or apps. And, loosely speaking, they will form the tech stack used in your construction company.

  • Accounting and bookkeeping
  • Contact management
  • Email administration
  • Equipment and tool tracking
  • Meetings and communication
  • Project control
  • Social media oversight
  • Travel and expense tracking

These technological productivity tools can also provide the foundation of many of your construction business operating systems.

Clean out the technology productivity tools closet

Like cleaning out a physical closet, begin by dumping any apps or SaaS you no longer use.

Then, determine if you have duplicates or apps so similar; they become redundant. Toss the extras. If you’re uncertain or wary of deleting or doing away with SaaS or an app, you may need to revisit this article concerning Lost Cost Fallacy. 

Next, take the time to scan for viruses or performance issues.

After the process of clearing, it is time to review the current versions of SaaS or apps and decide if it’s time to upgrade.

Lastly, verify the integrity of your data backup.

Organizing electronic files

“The goal of electronic file management is to ensure that you can find what you’re looking for, even if you’re looking for it years after its creation.”

Susan Ward, writing for The Balance Small Business, lays out 10 File Management Tips to Keep Your Electronic Files Organized. 

Link over. Read it. I mean it! Ward presents good stuff.

For example, one of her tips, #6 Be Specific, is one I wish I had known (and practiced) years ago. She is talking about giving files logical, specific names, including dates. When I think about the time I’ve wasted looking for information within my files I cringe.

There are only two things I would add to Ward’s tips:

  1. Use a structure that suits the way you think and work.
  2. When writing systems and while training, emphasis should be placed on how you want things done, while still allowing for personal preference when the efficiency and outcome won’t be changed.

Parting words

This article is the third in a 4-part series concerning organizing your construction contracting business. You can find the first, Organizing Your Mind and the second, Organizing Time by linking over. The next part will be about organizing your physical space.

 

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 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

Spark the Vision in Your Construction Business

Vision in your construction contracting company

Your vision matters

Vision in your construction business is different from goals or objectives.

“You’ve got to give yourself the freedom to dream – to use your imagination to see and feel what does not yet exist. A vision is not the same as goals or objectives; those come from the head. A vision comes from the heart.” – John Graham

This is the first of a two-part series. In the first part, the discussion will center on ways to develop a worthwhile vision. For the second part, we’ll move on to the how-to of passing on the vision to others.

It must be visionary

Your vision must be lofty while remaining deliberate, informative, and well, you know, visionary. When you make it motivating and inspiring, it becomes the means for leading the charge and getting your team to rush onto the field. It’s something neither you, nor they want to give up on, even when times are hard.

Build a worthwhile vision

Before going further, I need to make it clear, I’m not talking about a “vision statement,” but a vision. It’s a vision that can become full-force and embedded in the very culture of your construction company.

One that will (likely) find its place in a vision statement.

But it’s more than that. It is a vision that goes to the heart of what you do, how you do it, and why you do it.

If your initial vision was (or is) “get the jobs, get ‘em done, get paid,” that’s a start. Because those are perfectly good steps for any business, be it in construction or any other industry. And, without first attaining the work and completing it, there is no income, which means there is no business in need of a vision.

Determining your vision

You may already have certain ideas, thoughts, concepts in mind concerning the vision for your construction company. Here are a few ways to shore up those intentions. You’ll see, they’re divided into four categories, that doesn’t mean you must choose one and leave the others behind.

Category One – Strong values

What personal values do you uphold? What attitudes and actions do you forbid? Remember, your character, your charisma, and your fortitude are all contagious.

For example, if you want your employees to treat the representatives of the general contractor with respect, you can’t bad mouth that representative in company meetings.

Or, you could try this; bring Mom into the picture. “The job isn’t done until Mom approves.” It could be Mom, your dad, your spouse, your kids, someone you admire, but there is always someone who draws you to do your best. Turn that “someone” into the person who everyone in your company is eager to please.

Second Category – Business Strengths

Determine what makes your construction business notable. What are you and your employees good at? Here are a few things you might consider:

  • A unique delivery system, product, or service
  • Operational systems in place and continually being improved
  • Exceptional at building difficult technical projects
  • Longevity – your company has stood the test of time
  • Professional delivery with a laid-back approach
  • Reliable, Trustworthy, and Fair

Now, you can turn this strength into your vision.

For instance, if your strength is Operational systems in place and continually being improved, your vision may look like this. “Daily improvement pushes us to be exceptional in every respect.” To make this “improvement” aspect work, you must remind your employees that part of their job is improving the systems already in place. Encourage feedback. Then, reward improvement behavior at every opportunity.

Third Category – Your business story

How, when, and why did you become the owner of a construction contracting company? What is the story behind how you got started? What did you hope to accomplish (beyond bringing in the cash,) and how were you planning to do it?

Think about what problem you overcame at any time during your journey of becoming a construction business owner.

Who helped you along the way? What part did he, she, they play in getting you to where you are now?

This article, 5 Essential Tips For Business Storytelling, from Forbes, relates the telling of your story to marketing. It uses the word “consumer” multiple times. Don’t worry, you can insert the word “employee” in its place, and it won’t take away the importance of the message at all.

Fourth Category – Niche

What niche do you serve? Why are you better equipped to complete the tasks at hand because of your expertise in this niche area? Retail, theaters, hospitality, medical, stadiums, and awnings are among the niche areas I’ve seen contractors capitalize on in recent months.

Speaking of awnings, here’s an example of a niche within a niche. When you land on the Awnex site  one of the first things you see is this sentence, “AWNEX designs, engineers, manufactures and installs aluminum construction canopies, awnings, trellises, wall louvers, roof screens and patio covers for the commercial chain store & quick service markets.” (Emphasis added, so you see what is meant by niche within a niche.)

Now, I have no idea if the owners of Awnex put their niche to use in their vision transfer to employees. But they’re missing out if they don’t.

Words of Power

Now it’s time to get to the words. Diverse concepts come into play. Concepts such as:

  • Growth
  • Stability
  • Workmanship
  • Organization
  • Efficiency
  • Reputation
  • Attitude
  • Community outreach
  • Values

And, to each of those concepts, you add words that inspire, words that trigger emotions, words that add clarity. Power words. Here are some examples:

  • Ablaze
  • Action
  • Advantage
  • Anticipate
  • Believe
  • Challenge
  • Commitment
  • Determination
  • Excellent
  • Focus
  • Honesty
  • Improve
  • Inspire
  • Knowledge
  • Mission
  • Perseverance
  • Proud
  • Skill
  • Trust
  • Understand
  • Value
  • Wisdom
  • Zeal

Look for and use the power words that best suit your construction company’s vision.

Want to see some power words in action? How about this bit taken from the John F. Kennedy “moon speech?”

We meet at a college noted for knowledge, in a city noted for progress, in a State noted for strength, and we stand in need of all three, for we meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.

President Kennedy used words that conveyed the fear as well as the hope of his time.

Fear: change, fear, ignorance

Hope: knowledge, progress, strength, challenge, hope

Mull it over

Often, when you see a blog post here, you’re encouraged to take action. This time you’re being encouraged to mull over what you’ve just read. Think about it. Next time, there will be insight concerning helping your team help you to build the vision.

 

Schulte and Schulte Provides Accounting, Contract Document Management, and Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors. You can check our blog here

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

Your Construction Business Has a Dog

Money is the name of your construction company's dog

You own a dog whether or not you know it

If you own a construction contracting business, you own a dog. And we’ll get to that part later. But for right now, I’ll take you on a little journey down Working Dog Lane.

Ranch dogs must be working dogs

For example, Tonya’s first paying job beyond babysitting was on a ranch in northern Arizona. Her boss was a no-nonsense type who expected each of her ranch hands (including the animals) to put in a day’s work to receive a day’s pay. It makes sense. Therefore, when every dollar must be accounted for, every worker must make an account. The fact is, there isn’t a column for “is great at cuddling.”

Further, Tonya learned that if an animal was on the ranch, it had to pull its weight. Herd the cattle; get your supper. Catch the rats; your bowls remain filled. It’s a matter of simple economics.

Construction Business dogs

There are dogs; then, there are dogs in the construction business. There are great dogs that have the task of charming the folks who work in and visit the office. And, there are wonderful dogs that guard the shop, the yard, or the construction site.

You know they must be trained to perform well. When dogs are well-trained, they are a fantastic part of your business. If you have either of these types of dogs, you know what an asset they are.

But there is another dog that will be able to make or break your construction business. It’s a dog named Money. Yeah, Money is the dog we mentioned up there at the top of this article. The dog every construction business owns.

A dog named Money

Money is a dog that will serve you well, or Money is a dog that will never behave and constantly cause you grief.

The well-trained dog

Do you know someone who can make dogs behave, do tricks, pull their weight? Are you one of those people? Or, are you (like me) one of the folks who only wish they had a well-trained dog?

Above all, dogs aren’t born knowing all the things they need to do to serve well. They must be taught and trained.

Therefore, it makes sense that you do not leave the dog named Money to chance. Train Money well and:

  • Your peers will seek you out for advice.
  • The competition will wonder why you “get all the breaks.”
  • Your business reputation will precede you when you seek new jobs.

Yep, the dog named Money has those darling eyes, that ever-wagging tail, and (by golly) those fierce teeth. Beware!

Working with a dog trainer

A great trainer for the dog named Money (your construction accounting specialist) has much in common with the trainers who work with Fido, Spot, and Daisy. As a matter of fact, this article from Fun Paw Care is a good reference point.

Here are some highlights from the article:

  • Dog training and behavior modification take time!
  • Parents [Construction Business Owners] need to participate in the dog training process.
  • Don’t allow a dog to self-reward with inappropriate behaviors.
  • Dogs must be taught good habits and behaviors.
  • Your trainer is there to help you and your dog.

Some signs you need a dog trainer

Your leashed dog has repeatedly charged ahead of you and dragged you along, causing cuts, scrapes, and abrasions.

The rascal dog won’t quit barking – at passers-by, at other animals, at wind-blown bushes, at rocks.

The dog peeing on indoor objects is rampant and seemingly defiant.

Some signs you need a construction accounting specialist

You’re still cleaning the cuts and abrasions from the last time you took a good dragging.

You’re worried the noise won’t quit – can we meet payroll? Who owes us money? Have we paid the bills?

Something stinks! We need to get a handle on past poor decisions and make better ones in the future.

Who you gonna call?

Let me put it this way:

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

 

Tackling Problems in Your Construction Business

Tackling Problems for your construction business

Tackling Problems in Your Construction Business

Last time, we talked about When Solutions Become Problems.  As promised, now we’re diving deeper into one proven method for finding and resolving problems in your construction contracting business.

The first step, Defining the Problem, is borrowed from the car manufacturer, Toyota,  and has proven quite successful for them. The other steps are:

  • Reformulate the problem
  • Devise solutions
  • Evaluate alternatives

Defining the problem

Now is a good time to borrow the method used by Toyota which identifies their manufacturing issues. It is called the “Five Whys.” Don’t let the number five confuse you. It may take only “Three Whys” to get to the bottom line, or it may take more than five.

In short, you begin by stating the problem, then asking why until you get to the real root of the problem. For instance, the general contractor tells you he sees your crew sitting around doing nothing for large pieces of time each day.

Ask, “Why isn’t the crew on task during working hours?”

The answer might be that not all the materials or equipment needed were on site.

Ask, “Why is that?”

You see how this is going. There can be several different responses.

  • The trucks were improperly supplied
  • the chosen vendor is often low on stock
  • the foreman frequently forgets to order the right materials
  • or we only send someone to get stuff when we need it

At each junction, you ask, “Why is that?”

When you get to the bottom line, you have the opportunity to fix the problem for good.

Rather than a lazy employee problem or a we-don’t-care problem you may have an organizational or time management problem that begins with management and drips down to the crew.

Remember, it is important to distinguish causes from symptoms.

Reformulating the problem

Now, it’s time to question the questions. One way to reformulate the problem is by creating “How might we . . .” statements.

Let’s look back at the crew, wasting time on the job site. And ask this question, how might we . . .

  • make sure the crew is on task most of the time?
  • assure the vehicles are properly loaded every day?
  • overcome low vendor stock?
  • better train foremen concerning their duties?
  • be better prepared for obtaining supplies?

Now you have some jumping-off points for devising solutions.

Devising solutions

Sometimes, depending on the original problem, this is a one-person operation. But more often, the devising solutions stage is better practiced in groups. Whether it is leadership alone, a group of stakeholders, or the entire crew, getting ideas from more people is often the key to finding the solution.

One way to get the group on board is to begin the session by stating the problem, then asking the “how might we. . .” question, and then saying, “Please only mention very bad ideas.”

Yep, bad ideas. The reason is twofold.

  • It takes the pressure off. You know. Who wants to be the crazy guy who, when asked for a great idea, comes up with the dumbest idea on earth? Sometimes the tension is palpable.
  • Putting a new lens on the problem (unlikely solutions) may indeed produce some quite likely and grand solutions. At any rate, once the ball is rolling, there will be many ideas to toss about and roll around to get to the great idea.

Evaluating alternatives

This last step may be the one most left out when tackling problems. After all, you found solutions in the previous step. You can pick one and run with it.

Or you can evaluate the alternatives.

While there are likely several ways to tackle a problem and many of the ways may achieve the results you would like, there are two important metrics that will aid you in choosing one most likely to succeed.

The first is ease of implementation.

The second is the potential size of the impact.

Using the example above, let’s say the problem you’ve found is that the foreman isn’t taking care of his duties properly. One solution would be to hire a different supervisor. Another might be to train the foreman better. Which is easier to implement?

While finding a mature and knowledgeable foreman would be nice, we all know there isn’t a line of trained men knocking on your door. Yet, if the present foreman isn’t up for the training . . .

When considering the potential size of impact in this scenario, you must keep in mind the big picture as well as the details. Does the crew have a good working relationship with the present foreman? Is there another foreman who is willing to spend time training? Are there classes or courses your present foreman can attend?

How disruptive will either solution be?

What secondary problems might be created by implementing one or the other solution?

Lastly

Remember, there isn’t a method, approach, or process that will achieve the results you’re looking for if you’re solving the wrong problem. Think about the five whys. Have you drilled deep enough? Most often, spending as much time (or more) determining the problem as solving it will allow you to generate truly valuable solutions.

 

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 are new ways of looking at things, and others are refreshers.

http://www.schulteandschulte.com/blog/ 

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

Teaching Yourself in the Construction World

Teaching yourself to be a better construction business owner.

Teaching yourself

Teaching yourself how to be a better construction business owner is part of your job description. Besides, if you don’t do it, who will?

You know if you stand in a garage it doesn’t make you into a car. Did you also know if you sit in a classroom it doesn’t make you into a learner?

While there’s a snowball’s chance in hell you’ll ever become a car, there is a very good chance you are already a learner – classroom or not. You wouldn’t have gotten this far if you weren’t.

Why bother teaching yourself?

In the most practical sense, learning offers options. You’re capable of generating better ideas. And, your ability to solve problems escalates.

There is more to it. Learning enriches your life’s experiences. It allows you to better understand yourself, those around you, and the world at large.

Your mind grows with each new piece of information.

Warren Buffett said reading 500 pages a day was the key to success. His reason? “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.”

Whether through reading or other means, cultivating a passion for learning has the power to move you from Average Joe Contractor to a highly regarded construction contractor.

There is one caveat to the learning process. It has to do with the Dunning-Kruger Effect.   And, if you don’t know about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, it is high time you learn. Check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

Assuming you’re not in the first phase of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, the more you know, the more you realize just how ignorant you are (in any given subject area) and the more you want to correct that.

What to learn

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to improve yourself, your business acumen, or your ability to have fun, there are three basic areas to be improved through learning. They are:

  • Skills
  • Knowledge
  • Awareness or Attitude

Skills and Knowledge, you get. It’s where the most focus takes place in classroom settings and less formal learning spaces. They’re easy to measure. Can you do it? Are you able to understand it?

But your awareness? Your attitude? Who measures those? And how?

Here are three examples of things you might want to learn more about and improve in your awareness and attitude sphere.

  1. Show more appreciation for the contributions of others
  2. Place a higher value on client relations
  3. Be better motivated to work harder

How to learn it

There are three methods of learning. It is probable one suits you best, yet you’re capable of learning by using all three methods.

Formal

It could mean a college degree or could be more along the lines of taking classes which have information you want and need. You can find them everywhere. Colleges, vendors, construction associations, general contractors, and skill-specific teachers all come to mind.

Usually, formal training or classes are designed to get you to the next level.

Again, be careful. Studying only to get a grade can undermine the process of real learning. Don’t let grades get in the way of getting the most knowledge and enjoyment out of your courses.

Instead, look at formal learning occasions as ways to increase your ability to think and analyze, thereby giving you better ways to integrate new ideas and information.

Informal

In the informal learning arena, no classrooms are involved. Your goals are specific. You want to learn something well enough to understand or participate. Often (though not always) you learn at your own pace and in your own time.

Here are some of the ways you can informally learn:

  • Watching others perform
  • Asking questions
  • By taking something apart
  • Reading
  • Viewing videos

Casual  

Casual learning is the least structured of the three methods yet offers just as much as the other two if you take advantage of it. Here is where the power of curiosity shines.

From the simple “google it” question to the trip you take with the family to the history museum, there are things to learn. Casual learning isn’t geared to the success ladder nor the party trick format. But, you can find ideas, thoughts, and actions to pertain to either.

This article from DailyInfographic has some interesting information about learning something new every day as well as reasons for doing so.

Lastly, I’ll remind you to focus on the kinds of study that enhance the quality, not the quantity of your learning experiences.

 

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

Change Your Construction Business

Change happens in your construction business. Be in control.

“Change” is not a naughty word

While “change” is not a naughty word, it can be as difficult to deal with as the result of a two-year-old wiping the contents of his diaper on the wall and curtains. It stinks. It wasn’t in the plan. And, it can make you wonder why you got involved in the first place.

You and your grown son will have either forgotten the incident or find a reason to laugh about it all those years later. Poop happens. And, so does change.

Following are three categories of dealing with change – planning for change, adapting to change, or stagnating. Keep in mind; you can’t be actively involved in either of the first two if you’re inactively involved in the final category.

Plan change   

We see our clients and other construction contractors dealing with a regular set of business growth issues.

For example, they want to have a higher profit margin, develop a strong management team, retain good employees, be organized, and build or improve their operating systems.

And, it is obvious, “change” is the only way those issues can be addressed.

Smart contractors understand they must invest, in order to make the changes they want to see. Some ways they may invest are:

  • New tech
  • Training for themselves or employees
  • Consultants
  • Quality new hires
  • Service providers

Savvy contractors understand the investments they make may involve cash, time, or both. Further, they understand the value of their investments.

Adapt to change

Another skill great construction contractors have is adjusting or adapting to changes they may have missed in the planning stages or somewhere along the way. For example; the weather, new competitors, the economy, and new or different expectations from clients.

While this article is titled, Startup Pivots That Changed the World, don’t let the word “Startup” get in your way. The list includes companies which started in 1889 (Nintendo) and 1939 (HP®) as well as others. It is a fun look at how others have dealt with the changes necessary to get them to their present status. Some have changed so much we are astonished at their roots.

Each of them can give you a jumping-off point for thinking about changes you may want to make or changes which might come knocking on your door when you least expect it.

Stagnate

Definition:

stag·nate /ˈstaɡˌnāt/ cease developing; become inactive or dull.

Synonyms:

become stagnant, do nothing, stand still, be sluggish, lie dormant, be inert, languish, decline, deteriorate, fall

The world will continue to change with or without us.

Um, I wish there was something more I could say about this category. I can’t. You understand.

Final word

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often” – Winston Churchill

 

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. Call us! 866-629-7735

Weathering Financial Storms in Your Construction Business

Preparing for financial storms in your construction business

Financial storms in varying sizes

Financial storms can be minor or they can be devastating. Think of  the way dust devils and tornados create different levels of damage. However, even a dust devil can grab and keep your attention when you’re in the heart of it.

Financial storms are real

Joe, Tonya, and I were having a chat. Consequently, this post was born. I mentioned  I had come across another wayward piece of information. In short, the owner of an accounting service declared he could make his clients audit proof. 

It would have been laughable, except . . .we weren’t laughing. We wondered how many people might think becoming audit proof is a possibility. To clarify, it is not.

In other words, it ain’t gonna happen, Baby.

When a tornado hits your town or business, there is likely to be damage.  That is why the wise folks who live in Tornado Alley have built storm shelters.

Consequently, they are tornado prepared.

Likewise, when the IRS comes your way, the best safeguard is to be audit prepared.

Financial storms to prepare for

However, the IRS isn’t the only possible storm on the horizon. Commercial construction subcontractors need to be prepared for other inevitable financial storms. Because, there is every likelihood one or more storms are just around the corner from your construction business it is wise to be prepared. Be on the lookout for these possible financial storms.

  • A downturn in the economy
  • Job shutdown due to weather (yeah, the real weather)
  • Natural disasters
  • Owner or general contractor bankruptcy
  • Pre-bid reviews by general contractors
  • Loaning institution reviews
  • Bonding and insurance requirements
  • Equipment failure

Some of the above items are more akin to dust devils which cause you to duck and protect your eyes.  However, others are more like tornados, and being in a safe place is called for.

3 financial storm preparedness measures

Controlled operational systems

You can set yourself apart as a savvy contractor by getting all your operational systems documented and in place.  You become a savvy contractor ready to make the best of the good times. Furthermore, you’re known as the wise contractor ready to hunker down in the stormy times.

Remember all those little signs posted on the wall which direct you to the nearest exit or safe place where you can take shelter? That is to say, documented systems tell you which path to take.

Construction contractors with a well-designed organizational structure are better prepared and more likely to complete work on schedule. Don’t think the GCs in your area won’t notice.

Financial documentation

My cliché bell is ringing. Yet, having “all your ducks in a row” concerning financial documents is imperative in both good weather and bad. They’re in place to serve you. Having your financial reports and documents ready and up to date means you can be better prepared for the future.

For instance, it is likely the general contractor considering your bid will want to assess:

  • income statement
  • balance sheet
  • statement of cash flow
  • backlog levels in relation to working capital
  • available bank funds or financing options
  • lien history
  • past credit problems

Having all your financial documentation ready and accessible gives you peace of mind for day to day operations. More importantly, those documents act as a buffer when a financial storm hits.

Dedicated save/spend accounts

A good start is to have a savings account for your commercial construction contracting business. However, there is more to it than having a savings slush fund.

Dedicated save/spend accounts put you ahead of the game. This method is similar to Dave Ramsey’s personal financial recommendations concerning envelopes. Using this system helps keep you from making spending mistakes. You know how much is available in each account.

More importantly, you know what it is for. As a result, you don’t buy equipment or perform tenant improvements with your personal tax liability funds.

Some categories which you should consider are:

  • Profit*
  • Owner’s Personal Tax Liability
  • Equipment (and/or Vehicle) Repair, Maintenance, Replacement
  • Customer Satisfaction Program
  • Real Estate or Tenant Improvements

For example, take a look at the equipment account.  You know that big shiny piece of equipment will need to be repaired, replaced, or removed at some point in the future. Setting aside a percentage of real income (real income = revenue – cost of doing business) puts the equipment-storm at bay.

* Your Profit account should be built up and not touched until it contains at least 6 months of operating expenses just in case. A fund of 12 months of those expenses is even better.

Closing thoughts

In conclusion, being audit prepared makes sense. What makes no sense at all is thinking you’re audit proof.

Being prepared to weather financial storms allows you to walk in confidence as well as gain peace of mind.

 

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.

We are dedicated to serving you rather than merely performing obligatory functions.

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

Why Your Construction Business Should Invest in Paper

Invest in paper, it is good for your construction business

A word to the wise. I don’t often say this, yet I am now. If you don’t have the time to read this article and follow the valuable links, bookmark this page and come back to it later.

Paper as investment

“Whaaaat?” you say. Here at Schulte and Schulte, our clients, our peers, and even our friends know us for being a paperless office. Heck, even our business cards rest peacefully on our phones, just waiting to be “handed out.”

Plus, we often strive hard to help our clients move into the paperless world.

Yet, here I am suggesting commercial construction subcontractors should invest in paper.

Yes paper.

Because its value is so immense.

Paper sets you apart

Brett and Kate McKay, owners of The Art of Manliness, wrote an article titled, The Myth of Scarcity: 12 Stupidly Easy Things That’ll Set You Apart from the Pack.

In the second of their “12 Stupidly Easy Things” they suggest using handwritten thank you notes. They say, “Thank you note writing has become such a lost art, and receiving snail mail is so delightful, that sending handwritten appreciation has become one of the most effective ways to set yourself apart from the pack.”

Likewise, Kyle Young, writing for Lifehack gives us, 10 Reasons You Should Write More Handwritten Letters.  

While all of his points are good, my favorite is the fifth. He says, “It helps you pause long enough to say things that matter. Texting and email are mostly reactionary. You need information, so you reach out. Writing letters is much more deliberate. You do it to give, not to receive. You write because there’s something you need to say, not something you need to know.”

Paper (plain paper) for the win

Len Markidan, writing at groove has the audacity to scoff at the craziness of “branded handwritten notes.” He says, “Too many businesses get hung up on the “branding” of handwritten notes . . . . . That’s crazy. Handwritten notes don’t have to be perfect. In fact, they’re not supposed to be! If you want something to look perfect, type it up, have a designer make it pretty, and spend a bunch of money getting it printed. But if you want something to be effective, then you don’t need to worry about any of that.”

Effective is the keyword in the last sentence. Powerful!

His article titled, 5 Free Scripts for Writing Handwritten Notes That Wow Your Customers is chock full of great information concerning the practice of handwritten notes. And of course, the 5 free scripts are right there available for your use.

Additionally, Markidan tells you why you can’t use “my handwriting stinks” as an excuse for not setting yourself apart.

Greeting cards too

None of the folks I’ve mentioned above talk about the power of adding store-bought greeting cards as another tool in your connection’s toolbox. Yet, I do see them as quite valuable.

Of course, there are the Thank You cards and the blank interior cards which should be among your tools.

And there are the spot-on greeting cards that can be added.

If you’re concerned about finding the right card in a sea of cards check out my “5 Doggone Good Card Picking Rules” below. Before you begin, think of the people you touch in your business. They are likely general contractors, employees, vendors, other contractors, service providers, referral partners, and subs.

And, you already know what types of cards to purchase for:

  • Birthdays
  • Anniversaries
  • Death or other type of loss
  • Congratulations
  • Holidays

5 Doggone Good Card Picking Rules

  1. Put your CRM (or your brain) to use. Look for connections. Think about hobbies, collections, or interests.
  2. Plan to shop when you have time to browse. At first, you may have to make time. With practice you’ll get better. (If you have someone you trust who is good at this, send them.)
  3. Typically, humor is a good bet. Making someone laugh out loud, or at least smile is a great way to grab their attention.
  4. Pick up several different cards for various people in one shopping spree. Save the extras for the appropriate time.
  5. Hand delivery of cards is perfectly acceptable. Yet, if you’re planning to mail, don’t forget the stamps.

Write this down

Paper – for hand writing notes, cards, and letters is a valuable tool in your connection’s toolbox! It is worth the investment.

 

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. 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