The Game is Afoot

Construction contractors must be ready as the game is afoot.

Things aren’t what they used to be

The reaction to the Coronavirus pandemic has caused shifts in buying habits, consumer expectations, and even workplace practices.

Therefore, the construction industry has experienced and will continue to experience impacts on operations.

These impacts may include:

  • equipment, and supply chain disruptions
  • financing restrictions or cash flow shortages
  • permit delays or restrictions on new permits
  • schedule setbacks
  • workforce interruptions

And likely, reduced productivity. For example, on-site health and safety procedures will cause a change in processes and systems. Enhanced sanitary measures, a continuation of social distancing, and staggering of employee or subcontractor work schedules will probably be a part of the scene.

“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.” – Ernest Hemingway

I think I can, I think I can

Now, it is imperative to think about what you can do, not what you can’t do.

I’m not talking about modeling after The Little Engine That Could because Shel Silverstein pointed out quite successfully in his rebuttal poem, Little Blue Engine, that “THINKING you can just ain’t enough!”

But, having the right attitude and a good plan will make a difference in how you approach new situations and how you deliver your services.

“Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.” – Victor Kiam

And, the game is afoot

The folks over at Writing Explained, tell us what “The game is afoot” means. Their definition, “Something has started,” is a good start. But it is the sentence following the definition I find most helpful. “People usually say this when something exciting is happening.”

And you must admit, leaving time-out and moving into what lies ahead is exciting. Yes, the game is afoot.

Three imperatives for upcoming days are:

  1. Adapt and Adjust
  2. Coordinate and Cooperate
  3. Document and Communicate

None of these ideas are new to the construction contracting scene, but each takes on more importance as we move into a post COVID – 19 economy.

“Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out.” – John Wooden  

Stepping out

The recommendation from the folks here at The Profit Constructors is to think lean, think fast, and think tech-savvy.

 

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

Solutions for Homebound Employees with Children

So, you’ve sent the office staff home. And, the schools have sent their children home. How do they (and your construction contracting business) cope?

As a professional business owner as well as a second-generation homeschooling family, we offer some ideas that have worked for us.

Perfect solutions

Remind yourself and your employees there are not likely to be any perfect solutions. Things will happen. Plans will go awry. Interruptions will . . . well, you know, interruptions will interrupt.

Now is the time to show mercy on your staff, other business professionals, your children, and yourself.

Find a workable solution

We know of a gal who works in the office of a casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her job typically has her going to work at an early morning hour. Therefore, she goes to bed early. She missed the decree concerning the closing of all Las Vegas casinos because she was asleep. The first thing the next morning, she got up, dressed for work, and hurried off to spend her day at her desk.

Surprise!

Yeah, that didn’t happen. This lady now knows she still has her job, but her duties will be carried out at home. She is trying to make the best of this unexpected happenstance. Her solution is to continue working the same hours she usually does (including the one-hour break for lunch) while using a different desk. She still dresses as if headed to the office, still takes her regular breaks, and is trying to figure out what to do during that scheduled lunch break.

If she had children, she would have other, more pressing issues to resolve than what to do during one mid-day hour.

Solutions through boundaries

Determining boundaries and ways to enforce them is crucial. Just as the children are flung into a situation for which they’re likely ill-prepared, so are the adults who depend on a certain schedule and familiar routines.

Communication is essential. Gathering the family and having a “this is where we are” discussion is an excellent way to start. How much information is shared depends on the age and maturity level of each child. Here are a few boundary setting tactics to consider.

Tell children they can interrupt you – if and only if the house is burning down! Of course, they probably won’t remember, so being diligent in enforcing the rule will take stamina.

Lock your “office” door during critical meetings or other important times.

Reassure the kiddos you will be available at specific times. A few times to consider are:

  • Lunch breaks
  • The last ten minutes of every hour
  • Thirty minutes at such and such time
  • Whatever timeslots work best for each household

Assign new chores and tasks. Some things to consider are:

  • Cleansing indoor and outdoor handles as well as the button for the doorbell
  • Doing their own or all the laundry
  • Watering indoor plants
  • Loading and unloading the dishwasher
  • Taking care of the floors
  • Dusting (including ceiling fan blades)
  • Helping or taking charge of preparing some meals

Use limited “screen time” or other desired pastime as a reward for adhering to the new rules and boundaries. A word of warning! Don’t allow the screens to become de facto babysitters.

Stop working when the workday is done! Turn it off. Walk away. Be present with your family.

The adventure solution

Many adults and most children welcome the chance for an adventure. Treating this change in “the norm” as an adventure will ease tension. Just as when you travel to a foreign land, things are different now. And that is exciting!

Get the entire family involved in the planning for this adventure. When people, including kids, get a say in the preparation stage, they’re more likely to own it and take part in it.

The point is to have an attitude of adventure. If the perspective of the adults in the home is fear or anger, that is the reflection that will be seen in the children. And, that is a pot that boils easily.

Depending on the age of the children involved, the types of adventures can range from a “Little House on the Prairie” snowed in-type of exploit to reading and discussing such books as “Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet Below the Chilean Desert.”

The point is to show your children there is an adventure in the new setting. If you behave with fear or some other negative attitude, so will your children.

Daily solutions

One adventure solution which works well with children of all ages is role play days. Here are some types to consider:

  • Spy
  • Hero
  • French (or any other foreign language and land)
  • Space
  • Cartoon character
  • Historical character
  • Fairytale character

Encourage children to dress up in costumes found in the drawers and closets of your home. Remember the props. Hats, magnifying glasses, capes, binoculars, backpacks, wands, and Mickey Mouse ears all come to mind.

Set the stage and send them on their way.

An example of how we’ve used the Spy Adventure is to assign the kiddos the task of “spying out” all the cruddy things the “evil crud monster” has left in all the common areas and their rooms. They take pictures of the “sneaky crud piles.” Then, with their master spying compatriots, they do away with the crud piles, take new photos, and report to “home base” how they’ve thwarted the evil crud monster. (Yes, we unabashedly get the kiddos to clean the house by making it a fun adventure.)

Other solutions

Set up a card table with a jigsaw puzzle for family members to work on at their leisure.

Have family contests. For example, who can read the most books in a week?

If the schools have assigned schoolwork, make it part of the daily routine.

Consider assigning schoolwork yourself. Let each child choose a topic he or she is interested in and let them explore. Older siblings can help. Some tools they can use are books you have on hand, specific TV programs, or a computer with proper childproofed connections.

Use Zoom or some other face-to-face program to allow your children to meet with their family or friends at set dates and times.

Encourage the kids to learn to play an instrument. One of our kiddos got her ukulele basics with this online instructor, The Ukulele Teacher.

Bonus tip: One tactic we learned early on is to stop play or other activities before the children are ready to stop. It sounds weird, but it works. If the kiddos are allowed to play until they’re bored with an activity, it will be hard to get them to return at another time. But, if they remember an activity was fun, they’ll be eager to get back to it when they get another chance.

Keep working on it

We hope these ideas will be of help to you and your construction business employees. While we haven’t covered every option for parents trying to make the best of the situation, we believe this will be a good start. The two main points we wish to convey are, 1) maintain an upbeat attitude and 2) take time to plan with and for the kiddos.

And remember, your children may scribble on your walls, but they paint masterpieces on your heart.

 

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 Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors.

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

Leadership — Inspire others

Inspire through leadership.

Inspire through leadership

Your leadership capabilities as the owner of a construction contracting business may very well hinge on one simple concept – inspiration. No matter how you became the owner of your business, there comes a time when you must inspire others. You’re not Chuck in a Truck. You’re the owner of a construction company. A construction company that employs staff, teams, workers, hands, people who look to you to guide the way.

One bare fact is employees thrive in jobs where they’re inspired.

That fact leads to the second bare fact that when you are inspiring and employees are thriving, opportunities increase while complications decrease.

Need some inspiration yourself? This list of the Top Ten Ways to Inspire Others to Be Their Best from Michael Angier of SuccessNet is a quick read and good food-for-thought.

“Rally people and they will come together. Lead people and they will come together to achieve something great.” Simon Sinek

When to be inspiring

The quick answer is always. Of course, there is more to it than that.

Here, I’ll give you an example.

Years ago, our family joined other pioneers in the homeschooling movement. At that time, those who wanted to educate their children at home (in the state of New Mexico) had to submit a request for a waiver of the law requiring a teaching certificate.

The entire process was a little scary for me, but one question on the application gave me the shivers.

It was simple enough. “During which hours of the day will you be teaching?”

The blank space was small. Much too small to write, “That will vary. I have a day job and I am part owner of a retail business in a mall that is open seven days a week. My child will accompany me . . .

You get the picture. The state wanted a nine to five answer, and I wanted to be honest.

My friend saved the day when she suggested an answer that would satisfy my need for honesty and, at the same time not allow the state to quibble.

This is what I wrote, “During all waking hours.”

Sadly, there were times when I taught some things, and I wish I hadn’t. (How to be nagging, how to lose your temper, how to . . . the list is lengthy.) At any rate, it is likely there will be times you are less than inspiring for your employees. But the goal remains to inspire “during all waking hours.” Always.

“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” —Publilius Syrus

Inspire wherever you are

Because you own a construction contracting company, you’re a “person of interest” to many. It goes beyond the doors of your office or the job sites you visit.

The organizations to which you belong, the suppliers you depend on, the general contractors, your fellow subcontractors, your advisors, friends, family, even your neighbors have the opportunity to see you as a savvy and inspiring business owner.

Be aware of the influence you have, of the people you can touch, and the ways you can make things better for those around you. Be inspiring wherever you are. You never know who will be listing you as someone who inspired them to great achievements.

“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” – John Maxwell

Why be inspiring?

Because if you don’t, who will? Oh yeah, also because those in your employ are counting on it.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” – Dr. Seuss

How to be inspiring

Through communication.

Period.

Okay, there is more to it. But it boils down to communicating well and often.

This article from Mental Floss, suggests Eleven Ways to Become a Better Communicator. The first item on their list, “learn to listen,” is likely the hardest and certainly the most important part of being a better communicator.

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” – General Colin Powell

“If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.” – Benjamin Franklin

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” – General George Patton

More inspiration

This article is the last in a four-part series concerning leadership in the construction world. Visit the others through these links, Leadership – Keep learning, Leadership – Practice Composure, and Leadership — Develop an eye for the big picture.

We hope that you’ve found inspiration through these four articles as you build your leadership skills.

 

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

Leadership – Practice Composure

Leadership of your construction contracting business requires composure

Leading with Composure

Keep in mind these three important facts concerning composure:

  1. Everyone wants it
  2. Most have messed it up
  3. It can be regained

It is easy to remain composed when all is going well. Anyone can do it.

It’s when faced with uncomfortable and difficult experiences in your construction contracting business that you have the opportunity to demonstrate your composure as a leader.

In other words, Composure

One aspect of composure is it is difficult to describe. But the following list gives you a glimpse of the traits involved.

  • Is Determined
  • Has good Judgement
  • Practices Vigilance
  • Possesses Wisdom
  • Shows Kindness
  • Proceeds with Deliberation
  • Is Confident
  • Remains Responsible
  • Is Patient
  • Practices Judiciousness
  • Stands Stable
  • Continues Steadfastly
  • Shows Resolve
  • Possesses Grit

And that list doesn’t even consider these three important “selfs” – self-governance, self-control, and self-discipline.

Composure leads to success

Sherry Campbell, in her article for Entrepreneur, suggests 7 Ways Practicing Composure Leads to Success. 

Campbell says, “Think about the word ‘composure’ for a minute. What does it inspire within you? How do you see yourself operating in life and business when you envision yourself being composed? Composure is the most powerful character trait to possess when looking to advance your career.”

Composure meter

Here are three simple questions you can use to see if your composure is leveling up or needs a bit of work. Can you:

Deal with rejection without becoming crestfallen or dismayed?

Hold your temper when things don’t go just as you planned or expected?

Join in the laughter with others even when the joke is on you?

Ways to develop composure

You’ve made it to adulthood, you’ve stepped into ownership or management of a construction contracting business, and you’ve learned much along the way. And sometimes you’ve dropped your composure.

There are certain actions you can practice, thereby enhancing your composure.

  • Manage your ego – base your actions on your inner values
  • Think before you act – so you can save time in the long run
  • See the bigger picture – not the minor distractions
  • Reflect and learn – from both your successes and your failures
  • Look for solutions – not reasons to be pissed off

Listen to ancient wisdom

“The first and best victory is to conquer self.” – Plato

“Always keep your composure. You can’t score from the penalty box; and to win, you have to score.” – Horace

“The beauty of the soul shines out when a man bears with composure one heavy mischance after another, not because he does not feel them, but because he is a man of high and heroic temper.” – Aristotle

There’s more

This article is the second in a four-part series concerning leadership in the construction world. The first, Leadership – Keep learning, is worth checking out.  Next up is Leadership — Develop an eye for the big picture, to be followed by Leadership — Inspire others.

 

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

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

 

Employee Handbooks and All That

Employee Handbook information and guidelines

Employee Handbooks for reading pleasure? 😵

I was asked to help write an employee handbook for Schulte and Schulte recently. And I yawned. Like, you know.

Employee handbook = boredom induced coma.

In that regard, it was in some ways an easy task.  A lot of “copy and paste” was involved. It was a very difficult task  in other ways.   What must be included and what is optional?

Therefore, there need be only three rules it seemed to me. My (tongue in cheek) suggestion:

  1. Don’t be an asshole
  2. Dress appropriately for the occasion
  3. Give back any digital or electronic devises provided to you for company business when you leave.

Who could ask for anything more? 😜

Tonya was correct when she laughed, I suppose. She then pointed out my first rule may need to be better defined. For example, I needed to include information about confidentiality and data protection.

Also, I wasn’t allowed to inject my “voice” in the document.  That would have meant (at the very least) I would have made fun of some of the legal sounding terms which were included. See what I mean? This was a difficult task.

Employee Handbooks for starters

As a result,  writing an employee handbook means you need an understanding of the company and its culture. Because . . . wait for it . . .  employees tend to do what they think is best. They do what they think is best according to what they THINK leaders want of them.

In other words, your initial chance to tell your employees what you want of them comes in the form of an employee handbook for your construction contracting business.  Of course, it isn’t your only chance. Yet, it is a good start.

So, if you’ve gotten this far, and you’re thinking it is time to build or update your Employee Handbook, read on.

What to include in your handbook

Some of the important ideas and concepts which should be included are:

  • purpose and values
  • policies
  • business model
  • employee benefits
  • company culture

And,  you may wish to consider using some or all of these sections:

  • Employment contract types
  • Personal and Professional Development
  • Immigration Compliance
  • Equal Opportunity Employment
  • Confidentiality and Data Protection
  • Dress Code
  • Mentor Program
  • Workplace Harassment
  • Safety Requirements and Expectations
  • Cyber Security and Digital Devices
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Compensation Status
  • Timekeeping Reporting Procedures
  • Paid Time Off (PTO) Policy
  • Holiday Schedule
  • Witness / Jury Duty
  • Voting Time
  • Employment Separation
  • Employee Acknowledgement and Agreement

Employee Handbooks aren’t rocket science

This article, from Workable is a good place to start if you want insight for revamping or building your own Employee Handbook. They even offer, “tips to flesh out your own employee manual matching your company’s requirements.”

However, before you begin building your employee handbook, understand this. Unless the text clearly indicates otherwise, an employee handbook can be considered a legally binding document between an employer and employees. And, in most cases, courts consider an employee handbook to be an extension of the employee contract.

So, I guess on further thought, making fun of the legalese within the employee handbook would probably not be a good idea. Unless, of course, you happen to find a judge with an overly ripe sense of humor.

Above all, I agree with Workable concerning the putting together of your Employee Handbook.

In addition, they say, “Keep in mind that our employee handbook examples and relevant advice are not legal documents and may not take into account all relevant local or national laws.”

They go on to say, “Please ask your attorney to review your finalized policy documents or Handbook.”

Similarly, I agree. Write it. Or have someone in your employ write it. Then, ask your attorney to approve or correct it. Pretty simple.

Employee Handbooks with pizzazz

In conclusion, if you would like some inspiration, you’re going to enjoy this. It is worth the time to look over a group of Employee Handbooks listed at i-Sight.  They list a dozen examples which are fun, different, or have interesting takes on Employee Handbooks.

 

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

Building Castles and High Rises

Building company culture into your team.

Building streams

This report is going to follow two diverse streams which converge to make one river of thought. The first stream has to do with an encounter on a modern city sidewalk and the second with a look at the building of a medieval castle.

Building high rise office structures 

On Tonya’s and my recent trip to Salt Lake City, we had occasion to walk from the convention center to a nearby grocery store. Therefore, we passed through a covered sidewalk which was designed to allow foot traffic to pass safely by a project under construction. As we walked, we noticed three construction workers scurrying past us in the opposite direction. I, being that kind of tourist, asked, “What are you building?”

The quick response from the fellow in the lead was, “America, one building at a time!”

Kapow!

Both Tonya and I were elated with his answer.

In addition,  may I suggest if the people on your crew answer the same way, you’re likely doing something right.

Building an ancient castle in the twenty-first century

Castles aren’t easy to come by these days. Come to think of it, they never were.

For instance, there is this interesting project going on now in France. The folks involved are building a medieval castle with the tools and techniques of the 13th century. The building is expected to be completed in 2023.

An interesting finish date, considering the project first broke ground in 1997. Not bad for a project which, from its inception, was expected to take a quarter of a century to complete.

This castle isn’t to live in. This castle is a classroom in progress.

Guédelon is the world’s biggest experimental archaeological site – and some would say the most ambitious too.”

In other words, stonemasons, blacksmiths, carpenters, woodcutters, tilers, rope-makers, dyers, the builders of the castle seem to look at their part of the project in two ways. For the first way they discuss what they’ve learned. Then, in the second, how proud they are to have been able to contribute.

The streams converge

Above all, what strikes me concerning these two stories is the pride these builders take in their work. Whether the answer is, “I’m building a castle,” or “America, one building at a time,” the question is always out there – what do you do? Where do you work?

Building the answer into your company culture, helping employees see how their contribution matters isn’t always easy. Yet it is worth it.

And, the key is to inspire.

As a result, this is where the river begins to flow.

It is a crazy idea which the folks naming military operations have used successfully for a few years now. Don’t get me wrong, it was they who got it wrong many times along the way until they began to understand how useful the nicknames they used for their operations could be. This article, Naming Military Operations is a War of Words, from the USO website is lengthy, yet quite informative concerning the power of a name.

Building great names to encourage your team

The simply corollary for you as a commercial construction business owner is to use the art of naming projects in such a way as to shape perceptions, boost morale, and reinforce policy objectives. It is a subtle yet effective way to encourage your employees to “own” the importance of each project.

Here are some examples, so you can see what I mean.

You could call your job building the new emergency hospital by the hospital’s name (and bore your staff) or you could use the name “Mission Life Saver.”

If your crew is providing work on the new Mercedes Benz dealership, consider naming the job “Project Hot Wheels.” Or, you might try “Mission Luxurious Rides.”

Did you get the grocery store contract? Think about calling it “Project Nourishment.”

3 ways to find memorable names

  1. If you’re into word play and developing great project names – do it yourself.
  2. Perhaps there is someone in your office or on your crews who would enjoy providing the names – give them the privilege. Do you have word-wise teens at home? Give them the task.
  3. Ask your team members for suggestions – then choose the best one. Or combine a few of the suggestions to come up with the top name.

Another way to use the nicknaming strategy

You can use the same strategy of nicknaming for your in-house projects.

Shop organizing day becomes Operation Thunder.

Documenting office systems can be given the nickname, Project LifeBlood.

And, choosing a new office or shop location might become Mission Possibilities.

You get the idea. The nicknames add an importance level to your various jobs as well as in-house projects.

Building Castles and High Rises and Everything Else

The work you take on in your construction contracting business is important! Be sure your team knows that.

 

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

Indirect Costs in Construction Contracting

Indirect Costs are important to the health of your construction company

Indirect Costs can cause hair loss

You know what I mean; trying to figure out what amount goes into which column can be a hair pulling adventure. And, making matters worse, indirect costs can mount in a hurry.

At first glance, it would seem differentiating a direct cost from an indirect cost would be somewhat intuitive. And, in one respect it is. Because, you can name the labor cost and the materials cost per job and you’ve got the foundation for your direct cost column.

Therefore, the rest should be easy, right? Anything on which money is spent and which isn’t a direct cost is quite obviously an indirect cost. Well . . . not so fast.

Indirect Costs accounting methods

There is more than one school of thought concerning how to handle job costing for indirect costs. They vary from “don’t do it” to “create several accounts depending on X factor,” and a few between. Of course, if you’re a commercial subcontractor and your bonding agent wants to see indirect costs on your job reports, and you say, “Oh we don’t mess with indirect costs,” you’re in for a rude awakening.

[In case you’re wondering which method we at Schulte and Schulte use, the answer is, “Which ever is the most appropriate for each individual client.” Yeah, we don’t believe in the one-size-fits-all method of dealing with our clients’ accounting needs.]

How it comes together

Dealing with indirect costs means determining things like fringe, general and administrative, and overhead then putting the numbers to use. It means you use appropriate tools strategically. And, it frequently means making your best estimate.

Indirect Costs can be a guessing game

So, if it is a guessing game – why bother? Right?

It is tempting to think the two words “accurate and estimates” could be counted as an oxymoron. Yet this article, Why Guessing Is Undervalued, suggests guessing is a huge part of our daily lives. And thoughtful guessing (estimating) is a skill worth developing.

Plus, think about this; guesstimates are the golden thread running through much of the construction contracting tapestry. From the beginning of the process, construction contractors take a unique set of variables, consider scope and feasibility, develop an “accurate estimate,” and call it a bid.

Taking into account we understand that close, just about, a little more (or less) than, and between are important and valuable words, it is also important to be able to determine a number which will satisfy several entities with whom you interact.

I’ve already mentioned that bonding agents want to see the numbers. So does your income tax preparer, the lending agency, the insurance provider, and the general contractors in your sphere.

Even more importantly, proper accounting for indirect costs allows you to receive appropriate tax deductions as well as make better business decisions.

How we can help

I’m just going to have to say it – the Schulte and Schulte team goal of helping our clients Run With the Big Dogs has a subheading titled “help them have peace of mind.”

Are you a construction contractor who needs help getting your indirect costs dilemma straightened out? Give us a call!

 

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 

Drone Thinking in Construction Contracting

Drone thinking sets you above the crowd.

Drone Thinking as a tool

Before we begin, let’s get something cleared up. Capterra’s Rachel Burger wrote a blog post for The Balance Small Business titled, 6 Ways Drones Are Affecting the Construction Industry. She has some cool insight into how using drones is beneficial to construction contractors. It is worth the few minutes it takes to get her overview. Check it out, you may find a few bits you hadn’t already thought of.

It’s good stuff. Yet, it isn’t what this article is about. This article is about Drone Thinking, not Drone Using.

So, Drone Thinking is all about using your mind to soar above the happenings of the daily routine and getting a “drone’s eye view” of how your commercial construction business is doing. It is a step taking you to equanimity. Because, by definition, equanimity means having “mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; calmness; equilibrium.”

It is a matter of having the mindset which allows you to leave the minutia of chaos and confusion on the ground, while you soar overhead and look at the big picture.

Drone Thinking next steps

Instead of taking a step back, take a flight above. Look down on your business from a drone perspective. After completing step one below, you can use the time to deal with the other four components.

  1. Allocate time to think – put it on your calendar, at minimum one hour, once a week.
  2. Remove false assumptions – never mind boxes (or thinking out of them) simply work toward knowing your own false assumptions and how to deal with them.
  3. Know the data – of course, we’re here to help with that!
  4. Identify gaps – typically found in processes and procedures. (We can help with this too.)
  5. Pick specific goals – they might include increased profitability, efficiency, or sustainability.

Here are some questions you may wish to cover:

  • What funding, equipment, personnel, and technology will it take to reach my business goals?
  • What are three to five important initiatives that will have the greatest positive impact on my construction business? (Remember, having too many priorities means you don’t really have any.)
  • How can I improve my leadership skills?
  • What can I do to be better at holding others accountable?
  • Am I missing the boat (and if so how) in communicating the vision for my company?
  • What are the best strategies to use in these areas:
    • Marketing
    • Monetization
    • Sales
    • Social media
    • Operations
  • Who should I put in charge of developing tactics concerning each item in the above list of strategic areas?

It takes courage and focus to truly ignore what is going on IN your business, so you can soar above and work ON your business.

Further thoughts to use while you soar:

  • Financials – Are there ways to reduce times in accounts receivable? What can we do to reduce outstanding debt? Are our budgets current and active?
  • Operations – What can we use to improve productivity? How can we eliminate more waste? What can we change to make us more efficient?
  • Marketing – What methods should we use to increase brand awareness? How can we let General Contractors in our area know what we bring to the table? Is there something we can do to niche-down better?

Drone Thinking in the day to day

Taking advantage of your allocated Drone Thinking time is imperative. And, out of that time will come your ability to increase your Drone Thinking daily mindfulness.

Determine what will have the greatest impact on your business. From there, you can communicate better and assign responsibilities (and accountabilities) which push you and your staff toward the goals which improve your business.

The time you take to work on your business is time well spent. Take advantage of all this Drone Thinking strategy has to offer.

Also, pay attention to this bit of advice from one of the Masters.

“Every now and then go away. . . Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

 

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