Focus for Construction Contractors

Focus on Focus. It's good for you.

Focus for Construction Contractors

Focus is a core factor of business success

Yet focus, simply for the sake of focus makes no sense. Because, let’s face it, focusing on a screen (be it large or small) is rather an easy accomplishment. Think TV viewing, social media, or electronic games.

Or you could find yourself focusing on the daily minutia in the office or on the site and never on the growth of your construction contracting business.

So yes, focus is core. Yet, when building and using your focus “muscles” it matters what you focus on.

The choice

Here’s the deal. You get to choose. Choose between being busy or being effective. The matter is made simpler (not easier) when you realize there are only three areas on which you as a construction contractor need to focus.

Before we get to the three, I’ll mention there are those who believe there are only two areas on which you need to focus. They say the two areas are client satisfaction and making a profit. And, I agree they are important. The only other area I and a few others are suggesting is important to build your construction business is the third area, that of employee well-being. So, there you have it. The three places which call out for your focus are:

  • Client satisfaction (What do your clients need?)
  • Profit (How can you make money?)
  • Employee well-being (Why will your best employees stay with you?)

How you spend your time, which tasks you take up, where you aspire to learn more, what you choose to delegate, even what you decide to dump, should all be based on these three focus areas.

Focus – a story of how that looks

The other day I was chatting with a friend on the phone. I mentioned to her that a certain “office helper” around here had recently gotten into reading Harry Potter. Because my friend is a retired school teacher, she laughed and said yes, she had read the first Harry Potter book. She read it because she knew her students would be reading it and she wanted to have a working knowledge.

I asked if it was a good book. Should I take the time to read it so I could be better at discussing it with the “office helper?” Her response reminded me of a focus folly. She said, “Oh it’s alright. But it isn’t, like some of my books, one I could curl up with in my soft easy chair and be still reading when the firemen carried me out of my burning house.” Now, that is focus!

With that in mind, here are three focus follies in which you don’t want to find yourself.

Wrong Focus

Have you ever known someone who was super excited about the wedding, yet had given little to no thought to the marriage which would follow? The wrong focus can seem so “right.” Yet, having focus is of no use when you’re focusing on the wrong thing.

Over Focus

One of our “office helpers” is quite excited about an adventure the entire crew will be taking later this year. While the rest of us are happy that we’ll be going to Universal Studios Hollywood, this “office helper” believes our destination is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™. (Yep, the same office helper mentioned above.) No matter how many times we let her know there is more to be experienced she returns to her point of focus.

No Focus

There is someone I know who runs to the store for a new toilet paper supply when she notices the last roll is almost empty. After bringing the toilet paper home, she then runs back to the store for the eggs she wants to use to prepare breakfast. On her way to work, she stops in at the convenience store to pick up a snack pack to be used for that day’s lunch. On the way home from work she picks up a few steaks for the grill. Then as the meat is being placed, she remembers there are no sides for the evening meal.

At this point, she enlists one of her children to run to the store to purchase some deli sides because there is no time to bake potatoes or cook a vegetable. Later in the evening, she runs to the store to purchase shampoo (after she steps out of the shower and puts back on her clothes.) Lest you think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. She will tell you herself this is how her day goes – because she doesn’t have time to get everything done. Do you see the irony there?

Putting the puzzle together

Obviously, avoiding the focus follies is important. Learning how to be better at focusing on the right things is the next step. This article, 5 Steps To Finding Your Focus, from Fast Company says, “. . . determine what gets done by using filters, such as your deadlines, values, available time, or resources, and arrange your day around the things that are important–big or small.”  Be sure to check out the article to see how to put the 5 steps to use in your commercial construction business.

 

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

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

Work in Progress Accounting

Tonya Schulte – Construction Accounting Specialist

Recently Tonya, one of our founders, was asked by CCAN (Construction Company Advisor Network) and Knowify to present a webinar on the basics of Percentage of Completion Accounting. The webinar is for those who need to understand the concepts behind the method, whether they are contractors or accounting advisors to contractors.

It all boils down to . . . well that is what the webinar is all about.

Before you jump in, I want to alert you to the fact that shortly into the webinar (at about 4:23) there starts to be a little bit of technical difficulty. Tonya’s voice is sketchy and cuts out a bit here and there. Hang tight – the slides are still there and quickly enough the voice issues are straightened out.

You’ll be able to hear her just fine before she gets to the deep dive of explaining how to use the principles involved in Percentage of Completion Accounting.

Now you can see why this method of accounting can be so useful for construction contractors.

The team here at Schulte and Schulte are trained in using this method for our construction contractor clients. If you’re interested in joining our successful contractor clientele, be sure to get your place in line on our waiting list by calling 480-442-4032 or Toll Free: 866-629-7735.  Simply let the person answering the phone know you would like to be added to the waiting list.

5 Mistakes Construction Contractors Make When Trying to Scale

Mistakes construction contractors make when trying to scale

Mistakes construction contractors make when trying to scale

Trying to do it all

Superman you’re not. KAPOW! Nor are you Wonder Woman. SNAP! So, as we say in our office, DWI (Deal With It.) We also say LIF (Life Isn’t Fair) but, that’s another story for another time. Now, we’ll concentrate on the fact that if your intention is to scale your business, you must have key employees and advisors in place in order to think strategically and focus on growth.

From the back office, to the front office, to the shop, and in the field, having people in place who can help you carry the load is the difference between wishful thinking and decisively moving forward.

And, if you wear all or most of the hats in your construction business, your goal is to replace yourself one position at a time. Finding every task you presently perform yourself and delegating them to your employees and freelance advisors is a sound business tactic that will move you forward more quickly.

In addition to your lawyer, your insurance provider, your bonding agent, your tax preparer, and your loan providers you do well to consider having excellent freelance advisors on board. Everything from virtual assistants, to human resource experts, to accounting advisors, (That’s Us!) will free you up to find ways to work on your business rather than in it.

When you’re able to delegate, (in-house or out) you have the precious commodity of time. Time to spend judiciously planning for the next steps that are about to take place.

Chasing squirrels

Dug, the dog in the movie “Up” is delightfully fun, because he is the ultimate squirrel chaser. And, because he is so easily distracted he is the perfect example of what it sometimes feels like to be the owner of a construction contracting company. You know, there are squirrels at every turn.

It is downright hard not to chase idea after idea and change after change. Squirrels make it difficult to settle with one (good enough) option. Perhaps it is business objectives, marketing strategies, client types, or even (hold your breath) other business ventures.

And, the squirrels can be as subtle as offers for business trainings which seem attractive but don’t really push you forward in meeting your immediate goals. Another insidious squirrel can be found in the purchase of tools or technology that aren’t needed.

One way to deal with squirrels crossing your path is to take note of them. If an idea, thought, or offer attracts your attention, write it down. In other words, keep a squirrel list. Then quickly decide (use your leadership powers to be decisive) if they are good, mediocre, bad, or future squirrels. Sometimes the simple tactic of “sleeping on it” will help you decide. Other times you may wish to visit the people from the above section, (your in-house and outside advisors) before making a decision.

One last thought on squirrel chasing – don’t become befuddled by the off chance you should have followed that one “great” squirrel. You’re in the construction industry, there are tons of squirrels in the construction forest. Another will be along soon enough.

Neglecting to think like their clients

Clients focus on the end product, not the process. Construction clients don’t like the changes you force on them. They do not want to be disrupted. They simply want what they want when they want it. Yet the very nature of the beast we call “construction contracting” means you’re disrupting the lives of your clients, be it for only a day or for many months.

Try putting yourself in their shoes. Suppose when you went to buy a car you were told that for the next six weeks you would have to figure out another way to get to work, to the grocery store, or to the movies because your car would be out of commission. Not only that, you would have to spend some time daily watching as piece by piece your new car was assembled . . . in your driveway. Not a pretty picture. Yet, depending on your trade you may be asking your clients to endure something very similar.

And your clients who (remember?) want what they want when they want it, are probably not all that prepared to have you disrupt their lives. You can help them get over that hurdle through constant and honest communication before, during, and after the project.

Oh yeah, don’t forget this part. Clients HATE surprises. Clients will be more understanding of a temporary defect or delay if communication comes first from you.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a service provider, a general contractor, or a sub; it doesn’t matter if you’re on a commercial site or a residential site, there is always a client and you must always consider ways to think like your client.

Failing to document their processes

You may have heard someone joking on one of your social channels that if there are no pictures – it didn’t happen. That is fun and funny. Yet the truth is if there are no documented systems there is no scalable business. If you want your business to grow, you must have systems in place with written instructions concerning how the processes work in order to maintain the system. If it is all in your head, then by golly, it is all in your head that you own a viable construction business.

Wendy Tadokoro from Process Street tells Why You Need to Document Business Processes. If you don’t know, check out the article, it’s eye opening.

Now that you know why, it is time to learn a lot about how (and more about why.) Sam Carpenter wrote a book titled Work the System. You can find the book and other helpful information on his website. It is worth the time it takes to check it out. He offers insight into how to build a successful business through the use of documented processes. His story of how the business he was about to lose was turned around from the brink of disaster is captured throughout the book. If he can’t convince you how important the process of process capture is, then probably no one can.

Forgetting that trimming fat is part of scaling

Much like starting up, scaling up requires some belt tightening or fat trimming in order to make it through. It isn’t simply a matter of hiring more hands, finding more work, and making more money. If your additional labor, travel, or equipment costs eat up the additional money you make on a variety of jobs you’ll find all you’ve gained is more headache.

What scaling really means is finding a way to increase your profits. Increasing your profits means finding ways to earn more money while not spending more money.

Inefficiencies exist in your present organization. Some systems are in need of repair or should be eliminated. Other systems need to be developed.

You may even have some people who will no longer fit into your company for any number of reasons. Perhaps they don’t want to grow, can’t see your vision, simply don’t gel with the rest of your staff.

Focus on operational efficiency.

Then focus on motivating your team towards a common goal of scaling up and being relentless in achieving it.

Is your bookkeeper stuck in the old way of just doing the books? Then we would love to show you what modern bookkeepers do. As accounting advisors, we help you drive profitability. Give us a call to set up a consulting session. 866-629-7735

The Top 5 Critical Problems Schulte and Schulte Solves for Owners of Construction Contracting Companies

 

When you first became a construction contractor or construction service business owner it was pretty simple – get a job, do the job, get paid, see how much money you made. Now, things are different. You have people working for you, people who rely on you in order to make a living.

Knowing the whats, hows, and whys of construction accounting has become much more difficult.

Following are 5 critical problems Schulte and Schulte solves for clients on a regular basis.

Not knowing how to maintain cash flow

“Projecting future cash flow is something I’ve never understood how to do.”

Solution: Once the system is implemented you’re “in the know” daily concerning all the angles of cash flow.

Not having proper records for the IRS and for other potential needs – like proving credit worthiness

“I’m not even sure what I should keep, much less how to keep it.”

Solution: Your records are brought up-to-date and kept current so you’re always ready for both the IRS as well as for investors or loaning institutions.

Constantly having to chase work to build revenue

“It seems if I’m going to make money I always have to find new work (some I don’t even want to do) and it drains my time, energy, and capital. There’s got to be a better way.”

Solution: You’re taught smarter ways of maximizing revenue rather than the eternal work chase.

Not understanding their job costs

“I know it is more than just what I pay my people and how much I paid for supplies, but I’m not sure what all goes into job costing.”

Solution: You know what the job costs are for each job and for each type of job, giving you valuable insight concerning future jobs.

Not having enough time in the day to do it all as a small business owner

“I don’t hardly have time to breathe, much less time for figuring out all the ins and outs of construction business accounting.”

Solution: You’re relieved of trying to “figure it out.” The Schulte and Schulte pros take away much of the “drudge” of bookkeeping while informing you regularly about the financial health of your construction contracting or service business.

Solution: Maximizing Your Profits.

Now that you know we offer solutions for your critical problems, it is time to stop messing around and trying to figure it out yourself. Reach us through this number 480-442-4032 or get in touch here.

A Dozen Reasons Construction Contractors Use Job Costing

You’ve already figured out that when you own a construction contracting or service business your world is colorful. Some of the myriad of “things” on your mind are job sites, retainage, percentage completed, purchase orders, prevailing-wage rates, payroll, change orders, subcontracts, AIA billings, and equipment usage.

But did you know about the contractor’s friend called Job Costing? Did you know job costing is really designed to make all the above “things” take their rightful place in maintaining the overall health of your construction firm?

Look at job costing as a way to Measure and Monitor, to Weigh and Watch, to Quantify and Qualify.

Getting it all out in the open

The information gathered through job costing is invaluable to you as you grow your construction contracting or service business. And here are a dozen reasons:

  1. Job costing will help you identify the most and least profitable areas of your construction company.

 

  1. Job costing is one of the best ways to develop an accurate budget for your construction firm.

 

  1. You can use the information concerning labor and materials costs to aid in determining overhead costs.

 

  1. You’re able to carefully analyze job costing reports for completed jobs as well as jobs-in-progress.

 

  1. Job costing allows you to put into action a billing system that is tied to actual and committed costs.

 

  1. With job costing you can learn which types of jobs are your bread-and-butter jobs.

 

  1. Using job costing will allow you to see the division of labor and labor burden.

 

  1. Job costing allows you to analyze where you’re spending so you’ll know more about what works and what doesn’t.

 

  1. Through job costing you’ll obtain information that will allow you to be more precise concerning billing.

 

  1. Job costing shows you what margins you’ve been sacrificing on past estimates.

 

  1. Through job costing you can factor in overhead expenses in order to get a better understanding of individual job profitability or loss.

 

  1. A mature job costing system gives you the ability to categorize every single expense your construction contracting business incurs.

Don’t work in the dark

Without job costing information you’re working in the dark.

Using job costing reports is an important way to improve your business as well as a way to improve the way you do business.

The Schulte and Schulte team is excellent at helping construction contractors make heads or tails of job costing set-up and use. Want to know more? Give us a call 480-442-4032 or Toll Free: 866-629-7735

17hats: All-in-One Business Management Software

In this monthly post, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to one of the many apps that we at Schulte and Schulte endorse and recommend to our customers.

As a firm of construction accounting specialists, we love to help companies in the construction industry with their books and finances, part of that help is finding different apps or software that can help our clients out.  During this monthly feature, we take a look at several apps that we love at Schulte and Schulte, LLC, and dig a little deeper into our favorites.

This month, we would like to introduce you to 17hats.

As a business owner, there are multiple “hats” that you will wear as you go about running your business.  By hats, we are talking about the different roles you will play on any given day, from accounting, marketing, client communication, lead development, etc.  17hats is a brilliant piece of software that is designed to integrate each of these different hats into an easy to use business management tool.  We could go into detail talking about each of the different tools that are built into 17hats, but for the sake of time we will highlight a couple of the features that we appreciate the most; specifically the Overview Page, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Workflow Management.

Overview Page
This dashboard is what you will see whenever you log into your 17hats account.  It has been designed to incorporate a 3-day calendar view of all events and to-do’s that you have set up.  Underneath the calendar is a list of all action items from every ongoing project that you have, as well as a list of client email correspondence that is needing your attention.  This dashboard is customizable to include this above information, as well as other options available for you.  It is a really handy tool to get a bird’s eye view of what needs your attention on any given day.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
A lot of effort has been put into developing this CRM tool to make it easy to use.  As the above video shows in its example of adding a new lead and the development of that lead into a client, 17hats utilizes its CRM to assist you in keeping your contact information and projects accessible. It also stores all email communication and documents sorted by client.  This means no more searching through your email account for that important message from a client’s project you are working on.

Workflow Management
The video above gives a snapshot of the process involved within 17hats’ Workflow Management.  You are able to create templates for almost everything you will end up passing onto a customer, from engagement/proposal questionnaires and feedback forms, quotes, invoices, and more.  It has e-signature technology built into the app to allow anything that needs a signature or feedback from a customer to be sent from the app, and also allows you to track what has been sent.  17hats has a one-way sync that will allow you to sync invoices into QuickBooks Online, which is music to our accounting ears.

We love 17hats, and would like the opportunity to share it with you.  If this sounds like an app that you would be interested in checking out, please let us know!

Interview With Tonya Schulte Concerning Attending Scaling New Heights 2017

Tonya Schulte, one of our founders, will be attending Scaling New Heights 2017, in Orlando, Florida June fourth through the seventh. I tracked her down and got her to answer a few questions about the event and what part she will have in it.

Yvonne:

Tonya, when did you first hear about the Scaling New Heights 2017 convention which is taking place in Orlando, Florida this year? And what is it about this event that sets it apart?

Tonya:

Since this is an annual event, it has been on my radar for over a year, but I didn’t dream back then that I’d be able to attend. Scaling New Heights is one of the biggest accounting events of the year and what really sets it apart is the way in which Woodard makes a point of making it anything but a boring accountant’s convention. They make it FUN!

Yvonne:

We hear that at first you were not sure you would be able to attend, what made you change your mind?

Tonya:

An unexpected, but pleasant surprise came when I was asked to speak at the event!

Yvonne:

Very exciting stuff! So, first of all, what will you be talking about?

Tonya:

The fine folks at Knowify, one of our favorite apps for construction contractors, contacted me first and asked if I’d be willing to give one of the peer-led sessions to tell others about how to find and use their app. Then, I was asked by Woodard if I would do the same for Hubdoc, another app that we use daily with our clients.

Yvonne:

And, can you give us a peek into what you will be sharing with those who attend your sessions?

Tonya:

Well, I love both of these apps for so many reasons, but the main focus of each session will be on how and why to use them and what benefit the pros and the clients get from each app.

Yvonne:

You’ve also mentioned you’re excited about two other aspects of attending the convention – getting to meet people you only know through online interaction, and learning more tips and tricks of the trade. Tell us a few of the people you are looking forward to meeting and why.

Tonya:

There are so many, I’m not sure where to start! I’m very much looking forward to meeting Laura Redmond and Sarah Sivesind in person. As much as we love Knowify and Hubdoc, we also love Aero Workflow equally as well. I don’t really know how we would run our practice without that wonderful service. It helps us keep on task, gives us feedback about our estimated vs actual time spent on projects and tasks and gives us a way to correctly track time spent on consulting hourly work. We love it. I am also really looking forward to meeting Cathy Iconis from QBOChat and so many of the wonderful app partners that we’ve gotten to know through that venue like Avalara, TSheets, Expensify and so on!

Yvonne:

And, have you already determined your own learning schedule? Do you know which sessions are on your “for sure I’m attending” list?

Tonya:

So much is packed into the days and you have to be choosy. I haven’t narrowed it down completely yet. I do know that I’m very excited about the productivity and task management sessions and the marketing sessions. Those are the areas where our firm needs to learn and grow right now. I will have to sit down soon and make a definite plan!

Yvonne:

What would you say to your fellow accounting experts about attending Scaling New Heights 2017?

Tonya:

This event is one of the premier events for those of us who are looking to take our firms to the next level and into the future. If you are serious about working with clients in this new technological age, you really should be thinking about attending this event now and into the future.

Yvonne:

What do you wish to say to your clients about how your attendance at this event may affect them?

Tonya:

As our clients know, we are on their team. I am very excited for the ways in which I am going to learn to serve our clients better and make each of their teams better for my having attended this powerhouse conference.

Yvonne:

We know you’re going to be staying on Disney property at the Coronado Resort, and that should be lots of fun just to begin with, yet we have it on good report that you’re taking your dad along with you as your escort and companion. Will you fill us in on why he will be going with you and what you two have up your sleeve for “after convention” hours?

Tonya:

It is going to be a crazy ride for sure! We arrive Saturday evening and the conference gets into full swing on Sunday, but I have heard that several family members who live closer to the eastern seaboard plan to travel to Orlando and see us! It should be a packed, packed, packed few days between conference stuff, meet and greets and family time. I’ll probably come back to Arizona and crash!

Yvonne:

Thanks for sharing with us about your Scaling New Heights 2017 adventure. I think I speak for the rest of the team when I say, “We wish you well and . . . well, swag will be appreciated.” Haha

Tonya:

Haha! I’ll remind all of the app partners you said that! Wink, wink!

Physical Office Processes for Savvy Construction Contractors

Fitting together the pieces of organized office processes

When you think of office processes, what comes to mind?

  • Do you jump immediately to thoughts of your desk, your computer?
  • Are you concerned with “how things get done?”
  • Do you think of your vehicles?

Well, good physical office processes have to do with all of the above and a little bit more.

What is meant by “office processes”?

An easy way to understand office processes is to think of a simple mathematical equation.

Space Planning + Effective Utilization = Impressive Results

While you’re at it, think about this other mathematical equation.

Chaos Increasing + Inefficient Implementation = Profits Decreasing

The first equation works well because it has a place for everything, and everything in its place, plus a good system for all the functions encountered each day in your office.

Your office processes extend to all your office environments

Your construction contracting office is likely to spread across a few different environments. It could exist in a spare bedroom, at a local coffee house, at your work shop, or in a separate designated office space. And, there is a very good chance it exists in your vehicles as well. All the steps necessary to make your physical office processes work in one environment may be employed in all your environments. The good news is there are some basic tenants to hold on to while building or remodeling your processes.

Functions encountered in a construction contractor’s office

Perhaps you deal with only some of the following office functions, and it could well be you deal with other functions not listed. Yet, this is a starter list (in no particular order) to aid you in thinking about the variety of duties and activities accomplished on a regular basis within one or more of your office environments.

  • take care of customer service
  • deal with employee training
  • engage in data entry
  • complete payroll
  • complete and follow up on tax forms
  • process invoices
  • communicate with customers as well as subcontractors.
  • answer phones
  • set appointments
  • handle social media duties
  • prepare marketing materials (or work with your marketing guru)
  • work on office projects
  • work with subcontractors to ensure paperwork is in order including:
    • contracts
    • status with Registrar of Contractors
    • insurance certificates
    • lien releases
    • evaluate subcontractor bids
  • track and process invoices for subcontractors
  • track and process invoices for material providers
  • deal with change order requests
  • handle tracking logs (such as client materials selections)
  • coordinate with outsourced service providers
  • deal with insurance claims
  • track warranty and product information
    • for customers
    • for in-house equipment
  • research, select, bid, and/or order construction materials
  • deal with RFPs
  • assemble applications for subsidies (such as solar credits)
  • run subcontractor orientation sessions
  • maintain contact lists for subcontractors and material suppliers
  • copy, scan, fax and file documents
  • maintain office supplies
  • post and/or prepare required items for the jobsite
  • run errands
  • perform periodic website updates

Scale the processes

Step into, sit down in, or simply think about the space that makes up each of your offices.

While your first thought may be to organize the physical spaces, it is better to think in terms of situating your spaces to accommodate the processes. Identify the purpose of each space by thinking categorically. What gets done here? What work zone is this? Perhaps it will be better to move some office furniture or supplies to a different location in order to allow “next step” actions to take place from left to right, or vice versa, or from a central location to each spoke of what process happens next. Your space will be more accommodating to one set-up or another. Look it over and see what will work best.

The 9 steps to organize by process

  1. Think
  2. Plan
  3. Group like things with like things
  4. Place items most used in most accessible places
  5. Be consistently consistent
  6. Label everything
  7. Simplify every chance you get
  8. Avoid the words “for now…”
  9. Leave yourself some breathing space

Take your time with the plan before going out to buy new office supplies, equipment, or storage solutions.

7 things to consider concerning office organization and set-up

  1. Furniture
  2. Fixtures
  3. Equipment
  4. Lighting
  5. Cable management
  6. Shared spaces (employees and customers)
  7. Storage

When you begin to use the work zones you’ve set up you may find the actual flow needs tweaking. That’s fine. Be open to the idea of moving containers or changing your zones to best fit your needs, while keeping in mind the principles of organization. Think in terms of giving yourself permission to change the system, while being organized about the change itself. If a process is not working, try to determine if it is being handled in the wrong processing zone. Perhaps a change of location is all that is needed.

Using whatever horizontal space is available (for instance, a kitchen table or a rickety old desk) is fine to get started. But making your office space as ergonomically satisfying, as conducive to work, and as handsome as possible as soon as possible is a big step to scaling both your office processes as well as your overall operation.

Lastly, a few things for the cab

To give you a little icing for the cake of your organized office spaces I thought I would mention these handy organizing tools for use in your vehicles. Duluth Trading has a couple of office-cab organizers found here and here. Plus you may want to stop by Mobilegear to see this nice organizing solution.

Today: Jot down some ideas concerning how you can begin making your physical office processes work more systematically.

Tomorrow: Start putting the pieces of your office processes puzzle together. Keep adding pieces daily until you have a stunning, new picture to look at.  

*****

This is the last in a series of articles discussing ways of organizing your construction contracting office, shop, vehicle, and day. You can look through the list of all these articles right here.

3 Takes on “Eating the Frog” for Construction Contractors

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Eat the frog,” meaning get the most awful task of your day done first thing in the morning and everything else will be much easier to accomplish after that point. You may have seen something like this, “Mark Twain said, ‘Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.’” Well, it seems while there may indeed be good reason to take up your own personal ugly frog and begin munching first thing in the morning, there may also be other alternatives to consider.

Plus, apparently the oft misquoted Mark Twain didn’t mention frog eating for either productivity reasons or for gastronomic reasons.

As a matter of fact, Twain constructed a comical adage in which he made fun of one of Benjamin Franklin’s lines and said instead, “Never put off till to-morrow what you can do day after to-morrow just as well.” Unfortunately, it appears many of us prefer to take Mr. Twain’s “put it off” advice over Mr. Franklin’s “do it today” advice.

First Take: Get it done early

Brian Tracy wrote a book titled, Eat That Frog! wherein he espouses the concept of taking up your ugly frog daily and chomping away at it until that froggy task is completed. Your frog is something that needs to get done, but you have absolutely zero motivation to do it. Further, and ironically it is something that needs to get done because it is a step you need to take to help move you toward your long-term goals.

Some reasons that are given by many who encourage early morning frog eating are:

  • You have the most will power early in the morning
  • It is a small win
  • Your brain prefers to do easy tasks, this encourages your brain to behave
  • It forces you to prioritize what is of value
  • You can face the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you

Consider using this First Take

if you do indeed have a problem with procrastination or need to hone your prioritization skills.

Second Take: Meet your frogs where they live

You may be among those who find mornings are their least productive times. Your frog should be eaten when your energy level is at its highest for the day. And, if you’re like many other Arizona construction contractors, you are likely to find frogs jumping out from behind the saguaros at the least expected time. Don’t turn and run, grab that ugly green hopper and get busy munching.

The trick here is building your power of discernment. Important questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is this my frog or is it a handsome young prince for someone else?
  2. Is this truly a frog or is it a pollywog and will it wait until tomorrow?
  3. Is this frog more important than the other frog I see coming my way?

Consider using this Second Take

if you’re not a “morning person” or if you truly enjoy most of your work, finding you have very few frogs in your work-a-day week.

Third Take: Wait to mess with stress causing frogs until you’re under pressure to perform

Those who advocate early morning frog eating are themselves turning green when they see me suggesting something as “crazy” as “put it off.” There is a whole school of thought that says, procrastination will ruin you. And that school is valid. They go so far as to say that those who claim to work better under pressure are only fooling themselves. And, there is validity to that train of thought also. Many procrastinators have waited until the last minute, only to find they’re doomed.

Yet, there are those who truly do work better under pressure. Maybe you’re one of them. Although I hasten to add, there are very few who do indeed fit this category. So, be cautious before you jump on this lily pad.

This article, written by Amy Morin for Forbes, speaks to the issue of top performing athletes using stress to enhance their performance. Yep – using stress to make themselves do a better job.

Robert Biswas-Diener wrote an article titled, “The 11th Hour: How Working Under Pressure Can Be a Strength,” in which he discusses the difference between procrastination and incubation.

And this Ted Talk by Kelly McGonigal concerning stress and how to use it is quite enlightening.

Consider using this Third Take

if you truly do work better under stress, if you’re an incubator, not a procrastinator.

Oh, what the heck? I may as well throw in the Fourth Take: Cook up the frog – legs

If all this talk of eating frogs has made you hungry for frog legs, I found a restaurant in Tucson which has them on their menu. Look for “des cuisses de grenouille.”

Or, if you just want to know more about the delicacy, you might find this article about how to eat frog legs interesting.

Consider using this Fourth Take

if you already love and enjoy frog legs or if you’re at least curious about the little beasties.

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This is another article in the series concerning organizing your construction contracting office, shop, vehicle, and day. You can check out the other articles right here.

10 Personal Tools Every Construction Contractor Needs

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

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

The quality traits (tools) of excellent construction contractors

  1. Planning Ability

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

  1. Strong Work Ethic

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

  1. Strong People Skills

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

  1. Confident

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

  1. Open Minded

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

  1. Money Management Skill

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

  1. Networking Ability

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

  1. Delegator

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

  1. Risk Taker

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

  1. Integrity

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

Stocking your tool box

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

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