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

Financial Acumen for Construction Contractors

Getting all the signals right when it comes to financial acumen.

How Financial Acumen puts you ahead

When you gain financial acumen, you understand how to use financial reports along with all the accompanying metrics to monitor your commercial contracting company’s performance and make proper adjustments.

Think about it. When you make decisions based on both historical and predictive indicators you gain a better outlook for success.

Therefore, gaining financial acumen means you possess a solid understanding of what drives your company’s profits. You “get” how financial decisions form the backbone of your business.

Therefore, it is about following the signals – and knowing which signals to follow.

It affects your employees  

Your employees and subs want to know that your business is viable and capable. They want a secure company which provides stability for them and their families. Check out this article from businesscollective.

It isn’t enough that you’re a “nice guy” who has an “excellent vision.” If you don’t have the moxie to pull off the difficult financial decisions, finding good people who will stay the course goes up in a puff of smoke.

General Contractors must see your Financial Acumen

While there are different requirements made by different general contractors it is typical that they want to see financial data. They will collect and analyze it to determine the stability and adequacy of your construction company’s financial resources to perform the work.

They will look at your financials in order to gauge annual sales volume and present net worth. Often, they will go on to analyze financial ratios such as working capital, total assets, sales assets, and retained earnings.

This is a quick example of what general contractors are looking for.

You benefit by growing your Financial Acumen

Of course, the down-and-dirty is being able to support yourself and your family. Yet, there are other, more subtle ways you benefit through growing your financial acumen.

  • Able to hold your own in a conversation with fellow contractors or other business leaders
  • More ability to analyze data and interpret key performance indicators
  • Greater understanding when dealing with lenders
  • Better able to develop business plans or personal objectives in line with your goals and strategy
  • Growth of decision-making skills
  • Increases your financial understanding and confidence

Final notes  

It isn’t our job to wipe your plate clean of financial concerns. It is our job to help you put the right things on your plate. We’re here to help you follow the right signals.

The signals which will aid you in building a healthy construction contracting business through gaining financial acumen.

 

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  

Building Construction Jobs

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

Building Construction Jobs

Building construction trades need workers

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

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

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

But, could there be more?

Do you want to see people enter the trades again?

Building construction in my dad’s day

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

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

It was the:

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

It was also:

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

Later it became:

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

Still later it became his dream of:

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

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

Building construction needs a new workforce

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

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

Here are a few tactics:

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

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

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

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

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

Sign up with recruiting firms.

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

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

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

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

Put banners on your office and shop.

Building construction is head, heart, and hands

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building construction is honorable and respectable

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

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

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

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

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

7 Things Impossibly Savvy Contractors Wear

Ever wondered which common traits shape successful owners of construction companies and construction service businesses? Here are seven foundational traits which are found in the “closets” of savvy construction contractors.

Garment #1 They are Servant Leaders

The following quotes will give you food for thought concerning how savvy contractors lead.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams

“You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“What you do has far greater impact than what you say.” Stephen Covey

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18

“I define servant leadership as a person’s dedication to helping others be their best selves at home, work, and in their community.” S. Chris Edmonds

“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” Ken Blanchard

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” Jack Welch

This article from Inc. encapsulates the concept quite well.

Garment #2 They are Resilient in the face of adversity

Ever wonder what it would be like to buy a construction company where the financials were “sinking like a rock,” turn it around, then make it extremely profitable within a few years? You might want to check out Isaac Lidsky’s story, because that is what he did. Oh, and did I tell you — he is blind.

He has written a book, Eyes Wide Open, you might want to check out. And, be sure to watch this video all the way to the end (after he completes his talk) because he reveals one important aspect of how he, as a blind person, is able to run his construction company. And, just in case you want a bit more information, here is a link to the company, ODC, where Lidsky is the CEO.

Savvy contractors understand the risks as well as the opportunities they’re facing. They can “get back up” after a shockwave hits. They understand how to manage complex ideas and situations. There is a sort of nimbleness to them. And, they’re really good at long-term thinking.

Garment #3 They are Self-Disciplined

Yeah, you know what this means and what it takes!

Garment #4 They have exemplary Core Values

They have personal core values which they bring to their businesses. This is all about what they believe, therefore how they act.

Here are some examples:

  • They take pride in their work. They enjoy seeing the finished project.
  • Their safety meetings aren’t solely based on outside influences (like OSHA,) but rather on the fact that they care about their employees.
  • They have integrity.
  • They understand the power as well as the responsibility that comes with being a leader.
  • They aren’t required to “lose the ‘tude,” because, in fact, they tend to have a good attitude most of the time.

They believe in striving for excellence, being honest, truly serving the customer, having fun, being fair, teamwork – you know, good stuff like that.

This article shows a pretty neat way to come up with and USE a common set of core values within your construction contracting or service business.

Garment #5 They are Flexible

They are flexible and knowledgeable concerning how to meet the needs of both employees as well as customers

Being flexible allows them to make it through the bad weather of changing desires, the bad weather of sudden new competition, the bad weather of employee shortage, the bad weather of equipment damage or loss, the bad weather of – well you know . . . bad weather.

Yet, they also know when to draw the line.

Thomas Jefferson said it like this, “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

Garment #6 They have Problem-Solving Skills

The simple explanation – Problem solving involves methods and skills to find the best solutions to problems. We all have problems. And, we all have problem solving skills. All good parents, doctors, waiters, truck drivers, accountants and everyone must solve problems day-by-day and hour-by-hour.

What sets savvy construction business owners apart from “regular” construction business owners is the continued practice and constant honing of problem solving skills.

Typically, there is a ladder of thought and action involved in reaching a solution.

One ladder of problem solving skills could look like this, with the bottom rung being Listening and the top rung, Implementing Solutions.

Implementing Solutions

Collaborating

Evaluating

Data Interpretation

Data Gathering

Anticipating

Listening

Savvy construction contractors simplify things, use “what if” thinking, and focus on the solution rather than the problem.

Garment #7 They Pay Attention to the Company’s Financials

Savvy construction contractors know that knowing what is happening with the bottom dollar is bottom line good business sense.

We’re happy to talk with you about what you need and what we can provide. Give us a call 480-442-4032 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!

JOBBER: Business Management Solution for Field Service Companies

 

At Schulte and Schulte, our passion is in working with any company that fits under the construction umbrella.  This includes construction service businesses like plumbers, HVAC techs, roofers, landscape techs, etc.  Some of the apps that have been, and will be, featured in this blog series are feature filed and do have elements that would be beneficial to construction service businesses.  However, we feel strongly about finding an app or software solution for each of our clients, and this month’s featured app, Jobber, is a great solution for anyone in the construction service industry.

 

 

 

Jobber is geared toward any company that focuses on construction field service. It is a comprehensive business management solution that will aid any small to medium-sized construction service company. There are three main areas that we’d like to focus on as we dig into this app: Client Features, Team Features, and Business Features.

Client Features
Jobber has some features that will impress your clients and help keep your client information organized. It has an excellent customer relationship management (CRM) tool to keep your client’s information and communication organized. As you communicate with your different clients, whether by sending a quote, getting an e-signature, or reminders to follow up with clients, Jobber keeps track of all communication and saves it in each specific client’s file to help keep you as a construction service business owner more organized.

Team Features
These Team Features integrate both the Jobber computer software as well as their mobile app, which is available for both tablet and phone on iOS and Android. Included are various tools like Scheduling that allows you as the construction service business owner to easily create new jobs for clients and assign them to your team with only a few clicks; Map View Routing that will automatically send notice to your team as they are out in the field giving them the information that they need to get to and work the next job; and GPS Tracking so that you get a clear picture of where your team is at throughout the day as well as tracking employee hours and labor costs.

Business Features
Jobber gives you the ability to send out customized invoices so that you are in control of what your clients see on their invoices. It also has the option included of accepting payment for service right at the jobsite. Also included are Reports that provide a bird’s eye view of how your construction service business is doing, Time Tracking that makes it easy to review and complete payroll, and Accounting Sync that seamlessly integrates with QuickBooks Online to assist with your monthly bookkeeping.

We love Jobber, and would love 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!

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

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

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

Where does all that paper come from?

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

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

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

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

What should be done with it?

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

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

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

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

The down and dirty of dealing with all that paper

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

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

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

Set your less paper goals now

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

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

 

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