Building an Efficient Construction Office – Part 3

Efficient construction contracting planning.

Efficient construction contracting planning.

This is the third in a 3-part series dealing with efficiency in a construction contracting office. The first installment can be found here. And, the second here.

At this point you’ve begun to understand the importance of working in a pleasant atmosphere and having documented processes. You get that organized and standardized within your construction business means it will run more efficiently. Yet, there are still some issues to be dealt with.

How do you know where to start in developing processes for the systems?

There are at least three different methods to help you decide.

  1. Start with simple. Begin with the process which is likely to have the fewest action steps involved in order to get your feet wet.

 

  1. Triage your systems candidates. Which system is giving you the most trouble and needs to be addressed soon?

 

  1. Use the template associated with a particular system found in the SaaS you’re using for developing and documenting processes. (I know, that came out of the blue. So, hang tight, I’m going to give you more information about this really cool tool.)

There’s a SaaS for that

We, at Schulte and Schulte were blessed to find a perfect solution for our accounting business almost from inception. We use Aero Workflow (a SaaS product) to create, store, and use the documentation we need for many of our systems.  There is a bit of a learning curve involved with using Aero, yet it is a small hurdle to overcome when you consider the advantage we’ve achieved in being better able to serve our clients. There are a number of processing templates we can use. We can base a customized process off a standard template. Plus, we’re able to create from start-to-finish our own accounting processes to meet the needs of our individual clients.

Beyond that, we are also able to use Aero to designate tasks, to assign and track projects, to determine how long a task or project took to complete, and along with a host of other benefits we’re more efficient. Pretty cool, huh?

Some efficiency targeted SaaS platforms for you to choose from

There may be other similar SaaS platforms for you to choose from, but these four are all pretty well known, and all seem to have components which would be helpful for a number of different construction office applications. Plus, each of them offers a basic or starter level at no charge. That way you can look them over, play around with them, and decide which you’re most comfortable with. You can determine which would best serve your needs. Finally, none of them seems over-the-top expensive – although there is some difference in their pricing.  You can decide if Process Street,  Tallyfy,  Asana,  or Trello would be a good match for your office.

Develop a tech stack

A tech stack is the assortment of technical tools chosen to aid in the use of a foundational SaaS platform.

For example, Schulte and Schulte uses QuickBooks Online  for our foundational platform. And because we believe simplicity serves us well, our tech stack includes only Aero Workflow, Hubdoc, and GSuite. (We were recently invited to be part of a beta testing group for Client Hub and are looking forward to determining how well it will serve us as well as our clients.)

The tech stack we recommend for our clients includes QuickBooks Online, Hubdoc, and Knowify.

Knowify?

“Knowify is a SaaS platform for construction contractors that provides job management tools and real-time business intelligence to help them streamline their business processes, take on more jobs and ultimately run a more profitable business.” I hijacked the previous sentence from a SaaS comparison site because I think it pretty well describes Knowify. What it doesn’t mention is that Knowify is much more reasonably priced than its competitors. (By the way, our clients receive a discount on the Knowify pricing by virtue of our professional relationship with Knowify.)

Take a look at the construction-centric systems you’ll find housed in the Knowify SaaS.

  • Bid Management
  • Billing and Invoicing
  • Change Orders
  • Commercial
  • Contract Management
  • Document Management
  • Job Scheduling
  • Lead Management
  • Residential
  • Subcontractor Management
  • Submittal Management
  • Supplier Management
  • Task Management
  • Time Sheets

Did I just hear you breathe a sigh of relief? I know, because we’ve heard it time after time when we’ve introduced our clients to the robust system they can put to use right away in making their construction contracting business more efficient through the use of Knowify.

In conclusion

There you have it. By upgrading your surroundings, understanding the importance of systems and processes, and choosing the right Software as a Service (SaaS) you’re well on your way to becoming more efficient and better able to serve your customers.

We wouldn’t be any good at all if you need someone to paint your office, we’re pretty good at passing on what we’ve learned about running an office, and we’re excellent at helping you get a handle on your accounting needs.

Pick up the phone and give us a call Toll Free: 866-629-7735 or contact us here.

The Efficient Construction Office Part 2

Efficient construction offices take time and planning.

Efficient construction offices take time and planning.

This is the second in a 3-part series dealing with efficiency in a construction contracting office. The first installment, having to do with the basics, can be found here

Being efficient is all about systems and processes

Finding ways to make your construction office operate more efficiently begins with determining simple, thoughtful solutions for the various systems and processes necessary to get from point A to point Z. You already have systems and processes in place, whether or not you know it. I think you’ll see what I mean if you take a moment to consider diets.

You’re on a diet whether you know it or not

Assuming you eat, (and I’m going to make that bold assumption) you’re on a diet. Be it good, bad, or somewhere in between you are on a diet. The same thing goes for your construction office; you’re either functioning with poor systems and processes or you’re somewhere on the scale of good, better, best systems and processes.

The words “processes” and “systems” are often used synonymously

I know, because I’m guilty. Yet, they are distinct. A process helps you run systems most efficiently. A system has a process built around it – the process involves specific, documented responsibilities and next steps.

While your entire business could be considered a system, there are smaller systems within it. Each of these smaller systems –  advertising, bookkeeping, sales, permit management, supplier management, and so on – should have a process built around it. The process is the steps you take in order to help the system run as efficiently as possible. So how do you determine what each step of a process is or should be? One way is to create a process map.

Create a process map

There are a few ways to accomplish the task of process mapping. One is using an online tool such as smartdraw. Another online tool is Lucidchart where you can also find a brief explanation of a process map.

Or you can rely on the pen and paper method. What you will be creating is a “map” of the sequential steps involved in any given process.

If you’re a one-man-show (or a one-woman-show) then a piece of paper and a pencil or a pen may suffice. If you have a number of people working in your office you may wish to use sticky notes and a wall surface, or a dry erase board. The main point here is to get everyone who is involved in an individual process to be involved in the creating of the process map.

Especially if you’re creating the process map with several people involved, I suggest the analogue method simply because a “scruffy” visual will make it more inviting for people to participate. If you create the map online, things might look “done” to the participants and they’ll be less likely to want to “mess it up.”

Process mapping explained

One of the best places I’ve found for a great overview and tons of information concerning process mapping as well as process improvement is from a process consultant named Ian James. His videos are entertaining, his British accent is a pleasure to listen to, his information is geared toward an office setting, and he understands that people are the most important factor concerning process improvement.

Take a few minutes to watch some of his videos or read some of his articles. He gives an excellent overview of the hows as well as the whys of process improvement.

You may wish to start with this set of articles which deals with classifying different process types. Or this spunky video having to do with ways to overcome the pitfalls you may encounter when trying to do process mapping.

Documenting the processes – no silver bullet

One more article you’ll find most informational on Mr. James’ site is this one having to do with process documentation. It is lengthy and chock full of good info. He says, “The goal of process documentation is to provide a means to communicate what the process is.”

Consider why you may need to communicate what the process is.

  • The person who regularly completes a process is on vacation or has left your business.
  • A new employee needs to be brought up to speed quickly.
  • The process is only used occasionally and people (even you) may forget what the process is.
  • Everyone is on the same page when it gets down to “this is how it is done.”
  • Your construction business is able to maintain and grow better through consistency.
  • Having the written process makes updating and improving easier when the time comes.

“If you don’t write it down, you don’t own it.” Michael E. Gerber, author of The E-Myth

This looks time consuming

If you’re concerned about the time involved in the whole idea of creating processes for multiple systems here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • It is likely you already have some good processes in place (and at most, may only need to document them.)
  • You aren’t expected to have every process documented perfectly in the next week or even within a month.
  • There are plenty of processes already mapped out and ready for you to use in the form of SaaS. (I’ll talk more about that in the next installment of this series.)
  • There are a few SaaS applications which are designed to make documentation and the use of set processes available, so you won’t need to start from scratch – think templates.

Setting aside time to create documented processes will, in the end, save you time + headache. Take a look at this post to be reminded why it is worth the effort.

In the next article of this 3-part series the focus will be on ways to build, maintain, and use documented processes on your journey to cultivate an efficient construction office.  

Get in touch today, see how Schulte and Schulte can be of service to your construction contracting or service business by calling 480-442-4032.

Running an Efficient Construction Office – Part 1

Efficiency in your office basics.

Efficiency in your office basics.

Efficiency in the construction office

Efficiency for the sake of efficiency isn’t enough. As a project-based organization, you often face a struggle with factors such as time, cost, and quality on each individual job site. Therefore, being efficient and effective in the office becomes paramount to supporting all the needs associated with getting the jobs, performing the jobs, and getting paid for the jobs.

Let’s start with Return on Investment

Yes, there is an ROI factor connected to the level of efficiency in your construction office. And it will be best if you have a holistic view of the hard ROI and the indirect or so-called “soft ROI.”

Because you will be able to see the hard ROI in the numbers, I’ll focus here on the soft ROI. Examples of long-term soft success metrics to look for are:

  • Escalation of employee productivity
  • Enhancement of company morale
  • Decrease in work related stress levels
  • Increase in company culture awareness
  • Upsurge in employee wellbeing
  • Improved brand perception and reputation
  • Boost in word of mouth advertising

These soft metrics aren’t as easy to quantify or measure. Yet, set against your immediate and long-term financial goals, they are equally important to consider.

Pour the Foundation

Before we get to system and process improvement (covered later in this series) we’ll delve into some overall office basics which play into the goal of better office efficiency. It doesn’t matter if your office is in your home, shop, or another stand-alone location, these ideas will work. Some of the recommendations will involve more effort as well as a monetary comment. Others are so simple you’ll probably wonder why you hadn’t been using them already.

Color

Painting the office walls is neither simple nor quick, yet it is bound to have an effect on your and your employees attitude as well as efficiency. This brief article from Entrepreneur will give you a quick guide to which colors will serve your office best.

Lighting

From eye strain to headaches and a few other glitches in-between, it seems that improper lighting is the likely culprit in many offices. The folks at Inc. mention five ways lighting can improve mood, productivity, and health. Their second point about making lighting more flexible is likely to be the least capital outlay for the most intrinsic gain.

Temperature

The folks at PGi offer a bit of office temperature advice that might surprise you. Take a look. Even though they rely on scientific research to make their recommendation, you may wish to consider providing office scarves, sweaters, even blankets part of the year and a few of these gadgets during the summer months if you have two or more people sharing office space. BTW, the makers of the facial spray from Mario Badescu (mentioned in the link above) recommend keeping the spray in the refrigerator for “an extra refreshing and cooling boost.”  And yes, since I live in the wilds of the Arizona desert I see that as a majorly good idea.

View and décor

Gloomy is as gloomy does. If your offices are dark or otherwise constrained, being efficient isn’t likely to be your strong point. Considering both the color and lighting advice above is a good starting point. From there, other simple ways to add to your view and décor are by bringing in plants, adding beautiful decorative objects, placing intriguing wall art, or simply placing framed photos of your loved ones on your desk. Do you have a small collection worth showing off? Consider displaying it in your office for your own as well as the enjoyment of visitors. If you have the funds and the desire to go all out, then by all means find an interior decorator who will understand your corporate identity and work with you to make all your interior spaces rock.

Scents

Lisa Evans over at Entrepreneur says, “Aromatherapy probably isn’t the first tool you think of to help boost your productivity and grow your business, but maybe it should be.” She goes on to describe various reasons for introducing scent into your office as well as ways to do so that won’t be offensive to others.

Stress balls and fidget spinners

OK, I saved this for last, because I like it – and it seemed like fun to me. Yet, I know what you may be thinking. What do non-productive gadgets have to do with efficiency?  There is evidence that “stress toys” may actually help folks focus on their work. While the jury is still out, it may be worth the few dollars to pick up a stress toy (or 5 – depending on your office size *wink*) and give it a try. If “calm down” is the directive you’d like to give yourself or someone in your office, perhaps having a fidget widget nearby is an acceptable answer.

In the next part of this 3-part series we’ll delve into effective planning methods for becoming more efficient in your construction contracting office.

In the meantime, you can get in on the accounting service we provide (which comes with systems and processes as part of the package) by getting in touch here.