Technically it is About Organizing the Tech

Organizing technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Productivity Tools Organized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clean out the technology productivity tools closet

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

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

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

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

Lastly, verify the integrity of your data backup.

Organizing electronic files

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parting words

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

 

We desire to familiarize you with business concepts, which will make it easier for you to be a better commercial construction business owner through our blog posts. Some are new ways of looking at things, and others are refreshers. 

Schulte and Schulte Provides Accounting, Contract Document Management, and Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors.

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

Being Intentional in Your Construction Business

Being Intentional for the sake of your construction business

Being Intentional in Your Construction Business

Being Intentional – the question

Martin Holsinger, owner of Protractor Podcast and an Internet Marketing Agency recently asked on a social media platform, “What is the one thing you want to be more intentional about this year as we move into spring?”

There were a number of good responses. I contributed an answer. Thought about it some more and added an additional reply. Then, I thought about it even more.

Holsinger’s original question included these words, “the one thing.” So, why was it that I responded twice? Perhaps I had missed the importance of the word “one.” Sorry, Martin. 😔

Being Intentional – the explanation

So, I went on with the thinking, what does “intentional” really mean? I thought I knew. But, as these things go, I wanted to make sure I really knew. And, being the good little researcher I am, I went looking for the answer. You might suppose I would simply pick up the dictionary and put an end to the mindful debate.

Nope.

I went straight to the people’s choice, my friend (?) google. There were a number of people speaking on the subject. And, if those tallies at the top of the google search page were real, more people had something to say on the subject than I had time to read.

Still, being intentional about my quest, I gleaned a few things which clarified the subject for me. When you set out to be intentional these are the three things which make a difference:

  1. Have a clear understanding of your purpose
  2. Focus on what matters
  3. Take action

The example

With that in mind, I recalled a real-life example I encountered last week.

I was invited to meet for dinner at a happy little pizza joint that is a central location for me and a few friends. We’ve met there before. The promise and the expectation was good food, good laughs, and a good time had by all. While all those expectations were met (eventually) the problem arose in the journey.

And, isn’t that where all problems in our lives as well as in our businesses arise – on the journey?

Only a few miles from home, on the path I usually take to the pizza joint, I discovered the once 4-lane road had been reduced to a 2-lane road.

There were signs. Road Work Ahead. Single Lane Ahead. Merge Right.

The signs are there for us to read as we travel with intention.

No problem. I had given myself a padded time-frame for getting to my destination because . . . well, you never know when there may be a problem (like road construction) to slow you down.

Then, at the corner where I normally turn left the sign was simple. No Left Turn.

No matter how well we plan there will be obstacles and signs which thwart us on our journey.

Remaining Intentional

Again, no problem. I knew of another street ahead where I could turn left and still get to where I wanted to go.

Except the same sign appeared on that street corner too. No Left Turn.

Often on the path to overcoming an obstacle, more obstacles appear.

And, as far as I could see ahead of me were those nasty little orange and white traffic safety cones. Far be it from me to fuss about construction. Yet, I may as well admit, sometimes far is pretty close.

Zinging around in my law-abiding-mind is the recollection of the traffic ticket someone close to me recently received for (yep, of all things) turning left at an under-construction intersection which had an all too visible sign – No Left Turn. Adding to that zinging is my consternation concerning the many happy (or unhappy) travelers who would be trapped behind me if I determined to break the law and wait for oncoming traffic to clear so I could safely make the illegal left turn. Safety first, you know. 😉

While we’re on the go we must make quick decisions which affect others around us.

Turning right on a leftward journey

So? So, rather than wait to see if one more street corner had a nasty little stop-her-from-getting-where-she-wants-to-go No Left Turn sign, I flipped the turn signal to the right. After making a few jogs in the neighborhood, I was now driving straight down the street denied me by the No Left Turn boondoggle of stupid signs.

Occasionally we must make moves which will right the path even when they seem counter-intuitive. I mean, who turns right when their destination is toward the left?

Like I said, I eventually got to my destination, met my friends, talked, listened, laughed, ate pizza, and set off to return home. As I began the journey home, I made the decision to follow a different route in order to avoid the construction zone which had slowed me earlier in the evening.

Learning from the problems and obstacles which pop up on our journey is wise.

Having determined the route I would take home, I put the car in gear and headed out. All went well. That is, all went well until I noticed the amber light set to the side of the road. The intersection at which I would turn left on my journey home was narrowed to one lane and no left turns would be allowed.

Having a sense of humor is paramount to owning a business. Sometimes, no matter how well intentioned you are, road construction is going to mess with your mind and your journey.

Being Intentional in your construction business

To be intentional is to knowingly choose your direction. Where do you want to arrive next year at this time? What about next month? The following list will give you ideas concerning areas where you might need to increase your focus and intention.

  • Do you need to improve your construction company’s safety rating?

 

  • Is it time to be certain you are making a profit?

 

  • Is presenting yourself professionally an area where you need to improve?

 

  • Do you need to be better with your people management and delegating skills?

 

  • Is now the time to get a firm grip on which construction related technology will serve your business best?

 

  • Will you need to learn how to better evaluate the risks associated with each potential project?

You get the idea. Determine where you need to be more intentional. Then you’ll be able to focus on what matters. Now, take action.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard

 

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

 

Short and Sweet the Way to Meet

Morning huddles help your business grow and and be successful.

Morning huddles help your business grow and and be successful.

Better management in your construction business through daily meetings

Safety meetings are Boring! But they don’t have to be, and they shouldn’t be!

Daily huddles, morning meetings, toolbox talks, tailgate meetings, safety meetings – it doesn’t matter what you call it, having a meeting daily with your crew is essential.

If your construction safety officer, your site foreman, or you are the person in charge of the safety meeting make sure the meetings are worth attending. Whoever is leading should be up to the challenge of briefly conveying the message in ways that keep everyone involved and glad they attended.

An explanation (of sorts)

Before going further, I’ll explain what led to this particular article being written. As the Office Mom here at Schulte and Schulte, I was looking for information concerning how to hold morning meetings for our virtual office. (BTW, I found some good stuff.) And, along the way two things happened.

First of all, I discovered there seems to be a wide difference in how many types of businesses outside the construction industry use the morning meeting and how many construction contractors typically use the time. (And, sorry . . . but, if I were giving grades, many contractors would get an “F” for how they conduct their meetings.)

The second thing that happened was, I sat down with a construction superintendent and one of the subjects which came up was “toolbox talks.” He was frustrated with the process he had been given and admitted that he often simply skipped the “talks.” He felt that his company only provided materials and sign-off sheets because they were hoping to avoid the ire of OSHA.

So, my friend, (you know who you are) this is for you.

Getting down to basics

When – NOT whenever you happen to think about it. But, daily. Daily so it becomes an ingrained habit with both you and your workers. And, make the start of the meeting at an odd time – say 7:07. The odd time helps your crew think in increments of minutes and subtly influences the pace of the meeting. Plus, it sets this meeting apart as being something different and special.

Where – NOT at the local restaurant. But, at the jobsite. Being at the jobsite frees precious minutes to get going when the meeting is over. (Some companies provide a mini-breakfast like doughnuts, or bagels, or breakfast burritos, and coffee, but it isn’t necessary, and you need to determine what is best for you and your crew.)

Why – NOT just because you will be able to satisfy some OSHA requirements through ongoing training. (Although that is just one of many advantages.) But, because it is the most effective method to refresh your workers’ knowledge, to deal with up-to-date safety checks, and exchange current information.

How – NOT through haphazard and wishful thinking. But, by making attendance mandatory and . . . well that is the subject of the rest of this article.

Having morning meetings that rock!

The time spent in the morning as a team helps improve individual morale as well as reinforce company culture. This is the place to let everyone know about “having each other’s back” and giving your workers the means to be successful on a daily basis.

This is not the time to investigate bottlenecks. Rather, this time is an opportunity to quickly convey the necessary information and guide employees in a given direction.

One

Start on a high note by letting different members of the team (quickly) describe any “wins” they’ve had on the job or in their personal lives. “We stood up twelve columns yesterday, two more than our goal.” “My wife gave birth to twins over the weekend!” You see how this leads right into team unity as well as team morale.

Two

Impart the important information – often safety tips. Don’t worry about finding safety topics to discuss. You can find them here, here, here, here, and here. And there is at least one toolbox talks app you may want to check out here. Depending on time of year, type of job, or other situations you can choose those most suited to your present needs. You may also wish to leave out the safety tips on occasion and use those precious minutes to discuss successful job milestones, or overall company health and wellbeing, or another exciting topic which is pertinent to the team.

Three

Make assignments concerning what each individual or team needs to accomplish for the day. (Make sure you document this in writing or on the appropriate app so there won’t be any “But I thought we decided . . .” later in the day or week.)

Four

End on a high note. It could be a quick cheer, or something like a daily inspirational quote, or asking people to name something they learned yesterday, or even a daily joke or pun. Your team feeling uplifted and cheerful at the end of the meeting will help set the tone for the rest of their day.

5 important tips

  1. Keep everyone standing – this helps convey the brevity of the meeting

 

  1. Turn off all phones and (do your best to) limit other distractions

 

  1. Start and end on time

 

  1. Stay on topic

 

  1. Document what was decided (Who was assigned to do what and in what time frame?)

5 good ideas you may wish to try

  1. Have the crew participate in brief stretching exercises to prepare for the work ahead

 

  1. Provide snack-like breakfast items (perhaps only once a week or on special occasions)

 

  1. Include “best of” types of mentions or rewards occasionally during the meeting (Who went above and beyond to satisfy a customer? Who had a great eye for the possible safety hazard yesterday and took care of the situation? Who is a new daddy?)

 

  1. Consider having different members of the team present the “main” topic as guided by their expertise or some other criteria.

 

  1. Invite office personnel to present occasionally when items like filling out the necessary paperwork, using the proper channel for reporting hours worked, teaching use of new apps, or other office-centric activities need to be addressed.

Some final thoughts

Ten to fifteen minutes seems to be the most recommended time frame for completing the morning meeting, but there are those who say seven minutes is just perfect.

Prepare your agenda in advance of each meeting, stick to a format that works for you and your team.

Create a predictable rhythm the team will anticipate, thus helping them to be cued and ready to participate at each changing stage of the morning huddle.

 Get in touch to see how Schulte and Schulte can be of service

to your construction contracting or service business by going here

Getting Your Construction Company Ready for Company

You know the story. Company’s coming – we need to get this place straightened up!

Truth is, when guests are on their way, getting the “stuff” picked up isn’t much of a problem if there are already systems and routines in place. If like-items are stored in appropriate use-ready places, if each family member knows what his assignment is, if the place is simply cluttered as opposed to being in a state of filth, you can probably nail it in less than an hour.

But, what if your home is in a “state of filth?” What if you have company coming in only an hour?

Is your construction business ready for “company?”

Put another way – Do you have an exit plan? Are you preparing now for that day? Because you know as well as I do, some day “company” will arrive – will you be ready?

There are some construction contracting or service businesses which could be ready for company at the drop of a hat and others which wouldn’t be ready no matter how much notice they were given.

The process of getting your business “ready for company” necessitates the business practices and procedures that maximize the return from your construction contracting firm.

Let’s talk basics

You’ll have to implement best practices for construction business planning which at the very least includes:

  • management
  • operations
  • finances
  • marketing

A solid plan means you will have created operations manuals or their equivalent, and will have at minimum one training center. You’ll be able to document and implement your industry’s best practices, procedures, and systems.

Let’s talk about your job

There are two major jobs you, the owner, need to concern yourself with and they are –  creating career opportunities for your team and building a company that runs without you. Perhaps the greatest task you’ll face is to make yourself DISPENSABLE.

Let’s talk business financials

Knowing your exit plan will have you looking at your business financials in a whole new light. A few of the things you’ll see with better clarity are:

  • Having a budget in place
  • Understanding your accountability to employees
  • Determining to increase revenue, manage costs, and direct overhead spending
  • Organizing and measuring your rise to more profit

We can help.  480-442-4032 or Toll Free: 866-629-7735