Words, Choose Them Wisely

Choose words wisely in your construction contracting business

Words are precious

Words are very precious and using them wisely sets you apart. When you own a construction contracting business, you must communicate many different things in many different ways. And, while you need not have a degree in English Language Arts, it is a good idea to understand how using the language well in a variety of circumstances can set you apart from the crowd.

Therefore, we’re going to dive into five things to keep in mind about words:

  • Contracts that are the best they can be
  • Marketing that hits the mark
  • Communicating wordlessly
  • Avoiding empty words
  • Swearing consciously

Words in Contracts

When it comes to construction contracts, there are a few words you need to keep in mind. They are, “Who’s the best construction knowledgeable attorney in town?” Or words like that.

From writing contracts to approving contracts, a good construction-centric attorney is your best bet. And, if you ever wonder how powerful words can be, try going to court with a poorly worded contract.

So that you get an idea of why engaging the correct attorney is so important I offer this:

One day in Contract Law class, the professor asked one of his better students, “Now if you were to give someone an orange, how would you go about it?”

The student replied, “Here’s an orange.”

The professor was livid. “No! No! Think like a lawyer!”

The student then recited, “Okay, I’d tell him, ‘I hereby give and convey to you all and singular, my estate and interests, rights, claim, title, and advantages of and in, said orange, together with all its rind, juice, pulp, and seeds, and all rights and advantages with full power to bite, cut, freeze and otherwise eat, the same, or give the same away with and without the pulp, juice, rind and seeds, anything hereinbefore or hereinafter or in any deed, or deeds, instruments of whatever nature or kind whatsoever to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding . . .”

See what I mean? 😉

Marketing Words

Whether you choose to do your marketing in-house or source it out, the words used in your marketing strategy will make the difference in landing the right jobs. Of course, pictures can be vitally important in your marketing efforts. But keep in mind, a few well-chosen words can make good photos shine even brighter.

Be sure to look at the section titled, “Trust-based words,” in this article from FIVESTARS discussing The Top 42 Marketing Words that Tempt and Turn Off Customers. 

While you’re at it, look over the sections titled, “Overused words” and “Words that could get you into trouble.”

No Words

Sometimes you communicate with a close friend or relative with no more than a look. And, even if you’re not a mom, you’ve likely experienced “the mom look.” You know what I mean, Mom gives you “that” look, and you know you better stop doing that or start doing this.

Here are two important things to remember about wordless communication.

Something left unspoken is usually intentionally omitted for a reason.

Something implicit is understood without words.

So, whether your communication is toward employees, subs, general contractors, your friends or family, or your peers, there are times when words are unnecessary and might even dilute the message.

Also, in an intriguing article, by Alison Davis, you’ll find five ways to dramatically improve your communication (without saying a word.) 

Empty Words

One day in early October, a representative of the City of Phoenix dropped by our place to let us know we might have a water leak. He started by explaining that our water usage was much higher in September than it had been in August. “Hum,” said we. “No one lived in this house in August, that likely accounts for the difference in water usage,” we explained.

“Nope,” said he. “This amount of change can’t be explained that way.”

Then the fun began. He used an empty word, a metric that neither Tonya nor I understood. Weird part? Neither she nor I can remember which term he was using. We figured out it was a unit of measure, but it had no place in either of our knowledge banks.

Perhaps he thought we were the “dull crayons” in the box.

The thing is, like most folks, Tonya and I understand two different water usage units of measure quite well. One is gallons. The other is dollars. If at any time the fellow had used either of those terms, we would have readily understood what he was trying so desperately to get us to see.

When the water bill (which uses “dollars” as its unit of measure) arrived, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that there was a water usage problem.

Lesson: When speaking with regular folks about something known well in your industry, don’t expect them to understand the terms associated with it. They will be empty words and not allow you to communicate effectively.

Swear Words

While some swear Sailors can out-swear Construction Workers, we’re not sure that is true. At any rate, I’m not here to tell you not to cuss. I’m here to tell you to choose your words wisely, including your swear words.

The term, “expletive deleted” became somewhat of a joke following the Watergate scandal. (You can find a brief explanation here.)

Be that as it may, there are three good reasons to minimize the use of words that fall into the “cuss” category.

Offending clients or potential clients is at the top of the list. Why take the chance?

Secondly, there are often better words to get the message across. Having a wide variety of words at your command goes far in proving your intelligence.

And lastly, it is the “shock and awe” factor. There are those times when you need to get the attention of your audience quickly and effectively. Throw in a word they’re not accustomed to hearing you use, and you’re likely to get their attention in short order.

Think of it like using pepper as a spice. Some dishes are greatly enhanced through the judicious use of pepper. But too much pepper and the dish is ruined.

The other night (through no fault of my own) I overheard a few men having a long and loud argument. You see, I couldn’t understand most of what they shouted at each other, but for some reason I could hear them repeatedly telling one another what to do with their sex lives. Perhaps they had a vague notion the words they were using were meant to be offensive. I mean, each of them intended to offend the others. But, because of the repetition and overuse of the same two words just floated into the air, not into the ears of any of the parties involved.

Words are why

And that, my friends, is why I decided to write this article in the first place. Using words wisely makes a difference. It is one way to set yourself apart in the construction industry, or for that matter, in life.

 

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

 

Instagram and the Construction Contractor

Instagram is a great platform for construction contractors to use for marketing

Instagram? Why?

Before we get into the whats, hows, and wherefores of using Instagram to market your construction contracting business, let’s talk about the why. It isn’t likely in today’s economy that you’re too worried about finding new clients. I recently heard it described this way; “The way you get new clients today is to answer the phone.” Yep, the construction industry is swinging along nicely, thank you!

Why spend time and energy getting the word out when you’re so doggone busy?

It’s hard to market when you’re busy.

I know. I get it.

Yet, it becomes a great deal harder to market when you’re desperate and low on funds.

There is a very real chance that soon, and I mean very soon, things can change. And you don’t want to be “that guy.” You know, the guy who was so busy he didn’t take time to let his future potential clients know he even exists.

It’s busy now, but . . .

This article from Forbes has a scary headline, The Next Recession Might Be Worse Than The Great Depression, yet actually hedges a bit toward the end, mentioning there are differences of opinion.

What the author seems to understand is, crystal balls (even those backed by historical evidence and personal experience) sometimes crack or fog up.

What doesn’t have a question mark attached to it are the opening words of the article, “The Next Recession.” The economy is cyclical. It goes up. It comes down.

Another article from Money has much the same to say about the possibility that things won’t be looking so good in just a year or two. And this article uses the construction industry as an indicator of the slow down ahead.

Time to sit up and pay attention.

Back to Instagram

You have a multitude of platforms to use when it comes to marketing. And, our recommendation is you take advantage of as many of them as you can. Yet, today I’m focusing on one in particular, and I have a reason for doing so. Instagram is both simple and sophisticated at the same time.

Under the simple column you can include these words. It is:

  • Visual
  • Quick
  • Mobile
  • And it’s easy to use

Looking at the sophisticated side. It:

  • Provides value to your present and potential clients
  • Helps your clients stay engaged
  • Provides a means for your company to stay relevant
  • Allows you to interact with like-minded business owners

A funny thing happened on my way to Instagram

Because I get to wear the content creation and curation hat around here, part of my job includes doing lots of research. And, during the course of that research I kept hearing construction contractors mention that their business was boosted by their use of Instagram. What? Are you kidding me?

I thought Instagram:

Couldn’t possibly work for service-based businesses (like construction or bookkeeping)

Would likely have a hidden cost associated with obtaining professional photographs

Must make it difficult if not impossible to measure the marketing results

Had (at best) a slim chance of reaching our target market

Would take up too much of my time

What I found

I was wrong on all counts!

Now, let’s pause for a minute so I can throw in this little disclaimer. I don’t know very much about using Instagram. I’m learning. There are lots of things I’m probably doing wrong. There are tons of things I plan to get better at doing.

Yet, with all that said, we’ve already (in only a few weeks of using Instagram) had numerous contacts from folks in the construction subcontracting industry who are interested in getting in on what we have to offer. We presently have a waiting list of contractors who desire our services and contacted us here.

The opportunity you have

When you give a bit of your time to posting on Instagram, there are numerous things Instagram gives back to you. Just a few of them include:

  • Get your logo and brand seen
  • Allow your target market to see your service in action (pictures or videos of “Ned” painting, hammering, moving supplies into place, and so on)
  • Let your present and potential clients get to know your team (events, parties, promotions, awards)
  • Show folks the before and after of your jobs
  • Promote the differentiator which sets you apart from the competition

Further thoughts about the use of the Instagram platform

Think of using Instagram as a part of your long-term marketing strategy.

Start using it while it is still a viable free platform.

Take a class, read about it, or learn by doing – Just Get Started.

Do you use Instagram?

Are you a user of Instagram? If you are, let us know. We would like to see what you’re up to. Oh yeah, if you want to see what we have kicken’ over on the IG page check us out here.

How to Hire a Knight in Shining Armor

Hire the right people and your kingdom reigns.

Hire the right knights

Hire someone soon or see your kingdom hurt.

So, you’re the King (owner) of your construction subcontracting business. And you find you’re in need of a few Knights in Shining Armor (skilled tradesmen) to keep your kingdom healthy. Where in the world do you find them?

You know many nearby kingdoms have robust knights in their service and if you’re to compete you must have the same. Yet don’t be fooled, even the large kingdoms are having knight recruitment problems of their own.

Here are the 3 keys to finding your knight

  1. Understand where your kingdom stands
  2. Be sure what your kingdom has to offer
  3. Know which damsel in distress your potential knight seeks

Where your kingdom stands

Whether you’re the new king on the block or a king who has been around for a while there are things about your kingdom which make it unique. What are they?

  • Does your kingdom have great potential for growth which is sure to bring its knights along with it?
  • Have you been around long enough to show your kingdom strength is stability?
  • Are you actively seeking ways to use construction tech to appeal to a generation of knights which is attuned to screens and clicks?
  • Do you have seasoned knights in your kingdom willing to pass on the information and skills they possess?
  • Are you a king whose strength is sharing the kingdom vision?
  • Does your kingdom have knights who know how to have fun and work in harmony?
  • Is your kingdom one where Squires are welcome?

Take time to think through and list all the things about your kingdom (subcontracting business) which make it unique at this point in time. They’re likely to change as your kingdom grows. Yet, for now, what makes the grass greener in your kingdom than the grass of kingdoms nearby?

Tidbit from Medieval Life and Times

“Knighthood training was a long and often arduous process. Knighthood training began in early childhood when a basic education and good manners and rules of etiquette were taught at home. At the age of 7 young boys were sent away to the castles and homes of wealthy lords or relatives to embark on their knighthood training. From the age of seven to fourteen these young boys were given the role of a Medieval Page. From fourteen to twenty-one these ‘apprentice knights’ were referred to as Squires . The different types and styles of Knighthood training depended on the age and strength of the apprentice knights. Knighthood training was focussed (sic) on weapon practise (sic) which included enhancing skills in horsemanship, the two-handed sword, battle axe, mace, dagger and lance.”

What your kingdom has to offer

If you were to have town-criers stand at the gates of your kingdom (and you should) what would you have them say to those who might be seeking a knighthood in your realm? If you can offer all the items in the list below, then by all means have your town-criers (marketing and advertising) call them out loud and clear. Otherwise look for those you can provide and make sure every knight in your realm has opportunity to see what you have to offer.

  • Excellent salary
  • Paid training
  • Life insurance
  • Profit sharing
  • Medical insurance (medical, dental, vision)
  • Kingdom culture (including fun work environment)
  • Opportunities for kingdom advancement
  • Safety practices
  • Bonuses (including sign-on bonus)
  • Paid vacations
  • Kingdom provided cell phones
  • Retirement programs
  • Kingdom outings
  • Food (weekly breakfast, lunches, or other meals “on the king”)
  • Steads (kingdom vehicles)
  • Organized yard
  • Efficient offices
  • Clothing (free kingdom uniforms)
  • Weapons (use of kingdom tools)

Where to have your town-criers stand. Everywhere!

  • Job fairs
  • High schools
  • Tech schools
  • Community colleges
  • Veterans organizations
  • Inmate rehab organizations
  • Job hiring services (use more than one)
  • Your family and friends
  • Through referral bonuses to employees
  • Social media channels
  • Craigslist ads
  • Even newspaper ads

Which damsel in distress?

Every knight who comes your way has a pretty good idea of which damsel in distress he is seeking. (That might change – but hey, for now, the knight has a damsel in mind.) For example, we recently heard of a subcontractor who lost two of his skilled tradesmen to someone who doesn’t offer the high-level of pay they had been receiving from him but has a robust benefits package.

So, while some (many) will indeed look for the bottom-line dollar amount, there are those who will be concerned about other damsels. Therefore, take home pay, benefits, and company culture will play a big part in the decision-making process for potential knights, yet there are other considerations. The best knights will come to your door with certain useful attributes and will welcome the opportunity to use them in the service of your kingdom and for the well-being of their particular damsel. Watch for them.

Among them are:

  • Those who will want to build their skills concerning establishing customer rapport and relations. (Hint: they’re usually friendly and outgoing – they like people.)
  • Others will want to know that they’ll have a job which doesn’t interfere (often) with their home time. They want to go to work, do a good job, then go home at night without having to worry about the next day.
  • Then there are those who’re anxious to learn, to add skills to their list, and find a path to advancement.
  • There are those who are good at teaching. They’ll welcome the opportunity to teach both their fellow knights as well as your clients. They like being able to help others learn.
  • Some will find their happy moments in connecting people. They want to help you gain new referrals and repeat business. There may be some of the “knowing which side their bread is buttered on” in the process, but mostly they simply enjoy being good connectors.
  • Others will be determined to maintain a clean, organized job site, and well inventoried truck.
  • There are those who pride themselves on being accurate and timely.
  • Some will know how to “take the edge off” with humor or whatever it takes to keep the crew working together.

Each of the traits these knights bring will indicate which damsel they seek. Of course, you’re seeking knights (highly skilled tradesmen) who can and will do their jobs efficiently and with your client’s well-being in mind. They’re not always easy to find, yet you can grow them if you’re willing to build on the traits potential knights bring to the (dare I say it?) round table. (Forgive me, I simply had to do it.)

Hire well!

My mission in presenting the foregoing information has been to bring forth encouraging news, wherewith you, oh King, may make progress in the building of your majestic kingdom.

Or said another way – hope this has been helpful, Mr. Subcontractor.

You can take your place on our waiting list to receive our accounting services by getting in touch here. Simply state you want to be added to the list.

Phones on the Roof

Phones on your construction site, good or bad?

Phones anywhere on a construction site

What do you think? Should there be phones on your construction site?

There are a number of construction business services which are based on the availability of phones and other mobile electronic devices. There are mobile applications for managing field operations on just about every corner. Yet, for the purpose of this discussion we’re going to stick with phones.

Everyone is doing it

Do you remember the days you tried to convince your mom you should be allowed to do something because, “Gosh Mom, everyone else is doing it?”

Yet, when it comes to phones, it does indeed seem that everyone is doing it. When I say everyone, I mean everyone. People who don’t seem to have two cents to rub together have a handy dandy cell phone in their clutches.

Phones on your construction site

So how do you handle the issue of phones when it comes to your field employees or your subcontractors? Do you have a policy in place? Do you just hope everyone does the job they were hired to do and leaves their phone alone?

Caution Shiny Object Ahead. Do you know about or use any of these “rugged phones?”

Yeah, it’s complicated.

Communication

Our mobile phones, in all their glory, were and perhaps still are meant to be communication devices. And who doesn’t want to be able to communicate? You know what I mean – what do you do when you leave home without it?

Seems simple enough. You need to get in touch with your foreman, so you call or text him. There is a major setback on one of your sites and so one of your hands let’s you know (in real time) by sending you a photo.

But, there is this also. One of the guys on one of your crews married Nancy-Nothing-To-Do who calls him all-day-long. Someone else has some very interesting photos on his phone which he passes along on a frequent basis.

Mobile phones are one of the best tools you can have for your construction business – and one of the worst items to ever cross the line onto your construction site.

Efficiency

Phones are, in many instances, the key to jobsite efficiency. Knowify, (a product we know, use, and recommend) says their “smartphone application for field technicians is a great way to automate your job costing in real time from the job site.” They go on to say, “Giving employees access to Knowify on their phones can save you time dispatching workers, entering their time sheets, and reviewing reimbursement and expense requests.”

Even the folks at Hubdoc have information concerning how to use the phone to make using their system easier.

And our friend Jenny Moore of Moore Details Bookkeeping provides a quick video showing how simple it is to use Hubdoc via a phone to aid in the accounting aspect of your business.

Photography

Four important ways phone photography is useful on your jobsites are:

  1. Provides you with documentation or proof of work – allowing you to give your GC or other client a photographic timeline as you proceed.

 

  1. Gives you verification in response to an incident, weather, or some other unanticipated condition – as needed by your clients, insurance provider, or governmental agency.

 

  1. Permits you the ability to see the job site objectively – cameras take it all in, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

 

  1. Rewards you with multiple marketing opportunities – especially if you publish only the good, not the bad and the ugly. 😵

This article from Construction Law Musings-Richmond, VA discusses “The 6 Essentials of Construction Photography.” Be sure to pay attention to number five.

Safety

Yes, yes indeed, there is a safety issue when it comes to phones on the jobsite. Just as there is a safety issue when it comes to phone usage while driving.

Working while distracted is just as dangerous as driving while distracted. The answer in your vehicle can be as simple as using hands-free technology (like Bluetooth) or finding a safe place to stop. The answer on the jobsite may seem somewhat more complicated, yet it boils down to the same principles.

  • Avoid multi-tasking
  • Determine what your task is at the moment
  • Be fully aware of your surroundings

For example, just because you’ve decided to stop walking to engage in a text message conversation doesn’t mean you’re safe. What about the crane operating near you or the dump truck backing into location?

An article from Simplified Safety explores information concerning the use of phones on construction sites. And the title is rather telling, “Are People Walking Around Blindfolded on Your Job Site?” 

Policy

If you linked over to the article mentioned above, you noticed at the end of that post is a section labeled Developing a Mobile Device Usage Policy. It is a good starting point for writing your own policy concerning the use of phones on your jobsites.

You may also like to look over this policy on the Gribbins Insulation website.

The point is, taking the time to write a policy concerning phone usage on your jobsites is not just important, it is imperative. If you feel you need help you may wish to reach out to a freelance Human Resources service such as HRextension.

Writing and enforcing a cell phone policy is important to the well-being of your employees as well as the well-being of your subcontracting business.

Things to consider

What do you think? Should there be phones on your jobsites? How do you make the best use of the phone you have with you all the time anyway? How do you let your subs and employees know what you expect of them?

You can contact us about saving your spot on our waiting list here.

Great Big Huge Mistake or Something Else Altogether?

I heard about this intriguing story

But, I wasn’t sure if it was true, so I went looking. Sure enough, this thing happened. I read about it from CNBC, ESPN, Business Insider, USA Today, in a Cleveland newspaper, and here, and here, and here – just to mention a few.

Seems the crazy owners of Universal Windows Direct (a construction based service business) located in Cleveland, Ohio recently offered an exciting promotion. They said any purchases made from them in the month of July would be refunded in full if the Cleveland Indians came up with a 15-game winning streak before the end of the season. During the month of July, Universal Windows Direct actually sold over 1.7 million dollars’ worth of windows and installation services.

Then, those crazy Indians went on to surpass the 15-game winning streak set as a goal for the refunds.

Great Big Huge Mistake or Marketing Windfall?

The owners of Universal Windows Direct will likely tell you it didn’t turn out to be a mistake at all. You see, they knew when and how to cover their backs. It was simple; they payed $75,000 for an insurance policy to cover their losses if indeed the winning streak held. Then, they sold over 1.7 million dollars’ worth of products and services in one month.

I call it a marketing coupe

So, here are some things to think about:

What is your marketing budget for your construction contracting business?

What “wild and crazy” promotion can you come up with to get the attention of your prospective clients (and perhaps the media at large?)

What alternative way can you think of to use your marketing dollars?

Don’t let this intriguing example get away from you before you think of ways to “get the word out.”