Physical Office Processes for Savvy Construction Contractors

Fitting together the pieces of organized office processes

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

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

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

What is meant by “office processes”?

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

Space Planning + Effective Utilization = Impressive Results

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

Chaos Increasing + Inefficient Implementation = Profits Decreasing

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

Your office processes extend to all your office environments

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

Functions encountered in a construction contractor’s office

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

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

Scale the processes

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

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

The 9 steps to organize by process

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

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

7 things to consider concerning office organization and set-up

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

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

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

Lastly, a few things for the cab

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

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

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

*****

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