How to Know if Your Office System is a Mess

Office systems to keep you from having an office that is a literal and figurative mess.

Office systems – they’re no joke

Office systems could be funny, right? Let’s step back a moment and look at where this post came from.

As per my own advice, I keep a Squirrel List of ideas that have crossed my path.

Occasionally I scan through it when deciding what to write that will benefit our subcontractor clients. A while back I had written what became the title to this article (How to know if your office system is a mess) with a following note which said, “It requires a new file cabinet.” Yeah, I thought is was funny in my own off-the-wall way. You see, we often work with our clients to help them move towards a paperless office for the sake of both security as well as efficiency.

Next, I thought what other “funny” things can I add besides the file cabinet “joke” to come up with a lighthearted post for this page. Turns out office systems are a pretty down-to-earth item not to be tampered with – much. With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy I present the following guide.

Your office system might be a mess if:

Your cleaning crew can’t find your desk

The neighbors complain about the weekly trash overflowing – every week

You would rather be anywhere (including the dog-house) instead of your office

Your biggest business goal is to determine where in the office you left your mobile phone

It requires a new file cabinet

Your office system is important

Office systems in your subcontracting business are just as important as the systems you use in the shop, during the service call, or on the construction site. Get your office systems right and you are a step ahead of your competitors – a giant step ahead.

The absolute, down in the trenches, give-away that your office systems aren’t functioning well is this – you don’t have time for the important stuff.

You don’t have time to work on the things that will grow your business, such as:

  • identify new business opportunities
  • formulate ways to form strategic partnerships
  • find new ways to provide extra value to your clients
  • provide mentorship or training to your valuable employees
  • pursue continuing education concerning tools, supplies, techniques, and best office practices
  • enhance field productivity
  • meet with potential clients
  • develop an effective and evolving organizational structure

Your office system IS a mess when

In no particular order there follows a list of clues showing your office system is a mess – and these aren’t all that funny. If you check off too many of these, you need to rein in the chaos and begin getting your office systems in order. (And yes, the team here at Schulte and Schulte is good at helping our clients pull on those reins.)

Your systems are all and only in your head

There is no backup plan for when things go wrong

You have too many daily goals

Your website is stagnant

Your email inbox is multiple pages long or (worse yet) your physical inbox is over-flowing

People keep quitting

Your few documented systems include names rather than titles concerning who does the work

No one knows where to look for lost information

The phone ringing isn’t a pleasure but a disturbance

You haven’t created (documented) repeatable systems for all your processes

You’re unsure of your costs and expenditures

You don’t know who owes you nor how much they owe

You’re unwilling (or don’t know how) to remove non-performers

You spend too much time putting out fires

Neither you nor your employees can describe your company culture (learn how here)

The physical layout of your office doesn’t lead easily to next-step tasks

You don’t have clarity of purpose

You don’t have a growth-through-systems mindset

And last, but not least . . . it requires a new file cabinet 🤡

If you like having accounting and office systems that work to make you more efficient and effective, therefore making you more profitable, then you can get in touch here or by calling 866-629-7735 to set your place on our waiting list.

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.

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!

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.  

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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.

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.

That’s My Story, And I’m Sticking to It.

A carpenter, a stacker, and a few ducks

My dad was a master carpenter who moved up the ranks, retiring as a construction superintendent with many awesome builds under his belt. My mom was counted among the last of the American generations of women who stayed at home taking care of the home front. (The photo accompanying this article is my Mom and Dad’s wedding picture.)

The difference in how they saw the job of “being organized” was immense. Mom was a perpetual and ardent “stacker.” Her piles of magazines, bills, linens, and anything else which could be piled one on another were scattered throughout the house. Dad, on the other hand, used markers to outline around the tools which hung precisely on his shop walls. He labeled and knew where each type of screw was stored, where the touch-up paint was located and how long it had been there.

From that background came little ole’ me. What developed was a semi-stacker who knows that efficiency, therefore productivity, are increased when everything has a place and everything is in its place, yet still must work the process on occasion in order to be sure the ducks are indeed in a row.

Therefore, I’ve had to learn a few tricks of the trade

I was blessed to have studied under Barbara Hemphill of Taming the Paper Tiger fame. She is a well-versed business woman, a fantastic master of organizing solutions, and a mentor certainly worth heeding.

I’ve given you all this background in order to let you know the upcoming series of posts we have in store for you concerning pieces of the organizing puzzle for your construction contracting business come from a mixture of research, previous knowledge, acquired skills, and a desire to make it easier for our clients to build their building businesses.

Some of the goodies we have planned for you are:

In the office:

In the field:

I hope you’ll come along for the ride, find useful tips for improving your construction contracting business, and let me know if you have specific organizing headaches you would like to see addressed.

BTW if you are not already a client of ours, if you happened upon this page through a google search or some other means I need to let you know Schulte and Schulte is a bookkeeping and accounting firm specializing in working with Construction Contractors and Subcontractors who are ready to scale.

Want to know more? Give us a call 480-442-4032. We’ll be happy to discuss the possibilities with you.

5 Tips to Help You Streamline Your Construction Contracting Business

There are deadlines to meet, customers to satisfy, and (let’s face it) the important dollar to chase.  You work hard to build your contracting business. Finding ways to streamline the regular functioning is an ongoing process. Today, we present five “tools” for you to use in making your business run a little more smoothly.

 

Close the door!

Even if you decided to start your own construction contracting firm because you didn’t like your former boss’s real or implied closed door policy, you really need to close the door sometimes.

Both doors. Close the virtual door as well as the actual door – for a half hour or so. If you’re a morning person, close the door in the morning. If you function at your best later in the day, that is the time to close the door. Make this a regular part of your daily routine.

Use the private time you enjoy behind the closed door to plan, assess, gather your thoughts, refresh, breathe. A word of warning — it may be harder to teach yourself to take this time than it will be to teach those around you to honor this time. But, it is worth it!

 

Say “No” like you mean it!

Whether your contract is with your ideal client or that pesky frequent-change-order dude there are still times when you simply need to say, “No, I won’t be able to do that.” It isn’t because you don’t want to satisfy your customer, your colleagues, your staff, or whoever has made the latest request. It is because you are the one responsible for setting your healthy boundaries.

It’s not uncommon for the owners and managers of construction contracting firms to over-extend themselves. (Heck, even we bookkeepers can find ourselves in this quagmire on occasion.) Bad thing is, too many “yeses” leads to too many “stresses.” Learning to say no and avoiding the guilt trip that accompanies the response frees you to make the “Yes” call on the important matters.

 

Get, learn about, and use good Apps and Tech Tools!

You already know that using the right tool for the job is imperative. Don’t neglect the right tool for your office.

A couple of apps we use and recommend frequently are Hubdoc and Knowify.

Hubdoc is all about document automation, it lets you turn paperwork into data which is actual useful.

And, Knowify is a tool for managing your entire contracting business in one place.

Oh yeah, we ought to let you know, we have an entire series coming up all about these two apps as well as a few others. We’ll give you the “down low” and let you know how to put them to good use in your construction contracting business.

*Update* Check the first in this series about apps we recommend. It is all about Hubdoc.

*Update* Here is another article by our Technological Operations Leader, Steve Lewis, letting you know more about Knowify 

*Update* Find out all about Jobber and how it can work for you.

*Update* Look at what Steve tells us about CoConstruct — cool stuff!

*Update* Steve let’s us in on the story about 17hats.

Build the Team you can count on!

It is hard to get good help these days.

Especially in the construction industry.

Here are some ideas as well as links to some of the places you may want to search for that “good help” you’re in need of.

Field or shop employees

Whatever forces (and there are many) have brought about the difficulty of finding skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen in the construction industry these days, there are still some methods which may be worth trying to find that “just right” new hire.

This rather lengthy but quite informative article is worth perusing if you’re having difficulty finding and keeping excellent field and shop staff.

We noticed a couple of local sources for schools which you may wish to contact. One is at the high school level, and you can go to the website here and the other is college level, access it here.

Two sources found here and here are available if you’re willing to pay for staffing.

And, if you simply want to pay for ads you can check out Monster or go with one or more of the local newspapers.

Plus you can try one or more of these 5 no cost or low cost methods of advertising your need for skilled workers

  1. The tried and true, longstanding method of word of mouth is still viable and useful. Tell your present employees, your friends, your colleagues, your social contacts what type of person and skill you’re searching for.
  2. Hang a banner on your shop or office building.
  3. Place a Craig’s List ad.
  4. Put an ad on your website.
  5. Create a clever video ad to be used on all your social media sites.

Office staff 

While it may seem easier to find office staff there is still the need for caution and due diligence when you’re ready to hang out the “help wanted” sign. Some places or ways you may wish to try are the local newspapers and Craig’s List for simple ads, word of mouth, on your website, or through a staffing agency.

And, because we ourselves are an outsource firm we can’t pass up the opportunity to mention outsourcing as a viable alternative to in-house help. You may want to hire a virtual assistant for administrative tasks, or find a marketing guru, seek a social planner, or . . . well you get the picture. Whether you need someone long term or for a one-off there are plenty of outsource sources available.

Having the right people on your team will also allow you to delegate more easily.  Of course, building your team will take time, yet once they are in place, your shop and office will be better prepared and better qualified to get the job done!

 

And lastly, 5 Simple Tricks to Shrug off the procrastination monster!

  1. Think about what excites you. Decide why this task will help you reach your goal.
  2. Change your perspective. Who will benefit when you get this job done? Your client? Your family? Your employees? Envision their pleased reaction when you complete the task at hand.
  3. Make and use a to-do list. Whether electronic or on paper this list is vital. Checking off completed items not only gives you a moment of satisfaction, it also gives you the boost to carry on.
  4. Devote small increments of time to a big task. Avoid overwhelm by predetermining daily time or space limits regarding that one big thing that really must be completed.
  5. Be realistic. Set reasonable targets. Unrealistic targets feed procrastination – you’ll be tempted to think, “Why start on this, it’s impossible to get done.”

 

All streamlining is about is finding the right time to do the right thing. So now is the time to choose the next right action. When you find you have distractions or doubt, come back to this essay. You’ll find something to help get you back on track. Run with it!