Organize Your Construction Office Space

Organizing your construction contracting office space has advantages.

Organizing fundamentals

Establishing three organizing fundamentals in your construction contracting office will aid you and your staff to be more efficient and therefore, more productive. Yes, having an organized space will give you an advantage.

Benefits of an organized office

Taking time to organize your office space well allows you and your employees these benefits:

  • Knowing what resources are available
  • Feeling less stressed and distracted
  • Finding what is needed quickly
  • Avoiding accidentally throwing away something important
  • Gaining a feeling of pride and accomplishment

Before getting into the how of creating your organized office space, let’s take time to look at basic organizing principles.

Organizing principles

Keep these basic principles in mind as you make plans for organizing the various spaces in your office. They will aid you in making the best decisions concerning what goes where and why.

  • Leave room for growth
  • Group elements by the task
  • Store like things together
  • Label spaces rather than things
  • Stash heavy gear in lower places
  • Put frequently used items in places that are most accessible
  • Never label anything “Miscellaneous”
  • Look for ways and space to do batch processing

No matter how big or small your office space, these principles allow you to make the most of what you already have. And speaking of what you already have . . .

Don’t organize everything

Keep only what is necessary. Don’t waste your time storing the “stuff” you don’t want or need. Get rid of the things which are no longer of use. Dried up pens, cracked coffee mugs, and broken office equipment are all candidates for chucking. You know what I mean. There are likely plenty of things in your office space that need to be dealt with in one of three ways:

  1. Toss
  2. Donate
  3. Sell

Look at your space with fresh eyes. What is taking up space and serves no useful purpose? That doesn’t mean you should take down your family photos or remove the lovely plants; if they give you joy, keep them. But, keep in mind, if you happen to be clutter-blind, you may need to ask for help from others you trust.

Barbara Hemphill says, “Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.”

First Fundamental – Establish zones

The first step in establishing zones is to determine which spaces are communal and which are private. (Each of these will be handled in different ways when you get to the third fundamental.)

Then, determine which functions will take place in each zone. Some zones are easier than others. For instance, what takes place in the storage zone is the placement and retrieval of stored items.

Other zones to consider are based simply on what types of tasks occur in each zone. A list might include:

  • Data entry
  • Customer Service
  • Human resources
  • Reception
  • Financial issues
  • Presentation or proposal preparation
  • Regulatory compliance

By establishing zones, it is easier to determine what furniture placement, equipment designation, and room allocations are needed to accomplish the tasks at hand.

“Ah, if only it were that easy,” I hear you saying. That is where the second fundamental comes into play.

Second Fundamental – Establish ownership

Who does which task? Beyond the fact that individuals have different needs and skill levels, there is a real situation that often different members of your staff wear multiple hats. The receptionist may also be the data entry person. Or, the person in charge of regulatory compliance may also oversee human resources.

Of course, cross-training is recommended and may skew office placement somewhat but knowing who is in charge of which task helps determine where to put all the “stuff,” which allows your office to function at optimal levels.

Think in terms of who needs which item most often. Be sure that the item is in or near the space designated to that person.

But, don’t get stingy. Sometimes it is helpful to have more than one given item. Here’s an example from our home. We have multiple scissors scattered in various places. There are the kitchen shears stored in the kitchen, several paper cutting scissors tucked away in a drawer in a hall, crafting scissors stored in each child’s craft “stash,” and sewing scissors (mine) hidden in a safe space in my room because they are used only for cutting fabric.

Third Fundamental – Establish systems

Remember, I mentioned zones would be handled differently in this section. For the most part, the private spaces you and your team members inhabit will be organized to meet the needs of individuals. Duties, skills, and work habits will lend themselves to establishing order and routine for each private zone.

Leading well in the organizing habits and establishing base expectations allows you to give your team members some amount of autonomy when it comes to arranging and maintaining their private workspaces.

It is the communal spaces that can cause some organizing angst.

Conference rooms, kitchens, storage rooms, and collaborative spaces can be challenging to organize and maintain.

Here are three methods which have been tried:

  1. Taking turns
  2. Assigning people to oversee specific areas
  3. Enforcing the expectation that people deal with their own messes

From experience, I’ll tell you the first and third usually fail. Here’s why.

You likely know how this story goes. It is titled, “Whose job is it anyway?”

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody, when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Putting space organization in its place

Use the three organizing fundamentals in conjunction with one another to determine the best use of each space in your construction contracting office.

Get rid of time and space wasters.

Start small (perhaps a desk drawer) and move to larger areas and spaces to complete the organizing tasks.

Develop a plan for organizing the spaces in your office. Let everyone on your team know what the plan is and how it will be achieved.

Expect your team to follow your example – for better or worse.

There is more

This article is the last in a 4-part series concerning organizing your construction contracting business. You can find the first concerning Organizing Your Mind and the second about Organizing Time,  as well as the third discussing Organizing Tech by linking through.

 

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

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!

CoConstruct: Custom Build and Remodel 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, and dig a little deeper into our favorites.

This month, we would like to introduce you to CoConstruct.

CoConstruct is geared specifically for custom home builders and remodelers. This software is designed to include everything that goes into home building from initial client leads, all the way through punchlist and warranty work. The video above gives a brief overview of the software in action, particularly the financial setup of a project start. CoConstruct has a lot more features baked into it than we have time to get into here, but we want to highlight a couple of the features that we believe set CoConstruct apart from other similar apps and software.

Keep Your Clients Informed – “If the clients ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”
Keeping your clients informed as the project progresses is an essential part of any custom build, and CoConstruct takes a lot of the time involved in doing this off of your hands. Included in the software is a client-only web portal that shows them the information they are looking for; 24-7 access to selections, costs, photos, conversations, job calendar, and more. This gives them the opportunity to know exactly where the project is at, and also allows them to share progress photos and your work with their friends through social media, which translates to referrals for your company!

Improved Client Communication – Kiss the “he said, she said” goodbye
CoConstruct has patent-pending communication technology that allows all communication between your team, client, and trade partners to be found in one place. This allows everyone involved in the project to be on the same page, and if changes happen then everyone involved will be in the communication loop without having to worry about forwarding emails, IMs, or text messages to all of the relevant parties.

Finish Strong – Leave a great last impression on your clients
CoConstruct makes it a priority to see your client’s projects through to completion, even while you are moving on to new jobs. You won’t get caught dropping the ball with your clients and subcontractors regarding warranty work with the reports and reminders that will come up, months and years down the line. It’s the “little things” like this that can make or break a great referral for your company, and CoConstruct has your back.

We love CoConstruct, 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!

JOBBER: Business Management Solution for Field Service Companies

 

At Schulte and Schulte, our passion is in working with any company that fits under the construction umbrella.  This includes construction service businesses like plumbers, HVAC techs, roofers, landscape techs, etc.  Some of the apps that have been, and will be, featured in this blog series are feature filed and do have elements that would be beneficial to construction service businesses.  However, we feel strongly about finding an app or software solution for each of our clients, and this month’s featured app, Jobber, is a great solution for anyone in the construction service industry.

 

 

 

Jobber is geared toward any company that focuses on construction field service. It is a comprehensive business management solution that will aid any small to medium-sized construction service company. There are three main areas that we’d like to focus on as we dig into this app: Client Features, Team Features, and Business Features.

Client Features
Jobber has some features that will impress your clients and help keep your client information organized. It has an excellent customer relationship management (CRM) tool to keep your client’s information and communication organized. As you communicate with your different clients, whether by sending a quote, getting an e-signature, or reminders to follow up with clients, Jobber keeps track of all communication and saves it in each specific client’s file to help keep you as a construction service business owner more organized.

Team Features
These Team Features integrate both the Jobber computer software as well as their mobile app, which is available for both tablet and phone on iOS and Android. Included are various tools like Scheduling that allows you as the construction service business owner to easily create new jobs for clients and assign them to your team with only a few clicks; Map View Routing that will automatically send notice to your team as they are out in the field giving them the information that they need to get to and work the next job; and GPS Tracking so that you get a clear picture of where your team is at throughout the day as well as tracking employee hours and labor costs.

Business Features
Jobber gives you the ability to send out customized invoices so that you are in control of what your clients see on their invoices. It also has the option included of accepting payment for service right at the jobsite. Also included are Reports that provide a bird’s eye view of how your construction service business is doing, Time Tracking that makes it easy to review and complete payroll, and Accounting Sync that seamlessly integrates with QuickBooks Online to assist with your monthly bookkeeping.

We love Jobber, and would love 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!

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.

Store Smart, Hunt Less: The Best Ways to Organize Your Construction Contractor Shop

When you or your workers waste time looking for material, tools, or equipment, dollars are flying out the door

If you’re organized, even a small shop can be a comfortable size. If you’re not, well, then a shop of any size will get crowded.

Have you been in your shop and heard, or said things like this?

  • Has anybody seen the box of washers?
  • Do you know where the shop-vac is?
  • What happened to the long, flat-head screw driver? I was just using it.

If you have, stay tuned, I’ve got some ways to help you move from the contractor’s dreaded “treasure hunt” to an efficient and serviceable shop even Ben Franklin would approve of. Because you know . . . when you or your workers waste time looking for material, tools, or equipment, dollars are flying out the door.

Organized + Systemized  

Whether your construction contracting shop is used for storage only or also includes some amount of fabrication it makes sense to have all the items in it organized in a handy and useable way.

Here are three goals to keep in mind as you go about the task of organizing your shop

  1. Providing a safe environment
  2. Managing inventory
  3. Being able to find what you need when you need it AND seeing to it your workers can find what they need – without needing you.

Buy In to tackle the organized shop project

If you’re a one-man operation, then the only person you need to get to Buy In is you. And that may be a bit tricky. Remind yourself of the outcome before and during the process. You may even decide to reward yourself with a new tool or some other desired item when the shop is all organized and living in all its glory.

And, if you see you’re going to need some help with this organize-the-shop project, you’ll need to see to it the others working with you understand why this change and the labor involved will make a difference not only for your company but also for them. You might start by reminding them of the third goal as mentioned above, “Being able to find what you need when you need it AND seeing to it your workers can find what they need – without needing you.” You may also consider a small bonus, or a gift card for dinner out, or a shop-wide we-did-it party at the completion of the organizing venture.

Need more info? Check out this article from Entrepreneur about getting employee buy in.

Depending on the size of your shop and the number of items in it, this project may take only a long Saturday, or a few work days. It may also be such a big project it will need to be divided into several parts and completed in stages. This is where you’ll find the next step to be vital to conquering the messy shop blues.

Organize an organizing plan

Unless you’re ready to add more space to your shop by adding on or moving to a larger facility you need to deal with the square footage you already have.

Start by looking at the layout. Do you have a blueprint or schematic of your shop you can check out? If not, grab your tape measure and get busy.

Having a plan or even a prioritized list saves you the effort of stopping, deciding what’s the next thing to do, and then rebuilding momentum each time you move on to a new task.

Determine the necessary components

Begin with or establish new places for your stationary tools

Then consider all your options in these areas

  • Go vertical with a multitude of shelving and rack options
  • Think of using overhead ceiling racks
  • Determine your need for specialized holders (such as a wire spool holder)
  • Bring in component drawer sets or toolboxes

If you set up your storage system with some empty cubbies, empty drawers, and empty shelf space, you’ll be buying yourself some time before having to re-reorganize.

The principle organizing principles to consider

  • Know the difference between a want and a need (You know what I mean.)
  • Sort by category (the category that makes the most sense to you, for example by job type or by tool type)
  • Store like items in the same area or space (for example, all fasteners in one storage area)
  • Keep larger and heavier items low (and on wheels when that is an option)
  • Make it easy to get to (only one barrier layer – no drawers inside closed cabinets, for instance)
  • Store items closest to where they will be used (get multiples of the exact same tool, if it will be used in several different places during any given day)
  • Keep frequently used items most easily accessible (Think “coffee cup” and you’ll know what I mean.)
  • Consider developing “ready to go” boxes for items you will transport frequently
  • Remember – getting rid of something makes room for the future

Now get to it

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could push the do-over button? Well, depending on the size of your shop you may actually be able to do something pretty close to that. If your shop is small the first step may very well be akin to pushing the do-over button because you can take advantage of the option by moving everything out of the shop space. Ah, now you can do-over by following the steps below before moving items back in.

If your shop is larger or if you need to organize in stages because of time limitations, you can still use the same formula

Set aside the time necessary

  • Put it on the calendar
  • Remind others involved
  • Stick to it

Clean out the entire shop or a designated space in the shop

  • Sweep and clean
  • Make any facility repairs necessary (including painting if you choose)

Sort

  • Group like items together
  • Arrange items by function or frequency of use
  • Label what goes where (Skip this step at your own peril.)

Get rid of the junk

  • Toss it
  • Donate it
  • Sell it
  • Notice how much more space you have (and smile)

Put your material, tools, and equipment in the “smart” places they belong

  • You probably won’t get everything perfectly right the first time
  • Tweek it in about a week after you’ve discovered the weak spots

Finally

Rinse and repeat until you have all spaces and areas clean, organized, and functioning well

This is one in a series of articles concerning pieces of the organizing puzzle for your construction contracting business. You can go here to find more.