The Hidden Strategy for Construction Subcontractors

It is phenomenal what being organized can do for commercial construction subcontractors

It’s not magic, but it is phenomenal what being organized can do for commercial construction subcontractors. From attracting the best employees to getting better bid opportunities, the foremost contractors are the ones who “have their act together.” That means, quite simply, everything from their minds to their offices are organized.

Being Organized – It’s the Name of the Game!

During the years I’ve spent with leaders in a variety of industries (including construction contractors,) I’ve come to realize that one important quality great leaders achieve is the ability to be well organized.

Put another way, a solid system of organization is crucial to great leadership.

Getting down to brass tacks – productivity is minimalized when disorganization is maximized.

And, productivity is crucial to developing the construction subcontracting company excellent general contractors are seeking.

Organizing with a purpose

Being organized allows you to:

  • Find what you need when you need it
  • Remain on track with your goals and objectives
  • Prioritize with increased knowledge and understanding
  • Focus on important relationships
  • Increase employee satisfaction

And frankly, being organized gives you a competitive advantage when submitting bids or otherwise seeking jobs.

A month of organizing strategies and tactics

For this entire month, the Schulte and Schulte blog and social media posts will focus on giving construction contractors information and guidance concerning organizing strategies and tactics.

The areas we will talk about organizing are:

  • Mind
  • Time
  • Tech
  • Space

You do want to be a highly effective leader. Right? Then come along. We’ll get started today by introducing the information concerning organizing your mind.

Get this in your head

Back in the 90s, there was this saying going around and around and around to the point of ad nauseum. It was “garbage in, garbage out.” You know the reference was to computers and was a way of saying you can’t expect good solutions if you’re inserting bad information.  One online dictionary asserts the saying is, “used to express the idea that in computing and other spheres, incorrect or poor quality input will always produce faulty output.”

While you don’t hear the saying being used much today, the sentiment remains. And, that part about “other spheres” is important because the best computing machine is your brain.

The latest saying in this brain/computer regard is, “I have too many tabs open in my brain.” Some fun wisecrackers add, “and I have no idea where the music is coming from.”  🔊

You get it, don’t you? You’ve experienced those moments when it seems your coffee cup is overflowing, yet someone is holding the coffeepot above your cup and pouring, pouring, pouring. Heck, there might be three or four coffeepots with their spouts aimed at your cup.

Act like a detective

I recently heard former detective Joe Kenda of the television show Homicide Hunter say that when he reached the scene of a crime, his first action was to stop the chaos. As he explained it, he cleared non-essential people from the scene, cleared his head, and clarified for those remaining what their next steps should be.

Clear non-essential thoughts

Royale Scuderi, posting on Lifehack, wrote an article that suggests three steps to clear non-essential thoughts. Go ahead and look, what she suggests is simple, doable, and important.

Clear your head

From there, it is time to clear your head. That might mean taking control of your emotions, or it could be sustaining your focus.

Although you have little control of how you “feel,” you have complete control of how you will react to the emotion. Travis Bradberry, President of TalentSmart, says, “The key is to identify and label your emotions as you experience them. Associating words with what you are feeling makes the emotion tangible and less mysterious. This helps you to relax, figure out what’s behind your emotion, and move forward.”

Sustaining your focus is aided by turning off the distractions. Close the door. Turn off the distraction culprits such as the phone, email, and social media. Hang a sign on your door if needed. Go somewhere else if that is what it takes. And, if you still find your mind wandering, consciously bring your focus back to the task at hand.

Clarify the next steps

It is time to reflect and determine which thoughts you’re going to let back into your mind. You may find yourself in a bit of a Catch 22 situation. How do you know what to act upon next when you’ve essentially emptied your mind of all its griminess?

Try using these boundaries for determining what to allow space in your mind.

  • The old “great idea” is no longer useful because circumstances have changed – toss it.
  • Worry over something about which you have no control is of no use – dump it.
  • Some ideas are okay, but you won’t act on them – give them to someone else to handle.
  • Some ideas might need consolidation because they are alike or similar.
  • Realize some ideas are good, but not for you.
  • Assess which ideas are worth pursuing, but at a later date.

Don’t worry if you haven’t been (totally) successful in stopping the chaos. You’ve likely made some inroads and with practice will get better at organizing your mind.

This has been the first in a four-part series concerned with organizing your construction business. Next time the emphasis will be on organizing your time. Make time for it. 😎

Update: Here is the link, Organizing Time in the Construction World.

Second Update: The third post in the series, found here, is about organizing tech.

Third Update: The fourth and final post in this series is about Organizing your Office Space. 

 

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

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

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

Contingency Budget to Performance Budget

Contingency Budget to Performance Budget

Turn your contingency budget into your performance budget

You can get your commercial construction team on board for saving time,  reducing rework, diminishing safety issues, and integrating increased productivity on each project. One way to do it is by giving your team the opportunity to reap the reward through moving the money from the contingency fund to the performance fund.

Contingency budgets are real

Before you get too excited about the possibilities. Or, before you get mad at me for suggesting the prospect of fund shifting, let me explain. I know a contingency budget is called a contingency budget for a reason. A very good reason. Contingencies lurk around the corner.

Therefore, knowing there are contingencies over which neither you nor your crew have control, a contingency fund is still an excellent practice.  Some of the uncontrollable aspects include:

  • premature equipment failure
  • owner bankruptcies
  • regulatory changes
  • strikes
  • unanticipated price or interest rate increases
  • unusual or calamitous weather

Then understand, there are other things which come up which are more in your control, yet sometimes missed. They can include:

  • incomplete designs
  • scope errors
  • equipment breakdowns due to faulty maintenance schedule
  • estimating inaccuracies
  • technological upgrades you haven’t incorporated (yet)

Too many dastardly contingencies can, at times, eat up the  entire contingency budget. Yet, that isn’t always the case.

Reprioritize your contingency budget 

You have the opportunity to reprioritize the “insurance” of your contingency fund when you find it has not been needed in the usual way. Well of course, you could stick those funds in your pocket or in the bank. Yet, think of the opportunity you have. You can garner much more than the five to fifteen percent of a given project’s budget. (You know, the contingency fund.) When you get team buy-in as well as fewer problems, you’re on a golden path.

It begins with communication. Giving your team the “rules” before the game starts, gives them the opportunity to mitigate the risk associated with each portion of the contingency.

Consider what you want from your team: 

  • Fewer safety problems
  • Reduced rework issues
  • Increased productivity

Ways you can work with them to reach those goals: 

  • Improve safety training and provide more of it
  • Create better processes removing inefficiencies (These two articles, found here and here are gold when it comes to helping you and your team increase productivity.)
  • Provide specialized training for supervisors
  • And, (this is important) let them know how they will benefit by helping you turn the job contingency budget into their performance budget.

Risk management tool

Think of the time and effort you put into working with your team on moving your contingency fund to the performance fund as a risk management tool.

Here are a few more tips to help you in this effort.

  • Get the crew involved in doing regular inventories. That way, they and you know what you need and what you already have.
  • Set aside a certain amount of time at the end of each day to cleanup. As a result, your team understands it is part of their job. You aren’t asking them to do “extra stuff” after the day is complete.
  • Avoid inefficient layout of the shop, work vehicles, and work site. Let the team know they’re part of the effort to be organized. Here is an article you can check to get more information concerning organizing your vehicles.
  • Communicate often. Remember, communication is a two-way street.

It is our desire this article (among our growing library of construction-centric informational articles) is helpful in assisting commercial construction contractors build better building businesses. 

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

So you can Run With the Big Dogs. 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!

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!

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.

The Tickler File, an Age-Old Tool for the Modern Construction Contractors Office

We’ve found most people fit in one of three categories when it comes to understanding and using a tickler file.

In which category do you fit?

  1. I’ve never even heard of a tickler file.
  2. I tried it and it didn’t work.
  3. I use and love my tickler system.

If you’re in the number one slot, hang on I’ll explain not only what it is, but how to use it.

If you’re in the number two space, please give me a chance to show you some new ideas, techniques, and approaches which might just move you into the number three category.

And, if you’re in the third spot, yay! You already know how this simple tool makes running your construction contracting office so much easier. Plus, there may be a few ways to use your tickler file you hadn’t thought of before.

So, what is a tickler file?

You may have also heard this file described as a pending system, a bring-up file, or a holding box. It doesn’t matter what you call it, the point is it’s a great tool for keeping your brain as well as your office organized.

The best way I can describe it is, “The tickler file is a system meant to tickle your memory, it’s a fantastic way to help you keep track of details you don’t want to have roaming around in your head, hiding out in virtual space, or lying around on your desk.”

We’ll start with the physical aspect of a tickler file, then move on to the latest concept of an integrated system (which includes your computer or other digital device) for tickling your memory.

While the tickler file has been around for a long time, David Allen a productivity consultant, re-popularized the idea with his bestselling book Getting Things Done.

In his system there are 31 file folders labeled 1 through 31, followed by 12 folders labeled with each month of the year. These folders are then placed in an easy to reach spot. For example, you could choose to use a desk file drawer or a desktop file box.

The file number which should be in the front of the file each day is the one corresponding to today’s date. After you’ve emptied today’s file, you move that number to the back of that section. The month which should be in the first slot of the 12 months is the month following the one you’re presently in. When you move “next month’s” files into the appropriate daily files, you also move that month’s folder to the back of the month section.

What goes in the files?

Documents you’ll need again soon, follow up notes, coupons, reminders to call back, bills to be paid, status reports, evaluations, tax related items, requests for feedback, event tickets, flyers with directions or instructions, warranty expirations, forms to be filled out, — really, simply any item or piece of paper which needs to be reviewed or acted upon can all go into the proper day of the month or left holding within future months.

Here is the rule-of-thumb I use when deciding which pieces of paper find a temporary home in my tickler file – if I’m not filing it or tossing it, it is a good candidate for my tickler file. Let’s face it, a tickler file truly is more effective and useful than looking all over bulletin boards, magnet boards, taped or tacked on walls, or a stack on your desk in order to find the paper you want. Plus, with a tickler file the risk of completely forgetting something beneath the stack is eliminated.

A real-life example of something that is hanging out in my tickler file right now is a flyer I received from Fry’s Super Market. It states that on the dates February 17th through 19th every VIP customer (meaning if you have a Fry’s card) will be able to save twenty cents per gallon of gas at the new Fry’s location in our neighborhood. Chances are great that on one of those dates I’ll need to purchase gas. If I don’t take advantage of the offer on the first date, I’ll move it to the next day, then the next. If, for some crazy reason, I haven’t used it by the end of the offer that piece of paper will find its way to file 13.

What comes out of the files?

Nothing. Well that is, nothing comes out of the tickler file if you don’t use it. Yet, if you get into the habit of faithfully using your system everything comes out at some point. It will either be acted upon or filed when the time is right. Which reminds me, only put in stuff that is really better done at a future date.

Also, in the past I would have advised sticking to the desktop box storage system because of the “out of sight, out of mind” concept. But now-a-days, there are ways to get around that problem and I will tell you about it a little further down. For now, I’ll introduce you to another way to build your physical tickler file.

Shrinking the tickler file

One reason the tickler file was so popular in the past is paper was a major problem in all offices. These days – not so much. Yet, there are still paper items which we all must deal with and that is where a shrunken version of a tickler file comes in quite handy.

The major concepts concerning the use of the full-blown version and the shrunken version are about the same. The difference is felt mostly in the space and time devoted to housing and using the tickler file.

Let me introduce the shrunken version I developed and use specifically for two reasons, 1) my office space is very small, and 2) I don’t have a large number of paper items to deal with.

I use only 8 folders and they’re labeled like this:

  • Monday
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
  • Friday
  • Next Week
  • Next Month
  • Later

Just like the full-blown version, upcoming action items are placed in the appropriate day of the week, or one of the other noted files. At the end of the week, I check the “next week” folder and slot items from it into the daily files. I also place the “next month” folder into the midst of the daily files when “next month” takes place in the middle of a week. If there are items in the next month file which are to be used in week three or week four of the month I place them in the “next week” file and slot them in during the weekly review. Also, always check the “later” file at the end of the month. You may need to bring some items forward.

Did you say electronic tickler file?

Why yes, there is a way to have an electronic tickler file. Just be aware, like the (almost) paperless office the electronic system is (almost) paperless.

Matt Perman, on his site, What’s Best Next posted an article titled A Few Quick Examples on How to Make Your Tickler File Electronic. Check it out. It may be all you need.

Use it or lose it

Setting up the system takes minutes. Using the system also takes only minutes a day. BUT, getting into the habit of using a tickler file system is the hardest part. I know, I’ve tried on more than one occasion. In reality, the hardest part about using a tickler file is actually starting to use it.

Remember I mentioned I would tell you about the ways to remember to use your tickler file? One way to solve the problem is to place a “trigger” in your space. For example, you walk into your office, put away your personal belongings, and right there in the spot where you’re putting your purse or your lunch there is a note that says, “Check the tickler file.” Yep, make it the first thing you do each morning and that soon becomes a habit.

Another way to remind yourself is to put a repeating task on your digital calendar. You open your calendar and there the notice is – Check Tickler File. Your next step is to reach for your tickler file.

I read where some folks sent themselves an email with a reminder to check the tickler file. Find the way that works best for you and use it.

Wait, there’s more

Lest I sound like the annoying salesman on TV, I do want to let you know there are also some added benefits of using a tickler file you may not have thought of. One fellow shared that when he tried (again) to get his tickler file system going he purposely added some things just to get in the habit. He enjoyed music and was trying to learn some new songs. So, he added the lyrics to songs on a few days, reviewed the songs, then refiled them in upcoming days so he could review again. He said it wasn’t long before he was in the habit and no longer needed to “seed” the tickler file.

Studying for a new license, need to learn about a piece of software, want to understand an app better? Drop a note in your tickler file reminding yourself to take 15 minutes to study. Put the note back in tomorrow’s date or a few days down the road. In just a few days, you’ve put in an hour or more towards learning what you need to know.

Want to tackle an “extra project” (like organizing the office) but don’t have time? Drop notes in your tickler file in which the project is broken down into nibble size pieces. They might look like this, “clean top right drawer,” “straighten files A through C,” “rearrange top shelf in storage closet.” You get the idea.

Choosing the right tickler file system

Now that you know about all the benefits you receive from using a tickler file it is time to decide which works best in your office. (By the way, any of these systems will work well at home too. Think about getting all the junk off your kitchen counter and you’ll know what I mean.)

The easiest way to decide which system is best for your office is to determine how much paper you must deal with on a daily or regular basis.

  • Lots of paper – Go with the 43 files, you might like this ready-made unit.
  • A little bit of paper – try my system
  • Hardly any paper – make use of the electronic file

Adding a tickler file in your office is an excellent way to use an age-old tool in managing your modern construction contracting business.

This is the first in a series of articles concerning pieces of the organizing puzzle for your construction contracting business. You can go here to find out more about what has or will be showing up in the collection.