Technically it is About Organizing the Tech

Organizing technology

Tech is a wild and wooly beast that can be tamed. It really must be tamed if you’re to survive in the construction industry. And, taming tech means getting it organized in ways that serve you rather than overwhelm you.

When you think about the tools tech has altered, enhanced, or replaced, you’ll get a better idea of how important it is to use the organizing mantra, “A place for everything and everything in its place” even in the tech world.

For example, do you look for the phonebook when you need to find a new supplier, or do your fingers dance across the keys?

When you realize a change must be made quickly on a job site, do you jump in the truck and head that way, or do you make a phone call?

When tech is used properly, everything from how the progress photos are analyzed to how the numbers end up in the ledger columns has moved from slow and tedious to fast and insightful

The bottom line, getting your tech organized has the potential to make your construction business more productive and profitable.

Getting Productivity Tools Organized

Even for the “organizationally challenged,” there is a tendency among us humans to want to find patterns, sequences, and systems. You’ve probably heard it expressed like this, “There’s got to be a better way.” Or like this, “Someone ought to fix this mess.”

At first, I determined to organize the following list in order of importance. Then, I realized that the order of importance depends on two qualifying factors:

  1. The person using the technology
  2. The day of the week it is being used

Yeah, that challenging. So, I took the easy route and listed them alphabetically.

These are the types of technological productivity tools that should be in your construction business toolbox. Typically, these tools will be in the form of SaaS or apps. And, loosely speaking, they will form the tech stack used in your construction company.

  • Accounting and bookkeeping
  • Contact management
  • Email administration
  • Equipment and tool tracking
  • Meetings and communication
  • Project control
  • Social media oversight
  • Travel and expense tracking

These technological productivity tools can also provide the foundation of many of your construction business operating systems.

Clean out the technology productivity tools closet

Like cleaning out a physical closet, begin by dumping any apps or SaaS you no longer use.

Then, determine if you have duplicates or apps so similar; they become redundant. Toss the extras. If you’re uncertain or wary of deleting or doing away with SaaS or an app, you may need to revisit this article concerning Lost Cost Fallacy. 

Next, take the time to scan for viruses or performance issues.

After the process of clearing, it is time to review the current versions of SaaS or apps and decide if it’s time to upgrade.

Lastly, verify the integrity of your data backup.

Organizing electronic files

“The goal of electronic file management is to ensure that you can find what you’re looking for, even if you’re looking for it years after its creation.”

Susan Ward, writing for The Balance Small Business, lays out 10 File Management Tips to Keep Your Electronic Files Organized. 

Link over. Read it. I mean it! Ward presents good stuff.

For example, one of her tips, #6 Be Specific, is one I wish I had known (and practiced) years ago. She is talking about giving files logical, specific names, including dates. When I think about the time I’ve wasted looking for information within my files I cringe.

There are only two things I would add to Ward’s tips:

  1. Use a structure that suits the way you think and work.
  2. When writing systems and while training, emphasis should be placed on how you want things done, while still allowing for personal preference when the efficiency and outcome won’t be changed.

Parting words

This article is the third in a 4-part series concerning organizing your construction contracting business. You can find the first, Organizing Your Mind and the second, Organizing Time by linking over. The next part will be about organizing your physical 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

Organizing Time in the Construction World

Organizing time is about organizing time well.

Organizing Time is about organizing time

When you find yourself running from one business fire to another all day long, there’s a good chance you didn’t take TIME to organize your time. From calendars to to-do lists and everything between, there are plenty of time organizing tools.

  • Calendars
  • Clocks
  • Watches
  • Apps
  • SaaS
  • Timers
  • Checklists
  • To-do lists

In this article by John Rampton on Forbes, you’ll find twenty time management tips. 

All of the tips are valid and can make organizing your time easier. Of course, there are tons of other lists concerning time management out there as you’ll easily see if you google something like “time management tips.”

Some are more enlightening than others.

None are a bit of good if all you do is read them and move on. You must act if you hope to manage your time better.

The rule for organizing time

One of the tips Rampton suggests is to follow the 80-20 rule. It is this suggestion that supersedes other time organizing strategies. Get this one right, and you’ll find it is easier to use the tactics described in the multitude of time organizing lists.

You probably know this rule as the Pareto Principle. And, at its base point, it is a principle, not a rule. There could be danger in assuming only 20% is enough to remedy all situations.

For example, knowing that 80% of a bridge is built in the first 20% of the allotted time doesn’t negate the fact that the entire bridge must be built to be useful.

In the final analysis, the idea is to use this principle to determine what activities generate the most results, then give those activities your appropriate attention.

Finding your 20

Take the time to think about the work you do on a day-to-day basis and ask yourself questions like this:

  • Who are the 20% of staff who manage to interrupt my day 80% of the time?
  • Which 20% of the general contractors I work with provide 80% of my revenue?
  • Which 20% of my routine tasks deliver 80% of my effectiveness?
  • Who are the 20% of employees who help me with 80% of the work I delegate?
  • Which 20% of tasks completed will solve 80% of the problems I have to face today?
  • What are the 20% of my construction company’s jobs that gave me 80% of my satisfaction last year?

You’ve probably noticed none of these questions are simple, nor are they easily answered. It isn’t as if you can write a “find my 20” on your to-do list one day and check it off at some point in the day.

Finding your 20 is a habit you build over time, and it takes practice to see the benefits.

Tip: Block out time on your calendar (yeah, that time organizing tool) to spend time on finding your 20. Some find it useful to choose a short time frame daily. Others prefer a longer time frame weekly.

Ask more questions

It pays to remember that 80-20 is a guide, not a rule, a principle, not a law. Plus, 80-20 may change proportions somewhat. It can be 90-10 or even 70-30, yet the concept remains the same.

Here are more questions for you to consider:

  • Which 20% of our systems are responsible for 80% of the errors we come up against?
  • What 20% of the mistakes we make on job sites are responsible for 80% of our call-backs?
  • Which 20% of our vehicle loading procedures are causing 80% of misloading problems?

Or, you can turn this around and ask this type of question:

Which 80% of tasks do I complete day-to-day that only give me 20% of my good results?

What are 80% of our employee benefits that only help 20% of our employees?

What are 80% of our overhead costs which contribute to 20% of our results?

As a construction contractor, you have a lot of information and a lot of tasks you need to stay on top of constantly. You can see that taking the time to master the habit of using the 80-20 principle will pay off.

If you’ve gotten this far, I guess that you know you need help in your time management strategy. There is no better time than right now to begin. Use these five tactics to become better at time management.

  1. Mark 80-20 thinking time on your calendar. Keep it sacred.
  2. Make sure others you trust know you’re on this journey.
  3. Get someone to hold you accountable to stick with it.
  4. Watch for small victories and note them.
  5. Teach someone else to use these principles.

If that last step seems odd, remember there is no better way to learn about a subject than to teach it to someone else.

Two last thoughts

Managing time well is a tool used by successful business people in all industries. And, managing your time with purpose is a skill set which you can master through practice.

 

This is the second article in a four-part series dealing with organizing your construction business.  To read the first part, The Hidden Strategy for Construction Subcontractors, link over. Upcoming in the series are Technically it is About Organizing the Tech and Organize Your Construction Office Space.

 

We desire to familiarize you with business concepts, which will make it easier for you to be a better commercial construction subcontractor 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!

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!

3 Takes on “Eating the Frog” for Construction Contractors

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Eat the frog,” meaning get the most awful task of your day done first thing in the morning and everything else will be much easier to accomplish after that point. You may have seen something like this, “Mark Twain said, ‘Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.’” Well, it seems while there may indeed be good reason to take up your own personal ugly frog and begin munching first thing in the morning, there may also be other alternatives to consider.

Plus, apparently the oft misquoted Mark Twain didn’t mention frog eating for either productivity reasons or for gastronomic reasons.

As a matter of fact, Twain constructed a comical adage in which he made fun of one of Benjamin Franklin’s lines and said instead, “Never put off till to-morrow what you can do day after to-morrow just as well.” Unfortunately, it appears many of us prefer to take Mr. Twain’s “put it off” advice over Mr. Franklin’s “do it today” advice.

First Take: Get it done early

Brian Tracy wrote a book titled, Eat That Frog! wherein he espouses the concept of taking up your ugly frog daily and chomping away at it until that froggy task is completed. Your frog is something that needs to get done, but you have absolutely zero motivation to do it. Further, and ironically it is something that needs to get done because it is a step you need to take to help move you toward your long-term goals.

Some reasons that are given by many who encourage early morning frog eating are:

  • You have the most will power early in the morning
  • It is a small win
  • Your brain prefers to do easy tasks, this encourages your brain to behave
  • It forces you to prioritize what is of value
  • You can face the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you

Consider using this First Take

if you do indeed have a problem with procrastination or need to hone your prioritization skills.

Second Take: Meet your frogs where they live

You may be among those who find mornings are their least productive times. Your frog should be eaten when your energy level is at its highest for the day. And, if you’re like many other Arizona construction contractors, you are likely to find frogs jumping out from behind the saguaros at the least expected time. Don’t turn and run, grab that ugly green hopper and get busy munching.

The trick here is building your power of discernment. Important questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is this my frog or is it a handsome young prince for someone else?
  2. Is this truly a frog or is it a pollywog and will it wait until tomorrow?
  3. Is this frog more important than the other frog I see coming my way?

Consider using this Second Take

if you’re not a “morning person” or if you truly enjoy most of your work, finding you have very few frogs in your work-a-day week.

Third Take: Wait to mess with stress causing frogs until you’re under pressure to perform

Those who advocate early morning frog eating are themselves turning green when they see me suggesting something as “crazy” as “put it off.” There is a whole school of thought that says, procrastination will ruin you. And that school is valid. They go so far as to say that those who claim to work better under pressure are only fooling themselves. And, there is validity to that train of thought also. Many procrastinators have waited until the last minute, only to find they’re doomed.

Yet, there are those who truly do work better under pressure. Maybe you’re one of them. Although I hasten to add, there are very few who do indeed fit this category. So, be cautious before you jump on this lily pad.

This article, written by Amy Morin for Forbes, speaks to the issue of top performing athletes using stress to enhance their performance. Yep – using stress to make themselves do a better job.

Robert Biswas-Diener wrote an article titled, “The 11th Hour: How Working Under Pressure Can Be a Strength,” in which he discusses the difference between procrastination and incubation.

And this Ted Talk by Kelly McGonigal concerning stress and how to use it is quite enlightening.

Consider using this Third Take

if you truly do work better under stress, if you’re an incubator, not a procrastinator.

Oh, what the heck? I may as well throw in the Fourth Take: Cook up the frog – legs

If all this talk of eating frogs has made you hungry for frog legs, I found a restaurant in Tucson which has them on their menu. Look for “des cuisses de grenouille.”

Or, if you just want to know more about the delicacy, you might find this article about how to eat frog legs interesting.

Consider using this Fourth Take

if you already love and enjoy frog legs or if you’re at least curious about the little beasties.

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This is another article in the series concerning organizing your construction contracting office, shop, vehicle, and day. You can check out the other articles right here.

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.