Change Your Construction Business

Change happens in your construction business. Be in control.

“Change” is not a naughty word

While “change” is not a naughty word, it can be as difficult to deal with as the result of a two-year-old wiping the contents of his diaper on the wall and curtains. It stinks. It wasn’t in the plan. And, it can make you wonder why you got involved in the first place.

You and your grown son will have either forgotten the incident or find a reason to laugh about it all those years later. Poop happens. And, so does change.

Following are three categories of dealing with change – planning for change, adapting to change, or stagnating. Keep in mind; you can’t be actively involved in either of the first two if you’re inactively involved in the final category.

Plan change   

We see our clients and other construction contractors dealing with a regular set of business growth issues.

For example, they want to have a higher profit margin, develop a strong management team, retain good employees, be organized, and build or improve their operating systems.

And, it is obvious, “change” is the only way those issues can be addressed.

Smart contractors understand they must invest, in order to make the changes they want to see. Some ways they may invest are:

  • New tech
  • Training for themselves or employees
  • Consultants
  • Quality new hires
  • Service providers

Savvy contractors understand the investments they make may involve cash, time, or both. Further, they understand the value of their investments.

Adapt to change

Another skill great construction contractors have is adjusting or adapting to changes they may have missed in the planning stages or somewhere along the way. For example; the weather, new competitors, the economy, and new or different expectations from clients.

While this article is titled, Startup Pivots That Changed the World, don’t let the word “Startup” get in your way. The list includes companies which started in 1889 (Nintendo) and 1939 (HP®) as well as others. It is a fun look at how others have dealt with the changes necessary to get them to their present status. Some have changed so much we are astonished at their roots.

Each of them can give you a jumping-off point for thinking about changes you may want to make or changes which might come knocking on your door when you least expect it.

Stagnate

Definition:

stag·nate /ˈstaɡˌnāt/ cease developing; become inactive or dull.

Synonyms:

become stagnant, do nothing, stand still, be sluggish, lie dormant, be inert, languish, decline, deteriorate, fall

The world will continue to change with or without us.

Um, I wish there was something more I could say about this category. I can’t. You understand.

Final word

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often” – Winston Churchill

 

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. Call us! 866-629-7735

Strategy Planning in Your Construction Business

Strategy Planning in Your Construction Business

Strategy for Goals Planning

In the first two parts of this series we dealt with Task Priority planning and Goals Priority planning.  This time we’ll look at the Strategy infused in Goals Planning.

“There are simply no shortcuts in the long run.” Frank Sonnenberg

Mr. Sonnenberg has a good way of cutting through the hype. While there are easier ways to get certain tasks done, in the long run it is hard work that leads to the win. It is hard work to own, maintain, and run a commercial construction contracting business. Yet, understanding how to prioritize daily tasks as well as long and short-term goals is one way to lighten the load.

Now, let’s delve into what goes on between dealing with today’s daily tasks and reaching long or short-term goals. How do you prioritize the strategic steps to take in order to reach those goals?

Strategy pencil or chisel?

Before we go further, it is well to look at whether your goals and strategy should be written in pencil or chiseled in stone. There are different circumstances which apply, both from the standpoint of what you hope to achieve and your own temperament.

This article When to Set Rigid Goals, and When to Be Flexible, from Harvard Business Review explains how to approach the issue.  The authors lay out the circumstances and principles quite well.

Strategy in context

The goal is the main “big thing” you want to accomplish. A strategy is the path you take to achieve a goal. Built into your strategy will be objectives. The tactics you use to reach each objective are the tools which make it happen.

Think of it this way. Say your goal is to lose weight.

Goal: Lose 20 pounds in 4 months

Strategy: A mix of diet and exercise.

Objectives:

  • research (which food, which gym)
  • purchase a gym membership
  • buy smaller dinner plates
  • empty cupboards of high-calorie snack foods
  • replace previous foods with diet approved items

Tactics:

  • stick to the new diet
  • exercise at the gym

Gym memberships and smaller plates are objectives framed in your strategy. Gym memberships and owning smaller plates won’t help you lose weight. It is the actual tactic of eating less and exercising that moves you to the goal.

Strategy in action

Once you spot a problem in your construction company systems you can set a goal which addresses it.

Let’s say you have a crew which arrive at the jobsite only to discover they’ve left the yard with some of the necessary tools and a few pieces of important materials left behind.

And, this isn’t the first time.

You’ve spotted the problem – inefficiency.

Goal: Reach X% more employee efficiency on all projects by X month of X year.

Strategy: Discover and implement ways to ensure each vehicle leaving the yard is stocked and well equipped for each job.

Objective: Develop systems and checklists for assuring each vehicle leaves the yard prepared for each job daily.

Tactics:

  • Transparency with employees concerning costs and lost opportunity costs due to inefficiency
  • Incentives for superior performance
  • Easily accessed checklists

Often as you take the steps toward your goal you discover unforeseen problems. You can meet the challenges, even change path more easily if you’ve already outlined the goal, strategy, objectives and tactics.

For example, suppose the excellent digital checklist you’ve devised for your crews frustrates them. You may push the, “it takes time to learn, give it a chance” button with your crews or you may decide paper checklists will work just as well.

Strategy you’re familiar with

You likely already use some of the thinking processes involved in this manner of reaching goals even if you haven’t formalized it. Yet, if you practice using this method in writing you’ll be better able to notice missing pieces. You’ll also be better at follow-through and corrective action.

It is our desire this 3-part series of articles (among our growing library of construction-centric informational articles) is helpful in assisting commercial construction contractors build better building businesses.

Because we are a virtual “corporate accounting office” for commercial construction businesses we can assist you no matter in which of the 50 United States your business is located. Call to see how we can lighten your back-office and accounting burden. Toll Free: 866-629-7735

Goal Planning in Your Construction Business

Goal planning. It take thought and planning to be useful.

Goal Planning in Your Construction Business

Goals and how to prioritize them  

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Stephen Covey

While there can be a multitude of goals concerning any construction company, I’ve identified 5 which are a good start for prioritizing your construction company goals. And, I’ve listed them in (a sample of) the order of priority.

Goal 1 – How will it end?

The overall big swooping question you must answer is, “How will it end?” What will become of your construction contracting company in the years ahead? How will you, the owner, exit? And, your choices are rather limited. There are 4 basic alternatives:

  • Legacy – pass down to your children or grandchildren
  • Sell – sell your business as a going concern
  • Job over – close the door — liquidate the business and sell the assets

The last option isn’t pretty and one for which no one plans.

  • File for bankruptcy

Furthermore, there are other circumstances you must consider.

How will you afford to retire whether you sell to others or pass the business to your children?

Are you equipping someone in the family or in your employee to step to the helm?

Have you contacted an attorney concerning how and when to step down?

What happens to your family, employees, and clients in the event of your untimely death?

Will you choose to work for another contractor if you decide to go out of business? Speaking of going out of business, this article has a A 10-Step Checklist for Closing a Business that is worth perusing – and might make you decide it will be easier to stay in business. 😵

Once you’ve answered the above questions and determined how you want your business to end, you can choose goals which lead to that destination.

Goal 2 – Wowing your clients

This is where your core company values, standards, and ethics come into play. What goals do you have for yourself, your company, your employees, and your subs which add to the client wow factor?

This is when it becomes essential to measure correctly. And, I’m not talking about measuring twice and cutting once. Essentially what it comes down to is knowing what to measure.

For example, if you set a goal that everyone in your company must take X number of classes each year, you’re likely missing the correct item to measure. The number of classes multiplied by the number of employees only equals how many classes were taken.

The number of ecstatic clients or highly satisfied general contractors should be where your computation ends. The first part of the equation is where you must choose the correct methods for reaching your goals. Some which come to mind are:

  • Clean jobsites
  • Paperwork ahead of schedule
  • No preventable accidents
  • Teamwork among employees, fellow contractors, and clients
  • Accountability for personal as well as company actions
  • Efficiency

It could very well be that taking or offering classes concerning any of the above goals plays into your plan for meeting those goals. Good. Then add them to the equation with a specific goal in mind. There are other strategies you may choose to use and we’ll delve into that in part 3 of this series.

Goal 3 – What’s in it for you?

Why do you really want to own a construction contracting business? Does it give you a sense of personal fulfilment?

  • You like the challenge of putting the pieces together.
  • It allows you to express your creativity.
  • Cash, yes you like the cash involved.
  • You know you have leadership skills and you enjoy putting them to use.
  • Giving other people jobs and opportunities is worth it to you.
  • You genuinely enjoy seeing buildings rise from the ground.
  • Understanding how people will use what you’ve had a hand in building is rewarding.

Whatever it is that makes you glad you’re a construction business owner, you have opportunity to set goals which make you better at doing just that.

How will you determine you’ve been successful? Is success a far-off goal to look forward to or is it something you’re achieving in the here-and-now?

And, here is where we get to bedrock. How will your ownership of a construction contracting business affect your family, your friends, and your community?

It is about the spend. How will you spend your money, influence, and time? Remember, we’re talking about setting priorities. Make sure you have your personal priorities straight. The next step is developing goals to align with those priorities.

Goal 4 – The wellbeing of your employees

A few goals to consider include:

  • Benefits and pay packages
  • Vehicle or vehicle allowance
  • Training and/or cross-training
  • Safety immersion and training

Yet, you already knew that. You’ve likely thought of each of the above. Where it becomes more difficult is when it is harder to get a firm grip on the ROI.

How do you measure the Return on Investment into your employees when what they want can’t be measured by dollars or time spent? We’ll get to that in a minute. But first, let’s reflect on how this looks from your side.

Let’s say your company goals reflect what you’re doing, where you want to go and why. This comes down to your mission and vision. Are your company goals known to your employees? Can they be accessed easily? (That means – are they written down?) Are you sure they understand them?

Now, we can talk about what your employees want beyond the paycheck and the benefits package.

Your employees want to know they’re making a contribution. In part, that means they want to know you value them for more than their set of skills.

They want to experience the connection that comes from doing good work with good people. Yep, they want to have fun. They want the camaraderie that comes from working with others. And, like you, they want to be able to point at a finished project and say, “I built that!” Employees want to experience the pleasure that comes with the feeling that their work matters.

Your goals for employee wellbeing will reflect your understanding of what your employees need.

Goal 5 – Getting the word out

The goals you set concerning marketing will, in some ways, reflect the goals you set in the previous sections. Do you want to stay in business? Will your present clients be inclined to refer business your way? Will your support for your family or employees be maintained or (perhaps) increased due to marketing efforts?

When determining your goals concerning marketing it is well to keep in mind that there will be a “spend” connected. As my not-at-all-famous friend, Karen once remarked, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

Your marketing goals must include the spend-factor. Because your time, your money, or both will be spent. Your goals may include the use of paid advertising, various social media channels, hard copy materials, (business cards, flyers, pamphlets) cold calling, asking for referrals, you know – that sort of thing.

Yet, there is more to keep in mind. Your marketing efforts start with elated clients and happy employees.

Your goals are connected

It is noteworthy that your construction company goals have relationships with one another. It is like the lyrics in the old Frank Sinatra song.

Love and marriage, love and marriage

They go together like a horse and carriage

This I tell you, brother

You can’t have one without the other

Taking time to sort through the various goals you have for your commercial construction business won’t be easy. Yet, it will be worth it.

This article concerning the Golden Rules of Goal Setting does a good job explaining the basics.

 

This has been the second in a three-part series concerning planning for priorities.  You can see the first part here. The third part deals with the strategies connected with goals and priorities.

Do you have a goal of getting all your financial dealings under control? We’re good at that. You can get in touch here. Or give us a call Toll Free: 866-629-7735

5 Mistakes Construction Contractors Make When Trying to Scale

Mistakes construction contractors make when trying to scale

Mistakes construction contractors make when trying to scale

Trying to do it all

Superman you’re not. KAPOW! Nor are you Wonder Woman. SNAP! So, as we say in our office, DWI (Deal With It.) We also say LIF (Life Isn’t Fair) but, that’s another story for another time. Now, we’ll concentrate on the fact that if your intention is to scale your business, you must have key employees and advisors in place in order to think strategically and focus on growth.

From the back office, to the front office, to the shop, and in the field, having people in place who can help you carry the load is the difference between wishful thinking and decisively moving forward.

And, if you wear all or most of the hats in your construction business, your goal is to replace yourself one position at a time. Finding every task you presently perform yourself and delegating them to your employees and freelance advisors is a sound business tactic that will move you forward more quickly.

In addition to your lawyer, your insurance provider, your bonding agent, your tax preparer, and your loan providers you do well to consider having excellent freelance advisors on board. Everything from virtual assistants, to human resource experts, to accounting advisors, (That’s Us!) will free you up to find ways to work on your business rather than in it.

When you’re able to delegate, (in-house or out) you have the precious commodity of time. Time to spend judiciously planning for the next steps that are about to take place.

Chasing squirrels

Dug, the dog in the movie “Up” is delightfully fun, because he is the ultimate squirrel chaser. And, because he is so easily distracted he is the perfect example of what it sometimes feels like to be the owner of a construction contracting company. You know, there are squirrels at every turn.

It is downright hard not to chase idea after idea and change after change. Squirrels make it difficult to settle with one (good enough) option. Perhaps it is business objectives, marketing strategies, client types, or even (hold your breath) other business ventures.

And, the squirrels can be as subtle as offers for business trainings which seem attractive but don’t really push you forward in meeting your immediate goals. Another insidious squirrel can be found in the purchase of tools or technology that aren’t needed.

One way to deal with squirrels crossing your path is to take note of them. If an idea, thought, or offer attracts your attention, write it down. In other words, keep a squirrel list. Then quickly decide (use your leadership powers to be decisive) if they are good, mediocre, bad, or future squirrels. Sometimes the simple tactic of “sleeping on it” will help you decide. Other times you may wish to visit the people from the above section, (your in-house and outside advisors) before making a decision.

One last thought on squirrel chasing – don’t become befuddled by the off chance you should have followed that one “great” squirrel. You’re in the construction industry, there are tons of squirrels in the construction forest. Another will be along soon enough.

Neglecting to think like their clients

Clients focus on the end product, not the process. Construction clients don’t like the changes you force on them. They do not want to be disrupted. They simply want what they want when they want it. Yet the very nature of the beast we call “construction contracting” means you’re disrupting the lives of your clients, be it for only a day or for many months.

Try putting yourself in their shoes. Suppose when you went to buy a car you were told that for the next six weeks you would have to figure out another way to get to work, to the grocery store, or to the movies because your car would be out of commission. Not only that, you would have to spend some time daily watching as piece by piece your new car was assembled . . . in your driveway. Not a pretty picture. Yet, depending on your trade you may be asking your clients to endure something very similar.

And your clients who (remember?) want what they want when they want it, are probably not all that prepared to have you disrupt their lives. You can help them get over that hurdle through constant and honest communication before, during, and after the project.

Oh yeah, don’t forget this part. Clients HATE surprises. Clients will be more understanding of a temporary defect or delay if communication comes first from you.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a service provider, a general contractor, or a sub; it doesn’t matter if you’re on a commercial site or a residential site, there is always a client and you must always consider ways to think like your client.

Failing to document their processes

You may have heard someone joking on one of your social channels that if there are no pictures – it didn’t happen. That is fun and funny. Yet the truth is if there are no documented systems there is no scalable business. If you want your business to grow, you must have systems in place with written instructions concerning how the processes work in order to maintain the system. If it is all in your head, then by golly, it is all in your head that you own a viable construction business.

Wendy Tadokoro from Process Street tells Why You Need to Document Business Processes. If you don’t know, check out the article, it’s eye opening.

Now that you know why, it is time to learn a lot about how (and more about why.) Sam Carpenter wrote a book titled Work the System. You can find the book and other helpful information on his website. It is worth the time it takes to check it out. He offers insight into how to build a successful business through the use of documented processes. His story of how the business he was about to lose was turned around from the brink of disaster is captured throughout the book. If he can’t convince you how important the process of process capture is, then probably no one can.

Forgetting that trimming fat is part of scaling

Much like starting up, scaling up requires some belt tightening or fat trimming in order to make it through. It isn’t simply a matter of hiring more hands, finding more work, and making more money. If your additional labor, travel, or equipment costs eat up the additional money you make on a variety of jobs you’ll find all you’ve gained is more headache.

What scaling really means is finding a way to increase your profits. Increasing your profits means finding ways to earn more money while not spending more money.

Inefficiencies exist in your present organization. Some systems are in need of repair or should be eliminated. Other systems need to be developed.

You may even have some people who will no longer fit into your company for any number of reasons. Perhaps they don’t want to grow, can’t see your vision, simply don’t gel with the rest of your staff.

Focus on operational efficiency.

Then focus on motivating your team towards a common goal of scaling up and being relentless in achieving it.

Is your bookkeeper stuck in the old way of just doing the books? Then we would love to show you what modern bookkeepers do. As accounting advisors, we help you drive profitability. Give us a call to set up a consulting session. 866-629-7735

10 Personal Tools Every Construction Contractor Needs

I’ve discovered Construction Contractors and Subcontractors are among the most adept and proficient folks around. They wear such a profusion of hats (skilled tradesman, project manager, marketer, salesman, HR manager, supply-chain manager, customer-service representative, PR manager) it can be mind boggling.

Yet there are 10 Personal Tools they need to use no matter which hat they happen to be wearing at any given time.

The quality traits (tools) of excellent construction contractors

  1. Planning Ability

Simply determining to begin a business built on your skill set as well as your desire to learn more about what it takes to “be in business” is a great start. At every turn, your ability to plan and prepare for what is coming down the road will make a difference in how you manage, build, and maintain your business.

  1. Strong Work Ethic

You have to have a ton of ambition. It goes beyond just getting up every day and going to work. You actually enjoy fixing the problems that arise. And you’re actively looking for more jobs which mean you have more problems to solve.

  1. Strong People Skills

You not only have to manage the guys and gals in the field and office, you also have to work with the customer – who can range from general contractors to home owners and anywhere in between. You’re also good at letting other people’s strengths shine through.

  1. Confident

You have to remain confident in your overall ability to complete the many tasks at hand. That doesn’t mean you think you can never make a mistake. It does mean you’re sure you’ll be able to learn from those mistakes and continue moving forward.

  1. Open Minded

Going hand-in-hand with your ability to remain confident is your ability to remain open minded when new ideas, new concepts, and new means to accomplish a task are presented to you. You’re willing to weigh the evidence before making a final decision.

  1. Money Management Skill

When capital is limited and needs to be utilized wisely, you know how to manage for right now while still planning for the future. You know how to keep a handle on cash flow and how to use financial reports for building your business.

  1. Networking Ability

You’re a relationship builder. You pay attention to what others tell you. You’re willing to help others even when it doesn’t seem there will be a quid pro quo. You make others feel at ease when they’re around you.

  1. Delegator

Even though you likely began your construction contracting business wearing a multitude of hats you know when to give one or more of those hats to others. You know how to give people a task to complete without micro-managing how they complete it.

  1. Risk Taker

You understand that taking a risk is the only way to move forward. You look at all the ways you can think of to mitigate the risk, you take those actions, and you still know that failure is possibility.

  1. Integrity

Honesty and trust are central to your integrity. You demonstrate your integrity by being trustworthy and dependable. You are principled and can be counted on to behave in honorable ways even when no one is watching.

Stocking your tool box

Having as many of these tools as possible in your personal tool box will make your job as a construction contractor flow better. You may not have every single tool in this list shined and ready to use. But, if your desire is to scale your construction contracting business then you’ll discover these are personal traits or qualities that will work well for you now and in the future. If you find you have personal weak points, be sure to surround yourself with folks who are strong in those areas. Some things you should consider are: hire a business coach, seek a mentor, outsource some areas, look for qualified advisors, build a good team.

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Why yes, Schulte and Schulte, LLC is a great option for your bookkeeping and accounting outsourced needs. And by golly, we’re team players. Give us a call 480-442-4032 or toll free 866-629-7735