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

Priority Planning in Your Construction Business

Priority and prioritizing set you up for the win.

Priority Planning in Your Construction Business

Priority – it’s a task

“I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”  Former U.S President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Prioritizing your daily tasks is simply smart business. You greatly lessen the chance you’ll get caught up in busy-work and heighten the chance you’ll get something of significance accomplished. That’s it in a nutshell.

The first step is to understand the importance of your calendar and your to-do list. There are those who are adamant that ditching your to-do list and using a calendar alone is imperative. And there are others who espouse using both calendar and to-do list. No one I know of suggests ditching your calendar. Most people have a fairly good idea concerning how to use their calendar. Fewer understand how to get the most functionality from their to-do lists.

A while back, I wrote this blog, Before You Give the Paper To-Do List a Pink Slip Consider This. It is full of information you can use to up your game when it comes to taking full advantage of a to-do list.  Yep, there’s more to it than simply jotting down a few things you can later check off.

As you can see, I’m still firmly in the camp which espouses using both a calendar and a to-do list.

A winning priority

I would like to add one more piece to this prioritizing puzzle. Whether it comes from your to-do list or from your calendar choose one WIN for the day.

Look at it this way. What is the one thing you need to complete today which will move you forward in the way you’ve already determined to go? Yeah, I know you have lots of different chunks on your plate. Which one is most important? This doesn’t mean you won’t do any of the other items. It does mean you will (most days) get one important task done or started.

How we do it

Here at Schulte and Schulte we address it this way. Every weekday morning in our virtual huddle each of us states the one thing we plan to do for the day which will be a win. And, it isn’t just any old win. It needs to be a win which reaches our companies stated goal of assuring that our clients are equipped to “run with the big dogs.”

And, this is what it sounds like – “I’m going to help X company run with the big dogs by completing all their billing for the day.” Or it might sound like this, “I’m going to help X firm run with the big dogs by meeting with them to clear up the payroll issue they’re having now.” Or the words might be, “My plan is to help our clients run with the big dogs by writing a blog post which helps them be better at prioritizing.” 😉

Determining task priorities

Determining your priorities will obviously be based on your long-term goals and your strategy for reaching them. (We’ll get to that in parts two and three of this series.) Yet, there is a quick way to determine which of your daily tasks should be placed in the win column for the day.

Looking at both your to-do list and your calendar ask these questions:

  • What is due today?
  • Does this really need to be completed or is it a waste of time?
  • How much of this have I already completed?
  • Can I shift that task to someone else?
  • How many people will be affected if I do or don’t get this task done?
  • Have I put this off in the past?
  • Is this task part of an ongoing project or a one-off?

One other useful tool for determining daily priorities is to always keep in mind what is best for your clients. I know that sounds trite. Yet, there are times when we become so caught up in the mechanics of what must be completed, we forget the reason they must be completed. And, when considering our clients’ needs is injected into the equation the determination becomes somewhat easier.

Prioritize your daily tasks for the win

The likelihood of getting one significant thing done goes up exponentially when you put thought into prioritizing your daily tasks.

This has been the first in a 3-part series dealing with prioritizing in your construction contracting business. In the second part the information will center on prioritizing your business goals. And, in the third part we’ll take a look at planning for the interim – the strategy part.

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.

Want to know more about us or about how we can assist you? Get in touch here. Or call Toll Free: 866-629-7735

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.