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

6 Wacky Thoughts to Avoid in Your Construction Office

Avoid these wacky thoughts so your construction business runs better

Wacky thoughts and things come at us from every direction. Things which make us do a double take. And thoughts which have us putting on the brakes.

Some wacky things are just there, and you can’t do anything about them. For instance, unexpected weather changes and natural disasters.

On the other hand, some wacky things are rather enjoyable, like magic shows and flash mobs. (This is among my favorite flash mob videos – check it out.)

Wacky thoughts to avoid

In your construction office (more likely in your head) there are some wacky thoughts which you’re better off avoiding. Look at them as the “forest of doom,” and avoid them. Your day and your office will run more smoothly when you come to your senses and take the path away from that dreadful forest.

Wacky Thought number 1

I’ll remember this, I don’t need to write it down.

Ouch!

Everything from the gift you need to purchase on the way home, to the great idea to improve your construction contracting business needs to find its way to the written page.

This article from Dustin Wax on Lifehack explains why we remember what we write. It’s fun to see his explanation of the mental Catch-22 involved. “In fact, it seems that writing anything down makes us remember it better. On the other hand, not writing things down is just asking to forget. It’s a kind of mental Catch-22: the only way not to have to write things down is to write them down so you remember them well enough not to have written them down.” 🤔

 

Thus, here’s the kicker, writing it down means writing it down. Put down your phone, your iPad, your laptop, or other digital device and write it down! Read the article, you’ll see why pen and paper win out.

Wacky Thought number 2

Of course I’ll remember where I put this, it’s important.

When you find yourself at a loss concerning your ability to remember where you placed something – on purpose – it may be because you didn’t practice well enough what scientists call “effortful processing.” The thing is, if you don’t purposefully think about the placement in the first place, there’s no way you’re going to remember it later.

At first glance (and keeping Wacky Thought #1 in mind) you might think writing down the location would be the final solution. Turns out, you’re only partly right. Because there is every chance, over time, you’ll forget where you wrote it down. If you’re placing an object in a “safe place” because you’ll only need it every six to twelve months or sometime in the future, it’s possible you’ll need a better memory keeper.

Crazy as it sounds, that place is your brain. Yet, that depends on your ability to participate in effortful processing. And, writing it down can be helpful if it is a part of your purposeful processing.

It might look like this, “I’m putting Mom’s wedding ring in the treasures box at the back-right corner of my closet BECAUSE I want to give it to my niece in the future and it is a real treasure.” Write down where you put it and why you put it there. That will be a good memory boost.

And, if you do forget, here are some steps you can use to try to find your lost object.

  • Instead of panicking, sit down to think.
  • Let others know what you’re searching for, they may have seen it.
  • Use your own thought processes in your favor. If you were putting the object up today, where would you put it?
  • Yet, don’t assume it won’t be in a particular place because you would never put it there.
  • Conduct your search as if you’re a detective searching a crime scene – inch by inch.

If all else fails, buy another one. If you’re like me, you’ll find the original a day or two later. 😜

Wacky Thought number 3

This is a task I do pretty regularly, there is no need to put it on the calendar.

Even some daily tasks should be included as a part of your working calendar. “Pretty regularly” is too vague. Too vague in every sense of the word. Once a week tasks can be easily forgotten if you don’t have a calendar reminder.

Rashelle Isip, a professional organizer, productivity consultant, coach, and author, offers insight concerning why you should schedule tasks into your calendar.

She says:

  • Turn a task into a tangible item.
  • Focus on your work.
  • Have a record of your work.
  • Practice your time management skills.

You can see her complete article here. Check out the 3 tips she gives for scheduling tasks into your calendar.

Wacky Thought number 4

Why would I bother creating a checklist; I know the steps involved.

I am and have always been a fan of checklists. So, you would think I would have a lot to say on this subject. Truth is, I do.

Yet, I think Brett & Kate McKay, of The Art of Manliness, have said it all, better than I could. Check out their article here. They even include information concerning how to make an effective checklist.

Plus, I love that in the section of their article titled, The Power of Checklists in Action, they have a subsection titled, Construction.

Wacky Thought number 5

It won’t take long to check out (name your favorite social channel) after I make a post there.

My guess is, if you’ve had this thought, you’ve already followed it up with these words, “this time.”

As my mom, who was ever the lady, (yet could on occasion be brought to the breaking point of frustration) would have said, “My, my, I do believe that is a bit of horse do-do.”

There are 3 ways to avoid wasting time on social channels:

  1. Avoid them.
  2. Use tech to block them.
  3. Schedule them.

Using social channels to market your construction business is a good thing. On the other hand, using social channels to waste time . . . well, you know – a bad thing.

Because, liking, commenting, and being “social” on social channels is a good thing, it can sometimes be a challenge to know where to draw the line. What I’ve found that works best is to schedule social time. When the time is up, you’re done. You can schedule social for once a day, or for several times a day. Or, get someone else to help you or do it for you. 😉

Wacky Thought number 6

I’m just going to plow through this project until I get it done, I don’t have time for breaks.

I know, I’ve felt it too. There is a deadline, or a challenge, or something tangible on the table meaning getting this project done soon is imperative. Yet, taking breaks can have the effect of helping you do better work without wasting time.

Meg Selig, writing at Psychology Today, provides a summary of recent research and thinking on the value of taking breaks. She lists and explains 5 important reasons.

  1. “Movement breaks” are essential for your physical and emotional health.
  2. And, breaks can prevent “decision fatigue.”
  3. Plus, breaks restore motivation, especially for long-term goals.
  4. Breaks increase productivity and creativity.
  5. “Waking rest” helps consolidate memories and improve learning.

She also mentions when not to take a break.

She goes on to provide information concerning how to plow through when you really can’t take a break.

Great Thought

If you’ve walked into the “forest of doom” (and who hasn’t at one time or another) you can still find a path out. Practice avoiding these 6 Wacky Thoughts and see how much better your day, week, and office runs.

 

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. http://www.schulteandschulte.com/blog/

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

How to Know if Your Office System is a Mess

Office systems to keep you from having an office that is a literal and figurative mess.

Office systems – they’re no joke

Office systems could be funny, right? Let’s step back a moment and look at where this post came from.

As per my own advice, I keep a Squirrel List of ideas that have crossed my path.

Occasionally I scan through it when deciding what to write that will benefit our subcontractor clients. A while back I had written what became the title to this article (How to know if your office system is a mess) with a following note which said, “It requires a new file cabinet.” Yeah, I thought is was funny in my own off-the-wall way. You see, we often work with our clients to help them move towards a paperless office for the sake of both security as well as efficiency.

Next, I thought what other “funny” things can I add besides the file cabinet “joke” to come up with a lighthearted post for this page. Turns out office systems are a pretty down-to-earth item not to be tampered with – much. With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy I present the following guide.

Your office system might be a mess if:

Your cleaning crew can’t find your desk

The neighbors complain about the weekly trash overflowing – every week

You would rather be anywhere (including the dog-house) instead of your office

Your biggest business goal is to determine where in the office you left your mobile phone

It requires a new file cabinet

Your office system is important

Office systems in your subcontracting business are just as important as the systems you use in the shop, during the service call, or on the construction site. Get your office systems right and you are a step ahead of your competitors – a giant step ahead.

The absolute, down in the trenches, give-away that your office systems aren’t functioning well is this – you don’t have time for the important stuff.

You don’t have time to work on the things that will grow your business, such as:

  • identify new business opportunities
  • formulate ways to form strategic partnerships
  • find new ways to provide extra value to your clients
  • provide mentorship or training to your valuable employees
  • pursue continuing education concerning tools, supplies, techniques, and best office practices
  • enhance field productivity
  • meet with potential clients
  • develop an effective and evolving organizational structure

Your office system IS a mess when

In no particular order there follows a list of clues showing your office system is a mess – and these aren’t all that funny. If you check off too many of these, you need to rein in the chaos and begin getting your office systems in order. (And yes, the team here at Schulte and Schulte is good at helping our clients pull on those reins.)

Your systems are all and only in your head

There is no backup plan for when things go wrong

You have too many daily goals

Your website is stagnant

Your email inbox is multiple pages long or (worse yet) your physical inbox is over-flowing

People keep quitting

Your few documented systems include names rather than titles concerning who does the work

No one knows where to look for lost information

The phone ringing isn’t a pleasure but a disturbance

You haven’t created (documented) repeatable systems for all your processes

You’re unsure of your costs and expenditures

You don’t know who owes you nor how much they owe

You’re unwilling (or don’t know how) to remove non-performers

You spend too much time putting out fires

Neither you nor your employees can describe your company culture (learn how here)

The physical layout of your office doesn’t lead easily to next-step tasks

You don’t have clarity of purpose

You don’t have a growth-through-systems mindset

And last, but not least . . . it requires a new file cabinet 🤡

If you like having accounting and office systems that work to make you more efficient and effective, therefore making you more profitable, then you can get in touch here or by calling 866-629-7735 to set your place on our waiting list.

Performance-Based Bonus Programs That Don’t Stink – Part 1

bonus programs and incentives that don't stink

bonus programs and incentives that don't stink

Some bonus programs stink

Bonus programs based on the wrong parameters or instituted poorly can be really yucky for everyone. Your team loses, you lose, and you throw your hands up in despair thinking bonus programs are a waste of time and (more importantly) a waste of money.

Yet, if you get it right, the win-win effect takes place bringing everyone (including your clients) into a much better place. Instituting bonus incentives in your construction contracting or service business is worth the time and effort.

A bad example

One of the best companies I ever worked for made a honking mistake when they first instituted a bonus program which offered a rather stunning reward. I mean, who do you know who wouldn’t want to have an all-expense paid, eight-day vacation with the person of his or her choice in a foreign land while the paycheck continued to roll in?

In case you’re wondering if I’m calling sour grapes simply because I never achieved the bonus, think again. I did achieve the bonus. My hubby and I were delighted to be a part of the group which arrived in Thailand ready for an adventure. Yet, we were only able to go because the company realized after the first disastrous year they had made a parameter mistake when instituting the bonus.

There isn’t reason to go into all the details, but you’ll understand what went wrong when I mention that the goal which was set the first year could only be reached by a limited number of employees. It had to do with location. The folks who could reach the particular goal set for that year all lived in metropolitan areas. Those of us who had no hope for reaching the goal lived in rural areas. And yes, you guessed right. When we first learned what the goals were, we looked at each other, smiled, and mentioned that we weren’t possibly going to reach that goal. So, nothing in our behavior changed.

The point is, when setting goals for your team, be sure they are attainable. That doesn’t mean make it easy, it just means the goal should be one everyone in your employ can see hope of achieving. Which brings me to my next point.

Achievement rather than performance

Ah, words. Words can mess with our minds. This report from the University of Michigan will give you more insight into the validity of choosing words which are more in line with what you want to convey.  So, there is every reason to choose the correct word when determining what it really is that you want to accomplish. The word performance tends to remind us of a stage. When a person is asked to perform there is the concept of getting it right for the sake of the audience (in this case the boss.) But, when a person is asked to achieve the idea inherent in the word is that of making ones-self better. You can see how that simple change in words will set the right tone for introducing bonuses to your team. It will also aid you in determining parameters that are highly advantageous for all involved.

Achievement-based bonus program

Perhaps stating what an achievement-based program is NOT will be helpful. It is not:

  • A freewill gift (for instance a Christmas or Chanukah present)
  • Delivered randomly without a plan
  • A tenure bonus (although this is close)
  • An employee referral program (yet it will add juice to your attempts to gain employable referrals)
  • A signing bonus

Now, let’s talk about what a well-executed achievement-based bonus program IS. While you can make a case for “a job well done is its own reward,” you must admit raising the bar with extra incentives is a useful tool in your management toolbelt. When you reward accomplishment, you help people achieve more (sometimes more than they thought themselves capable) and you:

  • Increase teamwork and camaraderie
  • Decrease unsafe practices
  • Escalate productivity
  • Improve customer service
  • See your business improve

Results are what count

After all, incentives are all about achieving specific results rather than simply doing a good job.

In part two of this 3-part post we’ll talk about how to determine which bonus initiatives will be most advantageous for your construction contracting company. There will be information on how to implement the program. And there’ll be the part about “which incentives to give.”

 Contact us here or call 866-629-7735.