Grow an Established Construction Business – Part 2

Construction management of project risk and adopting new technology

Construction business growth

Construction, at its very heart, is exhilarating. Being part of an industry that manufactures the clients’ desired product on site is challenging, stimulating, and fulfilling.

Growing a construction business is hard work and requires more than wishful thinking or hoping things will fall in place. In part one of this three-part series we looked at one area, “dealing with changing regulations” which contractors must heed in order to succeed. If you haven’t read it yet, take a moment and jump over to see where this post originates.

In this second part we’ll be look at “managing project risk” and “dealing with new technology.”

Manage construction project risk

Many subcontractors find themselves dealing with insufficient management of project risk. This article from ConstructConnect, titled Identifying and Managing Construction Project Risks deals with identifying, managing, avoiding, mitigating, and accepting risks. It is well worth the time it takes to read.

There is more to scrutinize. Sometimes, the things which we don’t think of as a risk (such as paying your employees for each full day of work) can be rather a risky business after all. One of our fellow accountants shared a story about how one of her clients was very hesitant to purchase a recommended piece of software. He eventually did follow her recommendation.

The software she suggested is used for employee time tracking and scheduling. Within the first month of use, her client discovered (among other things) that he had one long-term, trusted employee who was checking into the jobsite in the morning, getting the crew set up, then leaving the site and spending most, if not all of the day on side jobs. Yeah, sometimes what you find out, stinks!

Other risks to consider

  • Seasonal slowness
  • Injuries to third parties
  • Faulty work by the crew
  • Missed deadlines
  • Employees providing less than stellar customer service
  • Not adopting tech soon enough to keep up with the competition

Using your own (hard won) experience and information from the above linked article, you can begin putting together your own list of possible risks then begin defining ways you can manage, avoid, mitigate, or accept them.

Plan for and adopt new technology

The list is long concerning the technology available to today’s construction subcontractor. So long, it can be dizzying. In one of our recent articles, Technology Isn’t the Focus, Business Is, we dealt with the “why” of choosing the right tech for your subcontracting business.  In the end, just as with all your other business choices, the reason for choosing certain technological solutions is to better serve your clients.

Yet, there is more

Having the best tech in the world won’t mean anything if you’re unable to get buy-in from your employees and subs. This article from Forbes offers excellent information concerning how to get employees to really use new technology.

For your employees, understanding why the new technology is an improvement from what they had before is paramount. And, part of that understanding must rest in the portion of the brain that always asks, “what’s in it for me?” Plus, your workers and subs are likely to have a few follow-up questions, like “How does this affect me?” and “How will it change the way I work?”

An example

Say you want to introduce GPS tracking to your crew. Some of the perks you can mention to your employees are:

  • No “he said – she said” with clients. GPS provides employee proof of service.
  • There will be a cut back on paper work giving your team more time to focus on serving the client.
  • They will be paid for all hours actually worked.

Your job is laying out “a vision for the future” and providing an explanation for how the new technology will improve the business, thereby improving the lives of your people.

Improve the lives of your employees and subs

Technologies that require multi-day training programs and hefty user manuals are more likely to cause employee rebellion and perhaps even stalled adoption. You do well to remember that while functionality is critical user-friendliness is hyper-critical.

Customize training for individual users. For example, some may want a day long, in-house demonstration, while others would prefer online training to be done at their own pace. It is best to get influencers from your company onboard as quickly as possible. They will help others understand the how of using the new tech as well as the why for the sake of the company as well as the individuals involved.

There’s no time to waste

It is no longer a matter of waiting around to see if the new tech is “worth it.” The tech available today allows you to provide better organized projects, reduce onsite accidents, and stay competitive.

While you may think there is some risk involved in adding technology to your company, it is time to realize, there is even greater risk if you don’t.

Look for this next

Next week, we’ll take a look at preparing for financial needs in advance and creating documented, sustaining processes.

We’ve created a waiting list for those who are prepared to work with us in growing their construction contracting business. To get in on “the good stuff” call 480-442-4032 or get in touch here.

Building an Efficient Construction Office – Part 3

Efficient construction contracting planning.

Efficient construction contracting planning.

This is the third in a 3-part series dealing with efficiency in a construction contracting office. The first installment can be found here. And, the second here.

At this point you’ve begun to understand the importance of working in a pleasant atmosphere and having documented processes. You get that organized and standardized within your construction business means it will run more efficiently. Yet, there are still some issues to be dealt with.

How do you know where to start in developing processes for the systems?

There are at least three different methods to help you decide.

  1. Start with simple. Begin with the process which is likely to have the fewest action steps involved in order to get your feet wet.

 

  1. Triage your systems candidates. Which system is giving you the most trouble and needs to be addressed soon?

 

  1. Use the template associated with a particular system found in the SaaS you’re using for developing and documenting processes. (I know, that came out of the blue. So, hang tight, I’m going to give you more information about this really cool tool.)

There’s a SaaS for that

We, at Schulte and Schulte were blessed to find a perfect solution for our accounting business almost from inception. We use Aero Workflow (a SaaS product) to create, store, and use the documentation we need for many of our systems.  There is a bit of a learning curve involved with using Aero, yet it is a small hurdle to overcome when you consider the advantage we’ve achieved in being better able to serve our clients. There are a number of processing templates we can use. We can base a customized process off a standard template. Plus, we’re able to create from start-to-finish our own accounting processes to meet the needs of our individual clients.

Beyond that, we are also able to use Aero to designate tasks, to assign and track projects, to determine how long a task or project took to complete, and along with a host of other benefits we’re more efficient. Pretty cool, huh?

Some efficiency targeted SaaS platforms for you to choose from

There may be other similar SaaS platforms for you to choose from, but these four are all pretty well known, and all seem to have components which would be helpful for a number of different construction office applications. Plus, each of them offers a basic or starter level at no charge. That way you can look them over, play around with them, and decide which you’re most comfortable with. You can determine which would best serve your needs. Finally, none of them seems over-the-top expensive – although there is some difference in their pricing.  You can decide if Process Street,  Tallyfy,  Asana,  or Trello would be a good match for your office.

Develop a tech stack

A tech stack is the assortment of technical tools chosen to aid in the use of a foundational SaaS platform.

For example, Schulte and Schulte uses QuickBooks Online  for our foundational platform. And because we believe simplicity serves us well, our tech stack includes only Aero Workflow, Hubdoc, and GSuite. (We were recently invited to be part of a beta testing group for Client Hub and are looking forward to determining how well it will serve us as well as our clients.)

The tech stack we recommend for our clients includes QuickBooks Online, Hubdoc, and Knowify.

Knowify?

“Knowify is a SaaS platform for construction contractors that provides job management tools and real-time business intelligence to help them streamline their business processes, take on more jobs and ultimately run a more profitable business.” I hijacked the previous sentence from a SaaS comparison site because I think it pretty well describes Knowify. What it doesn’t mention is that Knowify is much more reasonably priced than its competitors. (By the way, our clients receive a discount on the Knowify pricing by virtue of our professional relationship with Knowify.)

Take a look at the construction-centric systems you’ll find housed in the Knowify SaaS.

  • Bid Management
  • Billing and Invoicing
  • Change Orders
  • Commercial
  • Contract Management
  • Document Management
  • Job Scheduling
  • Lead Management
  • Residential
  • Subcontractor Management
  • Submittal Management
  • Supplier Management
  • Task Management
  • Time Sheets

Did I just hear you breathe a sigh of relief? I know, because we’ve heard it time after time when we’ve introduced our clients to the robust system they can put to use right away in making their construction contracting business more efficient through the use of Knowify.

In conclusion

There you have it. By upgrading your surroundings, understanding the importance of systems and processes, and choosing the right Software as a Service (SaaS) you’re well on your way to becoming more efficient and better able to serve your customers.

We wouldn’t be any good at all if you need someone to paint your office, we’re pretty good at passing on what we’ve learned about running an office, and we’re excellent at helping you get a handle on your accounting needs.

Pick up the phone and give us a call Toll Free: 866-629-7735 or contact us here.

Strategies for Finding and Keeping Good Construction Employees

A successful construction contracting or service business means having great people on your team. Finding and keeping those great people is a vital part of maintaining the success. So, how do you go about not only finding them, but also keeping them around?

Long term thinking

Of course, people who are looking for a job are concerned with both salary and benefits, yet those two items are only part of the equation.

Just as on the sales side of your company it is important to build a reputation for going above the expected with customer care and satisfaction, it is important to build a reputation for providing what potential employees are seeking and giving even more.

You have a number of possibilities concerning the reputation just right for your construction company to attract great employees. And, you can figure out rather quickly which your reputation is more likely to be, because it will be tied to your core values. There is more information about core values here.

Here are some examples of the reputation you may build, of the junction where your company and your potential employees may meet up:

  • strives to be organized and efficient
  • seeks projects that are unique and challenging
  • provides opportunity for advancement
  • uses the same systems and products
  • makes safety a big issue

Look through the list of your construction company’s core values and you’re likely to find a number of points which will provide value to your employees as well as potential employees.

Yet, you must remember it is truly the reputation that counts. In the long run, thinking long-term, it is incumbent upon you to strive constantly to build a reputation of being an excellent company to work for.

Now is the time to look at hiring the young and (perhaps) inexperienced, giving them opportunity to go through an apprenticeship, training, and step-by-step movement into supervisory roles. Certainly, these movements take time, yet when you are upfront with new employees about what they can expect and how long it will take, you give them more incentive to stick around.

Just as you must make sure the ads you post seeking new employees include the qualities you want in a new hire, you must include the benefits as well as the special qualities your company provides.

While you’re at it, remember engaging with today’s workforce means using today’s technology. Think in terms of mobile devices, social media, and the collaboration tools young people are used to and will learn easily.

I need boots on the ground now

You may have found you’ve been unable to bid on jobs you wanted because you simply don’t have the “boots on the ground” right now. Or, you may have had to tell your customer it is going to take a little longer than expected because you simply don’t have enough people to don the hard hats necessary to complete on time.

That being said, what can be done to find employees now who will be an asset to your business in years to come?

I’ve asked around with people I know “in the business,” checked with my good friend “google,” and searched my own personal memory banks to find answers to the question. Like most things in life, there is no magic wand when it comes to finding, hiring, and retaining the best employees, yet there are some strategies you can use to aid in the endeavor.

  • offer referral bonuses which encourage current employees to recommend competent people for open positions
  • encourage feedback from present employees and make improvements based on what you learn
  • become a supporter of the apprenticeship programs in your area
  • reach out to technical schools and high school career programs
  • create or join a program where you and other contractors bring in students annually for tours, hands on interaction, and a discussion of the job opportunities in the construction field*
  • employ construction focused interns for summer programs
  • create the right job posting
  • use social media to attract a younger demographic to the trades

*For those of you who are in Arizona, here is an example of a program you may be interested in being a part of. It is being presented by the Association of Construction Career Development, and this year it is being held on November 2nd. Check it out. Click through their pages. You may want to sponsor or volunteer.

Keeping ‘em around

This part starts with you and the supervisors in your construction company. You must show good character and have integrity. Leaders create the environment, and make or break the possibility of attracting and keeping employees who are honest, who show responsibility, and who can grow and thrive.

Once you’ve recognized and hired good workers they need to be utilized and trained in meaningful ways. You can include them in the process by letting them know, “this is where we’re going.” Encourage them to take ownership of their work.

Reward them. One fellow I heard from said, “We reward our employees randomly for their excellent work.”

Sometimes, a handwritten note or personal e-mail thanking or congratulating an employee will be reward enough. Other times, providing gift cards to a deserving team is appropriate. Taking the entire crew to a lunch or dinner meal will go a long way to show your appreciation of them.

Be sure to include professional development opportunities through training and classes.  Prove you’re invested in them long-term by encouraging them to learn new skills or further develop their strengths.

Strive to make it known yours is a workplace where employees are respected and trusted. Work hard to show your employees they have reason to have a sense of security that comes with stability – meaning hanging around has its advantage.

Be sensitive to and care about the needs of your employees as well as their families.

You should be able to pass on to your employees the concept that their wellbeing and the companies wellbeing walk hand-in-hand. Helping them to see they are a part of the big picture serves both your business and the employee’s sense of pride in job well done.

How Schulte and Schulte can assist you

As a part of the suite of accounting services we offer our construction contractor clients, they can choose to allow us to prepare their payroll and deal with all the details associated with that task.

Did you know Inc. Magazine extolls the benefits of outsourcing “payroll” for small businesses? That makes sense to us, because that gives you, the contractor or service provider the time to seek, hire, and engage your employees in the services you provide your customers.

And since we specialize in accounting for construction contractors and service providers you know we know all the ins and outs of the industry. Give us a call to see how we can be of assistance to you. 480-442-4032 or Toll Free: 866-629-7735