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.

Will QuickBooks Online work for my Construction Business?

I was originally asked to write this article for QBOChat where it was published back on March 8th. I wanted to share it here for our readership as well (with a few minor changes.)

Have you heard it won’t?

If you are a construction company owner who has been told that QuickBooks Online won’t work for your construction business, you may want to take a second look. There are still quite a few accounting professionals who tend to think of QuickBooks Online in the same way as they view the QuickBooks Desktop software package. Don’t get me wrong, QuickBooks Desktop is still a powerful piece of software and it is still being improved upon by the great folks at Intuit. However, to truly understand QuickBooks Online you must understand the idea of SaaS, cloud computing, and app integrations.

So, what is SaaS? No, it’s not the lip that you used to give your mom and for which you were sent to bed without your supper. SaaS stands for Software as a Service. QuickBooks Online is designed to be run from the cloud and one of the major benefits of this cloud computing model is the ability for QuickBooks Online to integrate fairly seamlessly with other cloud based apps. Cloud computing and SaaS programs – “apps” – are really the future of small business management.

OK, so what?

Why, you may be asking, does this matter to me in terms of my construction business. Back to our original proposition – if anyone has ever told you that QuickBooks Online just doesn’t have enough features for you to properly manage your construction business then you should know that they’re right.

Gulp. They’re right. As a Construction Accounting Specialist, I would say that the majority of construction companies (of any size) should not attempt to manage their construction business accounting solely through QuickBooks Online. Yet, the beauty of app integrations with other cloud based software is that now you can take your accounting software – QuickBooks Online – and link it directly to your project management software – for instance, Knowify – and have all the integrated project management and accounting data be magically imported into QuickBooks Online without having to do any manual data entry from one program to the other.

Just think

Think about the ramifications of that for a second. Just a few short years ago, the various aspects of running a construction company were broken up into various parts – estimating had their software tools, project managers had their software tools and accounting had their software tools. These various software systems operated independently of one another. So, estimating would work on an estimate (say they put that together in a spreadsheet program.) Then, they had to communicate that information to the project manager and to accounting – both of whom enter the same data all over again into their respective project management and accounting platforms. As the project progresses, the project manager had to communicate with accounting information about project costs, time and materials, what portion of the job is complete, and so on and so forth.

Let’s take a walk in the cloud

Now, step into the world of cloud computing, Knowify and QuickBooks Online. With these two powerful tools integrated nearly every step of a project (no matter how complicated) can now be managed in one simple tool. Accounting still has the ‘back end’ system of QuickBooks Online for maintaining non-project related items such as payroll and bank reconciliations, but everything pertaining to the projects is now flowing through the one, easy to use system of Knowify and the accountant never needs to do double data entry work to make sense of the numbers because Knowify pushes that information into QuickBooks Online without even having to click a button. Estimating enters their estimate directly into Knowify using as much or as little detail as necessary. The project manager can manage every piece of the project from scheduling to materials invoices to billing right within Knowify. All along the way, every detail that needs to post to QuickBooks is posting to QuickBooks. The accounting department (or your knowledgeable QuickBooks ProAdvisor or Construction Company Network Advisor) can see every piece of the accounting puzzle as it pushes into QuickBooks. Financials, job costing, and other reporting tools can be accessed much more quickly because there is much less time spent between when something happens out on the jobsite and when it is accounted for in the books.

Not only that, but if you need to prepare AIA type billings on a regular basis and they give you headaches trying to figure out what the exact percentage of completion will be for that month, then you will really fall in love with Knowify’s AIA billing capabilities. Not only does Knowify track your costs and progress on the job so that you can have a very accurate picture of percentage of job completion, it even has built in AIA style forms that most general contractors will accept. (Does your QuickBooks Desktop do that?)

Now you know – and,

The next time someone tells you to stay away from QuickBooks Online because it isn’t the right tool for the job, remind them that a drill with no bits is never the right tool forthe job either!