Being Profitable

Being profitable even during COVID - 19

Every Monday morning, The Profit Constructors’ social media posts are routinely filled with something akin to an Irish blessing. They vary slightly week to week, but typically they look like this, “May your coffee be strong, your influence be ever-growing, and your week be profitable.”

It is that last portion of the “blessing” we’re discussing today. That part about being profitable – because it never varies. Those are the same words week after week.

Even during the Coronavirus pandemic, we wish profitability on our clients and social media followers. And we mean it! We’re not just sticking with the old words. We haven’t lost our minds.

Profitability wears many hats

One way most look at profitability can be measured in dollars and cents. You know that making more than you spend is how profits come into existence. But there are other ways to measure profitability.

For example, a genuinely profitable week would include personal growth. A week spent in strategic planning could prove to be very beneficial. Adapting to changing conditions while maintaining core values gives you the opportunity to show your customers, your employees, and the community at large your grit – and that is very profitable.

And of course, helping others without thought of gain gives an immeasurable profit.

Following is a six-point list of ways you can work toward profitable endeavors during and after the mayhem surrounding COVID – 19.

Remove “woe is me” thinking

Look around – see the big picture. Yours is not the only construction contracting company affected by the circumstances in which you now find yourself. It isn’t as if you’ve been singled out.

Plus, you may find it useful to look at history. Here is a list of some well-known construction companies that are in existence today that made it through the ten years known as the Great Depression (1929 – 1939) as well as other ups and downs in the economy.

  • Sundt Construction, Inc. founded in 1890
  • Bechtel founded in 1898
  • Fluor Corporation founded in 1912
  • The Turner Corporation founded in 1902
  • Peter Kiewit Sons, Inc. founded in 1884

And, check out this list from Mental Floss about other Great Depression success stories.  

Use time wisely

Whether your pace has increased or slowed, maximizing the use of your time to accomplish much is imperative. (We know different states have taken different stands on whether or not construction workers are essential.) That means, for some, it may be making sure the crews have the correct PPE and are practicing proper safety measures. For others, it may be taking advantage of your time to create better-documented systems. For still others, it may be time to take an online class or to teach one.

You get the picture. Take the time to determine the best use of your time. Now do it!

Forget about safety – be daring!

Wait! Don’t think for a minute I’m talking about on-site safety. Keeping those guys and gals safe has never been more critical.

I’m talking about stepping out of the norm, being daring in ways you may not have thought of in the past. Things like:

  • Set up an appointment with a general contractor you may have formerly thought was out of your league.
  • Pivot – do something differently.
  • Create a new division that will take on the new opportunities afforded when the crisis is over.
  • Buy that piece of equipment you know will be necessary for your construction company’s growth in the future – especially when you find a good deal.

Note: I’m not saying that doing any of the daring things in the above list will make you more profitable. I am saying these are the types of things you should consider.

Write a book

Yes really. Do it. Hire a ghostwriter if you need to but write a book about how you not only survived COVID – 19 but how you flourished during and after the crisis. There is nothing wrong with a secondary income stream. And, even if you never see it in print, at least you will have thought of ways to accomplish it.

Advertise

Get serious about your mailing list. Call your past and present customers. Let them know what you’re doing and how you can help them. Use your social channels to help others. Let everyone (including the general public) know you’re here now and will be in the future.

Work together and help others

There is possibly no better way to create channels of profitability than to help others. Sharing the load, working through a dilemma, and resurging afterward are hallmarks of great business leaders who survive the test of time.

One last thing

May your week be profitable!

 

We desire to familiarize you with business concepts, which will make it easier for you to be a better commercial construction subcontractor through our blog posts. Some are new ways of looking at things, and others are refreshers. http://www.schulteandschulte.com/blog/

The Profit Constructors Provide Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors.

So you can Run With the Big Dogs! Call us 866-629-7735

Meeting the Meeting Challenge

Overcoming the challenge of construction meetings

Not another meeting!

If you’ve heard or thought, “Not another meeting!” you know what a challenge having or attending meetings can be. Yet, having well thought out and appropriate meetings will enhance your construction company’s ability to perform. Meetings address two basic components of establishing a highly functioning business – information and relationship.

Keep in mind; some meetings can be replaced by an email or a shared document. When possible, do that! For the meetings you must have, keep these guidelines in mind.

  • Consider who needs the meeting before creating the attendee list
  • Start and end on time
  • Have an agenda
  • Recap agreements before the meeting ends
  • Be sure attendees have hardcopy or digital notes as follow up

Also, when preparing the agenda, remember the meeting’s purpose as well as what the appropriate outcome should be. Some examples:

  • Reach a decision
  • Develop a plan
  • Give instructions or teach a new skill
  • Introduce a new approach
  • Reward growth or success

5 typical construction company meetings

While different industries have a variety of meeting types, the following five business meeting types serve the construction industry well. In no particular order and with no comment concerning frequency these are the meeting types we’ve seen be useful for experienced and discerning commercial construction contractors.

  • Team Alignment
  • Decision making
  • Problem-solving
  • Team building
  • Safety

We discuss each one in the following sections.

Team Alignment

This meeting is sometimes known as a Status Update meeting. One of the main purposes of this type of meeting is to make sure everyone on the team is on the same page.

It is in this meeting where you’ll be able to address any problems that have bobbed up, make decisions, prioritize next steps, then assign appropriate tasks.

This meeting saves valuable work time by avoiding rework scenarios. And, it aids in reducing frustration among team members.

Typically, your team members will be silently (or vocally) asking this question, “How does this affect what I need to get done?”

Encourage them to add these two questions to their thought process at each team alignment meeting.

  1. “What do I need from others to move my work forward?”
  2. “What can I offer that can help other team members in this instance?”

 

Decision making

The purpose of this meeting is to:

  • Gather information
  • Suggest solutions
  • Evaluate options
  • Decide how best to move forward

It’s easy to understand that the use of collective intelligence leads to a more informed decision. And, while the purpose of this meeting is to find a solution or decide on a path forward, there is a by-product that’s invaluable.

The by-product has to do with team morale and, put simply, team buy-in. When individuals participate in group planning, they are much more likely to embrace the decisions and do their part to work toward the goals.

Decisions being what they are, and people being who they are, makes it imperative that this meeting ends with a recap of what decisions were made. Be certain to provide written notes (to all participants) of decisions and what responsibilities were assigned to whom.

Problem-solving

Often, problem-solving meetings take place when an emergency needs a quick resolution. With that understanding in mind, it is best to follow simple guidelines for achieving the best outcome.

  • Get the right people in the room
  • Know the priorities
  • Set the agenda
  • Defer to the person or persons with the greatest expertise for the matter at hand
  • Give high priority to the input of people who will be implementing the decision

When the problem to be solved is not an emergency, the above steps are still useful.

The outcome of a non-emergency problem may be:

  • Resolved
  • Delegated (either in-house or outsourced)
  • Deferred to a future agenda

When meeting notes are sent to attendees, they should include:

  • Decisions made
  • Assigned tasks
  • Any follow-up matters
  • Future agenda items

Team building

No matter which form it takes one of the best ways to begin team building is to celebrate team successes. And, always be on the lookout for ways to praise individual growth points and accomplishments.

This article from the Wrike blog offers 12 Awesome Team Building Games Your Team Won’t Hate.  You can pick and choose what would work well for your team. The activities listed run from just a few minutes to two hours. They look like fun, and you should check them out.

Further, if you want to work on team building you may want to plan events that don’t’ have “team-building” written all over them. They are subtle yet effective ways to get your team to learn more about one another and to engage better.

Here’s a list of five to get you started.

  1. Attend volunteer events as a group
  2. Eat together – better yet, add cooking to the event (Chili Cook-off or Short Cooking Class comes to mind)
  3. Have a try at an Escape Room
  4. Gather at an Axe Throwing room (I think this would be great, Tonya isn’t so sure.)
  5. Go Geocaching together

 

Now, watch and listen for feedback to see what types of events your team prefers.

Safety

We talked about better management in your construction business through daily safety meetings in this post.   Check it out, it has relevant information.

And, here’s a brief safety meeting reminder.

Keep it:

  • Standing
  • Brief
  • Entertaining
  • Insightful

Meeting the challenge

Meeting the meeting challenge is easier when you determine which types of meetings are most beneficial for your construction company. Follow the basic rules, communicate well, and have some fun along the way.

 

It is our desire this article (among our growing library of construction-centric informational articles) helps assist 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

Safety and Your Construction Crew

Help your construction crew understand safety is for them

Safety counts

The most important tool in your “safety toolbox” is found in the minds of your workforce. Therefore, the first hurdle to overcome is the mindset which incorrectly identifies safety and productivity as enemies of one another.

Consequently, it is your job to make certain your subs and employees understand that safety and productivity walk hand in hand.

From the human point of view, no one wants to see someone be injured or killed. That simple.

In addition, from the stats point of view, when safety measures go unheeded (and someone is injured or killed) productivity takes a hike. Also, that simple.

Safety now

Let’s take it down a level. Remember having this conversation with your children? “Stop that! Someone is going to get hurt!” Then, you hear back, “Nobody has gotten hurt so far.”

Similarly, there are times even adults tend to play the nothing-bad-has-happened-so-far card. You know what I mean, you’ve seen it:

  • Not using PPE
  • Disregarding proper procedure when using or repairing tools and equipment
  • Improperly placing ladders or temporary access apparatus
  • Neglecting to disconnect electrical power
  • Entering unprotected trenches or other spaces

Mark Twain, in Innocents Abroad said, “He cuts a corner so closely now and then . . . that I feel myself ‘scooching.’”

For instance, it’s likely you’ve been on a job site where you felt the need to “scooch.” Removing the scooch isn’t easy, yet it is worth it.

The bravado factor

 

A LiveScience article titled, Why Do People Take Risks, mentions that some “. . . desire to venture past the limits of safety in pursuit of a rewarding experience.” Likewise, in the construction industry, the rewarding experience may be as basic as a paycheck. Or, it could be a misguided attempt to fit in with the crowd or please the boss.

The second hurdle of the safety quandary is the bravado factor inherent in many of the people drawn to the construction industry. Certainly, it isn’t that they have a death wish or a desire to be injured. They often see the risk as less than others might perceive.

Safety is No Accident

Instilling a safety-first mentality in your subs and crews is imperative.

Make certain they understand you want them to stick with safety procedures. Help them see it will help keep everyone (including their fellow workers) safe.

Yeah, I know, safety training can be expensive and time-consuming. That’s because safety is so blasted valuable, in every respect.

Safety story

A rich man needed to hire a chauffeur to transport his dear wife to their beautiful new home. A mountain top home. Therefore, the driving job required great skill as the road to the home clung to the side of the mountain. This single-lane road had an edge with a deep drop to the driver’s left.

The rich man took all three candidates to the site and gave this instruction, “Show me your skill for driving on this treacherous road.”

The first candidate drove slowly, slowly up the hill with his tires only inches from the precipitous edge, in an attempt to prove his skill. He was told he would not be needed.

Subsequently, the second driver took the same route with his tires only inches from the drop. And, eager to prove his skill, drove at a higher rate of speed. He too was dismissed as a candidate.

However, it was the third driver who got the job. He was the only one who drove as far away from the edge as the car would allow.

You get it. Most importantly, be sure your employees get it too.

It is our desire this article (among our growing library of construction-centric informational articles) helps 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

 

Phones on the Roof

Phones on your construction site, good or bad?

Phones anywhere on a construction site

What do you think? Should there be phones on your construction site?

There are a number of construction business services which are based on the availability of phones and other mobile electronic devices. There are mobile applications for managing field operations on just about every corner. Yet, for the purpose of this discussion we’re going to stick with phones.

Everyone is doing it

Do you remember the days you tried to convince your mom you should be allowed to do something because, “Gosh Mom, everyone else is doing it?”

Yet, when it comes to phones, it does indeed seem that everyone is doing it. When I say everyone, I mean everyone. People who don’t seem to have two cents to rub together have a handy dandy cell phone in their clutches.

Phones on your construction site

So how do you handle the issue of phones when it comes to your field employees or your subcontractors? Do you have a policy in place? Do you just hope everyone does the job they were hired to do and leaves their phone alone?

Caution Shiny Object Ahead. Do you know about or use any of these “rugged phones?”

Yeah, it’s complicated.

Communication

Our mobile phones, in all their glory, were and perhaps still are meant to be communication devices. And who doesn’t want to be able to communicate? You know what I mean – what do you do when you leave home without it?

Seems simple enough. You need to get in touch with your foreman, so you call or text him. There is a major setback on one of your sites and so one of your hands let’s you know (in real time) by sending you a photo.

But, there is this also. One of the guys on one of your crews married Nancy-Nothing-To-Do who calls him all-day-long. Someone else has some very interesting photos on his phone which he passes along on a frequent basis.

Mobile phones are one of the best tools you can have for your construction business – and one of the worst items to ever cross the line onto your construction site.

Efficiency

Phones are, in many instances, the key to jobsite efficiency. Knowify, (a product we know, use, and recommend) says their “smartphone application for field technicians is a great way to automate your job costing in real time from the job site.” They go on to say, “Giving employees access to Knowify on their phones can save you time dispatching workers, entering their time sheets, and reviewing reimbursement and expense requests.”

Even the folks at Hubdoc have information concerning how to use the phone to make using their system easier.

And our friend Jenny Moore of Moore Details Bookkeeping provides a quick video showing how simple it is to use Hubdoc via a phone to aid in the accounting aspect of your business.

Photography

Four important ways phone photography is useful on your jobsites are:

  1. Provides you with documentation or proof of work – allowing you to give your GC or other client a photographic timeline as you proceed.

 

  1. Gives you verification in response to an incident, weather, or some other unanticipated condition – as needed by your clients, insurance provider, or governmental agency.

 

  1. Permits you the ability to see the job site objectively – cameras take it all in, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

 

  1. Rewards you with multiple marketing opportunities – especially if you publish only the good, not the bad and the ugly. 😵

This article from Construction Law Musings-Richmond, VA discusses “The 6 Essentials of Construction Photography.” Be sure to pay attention to number five.

Safety

Yes, yes indeed, there is a safety issue when it comes to phones on the jobsite. Just as there is a safety issue when it comes to phone usage while driving.

Working while distracted is just as dangerous as driving while distracted. The answer in your vehicle can be as simple as using hands-free technology (like Bluetooth) or finding a safe place to stop. The answer on the jobsite may seem somewhat more complicated, yet it boils down to the same principles.

  • Avoid multi-tasking
  • Determine what your task is at the moment
  • Be fully aware of your surroundings

For example, just because you’ve decided to stop walking to engage in a text message conversation doesn’t mean you’re safe. What about the crane operating near you or the dump truck backing into location?

An article from Simplified Safety explores information concerning the use of phones on construction sites. And the title is rather telling, “Are People Walking Around Blindfolded on Your Job Site?” 

Policy

If you linked over to the article mentioned above, you noticed at the end of that post is a section labeled Developing a Mobile Device Usage Policy. It is a good starting point for writing your own policy concerning the use of phones on your jobsites.

You may also like to look over this policy on the Gribbins Insulation website.

The point is, taking the time to write a policy concerning phone usage on your jobsites is not just important, it is imperative. If you feel you need help you may wish to reach out to a freelance Human Resources service such as HRextension.

Writing and enforcing a cell phone policy is important to the well-being of your employees as well as the well-being of your subcontracting business.

Things to consider

What do you think? Should there be phones on your jobsites? How do you make the best use of the phone you have with you all the time anyway? How do you let your subs and employees know what you expect of them?

You can contact us about saving your spot on our waiting list here.

Achievement-Based Bonus Programs That Don’t Stink – Part 3

Achievement based programs help you make things happen.

Achievement based programs help you make things happen.

Build the bonus program

Building an achievement-based bonus program will take some effort on your part, yet it need not be overly complicated. As a matter of fact, simplicity can be key to success. While there is room to base an incentive program on a quarterly or annual basis, it is likely shorter-term situations will be easier to design, build, and carry out.

Even if you do intend to incorporate long-term bonus programs it is a good idea to start small. Here are 3 reasons why:

  1. It is easier to design and carry out
  2. Your employees want their rewards sooner rather than later
  3. Successful bonus programs build interest amongst your employees making them eager for the next challenge

The size of your construction company, the typical length of your projects, and the number of employees you have will all factor into the length and frequency of each bonus program.

Just like building your construction business takes time, building your achievement-based bonus program will take time to establish and function properly. Eventually, your company may become known as the great place to work because of (such-and-such) annual bonus program. In the meantime, start developing bonus bits which will fit into the overall concept which is part of your company culture.

The 6 Ds  

Remember this from the last post?

At the highest level of implementation are two considerations:

  1. Motivating your employees to excel beyond their base job descriptions and regular duties.
  2. Exceeding your client’s expectations in both small and big ways.

Thinking of the above two considerations, use the 6 Ds to design your program.

  • Determine the objectives

 

  • Decide who will be eligible to participate (consider team or individual based)

 

  • Develop the achievement criteria

 

  • Devise the reward levels

 

  • Derive the funding formula (Where’s the money coming from to pay for this?)

 

  • Decree the method of payment

 

We’re going to break it down step by step.

Determine the objectives

What do you want your team to accomplish? Raise productivity or efficiency? Drive teamwork? Improve customer service? Increase safety habits?

Consider: It is easy to see that a team which works together will without fail be more productive than one that doesn’t. If your team is filled with a majority of workers speaking a foreign language, steps to improve their English skills will inevitably improve customer service. Improving safety awareness and habits is bottom line good for all involved.

Decide who will be eligible to participate

Will this be a company wide initiative, or will only persons performing particular job types be in the running? Will all your field crews be involved or one specific team? Will the office staff be the only ones eligible?

Consider: Devising a scheme which is available to every employee can be tough. Yet, in order for all in your employees to get in on the fun you may decide to have one plan running for field hands and a different one for office staff, or some derivative thereof.

Develop the achievement criteria

What must be accomplished in order to receive the bonus? What are the parameters involved? Will there be levels of reward based on levels of accomplishment?

Consider: Developing the criteria concerning reaching the goals may be the easy part, yet if parameters are left to chance there is room for great error. For instance, if speed is the only criteria, both craftsmanship and safety may be neglected.

Devise the reward levels

Setting attainable benchmarks along the way to the final goal eases the tension which might arise from seeing a big hairy objective. Even if the final goal isn’t met, at least some amount of achievement will have taken place and be worthy of reward.

Consider: Use hard deadlines, percentages, frequencies, or volume as units of measurement when determining the levels which can be achieved.

Derive the funding formula

Just how are you going to pay for all this stuff? Sure, the entire, overall, sweeping objective of having achievement goals in the first place is to improve your operation thereby improving the profitability of your construction company. But you have to start somewhere, right?

Consider: 1) Dig into your own pocket if you must. 2) Give low or no cost rewards with integrity, letting your crew know their part in the effort will pay off as you grow. 3) Contact Schulte and Schulte. We’ll show you how to begin now preparing for fantastic future achievement bonuses your crew will rave about.

Decree the method of payment

Tell your crew exactly what they can expect for each benchmark they reach. Then when they reach it – give it to them.

Consider: Have a party – onsite or elsewhere. Make a razzle-dazzle of the presentations, keep it humorous and fun while at the same time making sure your people know you really do care about them and you appreciate their effort.

A simple example

Before I get into the example I’ll give you a bit of background concerning where this story came from. I’ve recently become a bit of a construction-centric podcast junkie. (A topic which I’ll likely share with you in the future.) The following story came from one of the podcasts I heard early in my podcast adventure.

On the podcast I was listening to, a fellow who is a construction business owner was being interviewed. This guy believes wholeheartedly in incentive bonuses and he shared the story of the first time he tried it. He said that he looked at the jobsite, looked at the scheduled completion date, looked at his crew and came up with his plan.

He told his crew that if they could complete the job three weeks ahead of schedule he would take them all to a local steak house where they would all be treated to a first-class meal. If they could complete the job two weeks ahead of schedule he would have a big pizza party for the entire crew. If they completed the job one week ahead of schedule he would take them all to the fast-food joint and buy them each a hamburger, fries, and a soft-drink. As it turned out, the pizza party is what took place. He said it cost him a couple hundred bucks and came out of his own pocket.

How it worked

So, here is how his story breaks down in accordance with the 6 Ds.

He determined the objective of finishing early (I don’t know if he had the added parameters of safety and workmanship in his objective, but it would have behooved him to do so.)

He decided the entire crew would be eligible and it would be a team effort.

He developed the achievement criteria based on the measurement of time. One week, two weeks, or three weeks.

He devised the reward levels by establishing just what the crew could expect determined by when they reached the goal of early completion.

He derived the funding formula by looking at his checkbook and deciding it was worth it to him to see if his experiment would work.

He decreed the method of payment by letting his crew know exactly what they could expect based on what they achieved.

Further information

The Project Management Institute produced a rather lengthy study and article concerning Incentive Programs in Construction Projects.

Here are a few of my take-aways from their article.

  1. They strongly recommend the participation of employees in planning and implementing an incentive-based program. They say, “As for the ‘participation’ parameter, previous studies demonstrated that employee involvement contributes to the amount of information employees have about what is occurring, and to the feeling of control over and commitment to what is decided.”
  2. Their determination is that presenting a single objective is preferred over multiple objectives.
  3. Further, they advise a monetary program measuring group performance is somewhat preferred over a non-monetary one measuring individual performance.
  4. They say high quality of management contributes to a high likelihood of program success.
  5. My final takeaway — they say, “Under some conditions, participation may lead to higher-quality decisions.”

This has been the third in a 3-part series. You can catch the first here and the second here.

Now that you see the potential in developing an achievement-based bonus program it is time to get in touch. We can help you analyze and develop the financial end of the process. Click here or call 866-629-7735.