Solutions for Homebound Employees with Children

So, you’ve sent the office staff home. And, the schools have sent their children home. How do they (and your construction contracting business) cope?

As a professional business owner as well as a second-generation homeschooling family, we offer some ideas that have worked for us.

Perfect solutions

Remind yourself and your employees there are not likely to be any perfect solutions. Things will happen. Plans will go awry. Interruptions will . . . well, you know, interruptions will interrupt.

Now is the time to show mercy on your staff, other business professionals, your children, and yourself.

Find a workable solution

We know of a gal who works in the office of a casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her job typically has her going to work at an early morning hour. Therefore, she goes to bed early. She missed the decree concerning the closing of all Las Vegas casinos because she was asleep. The first thing the next morning, she got up, dressed for work, and hurried off to spend her day at her desk.

Surprise!

Yeah, that didn’t happen. This lady now knows she still has her job, but her duties will be carried out at home. She is trying to make the best of this unexpected happenstance. Her solution is to continue working the same hours she usually does (including the one-hour break for lunch) while using a different desk. She still dresses as if headed to the office, still takes her regular breaks, and is trying to figure out what to do during that scheduled lunch break.

If she had children, she would have other, more pressing issues to resolve than what to do during one mid-day hour.

Solutions through boundaries

Determining boundaries and ways to enforce them is crucial. Just as the children are flung into a situation for which they’re likely ill-prepared, so are the adults who depend on a certain schedule and familiar routines.

Communication is essential. Gathering the family and having a “this is where we are” discussion is an excellent way to start. How much information is shared depends on the age and maturity level of each child. Here are a few boundary setting tactics to consider.

Tell children they can interrupt you – if and only if the house is burning down! Of course, they probably won’t remember, so being diligent in enforcing the rule will take stamina.

Lock your “office” door during critical meetings or other important times.

Reassure the kiddos you will be available at specific times. A few times to consider are:

  • Lunch breaks
  • The last ten minutes of every hour
  • Thirty minutes at such and such time
  • Whatever timeslots work best for each household

Assign new chores and tasks. Some things to consider are:

  • Cleansing indoor and outdoor handles as well as the button for the doorbell
  • Doing their own or all the laundry
  • Watering indoor plants
  • Loading and unloading the dishwasher
  • Taking care of the floors
  • Dusting (including ceiling fan blades)
  • Helping or taking charge of preparing some meals

Use limited “screen time” or other desired pastime as a reward for adhering to the new rules and boundaries. A word of warning! Don’t allow the screens to become de facto babysitters.

Stop working when the workday is done! Turn it off. Walk away. Be present with your family.

The adventure solution

Many adults and most children welcome the chance for an adventure. Treating this change in “the norm” as an adventure will ease tension. Just as when you travel to a foreign land, things are different now. And that is exciting!

Get the entire family involved in the planning for this adventure. When people, including kids, get a say in the preparation stage, they’re more likely to own it and take part in it.

The point is to have an attitude of adventure. If the perspective of the adults in the home is fear or anger, that is the reflection that will be seen in the children. And, that is a pot that boils easily.

Depending on the age of the children involved, the types of adventures can range from a “Little House on the Prairie” snowed in-type of exploit to reading and discussing such books as “Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet Below the Chilean Desert.”

The point is to show your children there is an adventure in the new setting. If you behave with fear or some other negative attitude, so will your children.

Daily solutions

One adventure solution which works well with children of all ages is role play days. Here are some types to consider:

  • Spy
  • Hero
  • French (or any other foreign language and land)
  • Space
  • Cartoon character
  • Historical character
  • Fairytale character

Encourage children to dress up in costumes found in the drawers and closets of your home. Remember the props. Hats, magnifying glasses, capes, binoculars, backpacks, wands, and Mickey Mouse ears all come to mind.

Set the stage and send them on their way.

An example of how we’ve used the Spy Adventure is to assign the kiddos the task of “spying out” all the cruddy things the “evil crud monster” has left in all the common areas and their rooms. They take pictures of the “sneaky crud piles.” Then, with their master spying compatriots, they do away with the crud piles, take new photos, and report to “home base” how they’ve thwarted the evil crud monster. (Yes, we unabashedly get the kiddos to clean the house by making it a fun adventure.)

Other solutions

Set up a card table with a jigsaw puzzle for family members to work on at their leisure.

Have family contests. For example, who can read the most books in a week?

If the schools have assigned schoolwork, make it part of the daily routine.

Consider assigning schoolwork yourself. Let each child choose a topic he or she is interested in and let them explore. Older siblings can help. Some tools they can use are books you have on hand, specific TV programs, or a computer with proper childproofed connections.

Use Zoom or some other face-to-face program to allow your children to meet with their family or friends at set dates and times.

Encourage the kids to learn to play an instrument. One of our kiddos got her ukulele basics with this online instructor, The Ukulele Teacher.

Bonus tip: One tactic we learned early on is to stop play or other activities before the children are ready to stop. It sounds weird, but it works. If the kiddos are allowed to play until they’re bored with an activity, it will be hard to get them to return at another time. But, if they remember an activity was fun, they’ll be eager to get back to it when they get another chance.

Keep working on it

We hope these ideas will be of help to you and your construction business employees. While we haven’t covered every option for parents trying to make the best of the situation, we believe this will be a good start. The two main points we wish to convey are, 1) maintain an upbeat attitude and 2) take time to plan with and for the kiddos.

And remember, your children may scribble on your walls, but they paint masterpieces on your heart.

 

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. 

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

Leadership – Practice Composure

Leadership of your construction contracting business requires composure

Leading with Composure

Keep in mind these three important facts concerning composure:

  1. Everyone wants it
  2. Most have messed it up
  3. It can be regained

It is easy to remain composed when all is going well. Anyone can do it.

It’s when faced with uncomfortable and difficult experiences in your construction contracting business that you have the opportunity to demonstrate your composure as a leader.

In other words, Composure

One aspect of composure is it is difficult to describe. But the following list gives you a glimpse of the traits involved.

  • Is Determined
  • Has good Judgement
  • Practices Vigilance
  • Possesses Wisdom
  • Shows Kindness
  • Proceeds with Deliberation
  • Is Confident
  • Remains Responsible
  • Is Patient
  • Practices Judiciousness
  • Stands Stable
  • Continues Steadfastly
  • Shows Resolve
  • Possesses Grit

And that list doesn’t even consider these three important “selfs” – self-governance, self-control, and self-discipline.

Composure leads to success

Sherry Campbell, in her article for Entrepreneur, suggests 7 Ways Practicing Composure Leads to Success. 

Campbell says, “Think about the word ‘composure’ for a minute. What does it inspire within you? How do you see yourself operating in life and business when you envision yourself being composed? Composure is the most powerful character trait to possess when looking to advance your career.”

Composure meter

Here are three simple questions you can use to see if your composure is leveling up or needs a bit of work. Can you:

Deal with rejection without becoming crestfallen or dismayed?

Hold your temper when things don’t go just as you planned or expected?

Join in the laughter with others even when the joke is on you?

Ways to develop composure

You’ve made it to adulthood, you’ve stepped into ownership or management of a construction contracting business, and you’ve learned much along the way. And sometimes you’ve dropped your composure.

There are certain actions you can practice, thereby enhancing your composure.

  • Manage your ego – base your actions on your inner values
  • Think before you act – so you can save time in the long run
  • See the bigger picture – not the minor distractions
  • Reflect and learn – from both your successes and your failures
  • Look for solutions – not reasons to be pissed off

Listen to ancient wisdom

“The first and best victory is to conquer self.” – Plato

“Always keep your composure. You can’t score from the penalty box; and to win, you have to score.” – Horace

“The beauty of the soul shines out when a man bears with composure one heavy mischance after another, not because he does not feel them, but because he is a man of high and heroic temper.” – Aristotle

There’s more

This article is the second in a four-part series concerning leadership in the construction world. The first, Leadership – Keep learning, is worth checking out.  Next up is Leadership — Develop an eye for the big picture, to be followed by Leadership — Inspire others.

 

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. 

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

Tackling Problems in Your Construction Business

Tackling Problems for your construction business

Tackling Problems in Your Construction Business

Last time, we talked about When Solutions Become Problems.  As promised, now we’re diving deeper into one proven method for finding and resolving problems in your construction contracting business.

The first step, Defining the Problem, is borrowed from the car manufacturer, Toyota,  and has proven quite successful for them. The other steps are:

  • Reformulate the problem
  • Devise solutions
  • Evaluate alternatives

Defining the problem

Now is a good time to borrow the method used by Toyota which identifies their manufacturing issues. It is called the “Five Whys.” Don’t let the number five confuse you. It may take only “Three Whys” to get to the bottom line, or it may take more than five.

In short, you begin by stating the problem, then asking why until you get to the real root of the problem. For instance, the general contractor tells you he sees your crew sitting around doing nothing for large pieces of time each day.

Ask, “Why isn’t the crew on task during working hours?”

The answer might be that not all the materials or equipment needed were on site.

Ask, “Why is that?”

You see how this is going. There can be several different responses.

  • The trucks were improperly supplied
  • the chosen vendor is often low on stock
  • the foreman frequently forgets to order the right materials
  • or we only send someone to get stuff when we need it

At each junction, you ask, “Why is that?”

When you get to the bottom line, you have the opportunity to fix the problem for good.

Rather than a lazy employee problem or a we-don’t-care problem you may have an organizational or time management problem that begins with management and drips down to the crew.

Remember, it is important to distinguish causes from symptoms.

Reformulating the problem

Now, it’s time to question the questions. One way to reformulate the problem is by creating “How might we . . .” statements.

Let’s look back at the crew, wasting time on the job site. And ask this question, how might we . . .

  • make sure the crew is on task most of the time?
  • assure the vehicles are properly loaded every day?
  • overcome low vendor stock?
  • better train foremen concerning their duties?
  • be better prepared for obtaining supplies?

Now you have some jumping-off points for devising solutions.

Devising solutions

Sometimes, depending on the original problem, this is a one-person operation. But more often, the devising solutions stage is better practiced in groups. Whether it is leadership alone, a group of stakeholders, or the entire crew, getting ideas from more people is often the key to finding the solution.

One way to get the group on board is to begin the session by stating the problem, then asking the “how might we. . .” question, and then saying, “Please only mention very bad ideas.”

Yep, bad ideas. The reason is twofold.

  • It takes the pressure off. You know. Who wants to be the crazy guy who, when asked for a great idea, comes up with the dumbest idea on earth? Sometimes the tension is palpable.
  • Putting a new lens on the problem (unlikely solutions) may indeed produce some quite likely and grand solutions. At any rate, once the ball is rolling, there will be many ideas to toss about and roll around to get to the great idea.

Evaluating alternatives

This last step may be the one most left out when tackling problems. After all, you found solutions in the previous step. You can pick one and run with it.

Or you can evaluate the alternatives.

While there are likely several ways to tackle a problem and many of the ways may achieve the results you would like, there are two important metrics that will aid you in choosing one most likely to succeed.

The first is ease of implementation.

The second is the potential size of the impact.

Using the example above, let’s say the problem you’ve found is that the foreman isn’t taking care of his duties properly. One solution would be to hire a different supervisor. Another might be to train the foreman better. Which is easier to implement?

While finding a mature and knowledgeable foreman would be nice, we all know there isn’t a line of trained men knocking on your door. Yet, if the present foreman isn’t up for the training . . .

When considering the potential size of impact in this scenario, you must keep in mind the big picture as well as the details. Does the crew have a good working relationship with the present foreman? Is there another foreman who is willing to spend time training? Are there classes or courses your present foreman can attend?

How disruptive will either solution be?

What secondary problems might be created by implementing one or the other solution?

Lastly

Remember, there isn’t a method, approach, or process that will achieve the results you’re looking for if you’re solving the wrong problem. Think about the five whys. Have you drilled deep enough? Most often, spending as much time (or more) determining the problem as solving it will allow you to generate truly valuable solutions.

 

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.

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

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

When Solutions Become Problems

Solutions can go awry

Things that seem like a good idea at the time can turn out to be anything but.

For example, you and your gang just want to have fun. So, you go to Amazon dot com and purchase a “Beach Behemoth Giant Inflatable 12-Foot” beach ball. And, off to the beach you go!

Then, you post this on Amazon:

Review: “We took this ball to the beach and after close to 2 hours to pump it up, we pushed it around for about 10 fun filled minutes. That was when the wind picked it up and sent it huddling down the beach at about 40 knots. It destroyed everything in its path. Children screamed in terror at the giant inflatable monster that crushed their sand castles. Grown men were knocked down trying to save their families. The faster we chased it, the faster it rolled. It was like it was mocking us. Eventually, we had to stop running after it because its path of injury and destruction was going to cost us a fortune in legal fees. Rumor has it that it can still be seen stalking innocent families on the Florida panhandle. We lost it in South Carolina, so there is something to be said about its durability.”

(This is a real review I spotted on Amazon. I didn’t make this up. LOL)

Example from the offices of Schulte and Schulte

Problem = Develop a system to maintain payroll promptness for both in-house and clients

Solution = QuickBooks Full Service Payroll sends email reminders

Secondary Problem = QuickBooks Full Service Payroll sends a multitude of email reminders, which then must be forwarded to the internal firm payroll specialist.

Solution = Virtual assistant sets up auto-forward of these emails.

Newest problem = Tonya no longer receives notification concerning paying her employees. As a matter of fact, the internal firm payroll specialist receives notice to pay herself. And That’s Not Allowed. Big Problem!

And, this is what happens when you add a layer of efficiency, and it breaks your working solution.

It seems H. L. Mencken may have had it right when he wrote, “For every complex problem there is a solution which is clear, simple, and wrong.”

Here’s another problem scenario

You sit at your desk, head in hands wondering what in the world possessed you to get into the construction industry in the first place? The system you have in place dealing with (choose one or more) is not working!

  • People
  • Processes
  • Equipment
  • Materials

So, what do you do when you find a perfectly good solution which turns out to be a problem of its own?

First, let’s talk “lost cost fallacy” about which I dealt in length here.

The bottom line, if it is not working, dump it if the only reason to keep it is you have already put so much time and money into it.

Other solutions

Let’s go back to the problem discovered by Schulte and Schulte concerning payroll reminders. A few solutions came to mind:

  • Change instructions to the virtual assistant
  • Place in-house payroll reminders on the calendar
  • Set up in-house automation

As you can see, spotting the problem is the first step to solving it. Some problems, like this one, are glaring. Others may be less visible.

Your fires, the things constantly popping up to interrupt your day, often have their basis in solutions you’ve chosen, which no longer work optimally.

Be it apps, deployment strategies, operational systems, job assignments, broken equipment, or dysfunctional tools. Things can change. Whether you have growing pains or maintenance issues think in terms of creating systems you and your staff can change as necessary.

Be certain your employees understand that one part of their jobs is alertness for ways to improve systems, operations, client satisfaction, handling, and so on. Being on the hunt for ways to improve, means you’re better prepared to take on the broken solutions as they come your way. And don’t think they won’t.

Solutions coming up

Next time we’ll dive deeper into one proven method for finding and resolving problems in your construction contracting business.

 

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