Leadership – Keep learning

Leadership in construction means continual learning

Leadership means continual learning

You’re a construction contractor.

By default, that means you’re a leader.

Through reason, that means you want to be the best leader you can be.

Because of experience, you know there are things you can do to improve your leadership ability.

In the first part of this four-part series of articles concerning leadership in the construction world, the subject is improving your leadership skills through continuous learning.

Therefore, making time for the hard work that continual learning requires is perhaps the most important step in becoming a great leader.

Resolve to have a learning attitude

So, once you’ve resolved to have a learning attitude, there are actions you can take to make it happen. Among them are:

  • Determine to improve your leadership ability constantly.
  • Take charge of your learning.
  • Spend time with others who are eager to learn.
  • Remain aware of the multiple learning opportunities surrounding you.
  • Be willing to make mistakes and learn from them.
  • Remind yourself how learning will help you achieve your leadership goals.
  • Set new learning goals regularly.

Walter D. Wintle, in 1900, published a poem titled “Thinking” and it sums up the attitude question quite well.

If you think you are beaten, you are;

If you think you dare not, you don’t;

If you want to win but think you can’t;

It’s almost a cinch you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost;

For out of the world we find

Success begins with a person’s will;

It’s all in a state of mind.

Life’s battles don’t always go

To the stronger and faster human,

But sooner or later the people who win

Are the ones who think they can.

Set aside time for learning

Becoming a better leader means continually growing your leadership skills.

For instance, it could mean you enroll in a class and show up regularly. However, it could take setting aside time on your calendar marked “learning time.” Be prepared to learn by allowing for learning time. There are lots of ways to increase your leadership knowledge. Here are some of them:

  • Follow leadership blogs
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Take a class concerning leadership (online or in-person)
  • Read magazines or journals
  • Study leaders that you admire
  • Volunteer at your industry association, a club, your place of worship, or elsewhere
  • Teach others what you know (thereby improving your skills and insight)
  • Attend seminars, workshops, or courses

Learn as you go

Even though it is a good idea to set aside time for learning leadership skills, there is also merit in being aware of spontaneous learning opportunities.

It begins with being a good listener. Therefore, you’ll do well to read this article from The Positivity Blog that offers ten simple steps for being a better listener.

Of course, learn from your mentors and role models. But don’t leave it there. Here are a few others who may have something to teach you about leadership.

  • Your employees and subs
  • The partners in your business
  • General contractors or their representatives
  • Your spouse or companion
  • The children in your life
  • Friends
  • Your next-door neighbors
  • The guy or gal who cuts your hair

See what I mean? Listen to those who have something to teach you about leadership, no matter where you encounter them. For example, in your front yard or at the grocery store.

What’s next?

There is more to say concerning leadership in the construction industry. The upcoming articles on this topic are:

Practice composure

Develop an eye for the big picture

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

What Running With the Big Dogs Means

Running With the Big Dogs demonstrates success

The story about how we REALLY feel about our clients.

Our clients Run With the Big Dogs!

While some might see us as contractor fans, screaming at the back door after the concert, we’re more than that. Yep, we ask for autographs, and we know details about our clients that others are not privy to. But, we’re more than fangirls getting our excitement on.

Demonstrating success

We try not to get to “uppity” about it, but we believe we are part of something big. You see, we firmly believe commercial construction subcontractors change the world with their skills and expertise. And, we get to be a part of that mind-blowing experience.

Where last year there was a weed-covered piece of dry land, this year there is a new doctor’s office. Where six months ago there was only a shell of a building, now there is a happy restaurant staff serving smiling customers delicious meals. And, where last month there was a pre-build inspection, today the crew is emerging from their trucks to set to work on the new grocery store for the growing neighborhood.

These are a few of the types of jobs one of our clients has recently been (or still is) a part of:

  • Shipping Facility
  • Car Dealership
  • Coffee House
  • Restaurant
  • Assisted Living Complex
  • School
  • Dental Office
  • Bank
  • Credit Union
  • Office Building
  • Hotel

Now you see why we feel so good about striving daily to see to it our clients can demonstrate success. And, demonstrating success is all about Running With the Big Dogs.

Showing business acumen

Demonstrating their business acumen is crucial to our clients’ success.

Here are a few of the ways our clients see Running With the Big Dogs happen – they’re able to:

  • Keep the payroll induced sleepless nights at bay
  • Speak with confidence in their Mastermind groups
  • Understand accountingese in English
  • Build and maintain business systems
  • Generate better expenditure decisions
  • Make a profit
  • Build America, one project at a time

We love Big Dogs!

OK, so we love little dogs too. But it is our clients, the Big Dogs in their chosen subcontracting fields who make us excited to get up every day. Working with our clients is exciting because we like putting together the pieces of the puzzle. More importantly, we like the part we play in helping the folks in the commercial construction industry bring it!

Now you know how we REALLY feel about our clients.

 

If you’re interested in becoming one of the Big Dogs we delight in serving, get in touch. Let’s find out together if we’re a fit. Call today 866-629-7735

 

Focus for Construction Contractors

Focus on Focus. It's good for you.

Focus for Construction Contractors

Focus is a core factor of business success

Yet focus, simply for the sake of focus makes no sense. Because, let’s face it, focusing on a screen (be it large or small) is rather an easy accomplishment. Think TV viewing, social media, or electronic games.

Or you could find yourself focusing on the daily minutia in the office or on the site and never on the growth of your construction contracting business.

So yes, focus is core. Yet, when building and using your focus “muscles” it matters what you focus on.

The choice

Here’s the deal. You get to choose. Choose between being busy or being effective. The matter is made simpler (not easier) when you realize there are only three areas on which you as a construction contractor need to focus.

Before we get to the three, I’ll mention there are those who believe there are only two areas on which you need to focus. They say the two areas are client satisfaction and making a profit. And, I agree they are important. The only other area I and a few others are suggesting is important to build your construction business is the third area, that of employee well-being. So, there you have it. The three places which call out for your focus are:

  • Client satisfaction (What do your clients need?)
  • Profit (How can you make money?)
  • Employee well-being (Why will your best employees stay with you?)

How you spend your time, which tasks you take up, where you aspire to learn more, what you choose to delegate, even what you decide to dump, should all be based on these three focus areas.

Focus – a story of how that looks

The other day I was chatting with a friend on the phone. I mentioned to her that a certain “office helper” around here had recently gotten into reading Harry Potter. Because my friend is a retired school teacher, she laughed and said yes, she had read the first Harry Potter book. She read it because she knew her students would be reading it and she wanted to have a working knowledge.

I asked if it was a good book. Should I take the time to read it so I could be better at discussing it with the “office helper?” Her response reminded me of a focus folly. She said, “Oh it’s alright. But it isn’t, like some of my books, one I could curl up with in my soft easy chair and be still reading when the firemen carried me out of my burning house.” Now, that is focus!

With that in mind, here are three focus follies in which you don’t want to find yourself.

Wrong Focus

Have you ever known someone who was super excited about the wedding, yet had given little to no thought to the marriage which would follow? The wrong focus can seem so “right.” Yet, having focus is of no use when you’re focusing on the wrong thing.

Over Focus

One of our “office helpers” is quite excited about an adventure the entire crew will be taking later this year. While the rest of us are happy that we’ll be going to Universal Studios Hollywood, this “office helper” believes our destination is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™. (Yep, the same office helper mentioned above.) No matter how many times we let her know there is more to be experienced she returns to her point of focus.

No Focus

There is someone I know who runs to the store for a new toilet paper supply when she notices the last roll is almost empty. After bringing the toilet paper home, she then runs back to the store for the eggs she wants to use to prepare breakfast. On her way to work, she stops in at the convenience store to pick up a snack pack to be used for that day’s lunch. On the way home from work she picks up a few steaks for the grill. Then as the meat is being placed, she remembers there are no sides for the evening meal.

At this point, she enlists one of her children to run to the store to purchase some deli sides because there is no time to bake potatoes or cook a vegetable. Later in the evening, she runs to the store to purchase shampoo (after she steps out of the shower and puts back on her clothes.) Lest you think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. She will tell you herself this is how her day goes – because she doesn’t have time to get everything done. Do you see the irony there?

Putting the puzzle together

Obviously, avoiding the focus follies is important. Learning how to be better at focusing on the right things is the next step. This article, 5 Steps To Finding Your Focus, from Fast Company says, “. . . determine what gets done by using filters, such as your deadlines, values, available time, or resources, and arrange your day around the things that are important–big or small.”  Be sure to check out the article to see how to put the 5 steps to use in your commercial construction business.

 

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. 

Providing Accounting and Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors.

So you can Run With the Big Dogs. 866-629-7735

Delegating in the Construction Arena

Delegating helps you grow your construction business

Delegating in the Construction Arena

Delegating: a leadership tool

Every day you send people into the field or to their desks to accomplish a variety of tasks. You’ve delegated a certain portion of the work to each of them. How well they perform is based on their skill level and on how well you’ve delegated.

Therefore, your job isn’t to accomplish the things your employees or subs are tasked with. Furthermore your job is to see to it they have the proper understanding and the correct tools to get the job done.

Delegating requires trust

Before you can trust someone to accomplish something, he or she must climb your “trust ladder.” Some of the steps they must climb are:

  • Show up on time
  • Be competent at their work
  • Be dependable

Once these rungs are accomplished there are a few other steps which must be taken. You want your people to:

  • Tell the truth
  • Admit when they don’t know something
  • Admit when they’re wrong
  • Do the right thing even when they think no one is watching
  • Listen – truly listen

When these trust levels are met then you:

  • Trust them with your resources
  • Trust them with information
  • Develop relationships

I can’t go on without mentioning that sometimes trust is broken. When it is, this article from Frank Sonnenberg discusses how best to deal with the situation.

Delegating takes guts

Just like you can’t seat every pipe, pound every nail, or swish every brush, you already understand you can’t perform every task.

Hence, there is a very good chance you’re holding on to some tasks you think only you can perform.

So, what should you do? Stop it.

From the jobsite to the office there are probably tasks you do which would be better left to others. And, it takes guts to pass them on. Most likely, the reason you haven’t already passed them on falls into one of two categories. You don’t think someone else can do them as well as you do, or you never even thought of passing it off – because you’ve always done it.

Delegating – divide the tasks to multiply the success

Delegating isn’t something you’re new at. By the very nature of the beast, construction depends on a myriad of delegation levels. Likewise, it is part and parcel of what you do. Yet, there are likely ways you can improve your delegating powers.

As an aside, if you would like to see a stunning example of delegating to the nth degree, drop in at your local fast-food joint. Not all, but many fast-food restaurants have delegated the duties of the host, wait-staff, and bussing personnel. Not only have they nearly erased the rolls usually performed by people in those positions, they’ve delegated much of their associated tasks to . . . uh, you – their paying customer. Just sayen’.

What to delegate

There is a myriad of tasks which you can pass off to others. You’ve already stepped into that realm when you hired your first employee or contracted with your first sub. Yet, there are more tasks and efficient ways you can delegate. It is quite likely there are some duties you feel you are the only one capable of handling correctly. Many of those tasks you can trust to others. Really.

In this list there is only one item included that you will likely be better off doing yourself. Can you figure out which one it is?

  • Bidding
  • Estimating
  • Sales
  • Approving change orders
  • Paying bills and payroll
  • Cultivate a strong company culture
  • Invoicing
  • Managing individual crews
  • Software or SaaS acquisition
  • Selecting new tools or equipment
  • Approving purchase orders

If you determined the one item which doesn’t fit in the above list is “Cultivate a strong company culture,” you’re right. One of your most important tasks as the leader of your construction company is to set the course. And, if you’re too busy taking care of the other tasks, you have no time for course-setting.

Delegating gives you space for true leadership

It is your job to lead the business. There are areas where you need to direct your focus once you’ve passed on tasks, responsibilities, and duties to others. Here are some areas where you can spend time once you’ve delegated well.

  • Set up and develop the brand name
  • Create and implement vision and direction
  • Form company culture
  • Understand the budget and the financials
  • Establish financial performance metrics
  • Develop long and short-term strategic plans
  • Plan recruiting and retention strategies
  • Lead, guide, and evaluate employees and subs
  • Establish criteria for success and provide leadership for achievement of goals
  • Hold employees and subs accountable
  • Delve into innovation
  • Seek opportunities for expansion
  • Stay on top of new industry developments and standards
  • Solicit advice from mentors, associates, and experts
  • Represent your company in civic and professional associations
  • Participate in industry related events
  • Assess operational situations for crisis management, safety, and escalation protocol
  • Determine solutions to project issues
  • Develop cost effective resources

Avenues to delegation

There are basically four avenues you can use to step up your delegation game.

  1. Use in-house personnel – Whether in the office or in the field, the judicious use of delegation to the people in your employ makes your company healthier.

 

  1. Engage trade subcontractors – Handing over part of the work to trusted subs is a long-standing method of increasing the capabilities of your construction business.

 

  1. Deploy outside sources – This delegation option (once only available to the wealthy) is becoming more and more necessary, accessible, and expedient. A few available options you should consider are an attorney, accounting services, a virtual assistant, marketing, website development, janitorial services, outsourced human resources, and tax preparation.

 

  1. Adopt technical systems – There are several critical processes you can automate (think delegate) through the use of software or SaaS and apps. A few which come to mind are project management, takeoffs, estimating, and job costing.

Delegating is an investment

Remember that an expense is different from an investment. Mike Harden, of The Clarity Group says, “What’s the difference between an investment and an expense? The difference is simple: one will start paying you back, and the other is a drain on your resources.”

  • Taking time to delegate is an investment.
  • Paying fees to delegate is an investment.
  • Choosing correct technical applications is an investment.

Investing in your business through delegating well is a sound business principle. A business principle which has the power to exponentially increase the value of your company.

 

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. 

Providing Accounting and Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors.

So you can Run With the Big Dogs. 866-629-7735

Another Construction Contracting Success Story

 

Frequently, what we do to aid our clients as they grow their construction contracting businesses is a steady process wherein the gains are best noticed in hindsight. After a few months of working with us we hear things like, “Yes, that is exactly how I always wanted it to be, but didn’t know how to get there,” or “I had no idea it would be that easy, thank you,” or “This makes so much sense now, we had been doing it wrong for so long I didn’t think we could ever get it straightened out.”

All those words of praise and thanks are wonderful for us to hear, and we are so glad to be able to make the lives of our clients easier while also helping them to gain a profit-making status they had not before been able to achieve. We tend to be like the proverbial cowboy who doffs his hat and says, “Just doing my job, mam, just doing my job.”

Yet, there are those times when we see such a noticeable change in such a short period of time that both we and our client are in a high-five mode.

Let’s backup

Before I go further with this success story, I think I need to backup and give you a little behind the scenes information. You see, we, like many others, have developed an “ideal client” profile. Obviously, our ideal client is a construction contractor. Here are the other things our ideal client is:

Tech savvy or willing to learn

Determined to scale their business

Accountable and responsive

Inclined to offer referrals

Willing to listen to and act upon our advice

Now back to the success story

A while back a contractor who had a dismal set of books contacted us. The books were so dismal, in fact, it was easy to see he was on the brink of bankruptcy. Yet. Yet, he did seem to fit into our ideal client profile.

After a few weeks of working with this contractor and realizing what was sorely needed was an infusion of the all mighty dollar, and knowing that getting a loan was not the best course of action, (heck, borrowing “affordable dollars” wasn’t even a feasibility,) our Construction Accounting Specialist, Tonya, stepped to the plate, gave the contractor some guidance, then stepped back to see if indeed he was “willing to listen to and act upon our advice.”

Sure enough, what was once a construction company owner only a few weeks away from needing to close the doors and walk away is now a force to be reckoned with in his field of expertise.

The guidance offered by Tonya was sound business advice, yet it wasn’t an easy task to accomplish. It took trust in the advice as well as a willingness to do things just a bit differently than had been done before. Well, when you get down to it, it took guts.

Perhaps we need to add to our ideal client profile, “has guts.” On second thought, that isn’t necessary. “Has guts” comes with the territory of “owns a construction contracting business.”

There you have it

Well, there it is, another success story that has us jumping around and high-fiving all over the place.

Do you fit our “ideal client” profile? Would you like to be among those savvy contractors who are taking advantage of the services we provide?

Give us a call 480-442-4032 or get in touch 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