Uber Report for Construction Contractors

Uber – what it means

From Dictionary dot com, we learn that “uber” can be used as either an adverb or an adjective. When used as an adverb it means, “having the specified property to an extreme or excessive degree,” and as an adjective, “designating a person or thing that exceeds the norms or limits of its kind or class.”

There is no mention at all of how the word is now being used as (I think) a verb. Here’s an example of how it is used in a sentence, “We thought about walking, but decided to Uber over instead.”

Uber on my mind

Typically, we use this space to provide information which will be useful for our clients or others who own commercial construction businesses. Occasionally, we throw in a piece which allows a peek behind the curtain concerning what goes on around here at Schulte and Schulte. As a matter of fact, that is exactly what we did last week when we shared what we were experiencing at the Scaling New Heights convention.

This week . . . well, let’s just say it is a bit different.

Yet, I believe I can give you a further peek into Schulte and Schulte culture as well as information which can certainly prove to be useful to you as a construction contracting business owner.

Next time you head out to a convention in a city “far, far away” you’ll be better prepared for your Uber experience. (Go ahead and groan if you like. It isn’t my fault Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick named their company Uber.)

An uber number nerd

This story starts with Tonya making the (number-right and peace of mind-right) business decision to choose Uber as a transportation solution while attending the Scaling New Heights convention. The options were:

  • Driving to the destination – way too costly when “time” is thrown into the equation (and a consideration if parking may be difficult or if you’re unfamiliar with the city where you’ll be located)
  • Renting a car at the destination (parking and familiarity still possible problems)
  • Using Uber or Lyft

Notice “taxi” is not even a part of this number journey for both financial and ease-of-use considerations.

5 Uber tips

Number 1 – Know how you intend to make use of the Uber service. We knew we needed to be transported for three different reasons:

  1. To and from the airport
  2. Back and forth daily to the convention site from our Airbnb rental
  3. Excursions to other places we wanted to see while in our host city

Place your Uber “call for service” with time considerations in mind. Some of these destinations were time sensitive while others were not. (While we had only one time in which we were waiting longer than expected for the pick-up, it is worth noting it can happen.)

 

Number 2 – Greet your driver by name with a smile on your face. There are two reasons for doing this:

  • You’ll know the driver pulling near you is actually your driver (not one of the many who are also picking up riders near your location.)
  • It is always good to smile with the person who is providing you a service. Right?

Pay special attention to tip 3 – fun!

Number 3 – Have a good question in mind as a conversation starter. This takes away some of the awkwardness when you first enter the driver’s space. And, it is a fun way to pass the time on the way to your destination.

The question we asked each of our drivers was, “What is the longest distance you’ve taken an Uber passenger?”

In case you’re wondering, two of our drivers had taken passengers from Salt Lake City, Utah to Las Vegas, Nevada. Two more had driven from SLC to unnamed towns in Wyoming, and the one who won our unofficial contest had gone all the way to North Dakota and received a hefty tip in the bargain.

All the drivers, (even those with less than spectacular “long distance” travels) told us about their adventures.

Number 4 – Remember to tip your driver well. It is the nice thing to do. And,  Mom always said, “Be Nice!”

Number 5 – Talk to your accounting specialist about automating the recording process of the costs of your Uber rides.

Experience is valuable

It helps if you can think of your Uber ride as part of your experience. It also helps if you are willing to let the experience be less than pristine and spectacular, yet (perhaps) worthy of laughter and tale-telling when you arrive home. Our rides included:

One car with the rear passenger door caved in from an obvious auto accident. 😵

A new, shiny, and beautiful Mercedes Benz. 😎

An older and modest sedan which hadn’t been washed in quite some time. 😏

One ride in which we were pretty sure the diet of the driver emanated from his every pore in great wafts of (I’ve gotta say it) an unpleasant odor. 😣

A pickup truck. 😐

One minivan which we watched go to great lengths making U-turns and traffic maneuvers to get to the spot where we stood waiting. 😮

Mostly non-descript, yet clean and comfortable get-er-done vehicles. 😃

One more Uber experience

What follows is not our experience. This is the experience of one of our colleagues who shared this story with us one night as we dined with a group of (not so boring) accounting advisors.

As he told us:

“Last night, some of us went to dinner together, then I followed the others to an after-hours bar where I drank way too much. Knowing I was in no shape to try to get back to my hotel, I used my Uber app for a ride. When I got in the car, the driver asked me if I had put the correct address in when I ordered. I checked my phone and told him that was the correct address. He asked if I was ready to go. I let him know I was. He put the car in gear and pulled up about 10 feet, then said, ‘This is it, sir, you are at your hotel.’”

Our colleague told us after he and the driver had a good laugh, he gave the driver a substantial tip then exited to his hotel.

Perhaps, when we once again find ourselves using the services of an Uber driver, our question will be, “What is the Shortest distance you’ve taken an Uber passenger?” 😂

Wrapping up the Uber report – 5 tips

  1. Have a system in place to record your Uber expenses.
  2. Give yourself a time buffer when you need to be at your destination at a set time.
  3. Use a “question” which will break the ice with your drivers.
  4. Bring your good sense of humor to your ride experience.
  5. Remember it will be much more cost effective to fly rather than Uber to a destination a few states away. 😜

I hope you’ve enjoyed this light-hearted look at our Ubering experience. If my recollection is correct, we were in and out of a total of 16 different vehicles. Because #SNH19 was located at The Salt Palace we were able to walk to several different restaurants and even a delightful, two-story grocery store. Yet, it is our Uber experiences which tended to be uber fun and worthy of retelling.

 

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

 

Preventing Loss of Tools, Equipment, and Supplies

Preventing loss through the use of systems and strategies in the construction contracting world.

Preventing Loss of Tools, Equipment, and Supplies

Preventing loss of your stuff

I remember the overall depletion of my dad’s spirit the morning he walked out the door to go to work and discovered his tools had all been stolen. Tools which had taken years to accumulate. Tools which had somehow been magically transformed to fit the curves of his hands, his fingers, his being.

Yes, there was insurance.

No, it didn’t cover the entire loss.

It stinks! It stinks when you have to deal with insurance, downtime, and the feeling of violation. Yet, loss happens.

Preventing loss – where to start

The first steps toward loss prevention are strong locks, proper lighting, and adequate insurance. Beyond these and in reinforcement of them, there are numerous other steps you can take.

Preventing loss – it takes a system

Taking a proper inventory of your tools and equipment is elemental. While you’re at it, take photographs of individual items. And, remember to record the serial numbers.

Creating a checklist of items to be placed in vehicles or a proper storage facility at the close of the workday has at least two benefits. It goes a long way to help your crew understand the importance you place on and the care you take of your items. Plus, it it makes it easier for your crew to better support your goal of no tool or equipment loss.

Preventing loss through marking

Another loss prevention tactic you can use is marking your tools and equipment. Some possibilities include:

  1. Painting “your” color on your items. Two colors will aid in making your tools and equipment more distinctive as most companies apply only one. While many construction companies use red, blue, or orange, few add a stripe of a contrasting color. For example, you can choose turquoise with a wide line of yellow running across it.  
  2. Engraving or etching your items with your logo and other identifying marks is better than paint, (for obvious reasons) and gives you more options. You can add inventory numbers, your address, or a phone number to your items if you choose.
  3. Purchasing GPS Tracking or Bluetooth tool tracking is likely to be a bigger spend than the other options yet perhaps more useful. This story from October of 2018 will give you an idea of how this technology is useful to you as well as to the police. Consider too, some insurance companies offer a discount on the comprehensive portion of their policies when they know you’re using some type of tracking system. 

If you’re considering the benefits of GPS tracking, check out this article which discusses five high tech ways to control construction site theft.

A few other tactics to consider

  • Use a sign-out sheet for company tools
  • Schedule supply deliveries on an as-needed basis
  • Prevent on-site parking
  • Train your team to put their tools up when not in use
  • Offer rewards to those who turn in thieves or provide valuable information on crimes
  • Install alarm systems and/or CCTV on your office, shop, or tool storage areas
  • Train Fido to do his best work at night (yeah, even a nice dog can be a great deterrent to would-be thieves)
  • Put Geo-fencing to use through the aid of apps or other systems
  • Invest in thorough background checks of potential employees
  • Encourage the neighbors of your property or jobsite to report suspicious activity
  • Think about the use of security guards depending on location
  • Establish a system for verifying deliveries   

Preventing loss isn’t always possible

No matter what steps you take or how diligent you are, there are going to be some items which suddenly develop legs and walk away. Yet, there are measures you can take to slow it down and keep it to a minimum.

Having a plan in place if your shop, trailer, vehicle, or jobsite is burgled will make the next steps a little easier. The plan should designate who is in charge of each step which needs to be taken. Developing a checklist of steps will make this process easier. Include appropriate phone numbers or other contact information; local police, your insurance company, GPS tracking company, your landlord (where your business is located,) the GC or owner (of the jobsite) are all possibilities for your list.

By putting loss prevention practices in place, you can do your best to keep the “bad guys” out and the “good guys” honest. Developing a system for your commercial construction firm which addresses the issue of theft is probably not your idea of how to have a good time at the office. But then neither is all the nonsense you have to go through when you lose your tools, equipment, or supplies.

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.

Because we are a virtual “corporate accounting office” for commercial construction businesses we can assist you no matter in which of the 50 United States your business is located. We invite you to get in touch here.

How to Know if Your Office System is a Mess

Office systems to keep you from having an office that is a literal and figurative mess.

Office systems – they’re no joke

Office systems could be funny, right? Let’s step back a moment and look at where this post came from.

As per my own advice, I keep a Squirrel List of ideas that have crossed my path.

Occasionally I scan through it when deciding what to write that will benefit our subcontractor clients. A while back I had written what became the title to this article (How to know if your office system is a mess) with a following note which said, “It requires a new file cabinet.” Yeah, I thought is was funny in my own off-the-wall way. You see, we often work with our clients to help them move towards a paperless office for the sake of both security as well as efficiency.

Next, I thought what other “funny” things can I add besides the file cabinet “joke” to come up with a lighthearted post for this page. Turns out office systems are a pretty down-to-earth item not to be tampered with – much. With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy I present the following guide.

Your office system might be a mess if:

Your cleaning crew can’t find your desk

The neighbors complain about the weekly trash overflowing – every week

You would rather be anywhere (including the dog-house) instead of your office

Your biggest business goal is to determine where in the office you left your mobile phone

It requires a new file cabinet

Your office system is important

Office systems in your subcontracting business are just as important as the systems you use in the shop, during the service call, or on the construction site. Get your office systems right and you are a step ahead of your competitors – a giant step ahead.

The absolute, down in the trenches, give-away that your office systems aren’t functioning well is this – you don’t have time for the important stuff.

You don’t have time to work on the things that will grow your business, such as:

  • identify new business opportunities
  • formulate ways to form strategic partnerships
  • find new ways to provide extra value to your clients
  • provide mentorship or training to your valuable employees
  • pursue continuing education concerning tools, supplies, techniques, and best office practices
  • enhance field productivity
  • meet with potential clients
  • develop an effective and evolving organizational structure

Your office system IS a mess when

In no particular order there follows a list of clues showing your office system is a mess – and these aren’t all that funny. If you check off too many of these, you need to rein in the chaos and begin getting your office systems in order. (And yes, the team here at Schulte and Schulte is good at helping our clients pull on those reins.)

Your systems are all and only in your head

There is no backup plan for when things go wrong

You have too many daily goals

Your website is stagnant

Your email inbox is multiple pages long or (worse yet) your physical inbox is over-flowing

People keep quitting

Your few documented systems include names rather than titles concerning who does the work

No one knows where to look for lost information

The phone ringing isn’t a pleasure but a disturbance

You haven’t created (documented) repeatable systems for all your processes

You’re unsure of your costs and expenditures

You don’t know who owes you nor how much they owe

You’re unwilling (or don’t know how) to remove non-performers

You spend too much time putting out fires

Neither you nor your employees can describe your company culture (learn how here)

The physical layout of your office doesn’t lead easily to next-step tasks

You don’t have clarity of purpose

You don’t have a growth-through-systems mindset

And last, but not least . . . it requires a new file cabinet 🤡

If you like having accounting and office systems that work to make you more efficient and effective, therefore making you more profitable, then you can get in touch here or by calling 866-629-7735 to set your place on our waiting list.

Hubdoc Explained for Subcontractors

Hubdoc saves time and makes your accounting more efficient.

Hubdoc pulls your bank statements, recurring bills, and uploaded receipts into one hub. Yet, that is just the beginning. Using Hubdoc means you can reduce the need for manual data entry and paper filing. Time to get rid of that ugly file cabinet? Your “stuff” is stored in the cloud. And, this is a biggy – you can get to what you need in one place. That means you no longer need to log into multiple sites to retrieve the information you’re after.

Hubdoc is set up by us, for you

We set up the Hubdoc account and then work with you to get all of your documents flowing into it auto-magically!

What we ask of you is:

  1. Set up view only user access to your bank accounts

 

  1. Make an accounting email address on your email domain

 

  1. Create your User ID and Password through the link we send you

What we do on our end

After we’ve gotten the initial stages set up, we configure your Hubdoc account to sync with your QuickBooks system. This allows you to publish your bills and receipts right from Hubdoc into QuickBooks.*

3 ways to get your docs into Hubdoc

  1. The phone app allows you to use your phone’s camera as the means of entry

 

  1. From the web-based app you can drag and drop the documents where they belong

 

  1. With the custom email you’re provided you can email them into the system

The magic behind the system

The magic is called Optical Character Recognition (OCR.) It “reads” receipts and creates transactions that will export to QuickBooks where a match is created in the bank feeds.

Optical Character Recognition is a technology that enables you to convert different types of documents, such as scanned paper documents, PDF files, or images captured by a digital camera into editable and searchable data.

If you’re interested in the technology behind the magic, this article from lifewire is enlightening. From the article: “OCR, also referred to as text recognition, is software technology that transforms characters such as numbers, letters, and punctuation (also called glyphs) from printed or written documents into an electronic form more easily recognized and read by computers and other software programs.”

What we like best about Hubdoc

Hubdoc saves you time and all the while it is building a digital archive of your business documents.

Yeah, but what about security?

Take a moment to look at the layers of security provided by Hubdoc.  They even offer a guide to the user concerning practices which will help you protect your Hubdoc account from your end.

*Publishing to QuickBooks is a feature available only to QuickBooks Online users. But don’t despair we have solutions for you QuickBooks desktop users also.

Your call to action

Tell us today you want to take your place on our waiting list. Call us 480-442-4032 or Toll Free at 866-629-7735. Or use the form found here.

5 Mistakes Construction Contractors Make When Trying to Scale

Mistakes construction contractors make when trying to scale

Mistakes construction contractors make when trying to scale

Trying to do it all

Superman you’re not. KAPOW! Nor are you Wonder Woman. SNAP! So, as we say in our office, DWI (Deal With It.) We also say LIF (Life Isn’t Fair) but, that’s another story for another time. Now, we’ll concentrate on the fact that if your intention is to scale your business, you must have key employees and advisors in place in order to think strategically and focus on growth.

From the back office, to the front office, to the shop, and in the field, having people in place who can help you carry the load is the difference between wishful thinking and decisively moving forward.

And, if you wear all or most of the hats in your construction business, your goal is to replace yourself one position at a time. Finding every task you presently perform yourself and delegating them to your employees and freelance advisors is a sound business tactic that will move you forward more quickly.

In addition to your lawyer, your insurance provider, your bonding agent, your tax preparer, and your loan providers you do well to consider having excellent freelance advisors on board. Everything from virtual assistants, to human resource experts, to accounting advisors, (That’s Us!) will free you up to find ways to work on your business rather than in it.

When you’re able to delegate, (in-house or out) you have the precious commodity of time. Time to spend judiciously planning for the next steps that are about to take place.

Chasing squirrels

Dug, the dog in the movie “Up” is delightfully fun, because he is the ultimate squirrel chaser. And, because he is so easily distracted he is the perfect example of what it sometimes feels like to be the owner of a construction contracting company. You know, there are squirrels at every turn.

It is downright hard not to chase idea after idea and change after change. Squirrels make it difficult to settle with one (good enough) option. Perhaps it is business objectives, marketing strategies, client types, or even (hold your breath) other business ventures.

And, the squirrels can be as subtle as offers for business trainings which seem attractive but don’t really push you forward in meeting your immediate goals. Another insidious squirrel can be found in the purchase of tools or technology that aren’t needed.

One way to deal with squirrels crossing your path is to take note of them. If an idea, thought, or offer attracts your attention, write it down. In other words, keep a squirrel list. Then quickly decide (use your leadership powers to be decisive) if they are good, mediocre, bad, or future squirrels. Sometimes the simple tactic of “sleeping on it” will help you decide. Other times you may wish to visit the people from the above section, (your in-house and outside advisors) before making a decision.

One last thought on squirrel chasing – don’t become befuddled by the off chance you should have followed that one “great” squirrel. You’re in the construction industry, there are tons of squirrels in the construction forest. Another will be along soon enough.

Neglecting to think like their clients

Clients focus on the end product, not the process. Construction clients don’t like the changes you force on them. They do not want to be disrupted. They simply want what they want when they want it. Yet the very nature of the beast we call “construction contracting” means you’re disrupting the lives of your clients, be it for only a day or for many months.

Try putting yourself in their shoes. Suppose when you went to buy a car you were told that for the next six weeks you would have to figure out another way to get to work, to the grocery store, or to the movies because your car would be out of commission. Not only that, you would have to spend some time daily watching as piece by piece your new car was assembled . . . in your driveway. Not a pretty picture. Yet, depending on your trade you may be asking your clients to endure something very similar.

And your clients who (remember?) want what they want when they want it, are probably not all that prepared to have you disrupt their lives. You can help them get over that hurdle through constant and honest communication before, during, and after the project.

Oh yeah, don’t forget this part. Clients HATE surprises. Clients will be more understanding of a temporary defect or delay if communication comes first from you.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a service provider, a general contractor, or a sub; it doesn’t matter if you’re on a commercial site or a residential site, there is always a client and you must always consider ways to think like your client.

Failing to document their processes

You may have heard someone joking on one of your social channels that if there are no pictures – it didn’t happen. That is fun and funny. Yet the truth is if there are no documented systems there is no scalable business. If you want your business to grow, you must have systems in place with written instructions concerning how the processes work in order to maintain the system. If it is all in your head, then by golly, it is all in your head that you own a viable construction business.

Wendy Tadokoro from Process Street tells Why You Need to Document Business Processes. If you don’t know, check out the article, it’s eye opening.

Now that you know why, it is time to learn a lot about how (and more about why.) Sam Carpenter wrote a book titled Work the System. You can find the book and other helpful information on his website. It is worth the time it takes to check it out. He offers insight into how to build a successful business through the use of documented processes. His story of how the business he was about to lose was turned around from the brink of disaster is captured throughout the book. If he can’t convince you how important the process of process capture is, then probably no one can.

Forgetting that trimming fat is part of scaling

Much like starting up, scaling up requires some belt tightening or fat trimming in order to make it through. It isn’t simply a matter of hiring more hands, finding more work, and making more money. If your additional labor, travel, or equipment costs eat up the additional money you make on a variety of jobs you’ll find all you’ve gained is more headache.

What scaling really means is finding a way to increase your profits. Increasing your profits means finding ways to earn more money while not spending more money.

Inefficiencies exist in your present organization. Some systems are in need of repair or should be eliminated. Other systems need to be developed.

You may even have some people who will no longer fit into your company for any number of reasons. Perhaps they don’t want to grow, can’t see your vision, simply don’t gel with the rest of your staff.

Focus on operational efficiency.

Then focus on motivating your team towards a common goal of scaling up and being relentless in achieving it.

Is your bookkeeper stuck in the old way of just doing the books? Then we would love to show you what modern bookkeepers do. As accounting advisors, we help you drive profitability. Give us a call to set up a consulting session. 866-629-7735

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.

7 Things Impossibly Savvy Contractors Wear

Ever wondered which common traits shape successful owners of construction companies and construction service businesses? Here are seven foundational traits which are found in the “closets” of savvy construction contractors.

Garment #1 They are Servant Leaders

The following quotes will give you food for thought concerning how savvy contractors lead.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams

“You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“What you do has far greater impact than what you say.” Stephen Covey

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18

“I define servant leadership as a person’s dedication to helping others be their best selves at home, work, and in their community.” S. Chris Edmonds

“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” Ken Blanchard

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” Jack Welch

This article from Inc. encapsulates the concept quite well.

Garment #2 They are Resilient in the face of adversity

Ever wonder what it would be like to buy a construction company where the financials were “sinking like a rock,” turn it around, then make it extremely profitable within a few years? You might want to check out Isaac Lidsky’s story, because that is what he did. Oh, and did I tell you — he is blind.

He has written a book, Eyes Wide Open, you might want to check out. And, be sure to watch this video all the way to the end (after he completes his talk) because he reveals one important aspect of how he, as a blind person, is able to run his construction company. And, just in case you want a bit more information, here is a link to the company, ODC, where Lidsky is the CEO.

Savvy contractors understand the risks as well as the opportunities they’re facing. They can “get back up” after a shockwave hits. They understand how to manage complex ideas and situations. There is a sort of nimbleness to them. And, they’re really good at long-term thinking.

Garment #3 They are Self-Disciplined

Yeah, you know what this means and what it takes!

Garment #4 They have exemplary Core Values

They have personal core values which they bring to their businesses. This is all about what they believe, therefore how they act.

Here are some examples:

  • They take pride in their work. They enjoy seeing the finished project.
  • Their safety meetings aren’t solely based on outside influences (like OSHA,) but rather on the fact that they care about their employees.
  • They have integrity.
  • They understand the power as well as the responsibility that comes with being a leader.
  • They aren’t required to “lose the ‘tude,” because, in fact, they tend to have a good attitude most of the time.

They believe in striving for excellence, being honest, truly serving the customer, having fun, being fair, teamwork – you know, good stuff like that.

This article shows a pretty neat way to come up with and USE a common set of core values within your construction contracting or service business.

Garment #5 They are Flexible

They are flexible and knowledgeable concerning how to meet the needs of both employees as well as customers

Being flexible allows them to make it through the bad weather of changing desires, the bad weather of sudden new competition, the bad weather of employee shortage, the bad weather of equipment damage or loss, the bad weather of – well you know . . . bad weather.

Yet, they also know when to draw the line.

Thomas Jefferson said it like this, “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

Garment #6 They have Problem-Solving Skills

The simple explanation – Problem solving involves methods and skills to find the best solutions to problems. We all have problems. And, we all have problem solving skills. All good parents, doctors, waiters, truck drivers, accountants and everyone must solve problems day-by-day and hour-by-hour.

What sets savvy construction business owners apart from “regular” construction business owners is the continued practice and constant honing of problem solving skills.

Typically, there is a ladder of thought and action involved in reaching a solution.

One ladder of problem solving skills could look like this, with the bottom rung being Listening and the top rung, Implementing Solutions.

Implementing Solutions

Collaborating

Evaluating

Data Interpretation

Data Gathering

Anticipating

Listening

Savvy construction contractors simplify things, use “what if” thinking, and focus on the solution rather than the problem.

Garment #7 They Pay Attention to the Company’s Financials

Savvy construction contractors know that knowing what is happening with the bottom dollar is bottom line good business sense.

We’re happy to talk with you about what you need and what we can provide. Give us a call 480-442-4032 Toll Free: 866-629-7735

Part 2 – 10 Qualities Needed for Scaling Your Construction Contracting or Service Business

If you missed part 1 with the first 5 qualities needed for scaling your construction contracting or service business you can find it here.

6. You will need to focus on helping others – on every side of the coin

Customers and potential customers

Think: What do they need? Perhaps information concerning what to expect when they hire you to perform a service for them.

How can you give it to them? Flyers, brochures, website, social networking sites.

Yet, always be on the lookout for ways to help your customers on a personal level. It may be as simple as bringing their newspaper to the door, giving a handwritten Thank You note, or defaulting to “yes” when presented with small, reasonable requests that customers make.

Employees and subcontractors

Think: What do they need? Maybe just some recognition.

How can you give it to them? Perhaps employee of the month incentives, maybe small rewards like gift cards, or something as simple as lunches or dinners to celebrate milestones or job completion.

If you need someone to help you learn what your employees need, then enlist the help of a person you know is good at noticing.

Colleagues and associates

Think: What do they need? It could be they need your help on a service project.

How can you give it to them? Answer “yes” and follow through.

“Sit downs” with your colleagues and associates are bound to aid you in determining what they need. Be sure to schedule these sit downs on a regular basis.

7. You must be obsessed with cash flow – because cash is king

We at Schulte and Schulte are excited to work with our clients to put an excellent system in place giving them the advantage of getting a clear view of their actual cash flow when taking a daily peek at their checking account balance, (we know you do it) and then gives them useful information.

8. You have to charge what you’re worth – without flinching

Charging what you’re worth is not only beneficial for you, but for others in your realm. Your family benefits. Your employees and subcontractors benefit. Your customers benefit.

Yep, your customers benefit.

  • They get excellent service
  • They get peace of mind concerning their decision to hire you
  • They get the wealth of knowledge and skill you’re able to provide them yourself or through your excellent and well trained employees.

You know things others don’t know. Put that knowledge to use and charge what you’re worth.

9. You should turn down jobs – not just because you’re busy

When something about a home owner or business owner makes your spidey senses tingle it is probably time to turn down their job.

When you run into someone who wants the job done cheap and fast and that’s not what you do, (see number 8 above) it is time to politely decline.

Once you know who your ideal client is, this step becomes easier, but it is good to pay attention to the fact that some jobs don’t pay enough in revenue, some jobs don’t pay enough in peace of mind, and some jobs . . . well, they’re just not worth it.

In whatever form it takes, you may wish to give this message to the person you won’t be working with after all.

“Dear Sir/Madam,

Thanks for the recent opportunity to quote your work. We feel that [company name] is not a good match for your project. We wish you well with your project.

Thank you.”

10. You will want to create a lasting legacy – because you want to benefit others

In this instance, I’m using the word “legacy” in its broadest sense. The legacy you leave behind (your construction company) may be managed by your children or by other people not related to you.

The important part is you will have created something meaningful, something that will benefit the lives of others now and in the future. Your family, your friends, your employees, your customers, your colleagues, your community will all be touched by the legacy you create.

If scaling your construction contracting or service business is something you’re serious about, we at Schulte and Schulte are serious about helping you.  Get in touch 480-442-4032 or Toll Free: 866-629-7735

The Tickler File, an Age-Old Tool for the Modern Construction Contractors Office

We’ve found most people fit in one of three categories when it comes to understanding and using a tickler file.

In which category do you fit?

  1. I’ve never even heard of a tickler file.
  2. I tried it and it didn’t work.
  3. I use and love my tickler system.

If you’re in the number one slot, hang on I’ll explain not only what it is, but how to use it.

If you’re in the number two space, please give me a chance to show you some new ideas, techniques, and approaches which might just move you into the number three category.

And, if you’re in the third spot, yay! You already know how this simple tool makes running your construction contracting office so much easier. Plus, there may be a few ways to use your tickler file you hadn’t thought of before.

So, what is a tickler file?

You may have also heard this file described as a pending system, a bring-up file, or a holding box. It doesn’t matter what you call it, the point is it’s a great tool for keeping your brain as well as your office organized.

The best way I can describe it is, “The tickler file is a system meant to tickle your memory, it’s a fantastic way to help you keep track of details you don’t want to have roaming around in your head, hiding out in virtual space, or lying around on your desk.”

We’ll start with the physical aspect of a tickler file, then move on to the latest concept of an integrated system (which includes your computer or other digital device) for tickling your memory.

While the tickler file has been around for a long time, David Allen a productivity consultant, re-popularized the idea with his bestselling book Getting Things Done.

In his system there are 31 file folders labeled 1 through 31, followed by 12 folders labeled with each month of the year. These folders are then placed in an easy to reach spot. For example, you could choose to use a desk file drawer or a desktop file box.

The file number which should be in the front of the file each day is the one corresponding to today’s date. After you’ve emptied today’s file, you move that number to the back of that section. The month which should be in the first slot of the 12 months is the month following the one you’re presently in. When you move “next month’s” files into the appropriate daily files, you also move that month’s folder to the back of the month section.

What goes in the files?

Documents you’ll need again soon, follow up notes, coupons, reminders to call back, bills to be paid, status reports, evaluations, tax related items, requests for feedback, event tickets, flyers with directions or instructions, warranty expirations, forms to be filled out, — really, simply any item or piece of paper which needs to be reviewed or acted upon can all go into the proper day of the month or left holding within future months.

Here is the rule-of-thumb I use when deciding which pieces of paper find a temporary home in my tickler file – if I’m not filing it or tossing it, it is a good candidate for my tickler file. Let’s face it, a tickler file truly is more effective and useful than looking all over bulletin boards, magnet boards, taped or tacked on walls, or a stack on your desk in order to find the paper you want. Plus, with a tickler file the risk of completely forgetting something beneath the stack is eliminated.

A real-life example of something that is hanging out in my tickler file right now is a flyer I received from Fry’s Super Market. It states that on the dates February 17th through 19th every VIP customer (meaning if you have a Fry’s card) will be able to save twenty cents per gallon of gas at the new Fry’s location in our neighborhood. Chances are great that on one of those dates I’ll need to purchase gas. If I don’t take advantage of the offer on the first date, I’ll move it to the next day, then the next. If, for some crazy reason, I haven’t used it by the end of the offer that piece of paper will find its way to file 13.

What comes out of the files?

Nothing. Well that is, nothing comes out of the tickler file if you don’t use it. Yet, if you get into the habit of faithfully using your system everything comes out at some point. It will either be acted upon or filed when the time is right. Which reminds me, only put in stuff that is really better done at a future date.

Also, in the past I would have advised sticking to the desktop box storage system because of the “out of sight, out of mind” concept. But now-a-days, there are ways to get around that problem and I will tell you about it a little further down. For now, I’ll introduce you to another way to build your physical tickler file.

Shrinking the tickler file

One reason the tickler file was so popular in the past is paper was a major problem in all offices. These days – not so much. Yet, there are still paper items which we all must deal with and that is where a shrunken version of a tickler file comes in quite handy.

The major concepts concerning the use of the full-blown version and the shrunken version are about the same. The difference is felt mostly in the space and time devoted to housing and using the tickler file.

Let me introduce the shrunken version I developed and use specifically for two reasons, 1) my office space is very small, and 2) I don’t have a large number of paper items to deal with.

I use only 8 folders and they’re labeled like this:

  • Monday
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
  • Friday
  • Next Week
  • Next Month
  • Later

Just like the full-blown version, upcoming action items are placed in the appropriate day of the week, or one of the other noted files. At the end of the week, I check the “next week” folder and slot items from it into the daily files. I also place the “next month” folder into the midst of the daily files when “next month” takes place in the middle of a week. If there are items in the next month file which are to be used in week three or week four of the month I place them in the “next week” file and slot them in during the weekly review. Also, always check the “later” file at the end of the month. You may need to bring some items forward.

Did you say electronic tickler file?

Why yes, there is a way to have an electronic tickler file. Just be aware, like the (almost) paperless office the electronic system is (almost) paperless.

Matt Perman, on his site, What’s Best Next posted an article titled A Few Quick Examples on How to Make Your Tickler File Electronic. Check it out. It may be all you need.

Use it or lose it

Setting up the system takes minutes. Using the system also takes only minutes a day. BUT, getting into the habit of using a tickler file system is the hardest part. I know, I’ve tried on more than one occasion. In reality, the hardest part about using a tickler file is actually starting to use it.

Remember I mentioned I would tell you about the ways to remember to use your tickler file? One way to solve the problem is to place a “trigger” in your space. For example, you walk into your office, put away your personal belongings, and right there in the spot where you’re putting your purse or your lunch there is a note that says, “Check the tickler file.” Yep, make it the first thing you do each morning and that soon becomes a habit.

Another way to remind yourself is to put a repeating task on your digital calendar. You open your calendar and there the notice is – Check Tickler File. Your next step is to reach for your tickler file.

I read where some folks sent themselves an email with a reminder to check the tickler file. Find the way that works best for you and use it.

Wait, there’s more

Lest I sound like the annoying salesman on TV, I do want to let you know there are also some added benefits of using a tickler file you may not have thought of. One fellow shared that when he tried (again) to get his tickler file system going he purposely added some things just to get in the habit. He enjoyed music and was trying to learn some new songs. So, he added the lyrics to songs on a few days, reviewed the songs, then refiled them in upcoming days so he could review again. He said it wasn’t long before he was in the habit and no longer needed to “seed” the tickler file.

Studying for a new license, need to learn about a piece of software, want to understand an app better? Drop a note in your tickler file reminding yourself to take 15 minutes to study. Put the note back in tomorrow’s date or a few days down the road. In just a few days, you’ve put in an hour or more towards learning what you need to know.

Want to tackle an “extra project” (like organizing the office) but don’t have time? Drop notes in your tickler file in which the project is broken down into nibble size pieces. They might look like this, “clean top right drawer,” “straighten files A through C,” “rearrange top shelf in storage closet.” You get the idea.

Choosing the right tickler file system

Now that you know about all the benefits you receive from using a tickler file it is time to decide which works best in your office. (By the way, any of these systems will work well at home too. Think about getting all the junk off your kitchen counter and you’ll know what I mean.)

The easiest way to decide which system is best for your office is to determine how much paper you must deal with on a daily or regular basis.

  • Lots of paper – Go with the 43 files, you might like this ready-made unit.
  • A little bit of paper – try my system
  • Hardly any paper – make use of the electronic file

Adding a tickler file in your office is an excellent way to use an age-old tool in managing your modern construction contracting business.

This is the first in a series of articles concerning pieces of the organizing puzzle for your construction contracting business. You can go here to find out more about what has or will be showing up in the collection.