Building Castles and High Rises

Building company culture into your team.

Building streams

This report is going to follow two diverse streams which converge to make one river of thought. The first stream has to do with an encounter on a modern city sidewalk and the second with a look at the building of a medieval castle.

Building high rise office structures 

On Tonya’s and my recent trip to Salt Lake City, we had occasion to walk from the convention center to a nearby grocery store. Therefore, we passed through a covered sidewalk which was designed to allow foot traffic to pass safely by a project under construction. As we walked, we noticed three construction workers scurrying past us in the opposite direction. I, being that kind of tourist, asked, “What are you building?”

The quick response from the fellow in the lead was, “America, one building at a time!”

Kapow!

Both Tonya and I were elated with his answer.

In addition,  may I suggest if the people on your crew answer the same way, you’re likely doing something right.

Building an ancient castle in the twenty-first century

Castles aren’t easy to come by these days. Come to think of it, they never were.

For instance, there is this interesting project going on now in France. The folks involved are building a medieval castle with the tools and techniques of the 13th century. The building is expected to be completed in 2023.

An interesting finish date, considering the project first broke ground in 1997. Not bad for a project which, from its inception, was expected to take a quarter of a century to complete.

This castle isn’t to live in. This castle is a classroom in progress.

Guédelon is the world’s biggest experimental archaeological site – and some would say the most ambitious too.”

In other words, stonemasons, blacksmiths, carpenters, woodcutters, tilers, rope-makers, dyers, the builders of the castle seem to look at their part of the project in two ways. For the first way they discuss what they’ve learned. Then, in the second, how proud they are to have been able to contribute.

The streams converge

Above all, what strikes me concerning these two stories is the pride these builders take in their work. Whether the answer is, “I’m building a castle,” or “America, one building at a time,” the question is always out there – what do you do? Where do you work?

Building the answer into your company culture, helping employees see how their contribution matters isn’t always easy. Yet it is worth it.

And, the key is to inspire.

As a result, this is where the river begins to flow.

It is a crazy idea which the folks naming military operations have used successfully for a few years now. Don’t get me wrong, it was they who got it wrong many times along the way until they began to understand how useful the nicknames they used for their operations could be. This article, Naming Military Operations is a War of Words, from the USO website is lengthy, yet quite informative concerning the power of a name.

Building great names to encourage your team

The simply corollary for you as a commercial construction business owner is to use the art of naming projects in such a way as to shape perceptions, boost morale, and reinforce policy objectives. It is a subtle yet effective way to encourage your employees to “own” the importance of each project.

Here are some examples, so you can see what I mean.

You could call your job building the new emergency hospital by the hospital’s name (and bore your staff) or you could use the name “Mission Life Saver.”

If your crew is providing work on the new Mercedes Benz dealership, consider naming the job “Project Hot Wheels.” Or, you might try “Mission Luxurious Rides.”

Did you get the grocery store contract? Think about calling it “Project Nourishment.”

3 ways to find memorable names

  1. If you’re into word play and developing great project names – do it yourself.
  2. Perhaps there is someone in your office or on your crews who would enjoy providing the names – give them the privilege. Do you have word-wise teens at home? Give them the task.
  3. Ask your team members for suggestions – then choose the best one. Or combine a few of the suggestions to come up with the top name.

Another way to use the nicknaming strategy

You can use the same strategy of nicknaming for your in-house projects.

Shop organizing day becomes Operation Thunder.

Documenting office systems can be given the nickname, Project LifeBlood.

And, choosing a new office or shop location might become Mission Possibilities.

You get the idea. The nicknames add an importance level to your various jobs as well as in-house projects.

Building Castles and High Rises and Everything Else

The work you take on in your construction contracting business is important! Be sure your team knows that.

 

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, Contract Document Management, and Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors.

So you can Run With the Big Dogs. 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.

Growing Your Construction Business in 2019

Growing your construction business take big dog perspective.

Growing Your Construction Business in 2019

Growing your construction business is much like planning to run with the big dogs. As a matter of fact, I wanted to title this piece, “How to Run with the Big Dogs.” I thought better of it. Yet, getting out and romping with the big dogs does have a great appeal, right?

Growing up

My cousin, (I’ll call him Andy) tells an “in my youth” story. Seems Andy had gotten his first full-time job soon after receiving his high school diploma. It was among the most menial of all menial jobs. He was in charge of making sure the cars on the sales lot of an automobile dealership were kept clean. Occasionally, he was also tasked with moving a car from the service bay to a holding area awaiting the customer’s return.

One morning he had been summoned by a salesman to move one of those cars. Andy didn’t get along with that salesman and felt the way he had been summoned was demeaning. Andy decided to show his distaste for the salesman by getting away from him as quickly as possible. What that meant was . . . well, what that meant was, he jumped in the car, stuck it in gear, then slammed his foot down on the accelerator. The next thing to happen was a bit of fishtailing and gravel throwing. What happened after that was a visit to the office of the car dealership’s owner and a one-week suspension from work.

Growing wasn’t part of Andy’s plan

Andy says he sat at home for a week fuming about how badly life in general and his boss in particular were treating him. His immature mindset was about to get the better of him – keep reading, you’ll see.

When the one-week suspension ended Andy went straight to the owner’s office, just as he had planned for a week. (Yeah, you can see trouble brewing here, can’t you?) Andy walked into the office to see both the owner and the dreaded salesman awaiting him. He walked straight to the front of the owner’s desk and quickly laid out all of his grievances (he admits it was quick, because they were few) then stepped back to the doorway. And, just as he had planned (remember he had a week to make this plan) he stuck his hand in his pocket, said, “You can’t treat me like this. I’m a grown-ass man,” then stepped back and threw the stink bomb into the office as he made a hasty retreat.

Lesson learned: Don’t call yourself a grown-ass man, especially when you don’t behave like one.

Growing the right mindset

When you’re ready to grow your commercial construction business it takes having a business mindset. This article from Entrepreneur lays out 5 important ways having a proper mindset will help you achieve.

By the way, if you truly are a grown-ass man, you’ll find no need to tell others you’ve reached that status. Ask Andy, he’ll tell you I speak truth.

Here are 3 things you should be doing:

  • Surrounding yourself with people who are good at what they do
  • Watching for opportunities to learn more about being in business
  • Practicing the mindset of true business ownership

Growing in unusual ways

Another cousin (who is 5 feet 2 inches tall, and I’ll call Sam) likes to tell the story which took place in his younger days. Seems he was at a bar one evening when another fellow seated nearby was loudly saying things Sam didn’t like. So, Sam gets up and walks to the loud fellow’s table, stands in front of him, and confronts him.

When the loud fellow noticed Sam, he stood up. As Sam tells it, he took a long time in the standing process because he was so tall. Sam, thinking fast, pulled out a nearby chair and stood on it so he could be face-to-face with the loud fellow.

Lesson learned: When you’re the little guy, sometimes you need to grab a chair . . . or the right tool.

Growing takes understanding your tools

Just like starting your own commercial construction business took some hutzpah, growing your business will take the same determination. And, knowing which tools you have at hand will be useful. Like these:

The asset tools of the present

  • Because you’re still small enough you can make quick adjustments
  • Your layers of customer service are leaner and better able to accommodate
  • You’re likely better able to innovate and problem-solve on the spot

The opportunity tools of growth

  • The ability to grow a small team to a larger team with your vision in mind
  • Your heightened sense for productivity enhancement for you and your team
  • You have an added incentive to plan for different scenarios

Growing a big dog perspective

What began as a marketing discussion – how do we get the word out? – quickly turned to an examination of what we really do for our clients. While there are many items on the service-menu we offer our clients, what it comes down to is we do everything in our power to “Make sure our clients are equipped to Run With The Big Dogs!”

Yes, we are the virtual “Corporate Accounting Department” for small to medium commercial construction contracting businesses across the US. And yes, we take that role seriously.

Yet.

Yet, you’ve got to admit, there is a certain fun aspect in realizing that the big dog romp can be joined when the little dog (in some cases the underdog) learns to think like a big dog. And, we’re there every step of the way, helping them gain the acumen of big dog thinking.

Now that you’re ready to know more, give us a call Toll Free: 866-629-7735. Or get in touch here.

Mistakes are Costly, Coverups are Costlier

Mistakes happen. Own up to them to grow your construction business.

Mistakes are learning tools

Learn. Study. Improve. Grasp. Catch On.

There are numerous ways for us to learn. Making mistakes is one of them. At the bottom rung of the construction contracting mistake ladder we hope to learn to never again do the thing which turned out to be a mistake. Yet, there are more rungs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making us think it through.

Training us to not do similar things.

Teaching others to avoid the action.

Enlightening us concerning our skills level.

Revealing something we didn’t understand.

Letting us know some things are a lost cause.

Bringing us to be more compassionate toward others.

Giving us a heads-up concerning other possible actions

Spurring us to want to try new things in this or other areas.

Mistakes – the advantages

Asset. Blessing. Boon. Edge. Distinction.

Making a mistake is not advantageous. Yet, admitting you made a mistake is!

Plus, there are several ways you can use (admitted) mistakes to your advantage.

With your employees, subs, and even your clients you build trust when they see you are human, honest, and gutsy enough to step to the plate.

Certainly, a side effect of the “plate stepping” is you provide the example for risk-taking and open communication in your construction business. Plus, it simply makes you more approachable.

Therefore, admitting mistakes helps offset the negative feelings from those who’ve been affected. Some have had high hopes. Others feel their time has been wasted. Still others may think you’ve purposefully tried to “pull one over” on them. Getting things set straight puts relationships back in order and puts your construction contracting business in a better light.

One of the foremost aspects is it allows for quick correction, which (hello!) saves time and resources. Plus, it allows you the peace to stop defending a difficult or incorrect position.

So, your credibility as a leader is increased. Plus you provide concrete examples which reinforce critical aspects of your company culture: decisiveness, openness, honesty, integrity, and quick correction.

Mistake quotes

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein

“The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.” Theodore Roosevelt 

“The proactive approach to a mistake is to acknowledge it instantly, correct and learn from it.” Stephen Covey 

“A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying… that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.” Alexander Pope

One more mistake quote

“In politics… never retreat, never retract… never admit a mistake.” Napoleon Bonaparte

Oh my! We think Mr. Bonaparte may have given some terrible advice. Furthermore, seems two former American presidents listened to him. Both made mistakes. Similarly, both were impeached for their parts in trying to cover up, not for the original mistake.

Made a Mistake? Say so

Acknowledge. Admit. Confess. Disclose. Make Known. Own up.

A few years back we lived in a house which had a house-long porch which cantilevered over the side of the small hill on which the house was built. If you looked straight down over the edge of the porch you could see the pathway which led to other portions of the property. Sounds pretty good, huh? Well the problem was, getting to that walkway was no easy task. The round about way of accessing the steep stairs which led to the path meant we typically only walked on that path when there was a direct purpose for doing so. Now, you have the setup and I’ll get on with the rest of the story.

Most note worthy, the porch was sound, the railings up to code, the danger-level low. Children (or adults for that matter) weren’t likely to go tumbling off. Yet, items – toys, cups, flatware, you-name-it – were easily tossed through the rails and over the side. Yeah, I know, you can already see where this is going. After many discussions with the small man-child who frequently “accidentally” let drop this and that I decided it was time to take more affirmative action.

Sure enough . . . I looked up from my book to see small man-child with his hand stuck through the rails ready to release the next item to the wilds below.

A mistake was about to be made

Therefore, I said his name then said, “If you drop that, I’m going to swat your butt.”

The little fingers let go. The cup plopped to the ground below. The man-child purposely stepped to a space directly in front of me, turned away from me, bent over and in the same motion pulled up his shirt making his tiny behind available for the swat.

Laughter was stifled, and minor swat was given.

So, owning up to your mistakes (and misdeeds) allows you to step forward, often leaving both the mistake and the subsequent consequence behind you.

 

In case you were wondering – yes, we’ve had to make a few mea culpa pleas. And yes, we’ve gotten better at serving our clients because of it. You can get in touch with us here.

The Best Supporting Tech Nominee Is . . .

tech as supporting app for accounting software

Hubdoc! 

Whether or not you faithfully watch the annual Hollywood extravaganza known as the Academy Awards, you know there is a competitive division known as “Best Supporting Actor.” Much like the movie world, the real-life accounting world has tech. Tech which supports the big-name players. Those in the supporting rolls make the movie (or the accounting) so much better.

Let’s break this down

The best tools you own don’t perform well if they’re used with the wrong attachments. For example, your top-of-the line drill is no good if the wrong bit is inserted. Put the wrong blade in your table saw and there will be trouble. If using the correct accessories is important in the shop or on the jobsite, using the correct accessories in your office tech stack is just as important. By choosing the correct accessories for your subcontractor office and accounting needs, you begin to develop your tech stack.

What is a tech stack?

Consider the Apple or Google app stores that provide add-on apps for smart phones. The basic tool is your phone. The tech stack you create through adding the apps gives you a well-rounded and useful tool. A tool for getting many things done outside of simply making phone calls. In the same manner, you can drop in at the QuickBooks app store and find a plethora of “accessories” to add to your accounting software.

Which brings us back to Hubdoc

If you took time to peek at the offerings for apps on the QuickBooks page you likely noticed Hubdoc among the mix. And, the simple explanation of what Hubdoc does is listed on that page as, “Your key financial docs in one place automatically.” What they say is true, yet it is best not to skim over that brief sentence and move on. If I could give you a drum-roll right here I would. This is really rather astounding when you think about it.

How much time do you, your office staff, and your project managers waste scrambling to find minor as well as major pieces of your accounting information? How many people or desks do you disturb, how many places do you search in your digital or physical spaces to gather up all the info you need for your bookkeeper?

Wouldn’t you welcome a better way to collect, store, and organize your documents? Put simply, Hubdoc can save you valuable time and help you increase efficiency.

Next week I’ll dive deeper into Hubdoc. It is a fantastic accessory which aids your ability to organize and systemize your construction office. Oh yeah, by the way, here are some of the things our clients have said to us about Hubdoc:

“Oh man, this is going to make my job so much easier.”

“That’s it? Wow, this way is so much better than what we’ve been doing.”

“I didn’t know how much better this would be until you showed me.”

Your call to action

Give Schulte and Schulte a call today so you can take your spot on our waiting list.  480-442-4032 or connect with us here.

Do You Really Need a Change Order?

Hang the moon and stars for your clients as often as you can.

Hang the moon and stars for your clients as often as you can.

Client requests

Strategy is involved when you determine what to do and what not to do when dealing with client requests. Be sure all your employees and subcontractors know what the strategy is and how to deal with the various circumstances.

In my last post I presented information concerning how to deal with the inevitable change orders which pop up during construction.

This time let’s look at when a client’s request for additional service or a change in production, materials, or labor should be carried out as soon as possible with no need for the process involved in change orders. You can’t always hang the moon and the stars for your clients, but you can give them the little extras that will help them remember you and your team.

Make it all about the client

Have you been burned by a client who is “ever needy,” who constantly asks for things outside the scope of work as presented in the contract, who seems hell-bent to make sure they get more than they’re paying for? Yeah, we’ve all experienced that sort of bad behavior. (Meaning that is another reason to be sure you prequalify your clients.)

Chances are, those people are few and far between. Yet, the natural tendency to protect ourselves and our businesses against that sort of terrible behavior may get in the way of “being there” for the clients who are simply relying on us to provide what they need at a reasonable price and within a reasonable timeframe.

Teach your employees and subcontractors that whenever possible, meaning when the request is financially and logistically feasible, to simply comply.

3 ways to handle “above and beyond” requests

We’ll use an entry door installation as our jumping off point for all the examples below.

Do it

Your employee has just finished hanging a new entrance door and the client asks if she will also attach the door knocker the client picked up on his way home from work. No, it isn’t in the contract. Yet, it is a simple matter to use the tools already at hand to quickly install the new door knocker.

Offer resources for what you can’t provide

Your subcontractor has just finished hanging a new entrance door and the client asks if he will also install a hard-wired door bell the client ordered and has on hand. Your subcontractor doesn’t have a clue about electrical wiring. Your subcontractor, as well as your employees, should have a list of preferred contractors and service providers on hand to provide to the client.

Explain why a change order will be necessary

Your employee has just finished hanging a new entrance door and your client asks if he will change the door out for one seen online which incorporates better security measures than the one which was just installed. Your team should be trained concerning how to politely inform your client a change order will be necessary.

Think beyond the simplicity of the task

Let’s go back to the second of the three ways to handle the request. Remember, your client has just requested that a hard-wired door bell be installed. Now, let’s imagine your subcontractor or your employee does have the skill required for the task. A few other considerations now come into play. How long will it take? Is the new door bell replacing an old one or is the wiring going to have to be installed also? Has the client exhibited a tendency to request more and more without regard to the original contract?

Your client is your first consideration

Delivering more than your client expects has long term benefits for your construction business. Good-will is worth the tangible (read monetary) as well as the intangible gain garnered by providing it.

The basic gain is the feeling engendered in being able to help another person. Then there are a few other considerations concerning what is to be gained when you and your crew go out of the way to provide truly exceptional service – by doing what you don’t have to do. Gaining word-of-mouth recommendations is (or should be) your number one marketing tool. Want your present clients to tell your future clients how wonderful your construction business is? Give them every reason to do so.

This is huge! There is no better time to ask for a testimonial or referral than when you or your team has given more than was contracted for.

Want to know more about assuring that your team is on the same page you’re on when it comes to responses concerning above and beyond requests? Be sure to check back next time, I’ll discuss implementing a “give it away” policy.

In the meantime, you can reach our construction accounting specialized team here or by calling 866-629-7735.

 

Penny Pinching is Good for Your Construction Business

Becoming profitable through saving money

Becoming profitable through saving money

You’ve moved up from “Have hammer, or wrench, or paintbrush – will travel,” to running a construction contracting business. Now, you have much more to be concerned with than simply finding a project, doing it, and getting paid for your effort. You have a business to run, one which should be profitable.

And in the construction business, just as in other businesses, cash in king. That is simply how it is. To run a profitable construction contracting business you must learn how to master the cash, how to make decisions concerning the cash, and how to prudently use the cash.

Are you making a profit?

While there are a number of things which you can change concerning how your numbers are adding up (or not adding up,) in this article the subject will center on ways you, a construction contractor can tighten the belt, can be more frugal, can pinch a few more pennies on your way to making a profit.

And while we’re on the subject of decisions, let’s back up a minute and understand that those expenses in your accounting records represents a decision you’ve already made. It takes fortitude to look at a particular expense, challenge yourself, and think about the decision you made, then perhaps taking steps to change or improve it.

First things first

When you first started out you had ways to “get by,” to make ends meet, to keep going while you looked for that next job. Now, you have people working for you, running crews, driving your vehicles, using your tools, performing the back-office duties. You have jobs back to back or over-lapping and you have lots of expenses.

It is time to revisit your ability to “get by.” It is time to be innovative and to grow your ability to solve problems rather than throwing money at them.

Get out of the rut!

In some ways, this is a call to reduce inefficiencies in your own as well as your employee’s work habits. In other ways it’s a challenge to see if there are better, less expensive ways to get things done. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Yet, once you know you’re in a rut, you can take specific measures to get out of it.

Top 5 ruts to jump  

Vehicle or fleet

Whether you have only one business truck or an entire fleet of vehicles there are likely ways to reduce your expenses. One major way to save money here is to be cautious and certain before signing on the dotted line for that beautiful new pickup you’ve had your eye on for a few weeks. Do you really need it right now? We can help you determine whether or not your business can really afford that shiny new toy. Also, when it comes to vehicles, there are other ways to save, for example, in this article from Construction Executive, there is a list of 5 simple changes you can make to help control fuel costs.

Office tools and supplies

Whether you need to complete an RFP (Request for Proposal) with a few of the top suppliers, or you simply need to keep an eye on the cost comparisons of a few local office supply stores along with membership stores, get out of the rut of always buying supplies from the same place. One simple method you may choose is to maintain relationships with two providers that are competitive on price. And, because the ordering process is easy online you can switch providers quickly and easily. Check out these tips and tricks from Grainger concerning managing your office supply inventory.

Construction supplies and materials

Your particular trade will often dictate your choice of suppliers. Yet, just as in the office supply providers in the above section, you will do well to maintain relationships with more than one supplier. And, you already know who the heavy hitters are in the overall construction supply industry. Are you taking advantage of all they have to offer? While it may take some of your upfront time delving into all the benefits they offer to the pros, it will pay off in both time and finances to become familiar with and take advantage of their programs. You can start by getting to know your Pro Account Representative at Home Depot and checking out Lowe’s ProServices.

Tools and equipment

Determining whether you need to purchase or lease particular tools and equipment and the cost saving factors of either choice will have an impact on your ability to save pennies now and dollars down the road. This article from Construction Marketing Association will give you information you can use in the decision-making process.

Also, when you make the determination that you will purchase tools, be cautious about quality. Invest in the best quality tools you need and can afford rather than trying to get by with cheap substitutes. Just be sure you remember the need factor.

Credit card processing fees

Shop around. One of the first places you may want to check is with your trade organization many of which have an agreement with credit card processors to provide lower rates. Be cautious, some companies will try to lock you in for a long period of time in order to receive a better rate. Also, look for rates concerning leasing the equipment. When you use QuickBooks Online you are able to take advantage of their bank transfer processing through ACH (Automated Clearing House) payments. You may choose to accept only ACH payments at no charge, or to also accept Credit Card payments (with percentage fees) based on your needs.

More ruts to consider

Insurance

Be sure you’re getting the best rates for each of your insurance needs. Check around, look for providers that know and understand the construction industry. For example take the time to shop around for the best workers’ compensation prices you can find, especially if your company has a low accident rate that you can use to negotiate with carriers and agencies.

Marketing

When you’re low on money, marketing is one of the last things you should cut totally out of your thoughts or your budget. Yet, by being creative and using many of the options for marketing which are no or low cost you can remain in the game getting the word out. This article from Forbes gives you four creative and useful ways to save money on marketing.

Rent or mortgage on office and shop locations

Again, creativity is your best friend. Would you benefit by moving your operation to a different (less expensive) location? If your construction business doesn’t depend on walk-in-traffic why pay more for a location which touts traffic as a rental perk?

Temporary office structures and/or sanitary utilities

Should you own or rent your on-location structures? Is there a better rate for the portable toilet from a different vendor than you normally choose?

More money saving tactics to scrutinize

  • Determine if selling or leasing underutilized equipment will be of benefit.
  • Reexam your need for company owned vehicles.
  • Review your entertainment costs. (This is no longer an expense which can be deducted on your tax reports.)
  • Look for free or low-cost training for yourself and your employees. If you belong to a trade association take advantage of what they offer.
  • Adopt a just-in-time philosophy of material staging in order to deter waste as well as keep the money flow in check.
  • Save money by outsourcing your accounting and some other office tasks.

 Get in touch here, or give us a call 866-629-7735.

Disrupting Your Day with Small Quality Tasks

Savvy Contractors use time wisely

 

 

Savvy Contractors use time wisely

You’re a construction contractor – and you’re busy! All day long!

Or are you?

What about those minutes of time that are maddeningly frustrating because you’re waiting?

Waiting between scheduled appointments

Waiting for the person who is late to an appointment

Waiting for the coffee to brew

Waiting for a slow application to load

Waiting for a field report to finish downloading

Waiting between sessions at a conference

Waiting on phone hold

Waiting while you’re stuck in traffic for . . . well you know, forever

Use the disruptions!

You already know how disruptive “wait time” can be for your day. Do you know how to use those disruptive moments to accomplish small quality tasks?

The first hurdle you’re likely to meet is an all-or-nothing mentality. Yet, there are some simple things you can do to help jump that hurdle.

  1. Be actively looking for those moments of time that you can put to use
  2. Keep a list of potential activities (on your physical or digital desktop, in your wallet, on your dash, in your briefcase, in your toolbox, where ever you’ll see it)
  3. Be prepared with the proper tools (“the” list, a phone, a book, a notebook, pens, a highlighter, a kindle, an iPad, educational or inspirational audio)

Write the list

Some of the types of items you may want to include on your “potential activities list” are:

  • Proofread documentation
  • Organize a few files on computer
  • Clear old stuff off computer
  • Check or add items to any needed lists
  • Phone or email someone from ‘contact this week’ list
  • Send file A to person Z
  • Physical exercise
  • Clear spam from inbox
  • Write an outline for X report
  • Tidy your desk

More ways to use those minutes

Here are a few more actions you can take which are quite useful in using up those minutes and gaining some traction in other areas.

I’ve already mentioned the drive time dilemma. The simplest way to gain from the traffic down time is keep audio which is either educational or inspirational in your truck. While you’re driving or while your stuck in the traffic jam you have a way to keep yourself ahead of the game through this simple method of self-improvement.

Another useful minute filler is your notebook and highlighter whether it be digital or physical. Say you’re at a construction contracting conference, you’ve been taking notes because, yeah, it’s that good. Then you hurry over to the next session – and you have to wait for it to start. Highlight the most important parts of what you’ve just heard. Yep, that simple. The quick review is great at cementing “the good stuff” in your brain.

Say you’ve just gotten off an important phone call, take a few minutes to write down one to three of the most important takeaways. Use this same strategy when you’ve finished reading an article, a chapter, a blog post, whatever. Building this habit will pay off multiple times over as you train yourself to look for and remember the most important parts of whatever you’ve just read, heard, seen, or done.

Your call to action

Write your “potential activities” list. Using the list provided above and your own knowledge of how you and how your office operates, write your own list of minute filling activities, put it where you’ll see it. Next time you must wait, put those minutes to good use.

10 Qualities Needed for Scaling Your Construction Contracting or Service Business

10 Qualities Needed for Scaling Your Construction Contracting or Service Business part 1

Being an entrepreneur in the construction field comes with a few challenges other entrepreneurs don’t face.

There are a lot of ideas concerning what it takes to be an entrepreneur. For example, you’ll hear things like:

  • You need to be motivated by challenges
  • You’ll have to be tenacious
  • You’ll need the support of your family and friends
  • You will be one who loves new ideas
  • You must see and fulfill needs
  • You should notice how things can be improved

And, those are all good ideas about entrepreneurship, (you’ll do well to heed them) yet there are 10 very specific qualities it takes to be an entrepreneur in the construction field, to be a construction contractor who is ready to scale.

  1. You need to get “shower ideas” – and act on them

Even if it means you need to bolt from the shower to call your superintendent to tell him the solution you’ve discovered concerning the nagging problem you been having with [you fill in the blank.]

Perhaps you need to keep one of those gizmos in the shower meant for writing on in wet conditions – although you’re more likely to make a few drawings then add a note to get true measurements.

Or, it could be you create a mantra in your head as you’re driving down the freeway, so you’ll still remember your great idea when you reach home. Therefore, you’ll have the basics of the good idea, and you can put it into action.

The main point is, no matter when (in the shower or not) you get ideas you’re willing to put the idea into action in order to make your construction contracting or service business better tomorrow than it was yesterday.

  1. You’ll have to love growth – in oh so many ways

The unique position in which you as a construction contractor find yourself is one in which growth; your own, your businesses, your employees, your community all meld together into one cohesive unit that turns out to be rather stunning.

As you and your employees work together to grow your business while being a part of the growth of your community there comes a moment when you can stand back and say, “I did that!”

It can start at the level of being able to say, “Because I and my team had the right system in place in my construction business, I took Joe Right from apprentice, to craftsman, to master craftsman, to supervisor.”

It might take the shape of understanding that because you and your employees showed up there are more families across your city who need not worry about how to stay cool or warm or protected.

Or, it could be you drive past the latest of your builds and see the finished project knowing you had an integral part of making sure that location houses a family, or provides a place of employment for many, or allows a space for medical personnel to care for patients, or improves the infrastructure of your city or state.

Growing your business is important to you, partly because you know you’re growing more than “just” a construction contracting or service business. You’re growing, your people are growing, your community is growing. Stunning!

  1. You need to understand you’re a leader – and lead the way

Whether or not you awaken in the morning thinking, “I’m a leader,” you really must possess the qualities of a leader if you’re going to pull this off. If you own a construction contracting or service business you’ve already taken a lot of steps in the leadership role.

Being THE leader means you’re the one with the vision of how your construction contracting business fits in the industry now, how it will look a year from now, and what it will look like in the long term.

You also have to be able to communicate the vision in ways that enlighten your potential customers, enable your employees, and empower you as well as your team to each next level.

You are the one who is creating the work culture for your employees, delegating, making decisions, encouraging your team, and (bottom line) working on your business, not in it.

It doesn’t matter if you know how to pick up and use the tools necessary to build for or provide a service your customers. You can and should get someone else to do that. It does matter that you know how to be an entrepreneur, how to use your financial reports to lead into the future, how to see the big picture and take the necessary next steps to scale your business.

You may wish to join a structured entrepreneur group where other members will be available as mentors or advisors concerning the specific issues you face as a business owner.

  1. You need to network with your colleagues – for their sake as well as your own

Let’s face it, people like doing business with people they like. Beyond that, when can you ever have too many contacts in your chosen field?

Join your trade association

Most trade associations host various conferences, events, and meetings on a regular basis. By getting involved you have an excellent place to make new connections. It takes more than just paying the membership fees, it takes becoming a recognized and trusted face. When you become known as the “go-to person” it just makes sense that when business opportunities do arise, so will your name.

Yet, if you live in a location where regularly attending meetings of your trade association (think – more than a 2 hour drive) requires too much time and travel you may want to consider the next option.

Join or develop a private group

I recently read about a fellow who had formed a private group which he said included eight to nine other subcontractors, developers, and a land broker. They call their group The Meeting of the Geniuses, and they get together every six weeks at a favorite (in his words) “watering hole to discuss what is going on and what we are working on at the time, and football, and cars, and…….”

The crucial aspect is they can support one another, discuss their problems or issues then talk about possible solutions.

Attend networking events sponsored by large contracting firms

When you’re invited to attend an event sponsored by a contractor for whom you’ve worked GO! It is a great opportunity to spend time getting to know other subs, suppliers, and vendors. Besides, there is usually food and drink on hand at these events.

Network on the job site

Don’t overlook the construction industry’s unique ecosystem of enmeshed, intertwined, and overlapping network of professional connections. Take time when you’re on the job site to check around for other subs. Who knows when a brief chat on a job site may lead to another job or a relationship which adds value to your construction company.

Maintain contacts

Having good relationships with former employers, coworkers, and subcontractors with whom you’ve worked in the past is a networking tactic worth the time and effort.

And, because most people do genuinely appreciate it when you seek them out with questions you have concerning their area of expertise you’re likely to get a good response when approaching them with your needs. BUT, more important than seeking them to solve your problem you may approach them when you have a connection you think they may be interested in or you’ve come across a solution you know they would appreciate seeing.

Your main networking goal

Your main goal when thinking about networking should be finding ways to help your new contact! Miss this important aspect of networking and the truth is you miss it all.  Don’t become the guy who interrupts conversations, thrusts business cards on everyone, talks incessantly about himself, and annoys the heck out of everyone.

Instead, be the guy who focuses on how he can help those he meets. The simple equation is when someone needs a contractor in your field and you’re the one he thinks of because he has been helped by you, and has seen what you’ve done for others he is most likely going to give you the call.

  1. You’ll have to surround yourself with advisors – who mean business

Getting the right business advisors in place as soon as possible helps any business grow. Getting the right advisors in place for your construction contracting business can make the difference concerning whether you live in the paycheck to paycheck lane, of if you move into the lane where the big dogs are running.

Some of the advisors you’ll need to consider are:

  • Attorney
  • Banker
  • Accounting Advisor
  • Information Technologist
  • Insurance Agent
  • Marketing Guru
  • Tax Preparer

Surround yourself with good people who offer good solutions to your bad problems.

Surround yourself with good people who are honest and have integrity.

Surround yourself with good people who aren’t afraid to stand up to you and let you know when you’re missing an important part of the picture.

There is more to come

Part 2 coming soon. We’ll present 5 more Qualities Needed for Scaling Your Construction Contracting or Service Business.

17hats: All-in-One Business Management Software

In this monthly post, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to one of the many apps that we at Schulte and Schulte endorse and recommend to our customers.

As a firm of construction accounting specialists, we love to help companies in the construction industry with their books and finances, part of that help is finding different apps or software that can help our clients out.  During this monthly feature, we take a look at several apps that we love at Schulte and Schulte, LLC, and dig a little deeper into our favorites.

This month, we would like to introduce you to 17hats.

As a business owner, there are multiple “hats” that you will wear as you go about running your business.  By hats, we are talking about the different roles you will play on any given day, from accounting, marketing, client communication, lead development, etc.  17hats is a brilliant piece of software that is designed to integrate each of these different hats into an easy to use business management tool.  We could go into detail talking about each of the different tools that are built into 17hats, but for the sake of time we will highlight a couple of the features that we appreciate the most; specifically the Overview Page, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Workflow Management.

Overview Page
This dashboard is what you will see whenever you log into your 17hats account.  It has been designed to incorporate a 3-day calendar view of all events and to-do’s that you have set up.  Underneath the calendar is a list of all action items from every ongoing project that you have, as well as a list of client email correspondence that is needing your attention.  This dashboard is customizable to include this above information, as well as other options available for you.  It is a really handy tool to get a bird’s eye view of what needs your attention on any given day.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
A lot of effort has been put into developing this CRM tool to make it easy to use.  As the above video shows in its example of adding a new lead and the development of that lead into a client, 17hats utilizes its CRM to assist you in keeping your contact information and projects accessible. It also stores all email communication and documents sorted by client.  This means no more searching through your email account for that important message from a client’s project you are working on.

Workflow Management
The video above gives a snapshot of the process involved within 17hats’ Workflow Management.  You are able to create templates for almost everything you will end up passing onto a customer, from engagement/proposal questionnaires and feedback forms, quotes, invoices, and more.  It has e-signature technology built into the app to allow anything that needs a signature or feedback from a customer to be sent from the app, and also allows you to track what has been sent.  17hats has a one-way sync that will allow you to sync invoices into QuickBooks Online, which is music to our accounting ears.

We love 17hats, and would like the opportunity to share it with you.  If this sounds like an app that you would be interested in checking out, please let us know!