This one’s for the small businesses out there dealing with administrative and organizational hiccups! Particularly the construction companies – but I think these principles apply across the board for the most part. I talk with Jesse Meehan of Headwaters Contractor Resources about “How to Stay Organized in Your Construction Company Admin (and Marketing)”
1. The Problem
“I need processes and documents that I can teach my employees to use, to essentially make this business function even I weren’t around. With all the available technology I know there are things out there that can help me but I don’t know exactly what they are and how to implement them.”
2. Four Strategies for better organizing your construction company
Software that is templated and streamlined as possible
Team in place who you can trust to implement the software
Understanding Cash flow
Understanding owner’s time and the value of it.
3. How do you streamline construction estimating to final invoicing in construction? Should you cut down on services your providing, so its consistent?
What do you suggest on consistent? —- Is it better to do 10 options ot customize, or 3 to make it easy for people to decide?
Contractors need to operate within their means. So many times, contractors “sell themselves out of business” because they can’t keep up with back office, billing & collecting, and following through on their job commitments.
4. Is there a way to structure order templates – so you don’t always need to make ones?
We tell our clients to find the software that fits for them. The first step is to purchase and learn it….the next and most important is to use it. Doesn’t matter if you have the best software on the market for contractors if you don’t use it. We also explain to them that one of the biggest keys to success is templating as much as they can. This limits the time it takes to create new jobs, estimate and invoice each job, store and retrieve documents, and most important to a lot of contractors; train new staff.
5. How do you track job cost?
This is another important side of the job that often gets overlooked. Too many times, contractors only look at money in/money out and don’t keep track during a job to track efficiency, what their own time is worth, and the idea of positive cash flow. There are many ways to track each job…one is the software a contractor chooses. Each software should have some form of job-cost tracking. The other is an important one for any business – the relationship with the right bookkeeper. We can dive into this in great detail, but a good bookkeeper/accountant should be able to provide job-by-job breakdowns.
5. How should construction companies deal with change orders?
Here’s another good example of where a good software can help. The ones we work with our contractors on allows direct access to homeowners. Once a contractor creates a change order, they have the option to put in all of the info, send to the homeowner, and the homeowner sign off.
6. Advice for making sure the design that’s proposed actually gets paid for (read contractors’s notes below)
A contractor in this position just needs to be upfront about their time and effort. If a homeowner is going to quibble over a contractor wanting to charge for their design, then they may not be the best client throughout a job. A contractor needs to be their own biggest advocate.
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For Context: Questions / Concerns from a Construction Company Owner
Random wishes/wants for my business:
-A cloud based estimating system that I can work off of until the end of the project. I want streamlining from estimate to final invoicing. I’ve been trying out Clear Estimates and it seems okay. This program includes some useful job templates but it would be great if I had the time to taylor those templates to our company and our processes.
Help with job cost tracking during the project and something I can refer back to while bidding new jobs. It would also be awesome to use this info to give weekly or biweekly cost updates for customers to see what’s going on financially. In an ideal world this would integrate with TSheets for time tracking/in house labor costs and somehow all my random receipts for materials and invoices from subs would automatically upload to this and be totaled in their respective categories. Then I could compare actual real-time numbers to original estimate numbers.
Help with keeping up on invoicing or even something that would send out automatic invoices at certain predetermined milestones during a project. I also need something to help me keep track of these payments and send out receipts/statements.
Change order help please!!!! I have never used one and really need to. Would be great to have an invoice automatically sent out when a change order is signed.
Scheduling help. I keep no schedule other than what is in my mind. So I need help laying out a schedule for day to day on the job tasks and long term job scheduling for future projects that I sign.
I have found the more transparent you are the better the project goes so I want the homeowner connected at all times and to make decisions quickly and efficiently when things come up.
Design agreements. I do design stuff and for some reason I have a very hard time telling people up front that I need to get paid for that. Maybe it’s because I doubt my ability but I’m not totally sure. No one else does it for free and if I roll it into my bid for a project I run the risk of designing a home or any random project and then the homeowner taking those plans and shopping them around. That would be fine if I got paid for my design efforts.
Warranties and expectations spelled out in a homeowner handbook. This would explain what is to be expected in the first year, 5 years, ten years. It would list materials used and have their respective warranties. Expectations would be set for what is warranty and what is not warranty.
Long story short
I need processes and documents that I can teach my employees to use, to essentially make this business function even I weren’t around. With all the available technology I know there are things out there that can help me but I don’t know exactly what they are and how to implement them.
Maybe you can use some of that in your pod cast.
And I need employee handbooks and non compete agreements.
I need signed agreements with subs. These be per job and would layout my expectations of their work, the quality of their work, and the consequences of not performing as agreed to.
And a place I can upload a plan and it would automatically send out to all of my subs for bids.
And somewhere to digitally archive plans, agreements, correspondence, invoices, material lists, etc for each job when it’s done.