Let's face it – it's almost always easier when you're out in the field, getting the job done. But those projects don't happen on their own. How do you stay on top of the rest of the business that keeps you working? Here are a few tips on how to get it done and bet back on the job site.
Dealing with the non-electrical side of your business
Human ResourcesOh, the dreaded HR. Government regulations, employee records, security: it's enough to give the average contractor a serious headache. Here's a few ways to make this issue a bit less stressful:
- Employee or independent contractor? If you use seasonal or project crew, it may be easier to treat them as independent contractors, as it leads to significantly less paperwork and reporting requirements. If possible, keep your core crew as employees to lower paperwork in the office between jobs.
- Streamline your training. Put together basic training materials during quiet times. This means when you need to quickly onboard additional workers when needed. This should include safety protocols, minimum certifications and similar items of importance.
- Tickle your memory. Need to track licenses or certifications? Consider setting up a tickler file for each certification type or employee. Check it once a month and see who is getting close to needing to recertify.
Marketing, Sales and Customer ServiceWithout marketing, nobody knows who your company is and what you do. Sales takes the information gathered during marketing and converts your prospects into customers. Customer service is necessary to deal with any issues that come up during a job.
- If you're still using telephone prospecting, you may want to upgrade your marketing and prospecting process. A recent survey by the Construction Marketing Association shows that most contractors are upping their digital marketing and dumping phone contacts like last week's leftovers.
- Use your unique selling proposition (USP). A common marketing term, USP covers the part of sales that is selling why you're different than your competition. Spend a little time now determining what makes you better than your competition and turn it into a 10-second, 30-second and 2-minute talks.
- Get it done, now. It's always better to stay on top of customer service issues as they arise. A customer that has their concerns dealt with immediately will often remain a regular client, while one that has had to stew over the problem a few days will talk about the lack of service to other prospects.
Safety and OperationsHow smooth are your operations when you have a big job going? Take time ahead of a big project to get everything in place in terms of safety, communications and operations to make it much easier to handle. Take a look at the options offered to outsource some of your problem areas:
- Keep your workers safe. Just before kicking off a big job, hold a full-crew safety meeting. Make sure everyone knows what's expected in most standard issues on a job site and who to call if something really goes sideways. This should include familiarizing them with new safety equipment and any new policies put in place recently. Get feedback and figure out what is or isn't working after an incident.
- Get your communications in line. Whether you use an on-site wifi network, cell phones, mobile devices, construction grade radios, meetings or other means of disseminating information out to your crew, make sure you have a plan in place and test it to make sure it works on the job site. You'll also want to know that your crew knows how to use it, so you don't end up with the one guy broadcasting, “Is this thing on?” with his finger on the radio button.
- Outsource unnecessary operations. Is it really saving you any money to send two guys and a truck down to the local supply warehouse to pick up material compared to delivery? Can you work with a supply house to have everything ordered in and ready to go when you need it? Get these issues sorted out before hand to make the job run smoothly.
Accounting and AdministrationWhat about back office work in accounting, managing bid paperwork and keeping track of job files? Much of this work is becoming digitized, making it much easier to handle using a tablet on a job site, laptop when you're on the go or a computer in the office.
- Maximize compatibility between apps and software options. Digitization is all about making your life easier, and this is best accomplished by using software that is already designed to play well with others. Make sure your estimating and bidding software can communicate with your word processor and accounting packages to streamline the process.
- Get your money mobile. There are a number of accounting packages available today that offer simple operation with mobile capability, such as Quickbooks. This allows you to collect payments in the field, email invoices from your phone or move quotes into the system from your desk.
- Toss the paper piles. Instead of filing all those papers, scan them. The IRS and Social Security happily recognize digital copies of papers, so it makes a lot more sense to scan the papers to a particular location, then hold onto the paper copies. Once a week, verify that they've scanned correctly, rename and move the files, then back them up to an archival-quality disc.