Construction often has thin margins. That’s just an unfortunate reality of the business. Because of this, one of the
Construction often has thin margins.
That’s just an unfortunate reality of the business.
Because of this, one of the keys to maximizing profitability is figuring out how to make your money work for you.
Unfortunately, there is no easy, one-size-fits-all solution to this: What ‘making your money work for you’ will actually look like depends on your particular financial situation, as well as the terms you have with both your GCs and suppliers.
The key, however, is taking the time to actually examine your options so that you can determine the best way to move forward. In doing so, the following are several factors to keep in mind:
Be strategic about purchasing.
Do you have certain materials that you end up needing on every job? Do you have good credit terms with your suppliers? Would you be able to negotiate better prices with your suppliers if you could buy in bulk and/or pay for materials sooner?
Look at your options on this.
If you have good cash flow, and you can save 25% by buying in bulk, it might make sense to go ahead and pony up for some extra piping that you know you’ll be using down the road. If you have a Net90 job, and your supplier will give you a 10% discount for paying within 30 days, getting a factor to pay for those materials early could save you money. If you know the job is running behind, it might be a good idea to wait a few more weeks before ordering readily available materials.
Your best option is going to vary from job to job, and supplier to supplier, but taking the time to evaluate your options is a good way to save some money.
2. Evaluate how you keep track of expenses.
Having a console full of receipts in your truck is not always the best way to keep track of your spending.
If you can keep track of your expenses in one central location, and in a format that makes it easy to check and compare, you’ll be in a better position to make sure that things aren’t falling through the cracks. Just as importantly, this will make it easier to look for patterns or mistakes. By catching over-billing, and noticing trends to how you spend, you’ll free up valuable money that can be spent on other things.
3. Use credit to your advantage.
Do you qualify for a business-rewards card? Don’t be afraid to put materials on a card that you’ll pay off every month.
Will suppliers give you 90 day terms with no interest? Take advantage of that!
Will using a factor or bank LOC allow you to leverage discounts with your suppliers? Look into those options!
Credit is a bit like fire: If you abuse it, the results can be catastrophic. But, used wisely, it can be one of the biggest keys to growing your company.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, this is one of those areas where there is no easy solution. The same approach that saves you money on one job will cost you money on another, so the key is sitting down and taking the time to evaluate your options. Doing so is rarely a fun task, but a little effort can provide a huge boost to thin margins.
I always joke that there are essentially two teams in our office: Team Sunshine Happiness, and Team Death &
I always joke that there are essentially two teams in our office: Team Sunshine Happiness, and Team Death & Destruction.
Sales is filled with lovely, happy human beings who want to make the world a better place for us all. The people in sales look nice. They have great personalities. They get invited to the cool kids’ parties.
Accounting and underwriting…also strive to make the world a better place, except they do so through careful planning and strategic risk management. That doesn’t make for such good dinner conversation.
Fortunately for us all, Dia is the head of marketing, so she’s like, the sales-iest of sales. And gosh darnit does she live up to the Team Sunshine Happiness example!
Dia’s awesome. Everybody loves talking to Dia. Compared to Dia, the rest of us are like talking to the grim reaper of hope.
This doesn’t just apply to her work life, either.
You see, Dia is John’s wife.
You know those eight kids I mentioned? I haven’t asked around enough to figure out exactly who’s brilliant idea that was, but either way, clearly Dia was on board. (By contrast, when my husband suggested getting a goldfish, I presented him with a spreadsheet outlining the costs of maintaining an aquarium, and reminded him that those expenses would need to come out of his monthly retirement contributions. He hasn’t yet suggested eight kids, but in the event he does, I’ll have that spreadsheet ready, as well.)
To top it all off, Dia is an infinitely more loving and supportive mother to eight than normal people are to one or two kids: I mean, I want her to adopt me. I’d love for somebody to be as encouraging of my dreams as she is for all eight of them!
Oh, and she’s an amazing singer.
And she has good hair.
And she’s always helping out with every do-gooder activity ever.
And everybody who meets her loves her.
Basically, she’s awesome. Awesome enough that being the head of marketing easily fails to crack the Top-100 of great things about her…even though she’s pretty great at that, too.
In construction, there is one very simple reality: In order to be profitable, you have to know what a job
In construction, there is one very simple reality: In order to be profitable, you have to know what a job actually costs you to perform.
This sounds easy, right?
One of the biggest killers for contractors is not fully accounting for the costs associated with running a business. If every bid is based solely on the direct costs (materials and hourly labor), you’re letting some major expenses fall through the cracks.
There are actually three types of costs you need to keep in mind when running your company: (1) Direct costs (2) Indirect costs, and (3) Overhead expenses.
Direct costs–these are the costs most contractors base their bids on. Materials, equipment rentals, hourly labor, and subcontractors all make up the direct costs of a project.
Indirect costs–these are the additional costs associated with a job, such as the time spent preparing an estimate, supervising your crews, or providing benefits for your workers. In addition, things like purchasing small tools, depreciation on your equipment, and liability insurance all fall under this umbrella.
Overhead–these are the costs incurred irrespective of any particular job. Overhead includes such costs as general office/administrative salaries, company advertising, professional licenses, and the like.
Failing to take these last two types of expenses into account is one of the biggest reasons that so many contractors consistently underbid. When it comes to determining what’s needed to make a job profitable, it’s crucial that all of these expenses be considered.
As a slight dork who really enjoys finding things in life to celebrate, I’ve been known to browse
As a slight dork who really enjoys finding things in life to celebrate, I’ve been known to browse a few of those websites listing all of the weird semi-official holidays out there (i.e. National Flamingo Day, National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, National Talk Like a Pirate Day, etc.). For the really good ones, I’ll even drag all of my friends, family members, etc. into the dorkiness, because come on, why not sneak in as much fun as possible?
Well, today I stumbled upon what may be my favorite Made Up Holiday yet: National Make Your Own Holiday-Day!
That’s right: No longer am I limited to the weird things some marketing department at the local elephant emporium made up with to sell more elephants. Today, I can make up any. holiday. I. want. #ballerstatus
So far this morning, I’ve tried out a few just to see what sticks.
National Sleep Until Noon Day died before it could even begin, thanks to my alarm clock and everybody’s illogical insistence that we can’t close the office for random holidays I’ve made up. National Buy Tipper A New Porsche Day has been a real flop. I made the proposal to like, ten people, and so far, zero takers. National Drink Champagne At My Desk Day got me a meeting with HR. National Wear Pearls With Patagonia Day seemed like low-hanging fruit, but it was pointed out that I do that every day, so it’s not exactly a holiday…
Now, two hours into the day, I’m starting to give up on this whole thing. However, if anybody else has any suggestions, feel free to chime in! If nothing else, I’m declaring today National Make Up Your Own Holiday Any Darn Time That You Want-Day, which means that if we don’t think of anything good until next week, we can just celebrate then.
As has been established here, here, and here, I have a serious weakness for useless knowledge. What has not
As has been established here, here, and here, I have a serious weakness for useless knowledge.
What has not yet been established, but is equally true, is that I am a teensy bit neurotic.
Specifically, I am way too interested in safety features. One of my favorite dorky hobbies is studying various engineering disasters, and reading all about the things that went absurdly wrong. (Yeah, I know. My lack of a social life is a real mystery to me, too. Not sure why talking about roof collapses hasn’t made me a bigger hit at parties.)
But, since this is a blog about construction, and not Sigma Chi Ski Lodge ’06, hopefully my useless knowledge has finally found a better home.
As it turns out, those twenty zillion pages of building codes that serve as the kryptonite to developer profitability are usually the result of hard learned lessons.
Prior to the early 1900’s, we didn’t really worry about fire safety. As long as nothing caught on fire, this was great news. Unfortunately, since we were still using kerosene lanterns, this usually was not great news.
Still, we hadn’t really mastered high rise construction, and most of our buildings were only holding one or two families at a time. Even though there was plenty of property loss, the human toll of all of this was pretty minimal.
However, in the early 1900’s, our cities became cramped, and our buildings began growing bigger and taller. On top of that, thanks to urbanization and the industrial revolution, we began spending more time in crowded buildings–the metal smith who had been working in a space behind his house was now working in a factory with hundreds of other men, and the first grader who had been going to a one-room schoolhouse with eleven other children was now attending school in a three-story building with 470 classmates.
Suddenly, the mislaid match that would have ignited a single family home 30 years earlier now had the potential to kill hundreds.
Between 1900 and 1909, there were no fewer than five U.S. structural fires that each carried 100+ person death tolls. This…obviously wasn’t good. At all.
However, the one silver lining amidst all of the tragedy was that we finally started to pay attention to how design impacts safety. We realized that all rooms need at least two means of egress, and that multi-story buildings need fire escapes. We realized that different materials burn at different rates, and that when you have hundreds of people to evacuate, timing is critical.
Soon, we developed fire alarms, and sprinkler systems, and flame-retardant materials. We learned that exit doors need to open outward, and that revolving doors can clog in a mass exodus. We realized that exits needs to be marked in a way that allows them to be seen through smoke, and that buildings with complicated floor plans need pre-planned escape routes. We began to fortify stairwells, and bring in fire doors that slow the spread of fire throughout a building.
With every tragedy, we learned another lesson, and slowly but surely, those tragedies started to become fewer and further between.
The knowledge we have today came at a high cost, but ultimately, we now live in a far safer world than we did 100 years ago.
So in honor of the rousing success known as Tacky Christmas, I decided that our office needed needed a little
So in honor of the rousing success known as Tacky Christmas, I decided that our office needed needed a little more festivity…after all, what’s more fun than forced corporate fun?*
As such, with St. Patrick’s Day coming up this weekend, I decided we could all use a little more green in our lives.
Did Rachael threaten to kill me?
Possibly. Hence the reason that she refused to appear in any photos.
But it was worth it, because I got to indulge my one true love: Themed outfits!
My inner sorority girl was so happy. And everybody looked so festive. And besides, everyone knows I’m like, 1/16 Irish. Or maybe Scottish.
Actually, it might be Germany I’m thinking of…
Either way, I felt very Irish today, and that’s what counts.
Also, I like to think that despite all of the whining and protests, this helped bring everybody together. (I mean, granted, it brought them all together to figure out how to kill me, but you know what? Togetherness is togetherness!)
*According to accounting, ‘most things’. However, I’m bound and determined to change that opinion, one holiday at a time!
Right now, we’re smack dab in the middle of that time of year where everything just feels ‘blah’. The magic
Right now, we’re smack dab in the middle of that time of year where everything just feels ‘blah’.
The magic of Christmas is long-passed. The New Year’s resolutions have already been broken. The skies are grey, the grass is brown, and the winter coats are starting to smell like they need a trip to the dry cleaners.
At least to me, one of the best things to do this time of year is to take a few minutes out of the day to appreciate the little things. After all, it may be a few more months before we can start planning lake getaways and breaking out the margarita blenders*, but that doesn’t mean that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of smaller moments to celebrate.
In that honor, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to document the bits of joy in our office. Sure, there’s nothing too exciting (See: The fact that this is a normal, boring office, where people spend every day doing normal, boring office things), but there have still been plenty of little things worth savoring.
Things like coming in to cinnamon rolls baking in the office kitchen, courtesy of John being the patron saint of processed food.
Or the fact that we have new, freshly designed business cards in my favorite color.
Or the occasional sunny days, here to remind us that one day, spring will be here again.
Do I have anything super groundbreaking to share?
It’s March, and the skies are grey, and I’ve gone too many months between lake trips.
But, there’s still plenty to celebrate. Like sunny days and cinnamon rolls.
Update: Thanks to our resident handyman and his ability to hang pictures, my Blank Wall of Sadness is no longer blank and sad. So that is another HUGE thing to my list of celebrations!*
**Laugh all you want, People Who Don’t Work In Offices. In the normal world, freshly hung wall art isn’t that big of a deal. But when you spend 40+ hours a week looking at the same four walls, having something new to look at is a big deal, indeed!***
***And, with that statement, I just realized that I’ve probably scared an entire generation of kids away from white collar work. Sorry kids. Didn’t mean to inject a bit of existential dread into your day.
Well Happy International Women’s Day, y’all! …….. Look, the reality is, women don’t get much love in construction. At least…not
Well Happy International Women’s Day, y’all!
Look, the reality is, women don’t get much love in construction. At least…not usually in the forms we want (I’m looking at you, Bob who decided that I look hot in khakis).
We also, for the most part, aren’t the ones people associate with construction–after all, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve dawned a hardhat.
But, I’ve spent long enough in this field to realize that women make up the backbone of many companies.
Some of us wear hardhats and swing hammers. Some of us manage the Excel sheets and ensure the right people get paid. Some of us manage the guys out there swinging hammers, either directly or by determining the logistics of who needs to be where doing what when. We are the secretaries, project managers, and CFOs. Increasingly, we are the ones out there swinging hammers and finishing drywall and climbing on things that scare me.
And we are awesome.
So to all of my ladies in construction, Happy International Women’s Day!
To all of my ladies not in construction, Happy International Women’s Day to you, too! This is our day, so let us wear our khakis or hardhats or miniskirts with pride.