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Keys to a Better Year: Reducing Turnover

February 21, 2019 Uncategorized 0 Comments

To run a successful company, you need good people. Just as importantly, you need good people who will actually stick

construction finance invoice factoring

To run a successful company, you need good people.

Just as importantly, you need good people who will actually stick around–after all, finding and hiring new people is a real expense, and all else being equal, the guy who’s already been with you for five years knows a lot more any new person you could hope to bring in.

Because of this, one of the keys to building a more successful company is figuring out how to retain the people who you want to retain.

There are a thousand articles out there about creating an engaging company culture (I’ve linked to one below, in case anybody is interested).

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/tips-to-reduce-employee-turnover-1919039 

Ultimately, however, the real secret is to use common sense:  Be type of employer you would want to have. 

And, just as importantly, listen to your employees, and figure out what their needs are.

Get to know the people working for you.  Pay attention when Mike talks about wanting to make it to his daughter’s dance recital, and when Bill mentions that he hasn’t been to the lake in two years.  Congratulate Paul when he does a good job, and if Tim wants to move up to foreman, talk to him about the steps he’ll need to take in order for that to be possible.

Then, you know…make those things happen.

Figure out how to schedule things so that Mike can go to the dance recital.  Plan a company outing to the lake.  Give Tim the tools he needs to be good at his job.

…………………..

For a long time, too many construction companies have focused solely on pay.  Even as corporate offices were planning company parties and creating mentoring programs, construction remained focused on paying $.50 an hour higher than the crew across the street.

And, to be fair, the conversations you have with your drywall guys probably aren’t going to sound quite the same as the conversations happening over at the bank across town.  Still, many of the same concepts can be tailored, even if Sheetrock Sam has slightly different concerns than Michael from accounting.

………………………

So, this year, resolve to figure out which employees you want to keep around. Then, start thinking about how to do that.

They’ll be happier.  You’ll be happier.  They’ll be more productive.  You’ll be more productive.  And, hopefully next year, your bank account will be a bit larger…a cause for happiness if ever there was one.

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Happy Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2019 Uncategorized 0 Comments

People make fun of Valentine’s Day for being an overly-commercialized holiday all of the time, and I suppose there might

People make fun of Valentine’s Day for being an overly-commercialized holiday all of the time, and I suppose there might be a little truth to that. (By all means, wait until tomorrow to go stock up on those boxes of chocolate!)

That said, there’s also something to be said for seizing every available opportunity to for a party. After all, February can be pretty dreary–this time of year, excuses for celebration can be pretty few and far between.

As such, on behalf of all of us at Construction Finance, we hope that your day is filled with love and fun. Whether you have a Valentine or not, try to do what you can to make the world just a little bit lovelier today.

Hold the door for a stranger. Smile and say ‘thank you’ to the cashier at Starbucks. Figure out what you can do to make life a bit nicer for the people around you.

After all, love is always worth celebrating!

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Meet the Dream Team: John

February 7, 2019 Uncategorized 3 Comments

Every day, I sit back in my office, going over contracts and sending about five zillion emails, most of which

Every day, I sit back in my office, going over contracts and sending about five zillion emails, most of which cover such hard hitting requests as “Hey, Mr. Johnson, when you get a spare moment, could you please send over a copy of your most recent pay app” or, better yet, intra-office emails with headers such as “HAS ANYONE SEEN THE STAPLER? WHY DON’T WE HAVE A STAPLER?!?!”.

It’s…about as exciting as it sounds.

Periodically, though, it dawns on me that I really should be sharing more about this stuff…after all, we have some pretty cool people in our office*, and it’s a bummer that most of you reading this know nothing about the folks working behind the scenes to keep the money flowing on commercial construction projects.  And so, without further ado, I’d like to welcome you all to Part I of our latest blog series:  Meet the Dream Team.

This is John. (Or at least, one of these people is John.  I’ll give you a guess at to which.)

John is awesome.  I’d think John was awesome even if he wasn’t the one writing my paychecks.

In all seriousness, John is the one who started this business.  As a construction guy himself, he realized the hard way that knowing how to install baseboards and make built-ins look good is only half the battle.  And so, rather than spend another 20 years making McMansions look better, he decided to use his hard-fought lessons to help other construction guys run their businesses, so that they could focus on making cool things, and we could focus on making that profitable for them.

Of course, just running a business and keeping an eye on the cash flow and risk management of other people’s businesses would be too simple, so in his free time, John gets to be a father to eight kids.

Yeah. You read that correctly.

As those of you who paid even a little bit of attention in high school science class can see, not all of these are his (despite the strong family resemblance).

That’s right–simply having four kids of their own would way too easy and stress free, so he and his lovely wife decided to adopt four children over the years, as well. This makes them…definitely the most diverse family on their block. And the busiest.

In other words, they’re pretty much saints.  Or insane.  Probably some of both.

Also, he skateboards. And does musicals. And volunteers constantly at church.  And he’s the past Habitat for Humanity president.

He probably also saves baby seals or something, but he just hasn’t had time to mention it to me, you know, with the whole running a company/being a father to eight/helping me find the stapler thing. Any day now, though, I’ll learn something else.

And I’ll share it with y’all. Because really, he’s kind of too awesome for everyone to not know about.

*Except for when someone decides to run off with a stapler.**

**Usually that someone is actually me, and I just forgot to check my own desk before bothering everybody else. I am the weak link in this dream team. We all know it. We all accept it. I am the Rodman to our ’96  Bulls, but without the talent.

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Construction Finance Safety Minute: Cold Weather Tips

February 1, 2019 Uncategorized 1 Comment

I am afraid that the pleasantly crisp days of fall are long behind us–those orange and yellow leaves have all

construction finance cold weather safety

I am afraid that the pleasantly crisp days of fall are long behind us–those orange and yellow leaves have all fallen off the trees, and the winds have gone from ‘pleasantly brisk’ to ‘dang it, I should have moved to Miami when I had the chance’.

As such, those summer safety tips I covered a few months ago (Construction Finance Safety Minute: Managing the Heat) just…aren’t really that pertinent anymore. Unless you actually did move to Miami, in which case keep on keeping on with the shade and water breaks.

Instead, winter comes with its own sets of hazards, from bulky clothing to hypothermia and equipment failures.  As somebody who spends all day at a desk in a climate controlled office, I am once again going to defer to our good friends at Construct Connect for their tips on staying safe in cold weather–after all, my best personal tip is to de-ice your windshield before driving to work…an important tip, to be sure, but hardly one that’s specific to construction.

  1.  Provided a heated break area.

I know. Shocking.  It’s a good thing the experts spent the time to come up with this idea.

But, there’s a little more to it than the obvious.  First of all, depending on what type of heaters you’re using, watch out for carbon monoxide.  Spend the extra $10 for a carbon monoxide detector so that you aren’t accidentally killing everybody.

Also, be careful of the coffee.  Caffeinated beverages speed up your heart rate and make you feel warmer than you really are.  While this certainly makes the day more pleasant, feeling cold is your body’s way of telling you that you need to warm up.  Turning that signal off can be a dangerous move.

2.  Don’t neglect your PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) just because you’re shivering your butt off.

Hardhats are necessary rain or shine; just wear a knitted layer underneath for extra warmth.  Use anti-fog spray on safety glasses.  Put an extra pair of socks on under those steel-toed boots, because steel gets cold.  Make sure that harnesses are adjusted to accommodate the extra bulk from parkas and longjohns.

3.  Warm up equipment and tools.

Electrical wires and hoses can become brittle in cold weather.  Make sure to read the instructions on your stuff before trying to fire everything up when it’s -10 outside…the five minutes you’ll spend with your instruction manual now will be far less frustrating than the three days and $6,000 you’ll spend replacing whatever you managed to screw up.  (And yes, those are words of experience.  Need I remind that you that I am married to a man..a man who does not read instructions.  Let his empty bank account and trips to the ER be your guiding light.)

4.  Be careful of ice.

I know. Another shocking tip from the experts right there.  But yeah, ice is bad, mmkay.

5.  Winter weather can be unpredictable.  Put an emergency kit in your work truck.

Beyond the standard first aid kid, throw in an ice scraper, sleeping bag, water, and snacks.  Take it from someone who has survived many a midwest winter–sometimes Jack Frost doesn’t give you much warning before he decides to turn the region into an ice rink.  If worse comes to worse, you want to be prepared for a night spent stranded in your truck.

For more winter weather safety advice, head on over to Construct Connect (Winter Weather Safety Tips).  Otherwise, bundle up and stay safe out there.

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Keys to a Better Year: Make a Better Project Schedule

January 25, 2019 Uncategorized 0 Comments

For today’s key to a better year, it’s time to think about one thing we all hate:  Creating a project

construction finance invoice factoring

For today’s key to a better year, it’s time to think about one thing we all hate:  Creating a project schedule.

Now, granted, if you’re a subcontractor, portions of this are out of your hands:  Figuring out when the window guy should come is not part of plumbing.  Still, project schedules are important.  A good project schedule has everybody exactly where the need to be at the right time, doing what they need to do so that everything can get done as quickly as possible.

A bad project schedule…does the opposite of that.

And so, regardless of exactly what your role on the job is, it’s worth giving two minute’s thought to the tips below, courtesy of Jobsite.

https://jobsite.procore.com/3-surefire-waysto-a-successful-project-schedule

  1.  Confirm the scope of the job.

Seriously.  I know I’ve talked about this before in job costing, but it realllllly cannot be stressed enough.

If you had any idea how many hours I’ve spent going back over contracts with a fine toothed comb, trying to figure out whether moving a pile of dirt was part of the original price agreement, nobody would ever roll their eyes at this step again. 

So please, for the love of all that is good and right in this world, take the time to figure out what is and isn’t part of the job! Then, plan (and price) accordingly.

     2.  Ask yourself a lot of questions.

I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but sometimes, other people are morons.

When you’re looking at a schedule, double check other people’s assumptions.  Did someone else along the chain anticipate nine straight weeks of sunny weather, despite the fact that you’re working in Seattle?  Does this schedule depend on the idea of Dallas no longer having traffic?  

Do you know if molding is going to be installed before or after painting?  Do the people who need to know if molding is going to be installed before or after painting know?

Exactly what this step will look like for you varies depending on your project role:  Again, if you’re doing the foundation, no need to worry about someone else’s incorrect assumptions regarding when the cabinets will be installed. That’s their problem.

Similarly, it may just be that the guy with the final say in the schedule is an idiot, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.

But, at the very least, taking this approach will allow you to anticipate potential points of conflict, and plan accordingly.

     3.  Focus on productivity.

Again, what this looks like is going to depend on your role.  

But, to the best of your ability, make sure that people aren’t stuck waiting on materials.  Think about the best ways of getting from Point A to Point B.  Consider the human factors involved, and make sure that workers have enough time off to rest.  

Aside from cash flow, one of the hugest killers in construction is time–a three month job that drags on for six is going to hurt your bottom line.  The better you’re able to manage productivity, the better your end margins will be.

…………………..

Trust me, I get it.  Nobody goes into construction because they enjoy reading plans to anticipate points of conflict. But, those points of conflict ain’t goin’ anywhere, and I can assure you, the problem will be much easier to solve now than six months from now, when the project is $250k over budget, and the drywall is being ruined from the lack of a roof. 

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Construction Finance Goes to Nashvegas

January 17, 2019 Uncategorized 2 Comments

There are two types of people in this world: Those who love traveling for work, and those who would rather

There are two types of people in this world: Those who love traveling for work, and those who would rather just go ahead and stand in the unemployment line rather than make one more trip to the airport.

For better or worse, this office tends to skew towards the latter.

The one exception to that rule would be me.

After all, I live in the middle of a rice field. I am more than happy to take any opportunity I can to get a change of scenery.

Well, luckily for me (and less luckily for everybody else), last week, we got to go present at a conference in Nashville. And by “we”, I mean, John presented, and another team member and I came along.

Better yet, we flew!

Now again, some people are hopelessly jaded, and do not get excited about private planes. I, however, am not that person. I get excited about snow, finding soda in the office refrigerator, and sunnier than average days. Planes are pretty much the coolest thing I can think of!

As such, I took pictures.

So many pictures.

Y’all are welcome.

Side note: No, we did not actually get around to taking in photos in Nashville.

That would have made way too much sense.

But dang if I didn’t do an impressive job of taking low-quality pictures of plane wings!

Also, I managed to force John into trying out the selfie stick, so I’m pretty sure that’s a win.

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Making the Most of What You Have

January 14, 2019 Uncategorized 0 Comments

Here at Construction Finance, it’s not really our job to tell you how to spend your money; we’re just here

construction financing factoring

Here at Construction Finance, it’s not really our job to tell you how to spend your money; we’re just here to make sure you have what you need to grow.

The reality is, however, that the way you spend your money matters just as much as the dollar figure in your bank account…at least assuming that you’ve got enough to cover the very basics. In that vain, a few months ago, the Wall Street Journal put out an excellent article on how to maximize your discretionary spending.

It’s Time to A-B Test Your Financial Life

The ‘too long, didn’t read’ version is actually quite simple:  We’re often poor judges of what we want.

Or, to elaborate further, the things that would bring us the greatest happiness for our discretionary dollar are often quite different from the things that we think would.

For instance, if you like your cars a little too much (I’m not judging), it might be a worthwhile experience to try to driving a nice, sensible Civic for awhile. There’s a chance that you’ll spend the entire time longing for your beloved Yukon Denali, but there’s also a chance that you’ll realize cloth seats are pretty comfy in the summer, and that there are things you’d rather be spending that $1,500 a month on.

Conversely, if your date nights have always consisted of lobster and a $300 bar tab, give that food truck down the road a try.  Again, it might be awful, but at least you’ll know. Then, next week when you go back to Chez la Fancy Person, you’ll know that your $400 ticket was money well spent.

………..

No matter what your chirpy neighbor or hipster son might have to say, there is no one right or wrong way to spend your money.  The right discretionary purchase for you is the one that gives you the greatest joy, for the least strain on your resources. However, if you’ve been doing everything the same way for the last ten years, it might be time to vary things up a bit.  Skimp once. See what happens.  You may very well find that there are better paths to happiness than one between your house and the GMC dealership.

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Here Comes the Sun

January 8, 2019 Uncategorized 0 Comments

Does anybody notice anything different about this picture? Now, for those of you outside of northeast Arkansas, the answer may

Does anybody notice anything different about this picture?

Now, for those of you outside of northeast Arkansas, the answer may not be obvious. But for those of you who are finally coming in from building your ark, you’ll notice a little something we’ve all been missing: The sun.

Those are actual reflections of sunlight coming from my windows! And those are actual sunglasses! That I wore to work!

That’s right, people. After nine zillion days of rain, it’s finally sunny and warm and amazing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be off trying to convince John that this is a reason to cancel work.

After all, today is far too gorgeous to be spent analyzing spreadsheets.

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Keys To a Better Year: Eliminate Estimating Mistakes

January 3, 2019 Uncategorized 0 Comments

  This year, to kick off 2019, I’ve decided to kick off a new series of posts:  Keys to a

 

Construction financing factoring estimating mistakes

This year, to kick off 2019, I’ve decided to kick off a new series of posts:  Keys to a Better Year.

The goal of this series is simple:  To provide you with a set of (hopefully) helpful tips and suggestions for improving your life and bottom line. These tips will cover everything from fixing basic business mistakes, to helping everything in life run a bit smoother.

For some of you, these tips may seem obvious, but believe me, they come up. Time and time again.  So please, feel free to take the five minutes to read.  Think about whether this is an area where your company could stand to improve.  And if so, dig further. Learn more.  Become more knowledgable than I am.*

Today’s edition of Keys to a Better Year comes courtesy of an article in Jobsite, with tips for cutting down on estimating mistakes.

https://jobsite.procore.com/eliminate-estimating-mistakes-with-these-4-strategies

The simple reality is that estimates will never be perfect.  There will always be uncertainties in construction, and surprises will always come up. But, there are ways to cut down on those surprises, as well as to give yourself a greater margin for error.

  • First of all, make sure you know what you’re really estimating.

This sounds obvious. So obvious.  But mistakes happen all of the time.  Are things being measured in cubic feet? Square feet? Board feet?  Did you measure the right wall? Did you take into account that giant window? Are you sure you know what kind of wood they’re talking about? Remind me again what the scope of work is–did that include painting and caulking?

At this point, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen jobs drastically underbid because square footage was improperly calculated, or nobody knew whether fixtures were included in the agreement.

  • Be aware of your known unknowns

Sometimes, there are things that you just won’t know going into a project.

I don’t know how much it will snow in St. Louis this winter.  I don’t know what lumber prices will be six months from now. I don’t know exactly what the soil conditions will be like at the 800 block of 3rd Street.  I don’t know what gas prices will do, or what the steel tariff situation will look like next year, or if it will rain next week.

At the start of every project you’re looking at, before you commit to a specific dollar figured, try to figure out what all of your known unknowns are. Then, create an estimate that takes these unknowns into account.

  • Be careful with commercial cost databases

Commercial databases can be a great tool in preparing quick, accurate estimates.

However, they’re only as good as the information they’re using–if their numbers don’t match your actual costs, they’re useless.

Make sure you and the database are referencing the same materials.  Make sure their prices line up with what you’re paying your suppliers.

  • When you find a method that works, stick with it.

Whatever your process is, if it works, keep doing it.  Taking a different approach to estimating each time only increases your time spent and the risk of mistakes.

  •  Check your formulas

Even after you’ve measured everything correctly and accounted for the fact that you can’t know what the weather will be like next week, you can still end up with inaccurate numbers if your spreadsheets are using the wrong calculations and formulas.

Know how your software of choice works. Periodically check the information being used.  Keep track of how the projections it gives you line up against the end cost.  And if a number doesn’t sound right, double check things.

………………………

No matter what you do, mistakes will happen.  Estimates will be off by a few hundred (or thousand) dollars.  But, a little time looking at your process now should yield solid benefits down the road.

 

 

 

*A low bar if ever there was one.

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Resolve to Make 2019 Your Best Year Yet

December 30, 2018 Uncategorized 0 Comments

  Here at Construction Finance, we want to wish you a safe and happy new year. Just as importantly, we

construction finance commercial factoring

 

Here at Construction Finance, we want to wish you a safe and happy new year.

Just as importantly, we want 2019 to be your best year yet.

………….

If you haven’t done so already, take the time in the coming weeks to sit down and identify what you need to do to improve both your life and your company.

Make a point of tracking every expense, both business and personal.  Look through your records to figure out which jobs have been profitable, and which have not.  Keep track of where you’re spending your time. Think about what things in life make you happy, and what things cause more stress than they should.

Then, once you have a clear picture of the situation, figure out what you can do to improve things.

Perhaps you need to stop bidding jobs for bad account debtors.  Perhaps you need to figure out how to arrange supplier discounts in order to help pad your profit margins.  Maybe you need a better bookkeeper, or to work on employee retention. It could be that your business is actually pretty great, but that new King Ranch SuperDuty you bought is eating up too much of your disposable income.

Whatever your problem is, if you can identify the issue, you’ll be one step closer to solving it.

 

 

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