Contractors: 8 Tips for Fast Growth and Better Management of Your Company
Running a construction company is always complicated, even when business goes very well. There are so many things you have to remember and so many problems you can run into: problems with employees, a disastrous customer service, defective products, problems with the cashflow, broken down vehicles, parts that are delivered too late and so on.
The secret to a successful company? Reduce insecurities to a minimum and ensure a fruitful work environment where everything runs smoothly. Of course, this is easier said than done. So, I let myself be informed by a number of directors of small companies in the construction sector.
From these conversations it became clear that they all have had to deal with many problems and that it often took years to build a smoothly running business.
The following advices, based on the experiences from real life, can be very valuable and help you in building a (hopefully) good running company.
First a remark: it goes without saying that delivering high quality work is a basic condition for a successful company; therefore, we will not address that in this article. But quality is not everything. Even though you are the best in your profession, it is unavoidable that you encounter problems, for example in the organizational area. So, make sure that everything runs smoothly as far as that is concerned, so that you can concentrate on the fun parts of your work. Following there are 8 pieces of advice for an efficient business management without pitfalls and stress.
1/ Outsource as Many Tasks as Possible
Even the very best among us cannot be good at everything. You should look at it this way: you’re just too expensive to do everything yourself!
When your company has a yearly revenue of 1,000,000 € and you work 60 hours per week, then this can mean two things:
1) You work too much.
2) You yield approximately 320 € per hour.
How can you solve this? By outsourcing as many activities as possible. External service providers are often better qualified and cheaper than you are: by leaving certain tasks to them, the assigned budget will be utilized more efficiently than if you were to tackle this internally, which actually means an improvement of the efficiency on investments.
Tasks that can easily be outsourced are, among others:
- maintenance of the machines/vehicles
- marketing (PR, marketing per email, web design and maintenance, blogs, social networks, etc.)
- payroll administration
- maintenance of the offices
- maintenance of the outside areas
Be honest, when was the last time you changed the oil of your van yourself? Or does the IT employee do this for you? That’s what I mean: by outsourcing activities to qualified people, you achieve better results, improve your efficiency and all of that in less time.
2/ Develop Systems and Procedures to Better Organize the Executive Tasks
There are two ways you can use you time:
by putting out fires constantly: solve urgent problems, respond to changes in the planning, be occupied with accountancy, respond to e-mails, answer the telephone, correct mistakes, execute daily activities, try not to get inundated by the mountain of administrative tasks, all kinds of urgent business and dissatisfied clients …
by developing systems and procedures where you do not have to waste your time anymore with putting out fires. Allow yourself the time to reflect on the tasks you perform every day and to think about solutions to improve the organization thereof.
I would describe the first option as the CONSUMING OF TIME. You can compare it with spending money: at first it gives you a rush of accomplishment. Finally, you have finished an urgent task. Then you start on the next urgent task, then the next, and the next …
Of course, these tasks have to be done at a certain time in a certain way, but that does not automatically mean that it is you, who has to do this now. The never-ending stream of phone calls, e-mails and problems will not cease and if you consume your precious time with these urgent cases, then you will become exhausted pretty soon and there will be no time left to work on your company.
You will have a reputation as a Jack of all trades, will be respected as a person that can do everything and who solves everything, but your private life and the development of your company will suffer. So, high time to change this!
INVEST YOUR TIME in an intelligent way instead of consuming and wasting your time. The comparison with money holds true here as well: when you invest your money, it will yield a return. At first it costs you some (time or money), but in the long run you will earn it back 10, 100 or 1,000-fold.
Learning to work with Archisnapper (http://archisnapper.com is our app for creating site reports) will cost you maybe 4 hours, but then you will save 2 hours every week when creating your reports. I often hear people say they “have no time to spend 4 hours to understand and learn how to use an app”.
Could that lack of time be the result of bad organization? It is important to break this vicious circle, even though it may cost some time and effort originally. Undertaking is not easy, but you already knew that. It is up to you to make sure that your company is organized efficiently.
So, don’t be afraid to invest time; you will earn it back in more ways than one!
3/ Focus on the Clients You Already Have and Offer Them Quality Service
Marketing and sales activities should not just be geared towards acquiring new clients. The costs that come with the completion of a transaction are called acquisition costs. This is the sum of the costs of the marketing and the costs that are related to the sale itself.
The costs of customer loyalty refer to the costs that are related to a new transaction with an existing client. Did you know that selling to a new client brings with it 10 times higher costs compared to when you complete a new transaction with an existing client?
So, a company that gears itself exclusively to gaining new clients, has 10 times higher costs, while it can be a lot more lucrative to invest in maintaining good relationships with existing clients. Besides renewed transactions with these clients, you can also take advantage of word-of-mouth advertisement within the network of these clients and achieve more name recognition this way.
Commercial employees are often geared too much to winning new clients and usually don’t spend enough time and attention to existing clients, while this is more cost effective and can yield more profit. Remember that new clients do not know your company yet and that you still have to gain their trust.
It is very likely that they wish to negotiate about the rates and have all kinds of demands about your cooperation.
Adjusting the marketing strategy of your company to existing clients has the following advantages:
- A shorter sales cycle (the client already knows you!)
- Lower acquisition costs (the client already knows you!)
- Access to the network of the client by word-of-mouth advertising
The advantage of this last point is that new clients, those you acquire thanks to the network of the existing client, will trust you sooner and will be prepared to pay more for your services, exactly because they already have a positive image of your company.
So, give it your best effort to maintain existing contacts well: deliver quality, consider the wishes of the specific client and try to meet them wherever possible. Just keep into consideration that new business opportunities will arise thanks to the network of your client.
4/ The Yield in Investments is Your Priority
Ask yourself the following question: do your expenditures yield sufficient return? Probably not all of your expenditures yield something right away, but for the largest part that should be the case. Figure out which expenditures do not yield a return and try to attach those to an activity that is profitable.
Especially in smaller companies not enough attention is paid to the return on investments, mostly because of lack of knowledge about this.
Remember that time and money do not grow on trees: money can only be spent once and lost time cannot be made up.
As director of a small company you have to use time and money very carefully. Think carefully before you make a decision about a future investment. You will be approached from all sides by people who want to sell you things, whether this is about the improvement of your website or purchasing new materials or new business cards.
Of course, all these things will cost money, time and energy. With every purchase, compare the costs with the expected yield and ask yourself in how far this investment will contribute to your company.
Try to make a detailed cost-benefit calculation of every investment.
An example: a new product is offered to you that will be more efficient in use, but costs 5,000 € more per month more than the product that you used on the worksite thus far. Your first reaction is probably: “I don’t think so”. But consider this: by using this product your employees will be able to work more efficiently and can save half a workday per week this way. For a company with 100 employees this means: 100 times 20 € (this is the cost per hour per person) times four weeks = 8,000 € per month in costs saved. This means 3,000 € more profit per month. Try to spend as much energy, means and time to possibilities that are profitable and that will grow your company.
5/ Sufficient Cashflow is a Must!
Maybe your children can study thanks to a student loan, you were able to buy your house by securing a mortgage, but when it concerns your company, having enough cashflow is essential, not just that; of vital importance. Companies whose situations appear healthy on paper, can go broke as a result of a lack of cashflow.
The best advise that I can give in this area can be summarized in one word: anticipation. Track your administration accurately. This is easier said than done, especially when you work with service companies; you cannot ask your clients to pay an invoice that they have not received yet. Once the invoices have been mailed, unfortunately you still have to factor in a period of time before they will be paid, even if you have issued several reminders. Often this is not a financial matter, but your invoice is just not a high priority for your clients. It is up to you to make sure that this behavior changes: impose rules that will encourage your clients to pay on time and that they will have to pay a fine when they exceed the payment term.
Set a good example yourself and be impeccable when paying your invoices. When asked, give your client the information they need so that payment will not be delayed unnecessarily.
6/ Document Everything
Make it a habit to note every single detail, on your tablet, phone or by means of an app. Misunderstandings often arise because things, even the smallest details, have not been written down clearly, which can have dramatic consequences.
Exactly because plans are always subject to change, it is important to write everything down, in order to prevent that because of a misunderstanding the costs will go sky-high and your chances to be recommended to another company will disappear into thin air.
Documenting is especially important when changes occur in contracts regarding materials or laborers. Draw up these contracts as explicit and detailed as possible and have them signed by the client.
7/ Only Work with ‘Good’ Clients
Every client means income, development possibilities and word-of-mouth advertisement. But some clients cost more than they yield and you would rather be rid of them. By recognizing these ‘bad’ clients from the beginning, you can end the cooperation as soon as possible before further problems occur.
Also consider the terms of profitability: every client has to be profitable but sometimes it takes so much time, money and work to satisfy the wishes of a certain client, that you have to draw the conclusion in the end that this client did not yield anything. Try to recognize this type of client before you are stuck in a cooperation that will cost you more than it yields.
8/ Plan Everything up to the Smallest Details
Every consultant, senior manager or market leader will emphasize the importance of strategic planning. Of course, it is important for the director of a small company to have a global image of the activities, but the details are what make the difference.
The careful planning of the daily activities is the secret to an efficient and profitable business management. Try to control the planning as much as possible, so that hasty – and costly – last minute changes can be avoided. When you have forgotten to order a certain product and it has to be delivered immediately in the middle of the night, there is a good chance that the price ticket increases from 5 € to 5,000 €! This way your company will not exist for very long!
Of course, you cannot avoid all risks, but by going through the documentation with a fine-toothed comb, you can minimize the risk of overlooking something. Do not forget a single detail and document everything that you need at the construction project. Make sure that all the materials are on time and possibly are delivered way ahead of time.
Make it a habit to plan everything carefully, learn from your mistakes and strive to make improvements on your organization on a daily basis.
I have to admit that the advices I dole out in this article will cost a lot of time and energy, while your daily work pressure already is considerable. But don’t forget that doing business is always hard work, requiring much patience and stamina. No company, large or small, became successful overnight.
Only by working hard, year after year, thinking things through before making a decision and striving for constant improvement, will you be able to build a successful and profitable business.