Over 15 years ago, I wrote an article titled: “Is Your Goal To Retire Before You Learn The Computer?” At that time, many construction company owners didn’t want to add technology to their operations and were hoping computerization wouldn’t be required to do business. Boy, were they wrong. Now cutting-edge technology is required to communicate with customers and subcontractors, obtain and read plans to build with, schedule jobs and people, keep track of job costs, and do most everything to manage the business and field operations.
Well, a lot has changed over the last several years. Back then there were only a few technology options to consider making your construction business ‘cutting edge.’ The first decision was to invest in simple checkbook and spreadsheet software, and then learn how to use it. Now the options are mandatory, endless, and always changing as there is a technology solution for almost every part of your construction business. The decision now is what software or technology solutions will allow your business to make more money, become more efficient, or help you get more organized. And of course, what will it cost, how hard is it to implement, and will it perform as promised.
Do you have the right cutting-edge tools?
You wouldn’t start a construction company without the tools required to complete the field work efficiently. These might include a truck, skip loader, backhoe, scissors lift, or a compressor. Today the tools required to run a profitable construction business include the necessary technology options to compete and produce including computers, software, apps, tablets, cell phones, digitizers, GPS, training, and ongoing support to keep current, competitive, and to maximize your bottom-line. Construction company owners who are old-school and unwilling and/or postpone implementing required technology tools will never build the kind of company that maximizes profits, attracts the best customers, and delivers the highest results.
Which technology tools do you need?
Technology can be overwhelming, confusing, and too much to tackle all at once. Start by determining what you’re currently using, what needs upgrading, and what new tools will help your company improve, become more efficient, and make the biggest impact on your bottom-line with the least amount of disruption. When I work with construction companies to draft their strategic business plans, we always make a list of their top business priorities for the upcoming year to hit their goals. Review this typical list of ‘Must-Do Top Priorities’ to determine what you need to focus on, implement, or improve to hit your goals over the upcoming year. Add additional priorities if needed to the list. Next, rank these priorities in order of importance for your company.
Must-Do Top Priorities To Achieve Our Business Goals
- Develop accurate estimates with no missing items.
- Prepare accurate estimates of labor and equipment production.
- Track your bid-hit-win rate sorted by customer, project type and size, competitors, etc.
- Tracking system to develop strong customer relationships.
- Tracking updates to finish all projects on-budget.
- Know & track your field job costs weekly.
- Track labor production scorecards weekly.
- Updated schedules to finish projects on-time.
- Systems for field superintendents and foreman to plan and think ahead.
- Standardize project management correspondence and documentation.
- Prepare complete subcontracts.
- Prepare daily field reports, crew timecards and equipment tracking.
- Manage change order process and approvals.
- Maximize the return on your equipment investment.
- Timely and accurate financial management & accounting.
After determining which top business priorities will deliver the results you want to achieve, next decide what cutting-edge technology solutions will allow your company and teams to become better at achieving their goals. To help determine your top business priorities, email email@example.com to get a copy of George’s BIZ-BUILDER BLUEPRINT workbook.
How much should I invest in technology?
To get better and improve takes time and costs money. How much money are you willing to invest to get better results? Contractors typically don’t like to spend money on things that don’t improve their field operations. And technology is almost never something owners want to add to their overhead expense. I have seen many contractors continue to bid and build projects for years using bad or outdated bid production rates and not knowing their actual or weekly job costs. The money this costs them far outweighs the cost of implementing an integrated technology solution to provide accurate numbers they need to bid right and finish projects on budget.
Another example of trying to save money by not doing what’s needed is to invest in technology and then not fully utilize it. I see companies buy a fully integrated accounting software and job cost package but then not require their foremen to document field payroll daily by job cost code on a tablet or cell phone. Not using technology to the fullest causes the accounting department to hand enter every timecard and therefore doesn’t allow for up to date job cost reports to be available weekly for the project manager and foremen to review.
Every contractor knows they need:
- Weekly job cost labor reports to review with the field
- Accurate estimates based on updated job cost history
- Daily field timecards broken down by cost code for every task
- Updated project management documentation
- Written look-ahead schedules prepared weekly
- Accounts receivable tracking report weekly
- Foreman to use tablets
- Plans & specifications database online
- Daily field reports with photos
- Equipment logistics and tracking
Each of these can be improved with technology solutions which will add to your bottom-line if you are willing to invest. To help you decide where to invest time and money in technology solutions, use your top priority list to determine what improvement will give you the highest return on investment. For example, if one of your top priorities is to develop more accurate estimates, you might then decide to consider upgrading your estimating software with a cost history database, adding a take-off digitizer program, implementing a bid solicitation software, and integrating your estimating with your timecards and job cost program.
What technology should we implement next?
- Management Dashboard
- Calendar, Contacts & E-mail
- Document Database
- PDF Review and Mark-Up
- Accounts Payable
- Accounts Receivable
- Invoicing & Billing
- Job Cost Tracking
- Payroll & Timecards Via Tablets
- Monthly Financial Statements
- Monthly Profit & Loss
- Digital Take-Off
- Pricing Data Base
- Bidding & Estimating
- Bid Invitation Solicitation
- Bid Analysis
- Job Cost History Database
- Bid Presentation
- Project Management
- CAD Drawings, Plan Management and BIM
- File Sharing & Document Management
- Writing Subcontracts & Purchase Orders
- Change Order Management
- Submittals & Shop Drawing Management
- Meeting Minutes, RFIs and Job Correspondence
- Scheduling & Look-Ahead Schedules
- Daily Reports & Job Photos
- Inspections & Punch-list
- Safety Management
- Equipment Management
- Resource Management, Logistics and Dispatch
- Equipment Maintenance
- Inventory Control
- Tool Management
- Marketing & Sales
- Customer Data Base and Contact Management
- Project Lead Generation
- Sales Management
- Proposal Follow-up
- E-Mail Marketing and Newsletter
What is your technology goal?
People always ask me what software to buy. I maintain a database of what software construction companies I work with use and if they’re happy. Go to your local construction industry association and ask around. That’s where you’ll find people actually using the different programs available. Also look at annual construction trade shows and conventions where the many vendors display their systems, and you can ask them about your specific needs and budget.
I can’t live without my computer. It was painful to learn each software package, upgrade, and application, but the agony was well worth it. Over the last few months, I have replaced or upgraded many of the programs I’ve used for years. The good news, there’re many options now at very reasonable prices which do a much better and easier job than the old standards. Computers, software, and technology won’t save you money or eliminate positions. But it will allow you to know your numbers instantly, keep track of your projects, schedule your crews, improve your professionalism, become more productive, communicate better, make fewer mistakes, document instantly, and make more money.
About The Author
George Hedley CPBC is a certified professional construction BIZCOACH and popular speaker. He helps contractors build profitable companies, grow, get organized, improve field productivity, and get their businesses to work. He is the author of “Get Your Construction Business To Always Make A Profit!” available on Amazon.com. To start a BIZCOACH program, sign-up for his newsletter, attend a webinar or workshop, or get a discount at HardhatBIZSCHOOL.com online university, visit HardhatBIZCOACH.com or e-mail GH@HardhatBIZCOACH.com.