With workplace restrictions lifting and business activity starting to return to pre-pandemic levels, it makes sense that contractors will see a corresponding surge in demand for building projects. The potential for higher revenue and growth is there, but only if your company has the right tools and strategies in place. In this article, we’ll explore how you can prepare to be busy and successful in your role as a contractor.
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Even if you’re not ready to hire more people at the moment, it pays to know how and where to recruit the talent you’ll need when more projects get underway. Be sure to have a presence on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook, online destinations that job seekers rely on to evaluate potential employers and see what opportunities are available. You can learn a lot about job candidates on social sites, too—a good way to narrow the field and find the best fit for your open positions. These days, geographical location is less of an issue than it used to be; advances in technology and the acceptance of a remote workstyle means you can expand your search area for jobs that can be performed off-site. Do bear in mind that outstanding talent is usually snapped up quickly (often by the competition), so once you’ve found the employee you want, be prepared with a competitive offer, and get a commitment in return. Having a defined hiring process is place now will help you avoid approval bottlenecks and delays when you’re ready to add to your team.
Automation is coming on strong in the construction industry, both in the office and in the field. That’s good news for contractors who anticipate increased building activity, because it means that you can get more done in less time—and with fewer errors—than if you rely entirely on manual processes. So, what tasks are good candidates for automation? The simple answer is this: any task that occurs repeatedly, without modification, and does not require nuanced human decision-making or creative thinking should be automated. In the office, automated estimating, accounting and preconstruction tasks help free management and administrative workers from the monotony of repetition, allowing them to focus on more important, and ultimately more rewarding, work. What’s more, when calculations and information transfer occur automatically, there’s no need to manually enter, manipulate or migrate data, which reduces the potential for human error. Without the need to look for and correct data mistakes, your teams can spend more time on business development, customer care, marketing and other human-centric activities.
Any construction company that has had to scale up rapidly—adding space, personnel and equipment to manage an increased workload—knows what growing pains are all about. The key is to prepare for growth ahead of time by investing in technology platforms that are designed to scale up, or down, as circumstances dictate. Cloud solutions that handle estimating, accounting and project management tasks aren’t housed on-site like traditional server-based computing systems, and have no limitations when it comes to scope or capacity. Even better, cloud solutions don’t require additional time, effort or capital for expansion; web-based software gives contractors the ability to adjust the number of users and bid volume up or down instantaneously as the situation dictates, all without the need to modify equipment or add costly infrastructure. Pricing models of cloud solutions are typically more flexible, too; subscriptions are usually available for an unlimited number of users, so you never have to worry about growing too big, too fast.
The construction industry is notorious for sticking with paper-based processes, even while the rest of the business world moves to predominantly digital solutions. Why is that a problem? Compared to the electronic alternative, paper documents are slow to produce, cumbersome to handle and expensive to store. Even worse, printed materials can be easily misfiled, misplaced or lost altogether, the last thing you need as projects ramp up and your teams get busy. The adoption of construction-specific software can help eliminate the majority of paper-based issues; digital estimating, accounting and project management solutions centralize information on a single web-based platform, so it’s available when and where it’s needed, and your cost to print and store project documents is greatly reduced. You’ll find that accuracy improves, too. The potential for errors in manually measured takeoffs, for example, virtually disappears, because takeoffs can be performed on a computer screen automatically— in about half the time that paper blueprints take. That’s the kind of efficiency you’ll need as building projects go live and your teams get busy.
The pandemic showed us that even the best-laid plans can be suddenly—and fundamentally—disrupted. When work-from-home mandates became the norm across the country and around the world, construction companies that worked in traditional ways (in-person meetings, on-premise technology and limited mobile capabilities) were at an enormous disadvantage, unable to conduct business as usual. Companies that had adopted online platforms, on the other hand, found that they were able to work with a minimum of disruption—conducting virtual meetings via Zoom, working on digital documents remotely, and collaborating on key decisions with stakeholders who could no longer come into the office. While none of us can predict what’s around the corner, it’s wise to formulate a continuity plan for your business if and when another disruption occurs, and it starts with an investment in cloud-based platforms for your estimating, accounting and preconstruction activities. By consolidating project information in a central location that can be accessed with an internet-enabled device, you’ll create a “virtual” headquarters for your company that will stay up and running even in the most challenging of circumstances.
Every business owner knows that having a team of positive and productive employees in place— qualified workers who are good at their jobs and enjoy working for your company—is fundamental to success. Conversely, if you’re constantly dealing with employee complaints or disputes, you’re spending more time than you should on issues that aren’t core to your business. When your company starts feeling the effects of the next building boom, it’s essential that your employees are ready, willing and able to step up to the plate, which is why it’s so important to create and reinforce a supportive workplace environment right now. The key is to make sure your employees feel acknowledged, appreciated and heard as people, and help them be part of a larger community with shared goals and values. That could mean having a systematic way to give and receive feedback, or a schedule of company activities that focus on cultural events or athletics as a complement to the work you do. No matter how you choose to make it come to life, a positive company culture helps employee motivation go up and turnover go down.