The construction business is not for the faint of heart. On the operations side, the projects can be complicated with lots of moving parts and many interconnected participants all trying to move forward, together and efficiently, to complete a project on time and on budget. On the financial side, the margins are slim, cash flow can be just a trickle, and many aspects of the business require tremendous resources in order for a participant to be a viable industry player.
All of these challenges converge in the construction company’s home office where the staff there are tasked with sorting everything out, keeping all of the balls in the air, and perhaps most importantly, keeping track of the money that’s supposed to come in and go out the door.
From what we’ve seen in our experience, the majority of this work is often carried on the backs of the office managers and their supporting staff. In this article, we have some tips for these unheralded heroes – the office managers and office staff of the construction industry – on how they can make their work lives easier.
Work Closely with Your President, Project Managers, or Sales Team
It’s hard to be in charge of ‘getting money in the door’ when you work in an industry that is notorious for slow payments. Office teams can speed up slow payments and cut down on delinquent accounts by establishing a unified method for collecting information at the start of a project.
This could include office managers setting up new accounts at the beginning of the job and sales reps gathering the pertinent information from other parties when making a sale or initiating a contract. Some of the ways that sales teams choose to store this information include job sheets, on initial contracts, spreadsheets, or in an accounting system. Simply put, office teams, project managers, and sales teams should be aligned across departments in order to increase visibility on the job and get paid faster.
Take Initiative with Technology
Technology is important for office teams to stay relevant, especially in communication from the jobsite to the office and back. Office managers and small business owners should think of technology as an investment that can provide a valuable return if implemented correctly by helping to overcome an efficiency-killing pain point disrupting the speedy flow of information and communication between coworkers and teams.
Additionally, contractors and office managers should understand their most important priorities and whether or not technology can help save time, reduce risk, and help grow the company as opposed to just adding to the existing avalanche paperwork, or slowing things down by introducing a micro-managed, extra step to a process that didn’t need it. (We like to call this scenario a “solution looking for a problem,” and it should be avoided).
Overall, construction technology should empower an office manager or contractor to do his/her job better.
Develop Collaborative Relationships
Adopting a habit of proactively communicating with the other parties on the job (whether it’s an owner, developer, or another contractor), can be very effective to help prevent issues before they happen. One specific step that’s called for here is to send a lien waiver with every invoice.
Also, it’s smart to evaluate current relationships and future relationships when starting a new job or working with a new contractor or other parties on the job. Anticipate potential problems and take necessary steps to reduce the chances of risk and exposure, but also use the tools available to the construction industry to take on work with riskier customers that may have an increased risk of payment default. Establishing a unified mechanics lien policy to ensure swift payment. Either way, it’s a good idea to inform customers of any change in business practices beforehand.