Monthly Archives: November 2019

Is Your Contracting Business Prepared for a Power Outage?

Periodic power outages happen. You know that rolling blackouts can be a big problem, particularly during summer and wildfire season. When PG&E is shutting down your jobsite, you’ve got issues you need to solve. Your workday doesn’t stop just because the lights aren’t on, so you must be prepared. These tips help you evaluate your energy needs for your business, with a few solutions you can consider.

Consider Your Power Needs
In order to find the best approaches to take during a power outage, you have to know what you need. Make a list of equipment you use for common projects. Don’t forget to include the tools that you use on a daily basis but may not rely on for regular work, like your smartphone or computer. Take note of the power source for each piece of equipment. For tools and devices that run solely on electricity, figure out how many amps they need. This will help you determine how fast you’ll burn through power running them.

Choose Batteries vs. Fuel-Powered
If the plugs aren’t working and you don’t know when they’ll turn back on, you need some kind of backup. Many construction tools run on fuel, but others can run on batteries. In some cases, you may be able to choose between them. It’s a trick to keep batteries charged, particularly if you can run through them in less than an hour or two. If you pick battery-powered options, you’ll need to find a way to recharge them. If you choose fuel-powered, you’ll need to ensure that you can provide a regular supply of the right kind of fuel. Keep in mind that fuel-powered tools may not need electricity, but they need ventilation if you’re using them indoors.

Find Ways to Recharge
Some aspects of your system simply cannot work without electric power. For that, you may need to invest in a generator. Lots of people buy a generator as an emergency backup but then never learn how to use it. Typically, a generator uses fuel to run an alternator that creates an electrical current that can be converted to energy to run devices that are connected to the right circuits. If you don’t have enough fuel or the right fuel, it’s useless. If you buy a generator that is too small for your needs, you’ll run out of energy and be back where you started. Make sure that you know how to use it and periodically test it to confirm it still meets your needs.

Watch for Planned Outages
They say luck favors the prepared, and this is because having a plan makes all the difference. Planned outages can be extremely frustrating for everyone in the region affected by them. But if you don’t know that they are coming, you may be caught unprepared. When the weather is hot and everyone’s running an air conditioner, get ready for brownouts or rolling blackouts. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, particularly during seasons when big storms are common. If you know about it in advance and can do some work from a safer place, you may save yourself some time and hassle.

Build-in Extra Time
Power outages can cause delays in your project delivery, but they also create other problems. Failing to plan for them and not giving yourself adequate time to complete the project can cause you to take risks that you wouldn’t do otherwise. Being in a hurry is a major cause of workplace injury. For example, if you’re relying on a building’s ventilation system to keep the jobsite safe for you and your employees, you might not think about that system going down during a power outage. You’re more likely to make that mistake when you’re already behind schedule. Instead, build in some padding for problems like this, and you’ll have more room to plan.

Power outages are a part of life in California, but they don’t have to bring your business screeching to a halt. For more tips about getting your contracting business started, visit CSLS today!

Is Your Contracting Business’s Substance Use Policy Due for an Overhaul?

Minimizing the use of substances that affect people’s ability to operate construction equipment seems to make sense at the construction site. In reality, it’s a mess of conflicting guidelines. For example, at the federal level, marijuana is still illegal. At the state level, it may be approved for recreational use. This creates a situation that can be tricky to navigate. Zero tolerance used to seem like an easy practice to implement, but it’s not always legal to enforce. Here’s a few things you should consider when setting a policy concerning substance use in your contracting business.

Understand the Law
If you want to know the latest California laws concerning the growth, sale and use of cannabis, you’ve got to check back on a regular basis. The California state government has passed or refined legislation concerning what people are allowed to do with marijuana every year since 2015. At present, adults over age 21 are allowed to produce and consume cannabis products in the state. There are limitations on how, where and when they can do this.

Federal vs. State Regulations
Although many states have relaxed their laws related to the sale or consumption of cannabis, it’s still illegal at the federal level. This is more of an issue of enforcement, depending on who’s calling the shots. For example, the Obama administration directed federal agencies to ease up on enforcing federal drug policies in states that had legalized marijuana for medicinal or adult use. The Trump administration rescinded that in 2018. It remains to be seen how the federal government will take action concerning this conflict in laws.

Medicinal vs. Adult Use
The way you set substance use policies depends greatly on the reason employees might be using it. With recreational use, you’re not obligated to allow people to smoke or consume cannabis products while they’re on the clock. In that way, it’s similar to a policy you might set for alcohol consumption.

Medicinal use is a different matter entirely. Employers are bound by law not to discriminate against employees for health concerns or treatment for conditions. And considering that marijuana may be prescribed to treat conditions ranging from injury to chronic pain and cancer, you could encounter people with a legitimate prescription for medicinal marijuana at any time. This means that you might not legally be able to enforce a zero-tolerance drug policy, even if that seems the easiest path to take. If you’re not sure what to do, consulting a lawyer who specializes in human resources policies may be a worthwhile investment.

Make Safety Paramount
Instead of putting yourself at risk for discrimination, it may be a good time to rethink your substance use policy. In construction, marijuana use for any reason can be a serious risk to life and limb. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that workers who test positive for cannabis are more likely to be involved in accidents or receive injuries while on the job. As an employer, you may need to evaluate each situation on a case-by-case basis. It might not make sense to test people for cannabis that they may consume in their off-hours anymore. But you definitely need them sober and attentive while they’re operating heavy machinery or in a dangerous area of the jobsite, for their own safety and yours.

Consider Flexible Job Requirements
If you want to hire an employee who needs to use marijuana in a medicinal context, it may help to consider creating some flexibility in job requirements for all positions. People working in a small business tend to fill several roles at the same time anyway. You can reduce your risk of problems by acknowledging that people may have a legal reason for using cannabis, and helping them find a way to accommodate it. This way, you aren’t putting them, yourself or your projects at risk.

Creating substance use policies that work with the changing times is just one part of running a contracting business. Getting a solid grounding in the various aspects of your field is another. For more information about how our programs can help you get started, contact CSLS today!

Does Your Contracting Business Security Extend Beyond the Job site?

You’d never leave the warehouse or jobsite without confirming that the door was locked and security activated. Are you as careful with your electronic devices? Scammers are getting better at finding the weaknesses in people’s workflow, and they may be coming for your contracting business. Officials say that businesses are often the biggest targets for cyberattacks, and that they can seem more real and innocent than you think. Here’s what to watch out for, and a few ways you can protect yourself.

Remember: It’s Easy to Get Scammed
Practically everyone has received an email from a prince offering millions of dollars to anyone willing to give sensitive bank account information. While most people know not to fall for something like this, most modern scams are much less obvious. Scammers look for weaknesses in the system and figure out the most effective ways to exploit them. They’ve spent years getting better at it. This means that when you get an email from a contractor you know asking for your routing number for a wire transfer, it might look entirely legit. As a general rule, you want to assume that many communications like this can be faulty.

Lock Down Your Passwords
If you’re not changing your passwords regularly, or if you’re using the defaults on the devices you buy, you’re putting yourself at risk. You hear about hackers using conventional passwords on smart home technology to break through a home’s security. This is just as easy to do for your security cameras on the jobsite. Good passwords should be:

  • long, at least eight and preferably 12 characters
  • a combination of numbers, letters and symbols
  • different between accounts
  • difficult for anyone to guess

Strong passwords are hard to remember. If you’re constantly forgetting them, or choosing easy ones so you don’t, it’s time to get a password manager.

Never Share Confidential Information Over Phone or Email
People expect scams to look over-the-top fake because they assume scammers are sending it to hundreds of thousands of people. At the business level, identity thieves only need to get one hit to get a huge payout. This encourages them to make it as personal and realistic as possible, knowing that you’ll be more likely to take the bait if there’s a real person on the other end. Just like you wouldn’t believe someone making a prank phone call, you should treat all unexpected communications with suspicion. That texter can’t fix your student loans, your bank would never email you to ask for your password, and the IRS doesn’t make phone calls.

Use Multiple Means of Verification
Phishing scams, where the person uses some correct information about you to try to get more, are so slick these days you might not even see it. Sure, you might think that you should log into your business bank account to make sure the email is correct, but how do you get there? Clicking on the link in the email is how they get you. Instead, find the contact information for the institution through their regular website or from an official communication like a bank statement. As an added layer of protection, use a different device to verify it. If your phone or computer is already compromised, using the same machine might still put you at risk.

Watch What You Download
When a random website asks you to download something, you may already know not to do so. What happens if you get an email from someone on your team asking you to review documents in a ZIP file? This is where being a little more suspicious comes in handy. Scammers hide ransomware and malware in certain types of files that seem reasonable and related to your business. If you download them, they’ll often create hours or days of trouble for you. When you’re not expecting the files, don’t click on them. And if you are, install anti-virus software to help identify problems.

Keeping your business secure is getting harder and harder, especially in the construction field. By taking this advice, you can protect your information and your money. To discover the benefits of a career in construction, visit CSLS today!


Who’s Your Contracting Business Team?

When you first start your contracting business, you might be going it alone. Yet, it’s often impossible for people to do all the work to keep a business running on their own. You’ll need a team, and sometimes it’s hard to decide which jobs can be filled by you and which ones require support. Here’s the basic components of the team you’ll want to have for your contracting business.

Marketing and Sales
To a certain extent, it’s true that you can build a business based on word of mouth. In other words, pick up a few happy clients and they’ll let other people know to hire you for their own projects. However, construction can be a competitive industry, with lots of small businesses you’ve got to compete with to get a client’s contract. This is where brand management comes in. Knowing how to find your target demographic and the best ways to secure their business takes experience that you might not have. A sales and marketing manager can handle leads, but also advertise your services in the right places.

Cash Flow Management
Every business needs a person who can collect payments, handle the bills and maintain the budgets. When you first start your business, this person will often be you. However, in order to make that work, you’ve got to be reasonably good with numbers. This is an administrative task that will bring your business crashing to a halt if you forget to take care of it, though. If you’re too busy completing projects to make this a priority, you’ll need an administrative support person to keep track of the general cash flow of the business.

Accounting and Payroll
Although handling the finances for the business seems like it could easily be done by one person, this usually isn’t true. There’s a reason many businesses outsource their tax accounting and payroll work to a service or accountant. If you get it wrong, you may be held legally liable for mistakes. There are lots of rules you have to follow to pay your employees and take care of your taxes each year, and they can be tricky to understand or remember. Paying a service to handle it for you ensures that everyone gets paid on time, including you and the IRS.

Skilled Workers
Contracting businesses that serve homeowners for relatively minor tasks may be able to get by with just one person doing the work. However, it’s worth considering a second person, if you have enough work available and you can pay them reliably. When all the work depends on you, you’re on the hook to get the job done around the clock and in any kind of condition. Failure to meet the terms of the project can make it harder for you to secure clients in the future. Adding a skilled worker who can duplicate most of the work you do can improve your efficiency and provide a cushion for when you need to focus on administrative tasks.

Although subcontractors aren’t technically a part of your business, many of the projects you do wouldn’t succeed without them. You’ll hire subcontractors to do the jobs that require skills you don’t have, or to fill roles that you cannot do simultaneously. There are rules for the way the state allows you to classify contractors compared to employees, so you want to make sure you’re doing it correctly. A reliable subcontractor who does good work is worth their weight in gold. They make it easy to take on more-complicated projects, without you having to provide regular work for them.

Being an independent contractor feels like a business of one, but it often takes a team to make it a success. Understanding the different roles your business needs will help you build a fulfilling career. To get started, visit CSLS today!

How to Get the Most from a Construction Conference

There are dozens of construction industry trade conferences across the country each year. If you want to know the latest trends and insight into the newest best practices, you might want to attend one on occasion. Travel for work isn’t cheap when you run your own business, so you want to choose wisely and come prepared. Here’s what to expect from a conference, and how you can get the most out of it.

Research the Best Options
With many construction-related conferences each year, you should be able to find one that works well with your timing and goals. Fortunately, many of them are held in California or in nearby cities like Las Vegas. The right one for you depends on your field, your interests and your funds for travel. Keep in mind that the best choice may not be located within easy driving distance. Several conferences aim to provide a variety of choices to suit almost any construction professional. There are also specialties targeting attendees who work in areas like modular construction or concrete.

Find Out Who’s Presenting
Some conferences mostly feature an exhibit floor that you can browse at your convenience, but many also offer presentations, demonstrations or classes. Since conferences often have limited opportunities to talk to people presenting, do a little homework in advance. Find out which of the major industry influencers will be there. If you can, research what they have been working on and get ideas for questions you’d like to ask in a question and answer session. Bring these notes to the conference. This will help you retain more information from the sessions.

Be Flexible About Scheduling
Depending on the conference, you may have a lot of flexibility in the sessions that you attend. There’s little point in occupying space in a presentation that doesn’t fit your field or give you new information, even if the company presenting is important or well-known. It’s important to get a vibe for conference etiquette, so that you’re not disrupting others. Just keep in mind it’s not uncommon to slip out at the beginning of a speech when you realize it’s not for you. If you’re not sure, it’s best to sit or stand near the back so you can make a discreet exit when necessary.

Save Time for Browsing Exhibits
In this industry, there’s a lot of innovation with new tools and approaches you can try. The exhibit floor is going to be the place to go when you want to take a crack at something you’ve never tried. Conferences, like World of Concrete in Las Vegas, may have as many as 1,500 exhibitors. Depending on the schedule, you might only have a few hours between sessions each day. Make sure to dedicate extra time to browse, and get a list of vendors in advance. That way, you’ll know which ones you definitely want to see first.

Prepare to Network
Whether you’re headed to a conference near you or one that requires a plane flight, networking is still an important idea. Networking is how you build relationships with other construction industry professionals that will help you keep your business going. Don’t skip the social lunches or coffee breaks, especially if they mean you get an opportunity to talk to other people who live in your area. Track down presenters on the exhibit floor and make sure they get your business card. This may be your best chance to get your name out there, find subcontractors and learn more about the latest news in the industry.

Once you get your contractor license, you need to keep building knowledge and connections. Passing the exam is one of the first steps. To establish a construction career that can thrive for decades, visit CSLS today!