Monthly Archives: March 2020

5 Ways to Work With the Community During Large-Scale Construction Projects

When you make arrangements to work on a large-scale construction project, you’ll probably work with a lot of invested parties. The property owner, the client, the city or state in some cases. You may be the general contractor, or you might be subcontracting under another professional. But what about the community? Construction projects that are high-profile or take a long time need the community’s support to minimize problems. Here are five ways you can ensure that you cause the least disruption.

Identify the Flow Around the Jobsite
If the jobsite is in a relatively remote area, there might not be a lot of homes or businesses around it. But if you are in a suburban or urban part of the region, there will be a lot of things happening near the jobsite. Your task is to figure out what they are. Identifying things like:

  • Traffic patterns
  • Parking needs
  • Pedestrian walkways

will help you figure out where people are most likely to be while you are trying to get your work done. You may need to visit the site on different days and different times of the day to gain a full picture of what you can expect.

Minimize Immediate Impacts
If you want to have the least negative impact on the community surrounding you, the best way to do this is to imagine what you would want if you lived there. Think about how you feel about rude tourists taking over your neighborhood. They take up all the parking, they exhaust local resources, and they leave a lot of garbage behind. Unfortunately, people who come to an area to work temporarily can often create the same kinds of problems. If you’re a member of the community, then you feel more responsible for making sure these kinds of things don’t happen as a part of your business.

Make Safety a Priority
As a construction professional, you are used to making safety a priority for yourself and your employees. If you’re located in an area where there are a lot of people passing by, you must also pay attention to their safety. For example, construction that happens on or near the roads can affect traffic. Making sure the pedestrians, drivers and bicyclists have appropriate signage and direction can help keep them from interfering with your work. It also increases the likelihood that they will avoid harm while you are operating in such close proximity to them.

Be Mindful of Project Completion Timelines
As a resident, you have likely had to deal with construction projects that impeded traffic or other movement that ended much later than expected. While overrun in your schedule is an extremely common part of the construction industry, that doesn’t mean that the community will automatically support it. For projects that make it difficult for people to get to and from home or work, especially those that require a change of route, it’s important to pay attention to how much time you need to complete it. Giving a more accurate estimate increases your credibility and minimizes frustration in the community.

Support Local Businesses

Taking over a small part of an urban center is likely to impact local businesses as well as residents. If you can find ways to provide some extra support for those businesses, you can reduce the negative impact that it has on their income. For example, you can search out local suppliers for materials and rental equipment. You can even plan to eat lunch at local restaurants. Just keep in mind that as a member of the community, you want to make sure that the way that you engage with these businesses remains positive throughout the project.

Construction projects have a way of spreading effects throughout the community. If you focus on your efforts, you can ensure that the impact is generally supportive of community needs. For more information about building a successful contracting business, visit CSLS today!


Is COVID-19 Coming to Your Contracting Business? Here’s How to Prepare

Cold and flu season comes for several months out of every year. Once in a while, you’ll see something bigger that feels out of control. Novel coronavirus, currently known as “COVID-19,” has many symptoms similar to the flu and is spread in a similar fashion. But since there’s no vaccine for it yet, there’s a high likelihood that people can catch it. Here’s what you need to know and how you can minimize your personal risk on the jobsite.

What Is Novel Coronavirus?
There are a lot of viruses out there that humans can catch. Every time you get a cold, you are dealing with a type of coronavirus. Influenza is another type of virus with several strains that humans can get from one year to the next. A novel coronavirus is a virus that hasn’t been introduced in a human population before. This means that, unlike the common cold, people may not have the same type of resistance built up. In many cases, people are more likely to get sick from this virus. It also means that there is no vaccine yet to prevent it.

What Symptoms Should I Watch For?
Since there are so many viruses that you can catch during cold and flu season, it is important to understand the difference between them. For most people, a cold with a runny nose is not particularly serious. Influenza can be much more of a big deal, which is why lots of people receive vaccinations for it each year to help the spread and minimize the extent of the sickness. You should watch out for the following symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing

If this sounds relatively similar to the flu, that is because they are alike in many ways. The main difference is that COVID-19 is known to cause respiratory distress, where the flu is more likely to cause headaches or fatigue.

Why Is COVID-19 So Concerning?
The biggest reason that people are worried about novel coronavirus is that as a new virus, researchers know very little about it. They can guess but they aren’t sure how long you could have the virus before you start to show symptoms, or how serious and likely the long-term risks of the virus may be. Even discerning how much of the population is likely to contract it is up in the air at this point. Given the fact the coronavirus may be deadly to certain vulnerable populations, people are understandably concerned. Taking reasonable precautions is the best way to minimize risk throughout the community, not just for yourself and your family.

Will I Have to Stop Working During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
As the situation evolves quickly, it may not be possible to accurately predict what will happen in the United States related to attempts to contain the spread of the virus. In places like Italy, the government has limited people’s movement as much as possible, restricting them to home in most cases. However, this may not be likely or necessary in all parts of the world. Ultimately, the best thing that you can do is to pay attention to city and state guidelines as they develop. But outside of industries like healthcare, where the risk level and the likelihood of transmission are high, most people may be able to continue work as usual.

How Can I Minimize My Risk of Contracting Coronavirus?
Since this virus may possibly be spread over the air, the safest thing that you can do is to stay home if you are sick and encourage your workers to do the same. If you observe any of the most common symptoms of COVID-19, your best bet is to seek medical attention promptly. Otherwise, practicing safe sanitation on and off the jobsite is most helpful. Remember to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face, and use hand sanitizer when handwashing isn’t an option.

Trying to run a business during a pandemic is stressful, but it could be worse. With these tips, you can safely get through to the other side. To learn more about building your own contracting business, visit CSLS today!


Is Design-Build-Automate the Next Step for Construction?

You may already know that automation is shaving months or years off construction projects. As technological innovations improve, the degree of accuracy in various tools allows contracting businesses to consider how they can use automation to get their work done faster. Here are a few reasons automation deserves an important role in your design phase, and how you can best take advantage of it.

Why It’s Time to Automate
Whether you’ve been working in the industry for years or you’re just starting out, there are plenty of reasons to rethink the way you do things. The construction labor shortage exploded by the housing crisis and was made worse by increasing numbers of construction professionals heading into retirement. It’s getting better but it’s still a big problem in a lot of fields. Automation isn’t just gaining popularity–it’s improving in accuracy. This means that you can automate processes that will do the work nearly as well or, in some cases, better than you could do with a skilled worker.

Tips to Incorporate Automation Into Your Workflow
When you aren’t sure what is out there, it’s hard to imagine how automation could possibly make your work faster and more effective. That’s where a little research comes in. You wouldn’t think of hand-writing an invoice that you could easily input into a tool, because this technology has been around for decades. Here’s how you can find ways to make automation a seamless part of your workflow:

  1. Identify where your projects are falling behind schedule (or over budget).
  2. Research the best solutions to your current issues.
  3. Don’t jump at the first option you find, because there may be better ones on the horizon.
  4. Take opportunities to test out products before you buy.
  5. Read reviews of tools and software systems, to get a sense for their success rates.
  6. Test it out on low-impact projects before you automate full-time.
  7. Offer employees training in the latest methods.

Give yourself the time to adjust, and you might be surprised how quickly it changes your perspective.

Fields Where Automation Is Taking Off
Even 10 years ago, automation wasn’t a big deal in many areas in construction. With changes happening every year, you’ll find more and more businesses adapting technology to make projects go faster. Automation is currently driving:

  • increases in the use and efficacy of modular construction
  • availability of self-driving construction equipment
  • innovations in drone technology, which allows workers to perform complex tasks from a distance

Right now, a lot of the technology is proprietary. This means that one company’s approach might be completely different from another’s. Within the next few years, you’ll see the best performers rising to the top and spreading to other fields.

Keep Watching for News
Although automation is picking up speed in all kinds of fields, it’s also changing rapidly. This means that if you there aren’t many options in your specialty, or if most of the choices you have are pretty sketchy, just wait six months or a year. You can probably remember a time when drones were terrifying at worst and vaguely helpful at best. They’re now shifting from surveying the scene to interacting with it. Imagine how much better tools and systems will be in five years.

Make Workers a Priority
Although automation is often feared as the killer of jobs, it doesn’t have to be. In a world where there’s years more work available than qualified people to do it, efficiency is king. Automation isn’t going to force or even allow you to get rid of your whole staff in a year. Instead, it will make you and your employees’ jobs easier. That means you can take on more projects and satisfy more clients with reliable deadlines and a shorter turnaround.

Construction automation is becoming an integral part of the industry, and you should consider how it will affect your contracting business. To discover more about the latest tools and technology used by licensed contractors, contact CSLS today!

What Happens When Your Construction Project Runs Over Budget/Out of Funding?

Sometimes you read about a massive construction project with an estimated budget that just keeps going up. You might wonder how governments, even state or national ones, can keep dedicating billions more. For your business, ensuring that your projects have sufficient funding to keep going is a matter of survival. Here are a few things you can do if you find yourself in a situation where your project is running over budget or lacks enough funding to finish.

Determine Your Obligations
The first thing that you should do is figure out what your obligations are to the project and to the client. This is where an investment into refining contract language that protects you becomes very important. It applies whether you are working directly with the property owner or as a subcontractor. Carefully review the contract that you have signed, and consider hiring a lawyer to help you review it if necessary. This will help you to know what you are required to do, and which actions could possibly put you in trouble.

Look at Additional Funding Options
The most obvious solution is to look for additional funding options. For a reliable property owner with good credit, it may be as simple as applying for additional financing. In some cases, like a lost grant, it may be much more difficult. The right option depends heavily on the type of project and its scope. But if you can find a way forward with this option, you may be able to avoid a lot of stress and conflict in renegotiating or canceling the contract.

Consider Revising the Project
If it’s not possible to get more money, then you may need to renegotiate the contract to limit the scope of the project. Whether or not you can do this depends on the contract and who is responsible for the funding shortfall. For example, if you are working with a client who was only able to secure partial funding for the project, then your personal responsibilities may be lower. On the other hand, if budget overrun came as a result of a fault in your original estimate, you might be on the hook to cover at least part of it. In any case, attempting a reasonable renegotiation of the project may allow both parties to reach a satisfactory conclusion under the new circumstances.

Minimize Additional Investment
The last thing that you want to do is keep investing into a project that is failing fast. How you approach that feeling depends on the contract. If you get to the point where you may need to cut your losses, it’s probably best to consult a lawyer to make sure that this is the wisest course of action. Otherwise, this is an important reason to vet clients and projects for funding or ability to pay. It’s also a vital advantage of regular communication between property owners and contractors, or general contractors and subcontractors. Knowing where you are at on any given day can help you determine where to go next.

Evaluate Solutions for Future Projects
Once you get to the other side of a situation like this, one of the last things that you may want to do is spend a lot of time figuring out how to avoid it. As tempting as it can be to take a break and minimize how much time you have to think about it, it’s better to debrief and make improvements while everything is still fresh. Make notes of miscommunications or errors in calculation that led to the shortfall or overrun. This will help you to implement better practices in the future to cut down on the chances that this will happen again.

Budget overrun in construction is so common it might be part of the job description. But if you want to avoid it cutting into your profits, you’ll work to minimize it in your projects. For more advice on running a successful contracting business, contact CSLS today!

Can You Participate in Design-Build if Your Contracting Business Doesn’t Have a Designer?

With design-build fast becoming the industry standard, many contracting business owners rejoice. This approach to building puts more decision-making power into your hands, with the ability to influence the design based on your unique skills and experience. The trick is, not every contracting business has a designer. If you don’t, there are several aspects of the design process that you may not know. Here are a few factors to consider and tools you can use to help you determine what you need.

Why Is Design-Build a Popular Approach to Construction?
To know why design-build is taking over the construction industry as the preferred approach for both private and public works projects, you need to understand design-bid-build (DBB). DBB treated the design and construction processes as two completely separate elements of building, with different professionals working to achieve each one. DBB involved a professional, usually an architect, to create a design. Then the property owner would solicit bids from contractors who would build according to the design. Many experts believe this approach is much less efficient and often leads to problems, since the people on the hook for doing the work aren’t involved at all in the design stages.

By comparison, design-build makes the contractors in charge of construction an integral part of the design process. As is often the case, design-build became more popular for private projects well in advance of government projects. But even large organizations are starting to see the benefits of bringing the contractors they intend to hire on board from the beginning. It cuts costs and often takes much less time to completion.

Why Is It Important to Have a Professional Design Construction Projects?
For someone just breaking into construction and hoping to build their own business, the major hitch about design-build is the need to have a qualified professional at the helm. This is partly why DBB worked for as long as it has. The property owner or the organization requiring the project could hire someone with sufficient training and certification, like an architect, designer or engineer, to create a plan that meets building codes and achieves design goals. For the sake of safety and durability, sometimes there is no way around it.

How Can Contracting Businesses Make Design More Efficient?
The thing about design is that while custom is often ideal, it may not always be necessary. Contractors come into a space, take relevant measurements and requirements, and produce a design to fit owner specifications. But this may lead people into reinventing the wheel over and over again. Innovations like generative design seek to improve the design process. Instead of creating something entirely new from scratch every time, people may be able to search through designs that meet certain limits and refine them to suit their needs. This cuts down on time spent constructing the design and helps ensure a better long-term result.

When Should Contracting Businesses Partner with Designers?
If you research established design-build contractors, you’ll usually find that they have a certified interior designer on staff. This person may conduct many of the initial design consultations with property owners and produce a design that the rest of the team can carry out. They may also work with a licensed architect. For many types of building projects, this kind of care is frequently a requirement. For others, like surface-level renovations that do not change the structural layout, it might be more of a good suggestion. In either case, it’s probably wise to network with designers in your area, especially as you get started.

Design-build can be a great way to bring most of your construction project tasks in-house, as long as you can handle the design requirements. To find out more about building your contracting career, contact us at CSLS today!

How to Keep Your Skills Relevant to Your Contracting Business

In order to get your contractor license, you have to prove that you have both skills and experience in the field. Once you get the license, staying relevant becomes your next goal. A lot of people may accidentally work themselves out of a job simply by relying on everything they learned years ago. Systems change, and the best practices to work within them improve as a result. To keep going, you’ll need to improve with them. Here are five things you can do to ensure that your skills remain competitive for your field.

  1. Find a Mentor
    In many ways, the construction industry is set up so the people who are just starting out will automatically have lots of opportunities to work with experienced professionals in their field. This doesn’t always mean that you will end up with a mentor that you can call upon for support for the majority of your career, however. Finding a mentor who has the right approach to running a business in your field can be very useful, especially in the first several years. They can help you identify areas that you will need to continue to study, as well as lots of advice for how to keep the business going throughout the years.
  1. Take Classes
    Getting your contractor’s license usually takes a fair number of classes and years of working in the field. Once you get that license, it can be tempting to think that you are done with your education for good. However, this might mean that your knowledge stagnates. As new innovations come out, you want to make sure that you have opportunities to know what they are, with a few toward becoming an expert in using them. Taking classes periodically throughout your career, and offering the same for your employees, helps to ensure that everyone’s skills remain fresh and relevant to client needs.
  1. Add Another Classification to Your License
    You might decide that you only want to pursue one classification within a specific field. However, this may deny you the opportunity to grow and possibly expand your services and your business over time. Adding to your license gives you a larger repertoire of products and services that you can offer to clients. This can give you better longevity and flexibility to work within a changing industry. Occasionally evaluating your services and deciding if another classification might work well makes sure that you have a steady source of updated skills to offer.
  1. Attend Conferences
    One of the best ways to find out what is going on in the industry as a whole, and your field specifically, is to attend construction conferences. You don’t have to attend all of them, and you may not even need to attend them once a year. However, booking time in your schedule and investing the money to attend conferences it is an excellent opportunity to:
  • Test out new technologies
  • Network
  • Learn more about changes in practices for the industry

Many conferences are located in or near California, which means that you may not have to devote as many resources as you expect.

  1. Network
    When you find that you tend to work with the same people all the time, and they all do things in a particular way, it may be time to break outside that box. Networking gives you a great chance to get to know industry influencers and find new contacts in your area. You don’t necessarily have to be a great conversationalist or limit your interactions to people who work in your field. Just talking to other construction professionals and even potential clients may help you get a better feel for where your field is headed, with some possible contacts for future work.

Keeping your skills relevant is something that most business owners have to consider throughout their tenure. If you stay on top of it, you will reap the rewards. To discover the benefits of a great career in construction, contact CSLS today!

Is a Recession Coming? 5 Signs Your Contracting Business Should Watch for in 2020

Recessions happen, and it’s hard to tell when one is going to arrive. Recessions aren’t quite the same as an economic downturn, which occurs at least once every few years in the U.S. Construction can be one of the hardest-hit industries during a recession, although that’s heavily dependent on the region and the severity of the economic problems. Experts tend to watch for certain signs as indicators that a recession is likely, and you should, too. Here are five to keep an eye on, so you have a sense for what may be ahead.

  1. Funds Rates Drop
    If you borrow money from a lender, you pay interest. When banks borrow from each other, they also pay interest. The rate they pay is set by the Federal Reserve, and is called the “funds rate.” Higher rates indicate that lending between banks is relatively secure. When the Fed drops these rates, it often comes as a way to persuade banks to keep making these loans to each other. It indicates that financial experts are becoming wary of the health of the finance industry.
  1. Treasury Yields Decline
    If you’ve ever bought a bond, you know that this is usually a predictable way to increase your investment. As a general rule, the longer the term of the bond, the better the rate. At certain times, the rate for three-month treasury bonds is higher than the rate for 10-year bonds. Financial experts say that when this happens, it indicates that the long-term investment isn’t as safe as the short-term one. It is often a sign that a recession will come within a year or two.
  1. Consumer Confidence Slows Down
    Although much of a recession relates to hard numbers like funds rates or treasury yields, a lot of it sits with what people think about it. Part of the devastation of the Stock Market Crash of 1929 was that so many people took their money and ran. Or, they tried to take their money and were unsuccessful. Consumer confidence may seem like a nonsense indicator, but it tells you what people think and how they may use their money. Confident consumers are more likely to sell a home or buy a new one. They are more likely to invest their money. When people lose that confidence, they keep their money close to hand. They shorten the demand for new housing or other projects important to the construction industry.
  1. Employment Changes
    If you’ve paid attention to the news at all, then you probably know that unemployment is around an all-time low for most of the population. This might give you confidence, but it’s important to pay attention to the kinds of jobs that are coming in. Signs of a flagging economy don’t usually begin with massive layoffs. Instead, companies start cutting back hours. They may hire temporary workers instead of regular employees, so that they are not as obligated to provide costly features of employment like benefits. If you notice that the average number of hours is starting to go down, or the type of jobs available changing, this may be an indicator that businesses are getting ready to cut back.
  1. New Construction Tapers Off
    The health of the construction industry may not apply to everyone living in the U.S., but it certainly makes a big difference for people working in it. Experts have already noticed that the burst of construction since 2012 is starting to slow down a little in many regions of the country. Although California still has a major shortage of housing and a ton of construction projects for the next several years, this assumes that the market is still strong enough to make it happen. If property prices start to drop, or people begin to worry that they won’t be able to pay for new construction, they’ll be more likely to stick with what they have.

If you have a contracting business for decades, you’ll likely run it through more than one recession. Knowing what to look for helps you prepare for the possibilities. To find ways to make your contracting business the best it can be, visit CSLS today!

What Is Your Contracting Business Leadership Style?

Everyone has had that boss who seems to know exactly what they need and gives it to them. Similarly, practically everyone has had a boss whose management approach cut them off at the knees. Running your own business requires developing a leadership style that allows you to get work done without alienating everyone underneath you. Read more about these common leadership styles to see which one fits you the best, and how you can use it.

When you have a collaborative leadership style, you like to get lots of input from the people working under you. You want to work as a team and it shows through your efforts to get employees involved in the decision-making that affects their own tasks. This leadership style can help you maximize the benefits you get from the people you hire. Just make sure that you are getting input from everyone on the team, not just one or two people. Develop a few strategies to refine vague or problematic suggestions, so that collaboration doesn’t slow your workflow.

With an easygoing leadership style, you’re going to let your employees mostly take care of their own jobs. You hired them for their skills and you expect them to use it. If you’re extremely busy with your own tasks, this approach can help you free up time you need to get things done. On the other hand, you’re putting a lot of trust in people who might not work as well in this kind of environment. Periodically check in with your employees to make sure they have everything they need and keep basic tabs on their progress. Consider a different approach with entry-level hires or anyone who needs extra support.

The opposite of easygoing, an authoritarian leadership leads alone. They make decisions without much consultation from employees and often without considering their needs. Most people probably wouldn’t want to classify themselves in this group. However, as you first start out, you might develop this style by default. When you work for yourself and have no employees, this may be the only style you can choose. It might also make sense if you hire someone with very limited experience. Just make sure you’re giving your employees enough opportunities to learn and grow within the position.

As an incentivizing leader, you are goal-oriented and you want your employees to reach those goals. To do so, you set benchmarks and provide incentives like prizes or bonuses to people who work within those limits. This can be an effective leadership strategy as it gives employees an extra reason to push through the next obstacle. Mix up the rewards so that everyone feels like their needs or wants get representation. Just keep in mind that people can get stuck when you ratchet up the goals too far or too fast. Make incremental improvements that people can stretch to grasp but still reach.

Leadership by Example
Many people like to build a rapport and respect as a leader by not being much of a leader at all. If you love to get down into the equipment with your employees and work as hard as they do, you can inspire them by your commitment. People who lead by example tend to teach as they go, giving less-experienced workers the benefit of your knowledge. It’s important to make sure that you don’t get too distracted by the job to let others take turns. It can be difficult to let go of some tasks you’ve done 1,000 times. If you remember to give them the opportunity, they’ll reward you by making your job easier.

Becoming a leader isn’t something that happens overnight. You have to evaluate your leadership style and develop ways to motivate your employees to make your business a success. For more information about what you need to start your own contracting business, contact CSLS today!