Monthly Archives: August 2020

5 Safety Measures You’ll Need for Your Contracting Business

Part of running a contracting business involves making sure that you and your employees can be safe on the job. This requires a number of safety measures. While most of them depend on the field and the specific task at hand, others apply to almost everyone. Here are five safety measures you can expect to see in most construction jobs.

Operate Equipment Only While Alert
You probably already know that you shouldn’t be operating construction equipment while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is true for many other types of heavy equipment operation, like driving. But more specifically, you should ensure that you can use equipment while you remain alert. This may mean taking care to schedule tasks when you have the most focus and energy. That way, you can save low-risk jobs for the end of the day or while you’re waiting for your coffee to kick in.

Handle Dangerous Substances with Care
Construction involves interaction with a variety of substances that could possibly be dangerous. Some of them are naturally occurring, like radon. Others, like lead pipes or asbestos, may be present on the jobsite and require special handling to mitigate or remove. You may also have to work with solvents or treatments that can be hazardous if you touch or aspirate them. Even common substances like paint can be a problem. Knowing what you can do with them and how to dispose of them helps you avoid injuring yourself or others.

Wear Personal Protective Equipment
OSHA keeps a list of the most common construction safety violations for each quarter of every year. One of the most common causes of accidents or injuries is a failure to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE that you may frequently use in construction work includes:

  • Hard hats
  • Protective eyewear
  • Gloves
  • Heavy clothing
  • Masks and other forms of respiratory protection

Making sure that you know what to wear based on the task can protect you from immediate and long-term injuries.

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
Another common source of injuries, according to OSHA, are falls or accidents that happened because you or someone else on the jobsite weren’t paying attention to the surroundings. At all times while you are working, you should be paying attention to where you are walking, where other people are positioned and how your tasks and their work affect each other. In many cases, there are risks happening behind you that you don’t realize because you can’t see them immediately. Using a system of notification or alert can help you and other workers avoid hurting each other by accident.

Report Unsafe Working Conditions
On almost any job site, accidents could happen. And when this occurs, people often ask themselves after the fact if there were some things they could have done to prevent it. This requires you to periodically evaluate your working environment and determine if there are ways to make it safer. Preventing injury or illness on the jobsite obligates you and everyone else to make a note of unsafe working conditions. Sometimes, employees are afraid to call attention to it out of fear that they may get in trouble. However, this can lead to a higher risk situation. Cultivating an environment in which people feel safe reporting issues to management leads to improved safety measures.

Learning how to stay safe while you do your job is part of running a successful contracting business. For more information, visit CSLS today!


5 Tips to Take Criticism and Improve Your Contracting Business

Although it may feel awful to hear things about you or your business that you don’t like, it’s very important for your long-term success. There will be points in time when clients or other contractors give you constructive feedback that is designed to help you in the future. Whether you can turn it into an improvement is up to you. Here are five things you can do.

  1. Listen Closely
    A lot of people participate in a conversation mostly for the things they have to say, not for the things they have to hear. If a client or a fellow contractor wants to give you some timely criticism, you should listen to all of it. It’s hard to sit quietly and not interrupt someone who is telling you something that you didn’t do particularly well. But if you can get through this part, you’re more likely to have a positive result. If nothing, it lets you receive the information without the burden of feeling like you need to craft a response off-the-cuff.
  1. Avoid Arguing
    Nobody is excited to learn what they may have done wrong on a project. But as tempting as it might be to correct what you see as someone’s misinterpretation of your work or processes, it’s better if you keep it to yourself. It is entirely possible that someone is criticizing you for something that is a matter of opinion or even inaccurate. But by arguing with them, all you do is make it into a bigger issue. In most cases, what people are looking for when they give you feedback is validation that you have heard it. Arguing with them about the validity of their claims does not meet that condition.
  1. Get Clarification
    Once you have allowed someone to finish what they have to say, you may realize that their feedback is unclear. Sometimes, people are so worried about causing a conflict that they may give criticism that is so vague that you can’t actually do anything with it. If you have the opportunity and you feel like you can do it without arguing with them, ask for clarification on one or two specific points. Ask questions like:
  • Did you notice this problem frequently or on occasion?
  • Can you relate this to a specific instance?
  • Could you tell me more about what you mean?

It’s crucial not to use these questions to lead the person into changing their claims. Your goal here should only be to round out your understanding of the way that they see the problem.

  1. Ask for Input
    When you take constructive criticism, it is important to keep in mind that there are usually multiple right ways of doing something. This means that a client or colleague might perceive that you have done something wrong, when you simply have done it differently than they prefer. However, you should also remember that this does not make them wrong, either. Ask them for input on a different approach that would have avoided the issue in the first place. This gives you a number of options that you can choose to employ when you encounter a similar situation next time.
  1. Evaluate Changes After the Conversation
    Once you have finished the conversation, it’s useful to give yourself a little time to relax over it before you evaluate any big changes you may want to make. In some cases, a mistake was so obvious that you already know exactly what you should do differently. In other cases, where there are multiple right answers, you may need to do some digging. This is a good opportunity two invest some time researching and consulting with people in your field. You may hear similar stories with good solutions, or come away with better insight into improvements you can make.

Running your own business involves learning from your mistakes, sometimes in a very direct way. By opening your mind to the benefits of constructive criticism, you can improve your contracting business and make the next project work better. For more information about starting a career as a licensed contractor, contact CSLS today!

How to Minimize Downtime on Your Contracting Business Equipment

Once you have a thriving contracting business, you’ll probably have a set of equipment that you use all the time, with other pieces that you don’t need quite as much. Since your financial success depends on you being able to maximize efficiency, you want to minimize downtime for all your equipment. Consider adding these practices to make sure you’re getting the most output from your assets.

Plan Out Equipment Use
If you don’t have a lot of equipment, you might wonder why you even need to plan it out. You have a job, you use the equipment, and then you put it back. However, failing to plan out when you need to use multiple pieces of equipment can make it harder to ensure that every tool is available when you need it. Additionally, creating a plan helps you to establish how much you are using the equipment, as well as how often. This will make it easier to determine the level of maintenance and repair that you may need to perform on each piece.

Cycle Through Multiples
If you have more than one of the same kind of tool, you may notice that you use one of them much more often. While this can be an indicator that one of them works better than the other, it may also be a simple factor of habit. The tool that’s easiest to reach is probably the one you’ll use the most. In this case, it makes sense to plan to cycle through your use of multiple pieces of the same equipment. This ensures an even wear pattern, so that one is less likely to break or wear out while the other one sits virtually untouched.

Set Maintenance Schedules Wisely
All pieces of equipment will need maintenance on some schedule. Some, especially those that sustain a lot of wear or are older, will need maintenance more frequently. The last thing that you want is to take on a project with a tight turnaround only to realize that you’ll have to delay maintenance in order to make it work. This puts added stress on the equipment and increases the likelihood of downtime. Instead, pay attention to the condition of your equipment. If it needs maintenance, plan out the most convenient time to get it done.

Don’t Skimp on Upkeep
It’s tempting to think that the best way to minimize downtime on equipment is to use it constantly. But keep in mind that the more pressure you put on a tool without tending to it, the more likely it is to break down. Instead, aim for maintenance to be a short break between long periods of productive use.

This is true for equipment that you use every day as well as equipment that you only use on occasion. Tools and vehicles can sustain a failure if they aren’t used often enough. In some cases, they break down because you didn’t see a repair need before setting it aside for several weeks. Even if it appeared to be in great condition the last time you used it, you still need to inspect it periodically and perform upkeep as needed.

Evaluate Use Data
Once you have a reasonable schedule to increase use time and minimize downtime, you’ll want to build points into the schedule to evaluate your use. Your project needs may vary depending on the week or month, but they may also change as your business becomes more established. Taking time to look at how you use equipment compared to how you used it in the past will help you determine if you need to change your maintenance schedules, or even consider a different management process for your equipment.

Equipment efficiency lies in how you use it, as well as how you manage it. Understanding how to do both helps you keep your contracting business in great condition. To begin, visit CSLS today!

Benefits of Starting Your Own Contracting Business

If you’re like a lot of people, you’ve spent years thinking about what it would be like to be your own boss. While it isn’t all sunshine and roses, there are certain advantages to running your own contracting business. By keeping these benefits in mind, you’ll realize that there are a lot of incentives along with the extra responsibility.

Set Your Own Schedule
When you work for somebody else, you have to conform to a set schedule that may not be of your own devising. And while you can’t decide to work whenever in construction, it’s true that you have a lot more flexibility when you are the one in charge. This means that you have more opportunities to select a time that works best with traffic or the type of job you’re going to be doing. That way, you can minimize the time you spend dealing with drive time or weather, and more time getting work done or enjoying your free time.

Make Your Own Business Decisions
If you are really ambitious, it can be difficult to go along with somebody else’s business decisions. There may be instances where your boss has plans that you don’t think will pan out very well. There might be times where you’re told to do something that either isn’t practical or may end up costing the business a lot of money. When you get to make these choices, you get the full benefit of your decision-making power. You do have a lot more responsibility and accountability for those choices, but you get to reap all of the rewards as well.

Choose Who to Work With
Difficult clients. Coworkers who have nothing in common with you and can be hard to work with. If you don’t own your own business, the likelihood that you will have to navigate these situations is pretty high. In fact, stress in the workplace is just as likely to be caused by the people you work with as it is with the type of work you’re doing. If you own your own business, you get to dictate:

  • Which clients you take
  • The subcontractors you’d prefer to work with
  • Employees who meet your individual standards

You’re not obligated to continue a working relationship past the end of the project, if it’s not working out.

Create Investment Value
In many ways, starting a business is like buying a piece of property. You may have to put in much more work than you would if you didn’t own it, but you get the benefit of the value in your investment. When you work for someone else, you are increasing their profits. And even if you get a stake in the company, how much you get and when you get it is still another person’s choice. If you make the right decisions with your business, you may end up with an entity that has value you can bank on. That might become very handy when it comes time to retire.

Achieve Long-Term Goals
If you’re like most people, you have a list of things that you would like to get done during the rest of your life. Many people wish that they could start a business for all of the reasons listed above. If you’re one of them and you’ve been spending the last couple of decades wondering how to make the decision, this could be an excellent time to finally check that box. There are a lot of advantages to be gained in achieving your goals, no matter what they are. Knowing that you are about to get something that you have wanted for a long time can often make it even better than you expect.

When you are in business for yourself, you can expect to invest a lot more time and effort than you might if you just had a regular job. But this is where you get all the benefits of your hard work. To learn more about starting your own contracting business, contact CSLS today!


Specialist or Generalist? How to Choose for Your Contracting Business

When you decide to run a business, you’ll need to determine how many different kinds of services you intend to offer. Some people try to spread out their offering so that they can take advantage of demand in different areas. Other business owners prefer to stick to one or two services only. Here’s how to choose which one will be best for your contracting business.

Predictability vs. Variety
One of the benefits of starting your own business is that you get to decide which kinds of services you want to offer and how much each service represents your workload. This means that if you like predictability, you may prefer to limit the types of services you offer. This gives you the consistency of knowing exactly what to order and how long it will take to do certain tasks, because you do it every week. But if you prefer variety in projects, you can also have that. The ability to think on the fly and change what you’re doing from week to week can help you avoid getting too bored or complacent.

Demand for Services
The demand for services in your area may dictate the types and range of services that you can offer. For example, if you live in an area with a sparse population, or if you work in a niche field, you may need to branch out more than other people. On the other hand, if you live in a heavily-populated area with lots of competition in certain parts of your field, you may need to restrict your services to ensure that you can land the projects that you need for income. This may change from one year to the next, so it’s worth doing some research in advance.

Year-Round Income
Construction often has busy seasons and slow periods throughout the year. Although this is dependent on the condition of the market, it also relates to the outside temperature and the population. In order to keep a business going, you need to bring in a regular income. Without it, you may struggle to pay yourself and your employees, as well as the bills. At first, you may find that it’s easier to offer a wider variety of services. This way, you have a better chance of finding interested clients no matter what the weather looks like outside.

Expansion Opportunities
How you choose your services also depends on the way that you can expand and grow over time. This depends heavily on your field. For example, if you focus too much on a broad range of services, it may make it more difficult to get into specialties after you’ve been in the industry for several years. By comparison, limiting yourself to just one or two specific types of jobs may leave you unqualified to step up to the next rung on the ladder. You probably won’t need to make a decision right off the bat. But keeping these factors in mind will help you determine which is the best way to go forward.

Long-Term Relevance
Once contractors have a solid business with an established clientele, they tend to stay in that role for a long time. This means that you might have your business for 30 or 40 years or more. Think about how your job is going to change in that period of time. When you select services that you want to emphasize, do some research and consider whether or not you will be able to adapt them to work with new technologies and even new ways of thinking. Staying relevant over a period of decades is the best way to ensure long-term business success.

Choosing whether to be a specialist or a generalist is just one of many decisions you’ll make when you start your contracting business. First, you need to get your contractor’s license. To get started, visit us at CSLS today!


Are You Ready to Take the Contractor Licensing Exam?

It takes a fair bit of work to get ready for the contractor licensing exam. But once you’ve got everything you need to take it, you may open up a world of future opportunities for yourself. Here’s how to know that you have checked all the boxes and are set up to take the exam successfully.

You Know When Licensing Is Required
Most construction projects you might expect to complete as a contractor will probably require a license. As a general rule, you should know that if the total is more than $500, you’ll need to have a license in order to do it. Unlicensed contractors cannot break a project into several small pieces that are under $500 and be able to successfully claim exemption. There are a couple of exceptions, like if you’re working on your own home. Ultimately, it’s best to assume that you’ll need a license for most services you want to offer as part of your contracting business.

You Understand Why Licensing Is Important
There’s a reason that the state of California thinks it is so important that contractors should have a license in most cases. In order to get your contractor’s license, you have to meet certain benchmarks for experience in your field. And once you have your license, it’ll be easy to see what happens when people who don’t know what they’re doing perform the same kind of work you do. A lack of experience can be a hassle for clients, if not dangerous. Unlicensed contractors can also underbid on projects and make it harder for you to get established.

You’ve Got the Necessary Experience
Construction is a field that very much prizes on-the-job training. This means that in order to qualify to take the contractor licensing exam, you’ll need to show about four years’ worth of experience working in that class. If you go to a trade school, that education may cover part of the experience requirement. Similarly, if you do a lot of projects on your own home, you can submit them for review and consideration as part of your experience. But in most cases, you’ll get the experience working for a licensed contractor in a journeyman or foreman role.

You’ve Completed the Exam Preparation
Once you have checked all the boxes for experience and get bonded, you need to make sure you have adequate exam preparation. Like many other standardized tests, it may not be enough to assume that you have all the knowledge and can take the exam with ease on a day off. Preparation through a qualified organization may make the difference between passing it on your first try and needing to take it more than once. Exam prep schools give you a variety of study methods, including:

  • Live sessions
  • Practice exams
  • Opportunities for additional study

This can help you ensure that you know what to expect from the exam by the time you take it.

You’re Confident You Can Succeed
Passing the contractor licensing exam isn’t just about experience or knowledge. It’s also about confidence. Not everyone feels like they can take a test and smash it out of the park. That’s why you prepare. You spend time studying and reviewing subjects until you know them as well as you do the route home. You identify mistakes you sometimes make during tests and correct for them. This makes it easier to avoid confusion or stress on the big day.

You’re Ready to Submit an Application
Submitting your application to take the exam is one of the last steps. You’ll complete all the paperwork concerning your experience. You can fill out the application and submit it with those documents and a $330 fee. If everything checks out, you’ll get a notification that the application is approved. If there’s any question about your application, you’ll get a notification about that, too.

Taking the contractor licensing exam is the last step that helps you achieve your dream of starting a contracting business. To find out what you need to get ready, contact CSLS today!