Monthly Archives: January 2021

5 Body Language Cues You Can Use in Your Contracting Business Communications

As a business owner, you’d be surprised how much the things people say and the way they feel don’t match up. If you’ve ever had to pretend to be happy in the middle of a frustrating situation, you get the idea. But if you can’t read your clients to get a sense of how they are interpreting your interactions, you’re more likely to get on their bad side. Here are five body language cues that help you determine what they really think.

Direction of the Hands
The way the people use their hands can give you some practical insight into their moods, especially as they relate to the discussion. For example, someone who is using big open gestures may be more interested in what you have to say. Someone who keeps their hands at their sides or pointed down might not be as convinced as you think. In some cases, mimicking these gestures can help you relate to the client. Then, as you explain your points, you can turn your hands upward and see if they do too.

Arm Position
As with your hands, the position of the arms tells you how your client is feeling at the moment. Someone who consistently keeps their arms folded or locked tightly to their sides may be nervous. It’s possible that they either do not trust what you are saying, or do not trust the environment that they are in. This type of position indicates that somebody is feeling awkward or out of place. You may be able to set them at ease by offering them a choice of chairs, or the opportunity to meet in a different room.

Position While Sitting or Standing
Even though the arms can tell you a lot about what a person is thinking, you’ve got to take the rest of their body language into consideration as well. There are times when you will have a conversation with a client and you really need their entire focus. You’ll know that you have it if their upper body is turned toward you. By comparison, if it’s turned away from you, your client may be distracted or uninterested in the conversation. You can usually avoid this type of problem by seeing clients in places away from busy activities and loud noises. That way, they are less likely to keep turning around.

Eye Contact
Many types of body language are forms of communication in and of themselves, and eye contact is a good example. Experts have mixed views about the meaning of looking in particular directions before answering a question. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t necessarily tell if someone is lying simply by the way they look around the room. However, people do pick up social cues from the presence or lack of eye contact. If you never make eye contact with someone, they may wonder how committed you are to working with them. If you make prolonged, constant eye contact, they may feel intimidated.

Facial Expressions
Perhaps the most obvious of body language types is the facial expression. Of course, your facial expression can be a way of expressing a variety of feelings, only some of which may relate to the discussion. If friends or family members often tell you that you seem intimidating or angry, it’s worth paying attention to your facial expressions. Look in the mirror and allow yourself to speak naturally and see what happens. Since facial expressions are difficult to read, be wary of drawing too many conclusions from them based on the way your clients look. If they seem confused or frustrated, it’s fine to offer clarification. Otherwise, they might not have a high degree of control over their expressions generally.

Body language is an important part of interpersonal communication and one you’ll need to understand when you’re working with clients. Knowing how to interpret these cues can help you put customers at ease and make more sales. To learn more about becoming a licensed contractor, contact CSLS today!

How to Stay Warm on the Construction Site

Working outside can be a great benefit for construction, except when the weather is bad. During the winter, it’s important to stay warm for your health and to help minimize the risk of injuries. With these tips, you will know the best ways to stay warm in most kinds of winter weather.

Watch the Forecast
Certain parts of California have a relatively predictable climate and a forecast that changes little from one season to the next. In other parts of the state, you can switch from cold to baking hot within the course of a few hours, particularly if you’re at a higher altitude. This change underscores the importance of watching the forecast as a way of planning out your workweek. If you can see heavy rains or snow upcoming, then you know that you’ll need to prepare to be colder. And since some of these storms can accompany other problems like mudslides, blocked roads or ice, you can prepare for those too.

Use Layers
When you were a kid, you probably had a parent or grandparent remind you to wear layers when you went outside. You may not have paid much attention to it as a kid, but it’s really important now. If you rely on a single heavy coat or coveralls to keep you warm in winter weather, you’re going to be playing a game of temperature control all day long. This exchange doesn’t do much for your productivity and can wear you out faster. Instead, wear multiple layers that you can add or take off when needed, including:

  • Long underclothing
  • Insulating layers
  • Outer layers with rain and snow resistance

And don’t forget to use layers for your head, hands and feet. A hat and gloves may not be sufficient.

Add Heat Safely
There are lots of ways to add heat to an outdoor or indoor space. You just have to make sure that the ones you choose are appropriate to the task and safe for the environment. For example, a propane-based heater may be a relatively effective way to provide additional heat outside. Inside, it’s a carbon monoxide nightmare. You also need to confirm that you’re not doing any work around it that could cause ignition. Indoor space heaters that run on electricity may be an alternative, but they are also a common cause of structure fires. Even the single-use heat packs that skiers use might be sufficient, but you have to be careful not to burn yourself in the process.

Take Breaks Indoors
If you’re doing a lot of work outdoors or in another space that is particularly cold, make sure that you have a warmer place to go to for lunch and other breaks. Even a single room with a heat source that you can turn on when you arrive and turn off when you leave could help you maintain a more constant body temperature. Many people use their cars as an additional method of heat generation, but you may come up against idling laws if you do. Try to scope out a few options near the jobsite as an alternative.

Change Tasks Regularly
One thing you need to know about working in cold weather is that it can aggravate some of the symptoms of repetitive stress. If you’re doing the same task over and over again for hours, your limbs or back may get stiff from the cold and repetition. This increases the likelihood of accidents, particularly if the temperature is low enough that you’re not getting good circulation to your fingers. Instead, try to change tasks on a regular basis, as frequently as every 15 minutes in cold weather. This allows you to work different muscle groups and keep your whole body in better working order during the day.

Staying warm during the winter is part of a construction job in many parts of California. So is a good foundation. To learn more, contact CSLS today!

How to Manage Your Contracting Business During a Personal Crisis

Every now and then, something is going to happen in your personal life that may put your contracting business at risk. Crises like a family illness or major car accident could divide your attention and most importantly, your time. Here are a few things you can do to ease your stress when you’re trying to manage a difficult load.

Set Priorities
People sometimes get into trouble when they try to balance too many things at once during a crisis. It’s not difficult to imagine. You try to make sure that you handle everything in normal order, even when your personal life is in chaos. This can lead to burn out, which increases the likelihood of mistakes. Instead, you should set the most basic priorities that will keep your business functioning, such as:

  • Completing pressing work
  • Notifying clients of delays
  • Paying bills
  • Paying employees

These are the tasks that help you keep the lights on while you devote time to more important matters.

Determine Likely Points of Failure
One of the first things you have to learn as a business owner is risk management. Risk management is a business practice that encourages you to evaluate the risks you’re likely to encounter with a project or approach. When you reach a point where you can’t keep running your business as you have been, it’s time to do some analysis on the most likely points of failure. This can be difficult for business owners to do because it requires you to admit honestly what you are most likely to do wrong or incompletely. But making a list can help. These points of failure are the ones that you need to plan for in advance, so that they don’t sink you.

Designate Checkpoints
Some people find themselves in a situation where they will be in a crisis for the next week or so. For others, it might be a month or two. In either case, you want to set a handful of checkpoints that allow you to evaluate your situation and decide if you need to make changes. This step is important because you may not need to operate at the same diminished capacity for the entire duration. There may be points where you can do more work, and days or weeks when you will need to do less. You can ask a friend, relative or business partner to help you remember to check-in. Otherwise, even a reminder on your smartphone may be enough to help you dedicate that time.

Delegate
The way you run your business depends a lot on your personality. Some people like to do the vast majority of the work by themselves, so that they don’t have to answer to anyone or delegate. Others prefer to lead by example and build a team of employees who can support them as fully as possible. When you find that you’re stuck in a bad situation, being able to delegate is a very useful skill. Assigning tasks to someone who is willing and able to perform at full capacity can help to ensure that they get done on time and according to specifications. If you don’t have employees, this might be a good time to research a few options for outsourcing that you can call upon when you need it.

Avoid Overextending Yourself
You know that meme about the dog that is sitting and drinking coffee inside a building that’s on fire? You definitely don’t want that to become your business. Overextending yourself is a quick way to lead to burnout, especially when you are having personal issues. If you build your business on the premise that people want to hire a contractor who will get the job done right the first time, you can understand the damage that can be caused when you’re so overcommitted that you start to cut corners. Instead, try to under-budget your time, assigning yourself less work than you think you can handle. That way, you can always give someone a pleasant surprise instead of disappointment.

Personal crises are likely to come up sometimes. How you manage them can help you keep your business afloat. For more information about building your contracting career, contact CSLS today!

Virtual Meeting Tips for Your Contracting Business

The virtual meeting seemed like something that construction professionals were only going to need for a few months. Now it looks like they are here to stay. And really, it makes sense. If you need to give an update to a client who is hundreds of miles away, virtual is the way to go. But it isn’t always easy. Here are a few tips to simplify the process.

Learn How to Use the Platform
One of the biggest nightmares of virtual meetings in 2020 is the high number of people who do not know how to use the platform. Although it seems like there ought to be a great deal of similarity between platforms like Google Meet or Zoom, there can still be a steep learning curve. Most people who end up doing something ridiculous or embarrassing in the middle of a virtual meeting found themselves in the predicament due to a lack of understanding. If you’re considering new platforms for virtual meetings, set up a few meetings with employees or even friends who can help you test it out. That way, by the time you’re ready to meet with clients, you’ll have more expertise.

Find Tutorials for Clients and Employees
Part of the reason that hearing about virtual meeting horror stories has been so entertaining is that it’s a combination of shared experience and a high unlikelihood likelihood of occurrence. In short, lots of people are still struggling to use these programs effectively, largely because they didn’t get time to learn them in the first place. If you find a good tutorial with information that your clients and employees can use to help them master the platform, share it with them. Don’t worry that they’re going to think you assume they’re ignorant. If they don’t need the information, they’ll just disregard the attachment.

Send Documents in Advance
Meetings tend to take much longer than they should, and this is more likely to happen when people don’t get a chance to prepare in advance. When you’re meeting with clients, you may need them to sign a contract or review a design plan in order for you to be able to proceed on the project. One of the best things you can do to smooth out the meeting process is to send these documents in advance. Give other participants of the meeting at least 1-2 business days to take a look at the documentation and prepare questions. This will save you a lot of time spent waiting while they read the document.

Follow Meeting Etiquette
As a general rule, behaviors that you would never do in a meeting in person should also be avoided for virtual meetings. Many people get into the habit of thinking that meeting on a virtual device allows them the freedom to act as if they are not in a meeting at all. But even if your camera is off while the sound is on, you can still end up in odd or annoying situations. For example, if someone takes a device outside next to a busy road, you may not be able to hear them over the sounds of traffic. Keep in mind that sound travels differently through speakers than it does in a room. If you’re doing a lunch meeting, keep the speaker away from your face so that no one has to hear chewing.

If All Else Fails, Send an Email
In all the rush to stay connected despite remote work, many people seem to have forgotten the old wisdom that technology is only necessary when it can be useful. The fact is that there are many meetings that never needed to happen if the relevant parties were simply willing to communicate by email. Meetings aren’t bad, and there are times when you can accomplish much more by meeting face-to-face even virtually than you could in writing. But it’s worth investigating whether the time you spend collaborating is actually getting you closer to the solutions that you need.

Maintaining communication with clients is part of running a successful contracting business. A good education is another. To learn more about our contractor licensing exam preparation options, contact CSLS today!

How the Pandemic Is Changing Commercial Spaces, and What It Means for Your Contracting Business

Back in the spring, lots of people thought that COVID-19 was going to have short-term effects on the world, and then everyone would move on. As it turns out, systemic changes in business practices will continue into the new year and beyond. Companies are thinking about how to use commercial spaces when they don’t necessarily want people to come in. With this information, you’ll have a sense of what’s coming, and how your contracting business can get involved.

Separate Workspaces
For the last 10-15 years, office spaces have emphasized an open floorplan as much as possible. Even the idea of the cubicle, with the half walls that are easy to adjust, feels like a relic of the previous century. The pandemic has changed the way people think about working in a crowded office space with only a couple of feet between themselves and their coworkers. This is creating a rise in demand for separate workspaces, places where people can be productive outside of the home without putting themselves at additional risk for the spread of airborne diseases.

Efficient Building Spaces
Since people are predictably wary of gathering together, businesses that are likely to occupy commercial spaces are looking for high levels of efficiency in the use of buildings. There might be a new trend bringing everyone back together in five or 10 years, but right now, people prefer to be apart. For office spaces, this means keeping individual offices but allowing multiple people to use them in tandem. Such a design makes it easier to maintain office space for a workforce that is mostly remote. In the retail and service industries, you may notice much less indoor space for congregating. That leaves more room for outdoor interactions and parking.

Outdoor Meeting Areas
Parts of the country with mild winters have long relied on open outdoor spaces to minimize the need for structures. After all, if you live in a part of California that isn’t buried in snow four months of the year, you might easily be able to meet outside. The difference is that the rest of the country is catching up, and they are less worried about avoiding inclement weather. You’ll see an increased emphasis on large, outdoor spaces with seating that is spread out instead of crowded together. This allows people to get together, collaborate or simply enjoy each other‘s company, without the same risk they would face if they were meeting inside. The landscaping industry is likely to see a jump in demand as a result.

Drive-Thru Service
One benefit of the pandemic has been a re-conceiving of the idea of quick service. Businesses now understand that getting people the things they need as quickly and efficiently as possible, with as little contact as possible, is the safest method for everyone. Drive-thru service is becoming an increasingly popular type of building design, and it’s not just for fast food anymore. Industries that already relied on a drive-thru are expanding those systems, with multiple lanes in exchange for the large parking lots they used to keep for indoor, seated customers. Industries that never relied on drive-thru service or now re-examining their options to see how they can make it work.

New Concepts in Hospitality
Although the hospitality industry has been hit hardest by the pandemic, it will bounce back. People will eventually want to take vacations again, and business trips will once again become common. This is relevant because the hospitality industry is an important part of new construction starts and renovations. After all, if no one wants to build a new hotel, they won’t be hiring anyone to build it. New concepts in hospitality rely on some of the same themes in other commercial spaces, including fewer indoor meeting areas, opportunities to minimize contact from the point of entering the building to entering a hotel room, and greater visibility for sanitation tasks.

Starting a career in construction is easier when you can tell how the pandemic is likely to change the industry. To get started, contact CSLS today!

What Does the Construction Industry Look Like for 2021?

Toward the end of last year, industry experts were predicting a slowdown in new construction starts. What they saw is much different than what they expected. Although construction management throughout the pandemic has taken up most of the attention, the industry continues to move forward. Here are a few advantages and concerns that professionals in the industry are likely to see in 2021.

Construction Is an Important Part of the “New Normal”
Starting to get tired of all the people talking about the new normal? You’re not alone. But it’s also worth remembering that the new normal involves lots of opportunities and not just opportunities for anxiety. This year has taught people that the way that they were occupying buildings caused problems for themselves and others. It took a pandemic with a set of frightening symptoms and unpredictable targets to make people rethink the way they do things. They’ll do them differently in the future, and they will need buildings that are set up to allow them to do this. That’s one reason the construction industry hasn’t been hit as hard as others have this year.

Construction Industry Work Is Rebounding
If you consulted experts in 2019, they would have told you to expect a slowdown in construction. These predictions are heavily dependent on the region, but they were also predicated on the assumption that the industry couldn’t keep its high pace after so many years. It’s not surprising that the spring of 2020 brought a lot of chaos to construction projects, just as it did for everything else in the world. But in the midst of an unpredictable world, the need for building continues. And the proof lies in the fact that there are more construction jobs at the end of the year than there were at the beginning of the pandemic.

The Labor Shortage Is Still a Big Problem
It’s tempting to see construction labor shortage within the context of supply and demand, but that’s an oversimplification of the problem. The truth of the matter is that construction doesn’t have enough trained experts in certain fields. As someone leaves a career after decades invested in it, there must be someone who can come into the field to take their place. The problem is that this hasn’t been happening. If a general contractor can’t hire an electrician to help them complete their project, they won’t be able to finish the project. At best, they’ll come in late and over budget. As the number of projects rebounds, the demand for highly-skilled professionals may rise to the levels seen in previous years.

Periodic Restrictions Likely Throughout 2021
It would be nice to close 2020 with a sense that the pandemic is over. After all, there is a vaccine to help prevent people from getting it, and it is now available. Yet, it may be months or more than a year before the majority of the population has access to it, and even longer before the vast majority of the population has received it. This means that state and local governments will continue to keep an eye on the spread of the virus, with periodic shutdowns or limitations on activities as needed. Although construction has been labeled an essential service, it’s not always easy to tell how it will affect adjacent industries or the supply chain. Construction professionals should keep that in mind for the next year.

Construction Is a Strong Career Choice
All signs point to a bright but cautious future for the construction industry in the years to come. There is a lot of work to do, and there still aren’t enough people with the right training and skills to complete it. If you’ve been thinking about starting a career in construction and 2020 has made you wonder if it’s still a good idea, you should know that it is. Your investment now will create benefits that could last your whole career.

The last year has been a whirlwind for many industries, including construction. The good news is that there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the future. To discover how you can become a licensed contractor, contact CSLS today!