Monthly Archives: June 2022

5 Organizational Skills You Need to Run a Contracting Business

Running a business requires you to know or learn a lot of things that you might not expect. Business owners wear a lot of hats, and being able to keep them organized is key. Here are five organizational skills you should work on, to help make your business more efficient.

Time Management
No one enjoys working with people who can’t seem to finish a task in the time they said they would, or who always arrive late to a meeting. Time management is one of the most important skills that you can pick up as a business owner because your use of time is so important. Time management is a struggle for a lot of people, especially those who are overbooked or overworked. It’s common to find it difficult to be consistent with:

  • Setting an accurate amount of time in which to complete a task
  • Transitioning to another task quickly
  • Ending the workday and closing the workspace
  • Getting to meetings or the job site on time
  • Identify the problems that you have and make a plan to address these issues. It may take months to see real improvement.

Calendar Management
If you are the kind of person who struggles to balance a lot of things at the same time, a good calendar is going to be paramount. But in order for your calendar to save you from missing consultations or overcommitting yourself, you need to know how to use it. Book out time for work and meetings with stakeholders. Don’t set your hours based on the time you’d hope to spend. Instead, look back on experiences you’ve had in the past and devote the amount of time that they usually take. Use an app that allows you to collaborate with other members of your team so that they know when you are available.

Workflow Efficiency
Being organized isn’t just a state of mind. Your workspace can make even the most organized person slower and less efficient. If you have to walk from one side of the workspace to the other several times just to complete one task, you’re going to end up wasting more time than you need to. Instead, try to design the workspace for each task to prioritize efficiency. For example, you might choose to keep tools for one specific task near that part of the site. You may opt to do the same for some of your inventory or supplies. Cutting down on the time that people have to invest just to get started on a task can lower the time commitment of each project.

Any business owner worries about the possibility that they may have to find a document that they have misplaced. Record-keeping is one of the most important organizational skills, and it may literally save your business at times. Develop a method for keeping records that allows you to get to things like invoices or contracts in a very short period of time. If you keep most of your records in a digital format, make sure that everyone on your team knows how to use it. It won’t help if your system is arbitrary and confusing to someone else who works for you.

Once you have more work than you can reasonably manage, you’re going to need to learn how to delegate. Delegation isn’t just a matter of handing a task to someone who happens to be nearby. You have to invest the time to determine which tasks each person can reasonably manage, without requiring constant support from you. Even if it seems like delegation is more trouble than it’s worth, it is an important thing to work on as you build your construction team. The more your employees get used to your delegation, the easier they will be able to do the work.

Staying organized as a contractor is an important part of building a successful business. So is getting your contractor license. To learn more about getting ready for the contractor licensing exam, visit CSLS today!

Inexpensive Ways to Reward Your Contracting Business Employees

In the early years of your business, you might want to reward your employees without much funding in which to do it. Employees like to feel valued, and although raises are often the best way to show it, there are other things you can do. Here are a few tips to help you recognize your employees for their great work, without breaking the bank.

Gift Cards
Rewards don’t have to be big in order to have an impact on your business. It could be as simple as a gift card with a note of thanks, or a good lunch on the company’s dime. When you consider options like this, make sure that the gift is something that your employees would like to receive. As much as you may want to make it a surprise, it’s better to get input and feedback before you make a decision. That way, a gift card will be more than just a token of appreciation. It can help your employees to see that you respect their opinions and preferences.

Time Off
These days, compensation comes in a variety of ways. Ideally, you can offer your employees a pool of paid time off that they can use each year to attend to family matters, take a vacation, or work on projects at home. If you have the option, additional time off is a simple way to promote a work-life balance without having to spend more money. You might not always be able to offer time off as an incentive, particularly when you are busy with projects. Just make sure to manage your project timelines effectively, especially around holidays. That way, your employees can plan to take time off with the certainty that it will come to pass.

While bonuses aren’t always inexpensive, they can be an effective way to reward your employees when you have the funds to do so. For many contracting businesses, it’s common to operate with variable income depending on the season. You might have more work than you can manage during the summer, with a few light months in the winter. Bonuses allow you to add to your overall employee compensation, without having to shoulder additional expenses when you have fewer projects to do. It’s also a great way to show appreciation for your employees at the conclusion of a busy season.

Although pay is the main reason that you have employees, it’s not the only one. In order to feel fulfilled, many employees want to know that they are a part of a group that values collaboration. You might as well encourage it, particularly for workers who could benefit from it. If you have a new employee who has been proving their skills to you since they arrived, see what you can do to give them a bigger seat at the table. For example, you might invite them to participate in planning meetings. You could also grant them more decision-making power over the tasks that they need to do. It may translate into greater ownership over the work they do, and a better long-term result.

Training Opportunities
Just like you, your employees have career goals that they would like to achieve. In many cases, they will need additional training in order to get it. Although some employers worry about training causing employees to leave, it can be an important retention tool. People are less likely to stay with a job if they feel like they’re not going anywhere, even if they make good money. Training opportunities aren’t usually free or low-cost, but they can be a great investment for your employees and your business. By providing the ability for your employees to improve their skills, you can help them get better at their jobs, without having to compromise their leisure time.

Letting your employees know that you appreciate them is one of the best things you can do for your contracting business. Becoming a licensed contractor is another. For more information on the skills, you will need to pass the contractor licensing exam, contact CSLS today!

Is Natural Gas On Its Way Out of Construction?

Natural gas has been an important energy source used in construction for decades. Nowadays, you might notice that many new builds aren’t allowing gas hookups. It’s an issue with many important players and a lot of debate between them. Here are a few things you should know about natural gas and its future in construction.

Although there have been many efforts to make natural gas clean-burning and produce fewer emissions, it is not a renewable resource. Natural gas is a fossil fuel, which means that it comes from a rapidly-depleting source of petroleum. While prices for natural gas tend to be significantly lower than the current local rate for electricity, costs may change over time as the supply continues to drop. Many proponents of the switch from natural gas to electricity say that it’s better to get in the habit of using renewable energy because eventually, natural gas will cease to be a resource.

Health Effects
Natural gas usage in a building requires ventilation, as a way of preventing a deadly accumulation of carbon monoxide. Unfortunately, most buildings aren’t designed to provide that level of ventilation. It’s common to have a furnace with a sealed combustion chamber, one that safely directs all the exhaust to a vent pipe leading directly outside. But in the kitchen, concentrations of harmful toxins like nitrogen dioxide or carbon monoxide might be much higher in homes that run on natural gas. Ventilation isn’t complete and if people don’t use it effectively, the concentrations continue to build. These toxins can cause headaches, nausea, asthma-related symptoms, and even death in high concentrations.

The efficiency of natural gas compared to electricity is a matter of hot debate. On the one hand, someone who uses natural gas to heat a home or to run appliances for cooking will need less energy for the process than they would for electricity. Someone who uses electricity will ultimately use more energy for every task. However, for pure efficiency comparisons on similar appliances, electricity is generally better. An electric furnace might have efficiency at or around 100, compared to 80 to 90 for one that runs on natural gas. On a larger scale, the debate between natural gas and electricity depends on the efficiency of the mechanism used to produce electricity. Natural gas may not be as efficient at the end of the process, but it could be much more efficient at the beginning.

Government Bans on New Installation
Municipal and state governments have mixed opinions on the best way to move forward on this issue. Many cities in California have passed bans on natural gas for new construction, although property owners may decide to retrofit those systems after the fact. New York City has also passed a ban, starting with smaller buildings in 2024 and expanding the ban to taller buildings in 2027.

On the opposite side of the debate, about 20 states have signed into law guidelines preventing cities from passing bans on natural gas in new construction. Although these states tend to lean more conservative and the cities passing bans are generally more liberal, it’s not simply a partisan issue. The preference for cooking with natural gas is strong, and many organizations are unwilling to back bans that pass extra costs along to the consumer. This weighs against the concerns about sustainability and long-term health effects.

Is natural gas on its way out of the construction industry? Probably, although it may be decades before the switch is complete. For more guidance on the best way to start your contracting business, contact CSLS today.

How to Find Employees with the Right Attitude for Your Contracting Business

One of the best things about going into construction is that you can hire employees with a wide range of knowledge and experiences for the job. But when you increase the field of potential candidates, you have to know what to look for. Here are a few ways you can find employees with the right attitude, to help your contracting business grow and thrive.

Identify the Attitudes You Need
The first thing that you will need to do is make a list of the kinds of attitudes that you would like your employees to have. Sometimes it seems like every employee should have a certain set of skills and beliefs that make them ideally suited to the job. But given that jobs are so different within the same company, it’s important to distinguish the perspectives that work best with each job. For example, in a job where employees are expected to work together to achieve a task, you might look for people who do well in a collaborative setting. By comparison, employees who do most of their work alone might need to be ambitious or comfortable self-starting projects.

Learn How to Appeal to the Right Employees
Once you have a list of the skills and attitudes that you are looking for, you need to find out how to appeal to the employees who have them. Most of the time, employees are looking for similar things, regardless of the attitudes that they need to have for the job. These might include:

  • Competitive pay
  • Health insurance
  • Paid time off
  • Training opportunities
  • Future growth

Take a look at what other companies are offering employees in similar jobs, and make sure that your business can meet those terms. Otherwise, you might consider talking about the benefits that the people with the right attitudes will get at your business. For example, someone who wants more decision-making power might be more likely to apply for jobs that specifically mention it.

Find Employees in the Right Places
If you’re not sure where to look for employees, start out by casting a wide net. Talk to people in your network and let them know that you are looking for employees to fill particular positions. If you attend construction conferences, look for people just getting into the industry and hand out your business card. Post job listings on the popular job search aggregate sites. Use your social media as a tool to make it easy for people to share job listings with others. Over time, you will develop a better understanding of which sources are most likely to provide you with the best candidates.

Make Your Job Descriptions Clear
These days, people might expect to complete dozens of job applications before they settle on one in particular. If you want to set yourself apart from other businesses, you can do so by making your job descriptions clear and informative. Take a look at job descriptions in your field and see if you can figure out what the job includes and what it pays, simply from the description. Sometimes employers put too much generic detail into the description, which makes it more difficult for employees to figure out which jobs are best for them. Keep your description relatively short, but full of valuable information.

Praise Employees for Maintaining Good Attitudes Over Time
Hiring employees with the right attitudes is one thing. Keeping them is another matter. It’s not enough to look for people to hire who have certain qualities. If you’re not willing to reward them for using those attitudes to better your business, you’re going to end up back at square one. When you see examples of your employees demonstrating a self-starting, collaborative or customer-oriented attitude, let them know that you appreciate it. That validation will give them the incentive they need to keep doing it.

Finding great employees is tricky, and all contracting business owners have to learn it. To get started on your contracting career, visit CSLS today!

How to Manage Batteries for Your Contracting Business

These days, it’s common to run a lot of your business by battery. Batteries can be a great way to operate tools and other equipment in any workspace, especially when you don’t have electricity available. But if you don’t pay attention to them, those batteries might run out or break down when you need them most. Here are a few tips to manage your batteries, and improve their lifespan and output.

Track Batteries by Age
Batteries tend to lose their ability to recharge the older they get. You may still get practical use out of them, but you will need to plug them in more frequently. When you buy a new battery, label it with the date that you started using it. Research the typical lifespan of the battery. You can also label batteries by number and keep an electronic inventory of the dates that you purchased them. That way, you’ll have a sense of the overall age of your batteries, as well as when you might need to replace them.

Label Batteries by Tool
Although you might be able to standardize your batteries for a variety of tools, this isn’t always an option. Organize your batteries based on the tools that they go with. Put a label on the battery to identify which tools use it. If possible, keep the batteries close to the appropriate tools. For a larger workspace, creating a station with a battery bank can make it easier to grab the battery you need and take it to the workstation. That way, you spend less time tracking down the battery in order to use the tool.

Standardize Your Batteries
When you first start a contracting business, you may have a handful of tools from various manufacturers. Tools that run on batteries are often proprietary, meaning that you can’t use a single battery to work with all of them. Many manufacturers standardize their tools to work with a handful of proprietary batteries, which means that you could use one battery to operate many different tools from the same manufacturer. In the beginning, it’s a good idea to research the tools that are best for your field and the services you intend to perform. Read reviews of brands and choose one that seems like the best fit. This investment at the beginning will make it easier to minimize the number of batteries that you need to purchase in the future.

Store Batteries Correctly
When you look at the anticipated lifespan of a battery, you should keep in mind that the lifespan depends heavily on the way that you use it. As a general rule, the battery should be kept in a cool, dry place. You won’t want to leave them outside, particularly during hot or humid weather. These conditions don’t just shorten the lifespan of the battery. They can also cause damage that leads to problems like leaking. If you plan to leave the batteries in a charging bank at the end of the day, determine if the battery bank has trickle charging capability. Trickle charging means that the charger brings the battery up to a full charge slowly. Older batteries and chargers may not have this capability, which can lead to lower output over time.

Test Batteries Regularly
If you have several batteries and you’re not using them all the time, you need to test them to confirm that they still work. Grabbing a battery from the bank is easy, but you may end up using some batteries more than others. Cycling your batteries is a better approach because each one gets worn at a similar rate. Batteries that don’t get used very often may lose the ability to keep a charge, especially if you leave them completely drained for long periods of time. Make a plan to test each battery at least once a month to confirm that it works. Batteries that aren’t working appropriately should be taken out of the rotation.

You might be surprised how easy it is to manage batteries, in a way that makes it more effective for your business. To learn more things you’ll need to know as a contracting business owner, visit CSLS today!

Can Playing Games Help You Build Skills for Your Contracting Business?

If you’re like many people, playing games is a great way to enjoy leisure time. But games can also help you build skills. That’s why early childhood education is full of games, to provide learning in a fun atmosphere. It works for adults, too. Here are a few reasons that playing games can help you build the skills you’ll need to run a contracting business.

Get Better at Math
When you run a contracting business, you may need to be able to do simple math figures on the fly. A lot of people didn’t do very well at math in school. Part of the problem is that math can seem intimidating, which disincentivizes people from getting better at it. Playing games can help. Buy a couple of board games that require quick thinking or money handling. Give yourself enough time to practice, and you may notice that you are getting in the habit of figuring out the numbers more quickly.

Try Out New Strategies
Most games require a strategy in order to win. Repetitive games that take only a few minutes to play give you an opportunity to test out new strategies. When you run a business, you need to be willing to develop a strategy and make changes over time. If you’re worried about making a mistake, you may end up with a bad plan that you don’t dare to change. Games can help to expand the number of approaches you are able to take in order to achieve a goal, and lower your fear about the risks. You may have a few failures along the way, but you’ll have more opportunities to learn from them.

Plan Your Decisions a Few Moves Ahead
Games that focus on strategy often require you to think first, if you want to win. In essence, you can’t just think about what you are going to do right now. You have to plan ahead at least a few moves, to make sure that your approach will help you make progress toward your goal. If you have to balance multiple projects at the same time, this is a great experience. You’ll learn how to meet the demands of the short-term without compromising your needs a few days or even a few years in the future.

Practice Conflict Resolution
Competitive games tend to bring out moods and reactions in people that they didn’t expect. If you are a particularly competitive or aggressive player, these attitudes can present themselves in a variety of possible situations. Although wanting to win, and being able to do what it takes to succeed, are helpful attitudes when you’re running a business, they can have disadvantages. People who act like this when they are dealing with a conflict can create more stress for clients, other contractors, and employees. If you struggle to cope with disagreements without getting flustered or angry, playing games can help you work on it.

Learn How to Lose With Grace
As a contracting business owner, you’ll have instances where you don’t get the project. It can be difficult to manage because it feels like losing. The good news is that when you play games regularly, you get the opportunity to lose on a regular basis. You can practice how you cope with the loss, and ensure that you avoid alienating people around you. Similarly, games help you learn how to be a gracious winner. That way, when you earn the contract against lots of competitors, you remain humble.

Playing games can give you a nice distraction from life‘s complications, but they can also give you some handy skills for your contracting business. To learn more about how you can become a licensed contractor, visit CSLS today!