What Does Contractor Confidence Mean for Your Contracting Business?

When you read about consumer or business confidence, it feels like it could mean a variety of things. What does it mean to be confident in a particular aspect of the economy? How does this data change the way that you make decisions for your contracting business? And what if people turn out to be wrong? With this information, you’ll understand what confidence means in finance and how it may affect your contracting business.

What Is Confidence?
If confidence feels like a somewhat nebulous standard of measurement, that’s because it is. Confidence is the way that people feel about themselves or some aspect of their world. It is not always an indicator of the way things actually are. However, finance experts use confidence as a way of determining what may happen in the future. People make decisions based on the confidence they have in certain aspects of the economy. For example, contractors look at their existing and expected sales and profit margins as a way of determining how confident they are in their own fields for the next several months or longer. It’s not a certain way of predicting the future, but it helps complete a more robust picture.

What’s the Difference Between Consumer, Investor and Contractor Confidence?
Now that you have a general idea of what contractor confidence means, you should know that there are indexes meant to measure confidence in other aspects of the economy. For example, you may read about increases in investor confidence in a thriving stock market, or decreases in consumer confidence based on rising housing prices. While you must keep in mind that confidence is highly subjective and heavily dependent on specific measurements, it can still give you an idea of what people plan to do with their own money. Specifically, if confidence in the economy starts to drop, you’ll notice that people will become more reserved in the types of financial risks they are willing to take.

How Does Confidence Affect Your Business Right Now?
At the moment, contractors are reporting lower levels of confidence in their ability to continue to grow sales and keep their profit margins high for the near future. As a business owner, you can imagine what those kinds of concerns may do for the way that you run your business. If you’re worried that you won’t be able to get enough sales this year, you might limit your overhead as much as you can. You may decide against hiring more workers, and if the trend continues, you may have to consider laying people off. This can affect the way that your business runs. That might mean that you have a simpler workflow, or it could mean that you have fewer services you can offer and more limited selection of projects.

How Can Low Contractor Confidence Change the Construction Industry?
Confidence in one aspect of the economy can change on a dime, but it depends heavily on the pivot point. Once people are worried about the future of their contracting businesses, they may make decisions that affect their ability to continue the business long-term. If these changes happen at the same time as lenders tighten loan requirements, or at the same time that a lot of other industries are noticing a drop in sales, there may be broader effects. Ultimately, part of rebuilding the economy after an economic downturn or recession lies in establishing confidence once again. After the last recession, it took a few years before the construction industry was able to run at levels even close to where they were before the housing crisis.

Contractor confidence may not mean a lot to you yet, but it poses serious long-term effects to your contracting business success. For more information about starting on a construction career path, visit CSLS today!

What Happens When Your Contracting Field Is Headed Toward Automation

Although it feels like construction is going through a lot of changes toward streamlining processes and automation, it really takes many years to drastically alter the function of the industry. You can probably think of many fields that used to include a lot of long work by hand that are now easily done by a machine, in some cases without the careful attention of an expert operator. At present, some jobs may eventually be replaced as a result of automation. Here’s what to watch for, and what you can do once you see the writing on the wall.

Watch Innovations in Similar Industries
Since construction tends to be an industry that adopts technology relatively late, it’s important to keep an eye on what is happening in other similar industries. You can also keep track of the trends in your field in other parts of the country, or in the world as a whole. For example, a burst of development in autonomous equipment in the mining industry made adaptation for the construction industry much quicker. These developments aren’t necessarily a bad thing, especially since so many of these jobs currently go unfilled. But if you want to know what’s going to happen to your job in the next 10-20 years, you should pay close attention to people who do similar types of work as you in different parts of the economy.

Keep Track of Automation-Heavy Fields
Although automation is starting to happen in nearly every aspect of the industry, there are certain fields that are in the process of big improvements right now. Professional trades like:

  • Carpentry
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical

could have as many as half of their existing jobs automated within the next 30-40 years. That seems pretty far out at this point, but it’s not likely to happen overnight. If you’re planning on going into one of these fields, you may want to pay attention to what experts believe the job forecasts will look like in the next 10 years.

Avoid Knee-Jerk Reactions
When you start to think that your job may be rendered unnecessary, it is tempting to stick your head in the sand and pretend that it won’t happen to you. But this is possibly the worst choice you could make. In industries with rapid development like information technology, people can see their jobs become obsolete within a couple of years. By comparison, you probably have some time to prepare. And if you take that opportunity, you have a much higher chance of remaining relevant.

Study the Latest Techniques
The fact is the technology cannot replace the entire construction industry. There will still be a need for lots of skilled workers who can operate or monitor machinery that produces structures. If you want to have one of those jobs, you need to know how to do these things. Innovations are developing on a regular basis, and what might be a standard practice now could be extremely outdated five years from now. Paying attention to these developments, testing out new techniques whenever you have the chance, and considering adopting them into your business practices gives you the best chance at beating the competition.

Consider Changing Fields
If ever there was a case for expanding your educational opportunities, a change in the construction industry would be it. The last thing that you need is to find yourself stuck in a niche part of your field where you will struggle to diversify your services. Instead, be flexible enough that you can change your business model if it becomes clear that your field can’t sustain the number of workers in it right now. Adding an extra classification to your license or teaming up with someone in another field to provide a more complete service package are a couple of ways you could consider doing this.

Discovering that your intended career is likely to be automated in a few decades isn’t ideal. Making a plan now can help you figure out how to make your business work for the future. To begin on your construction career path, contact CSLS today!

 

Hidden Project Inefficiencies Your Contracting Business Should Consider

Since COVID-19 is changing lots of industries, it may be an ideal time to rethink your processes. You’ll be spending more time on certain aspects of your workflow, while others may have to go out the window entirely. But you don’t want to go back to a pattern of overpromising and under-delivering, even if that’s common in the industry. Here are a few inefficiencies you should consider, so that your project timelines can remain accurate now and in the future.

Finding Workers
Just this spring, the construction industry in the United States laid off nearly 1,000,000 workers. It’s hard to tell at this time exactly how that will affect your ability to find skilled employees and subcontractors for your project. But since construction was already facing a labor shortage, you can expect that whatever you need someone to do, it will probably take longer to locate them. People in busy, expert fields will likely continue to have high demand for their services. As such, you may not know for sure how long it will take to secure someone’s work until you have already done so. Be sure to research averages if you don’t have a regular subcontractor for a particular task.

Moving Equipment
The time it takes to move equipment to and from the jobsite depends on:

  • Where it’s currently located
  • How big it is
  • What it takes to get it there

Some tools are easy for you to transport, while others may require a rental company to handle delivery. Keep in mind that pandemic-related closures may cause delays in your ability to rent equipment or have it delivered to a particular jobsite. You also may have to wait to pick something up, if you are handling the delivery on your own. This will add extra time to your project delivery schedule.

Waiting on Tasks
If there was any industry that could figure out how to get work done more quickly just by adding more people, construction would be it. However, there are certain tasks that simply take a specified amount of time no matter how much you want to rush it. In a new era of staggered shifts and social distancing, you may spend more time waiting for tasks to be completed in order to move to the next step of the project. Identifying which jobs can be done at the same time, and which ones must be done in a certain order, can help you figure out how to stagger shifts for the best productivity.

Site Cleanup
For a lot of jobsites, clean up and sanitation is something that happened a couple of times a week. Now, it will almost certainly need to take much more time. This is because virus prevention requires careful sanitation at least daily, if not more frequently. Forming regular habits of clearing a particular spot of debris and sanitizing the equipment can help to make the process more efficient. But if you have to do it between tasks, you should factor that delay into your daily schedule.

Paperwork
It is usually good to have more than one person looking at agreements before you commit to them. If you are working on a public works project, it may be a requirement. This can add weeks or even a month or more to your project, depending on what paperwork you need reviewed and who needs to look at it. Although technological innovations have come a long way to make this process shorter and more efficient, you will still encounter plenty of delays in this respect. For example, the time it takes to get certain types of building permits has increased significantly in 2020. You’ll also notice a longer delay for inspectors. Keep tabs on the average wait times and don’t underestimate, so that you can factor them into your bids.

The year 2020 sure is changing the way people in construction think about efficiency. With the right education, you’ll know how to help solve those problems for your contracting business. To get started, visit CSLS today!

Is Your Contracting Business’s Waste Management Strategy Putting You at Risk?

When you think about waste management on and off the jobsite, it’s more than an issue of cleaning up a mess or making sure you dispose of hazardous materials in the right way. It’s a matter of your own safety and the people around you. Here are a few factors to consider as you decide if your waste management strategy is ideal, or could use a reboot.

Environmental Risks
Whenever you work on a construction site, even if that place is a warehouse or your own home, you may have a variety of environmental concerns to worry about. Since this is heavily dependent on your working location, you’ll need to inspect each site and conduct testing as required before you can establish the type of environmental risks you’re facing. For example, you might have to deal with high levels of certain contaminants in the soil, like radon. The presence of a free-flowing water source nearby may make prompt cleanup more important, to avoid contaminating that water supply.

Population Concerns
You will also need to pay attention to the people who live and work around your construction site, and how the production of waste may affect them. In 2020, many construction workers in California have been invested in renovating or retrofitting existing hospitals to accommodate increased numbers of patients due to COVID-19. However, doing construction work in a hospital that has patients in it presents unique risks to a highly vulnerable population. You should consider the impact that dust and debris can have if they shift from the area where you are working before you have a chance to clean it up.

Cleanup Intervals
There are many different approaches to waste management on the construction site, and most of them have a different cleanup interval. If you are in the habit of cleaning up when a project is completely done, and not one minute before, you may be putting yourself and others at risk. The chance that dust and debris can blow away from an open jobsite is relatively high. But you should also keep in mind that it can create a slipping or tripping hazard while you continue to work in the space. Setting a more frequent cleanup interval, as often as every hour, keeps the excess out of the way.

Disposal Practices
Although cleanup at the jobsite is a major part of your waste management strategy, it is not the last step. You also need to dispose of your construction debris and garbage on a regular basis. Knowing how to dispose of materials is a vital skill that you as a business owner must master. In many cases, being able to control all aspects of site cleanup is a matter of following the law. If you haven’t thought about these practices in a while, now may be a good opportunity to re-evaluate them. You may have more options for recycling or local disposal than you did in years past.

Employee Training
As in many industries, you may discover that there is a significant difference between what you are supposed to do and what people are actually doing. In a lot of cases, this is an indicator that people are unaware of how to dispose of waste on a construction site. Since this can be a serious matter of health and even life or death, training should be an important component of your business practices. Make sure that you know how you should handle site cleanup depending on the site and the type of project that you are doing. Then invest the time and money to confirm that everybody you work with has that knowledge as well.

Waste management is a time-consuming task, but one that you need to do for your health and the security of your contracting business. For more information about building a successful business in construction, contact CSLS today!

Is a Career Change in Your 30s or 40s a Good Idea?

If you’re like a lot of people, you were raised with the idea that you’d learn a skill, get a job and keep it until you retired. The past few decades have turned that belief on its head. The concept that you’ll get a job when you graduate from school and stick with the company for the next 40 years is extremely outdated. While some people still do this, changing jobs and even careers mid-life is completely normal. Here’s how to determine if it’s the right decision for you.

Job Satisfaction
It’s true that most people don’t look for work because they love doing it more than anything else. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that job satisfaction is an important factor in your ability to keep working within a particular field for years. People who hate what they do or who have grown tired of it often realize that it spreads into the rest of their lives. When you spend a third of your time doing something that doesn’t make you happy, it’s going to be harder to enjoy yourself in your off-time. The trick is to determine whether or not it is your particular job or your career in general that’s causing the issue. If it’s the latter, you’re probably better off making an adjustment sooner rather than later.

Upward Mobility
Upward mobility might feel like an obsolete term from a completely different world, but it still plays a role in your future prospects. The ability to continue to grow in your career depends on the job and where you’re at right now. If you’re in your 30s and realizing that you’ve almost hit the max on where you could go, you have to decide if you’re OK staying where you’re at. Some people find a great deal of satisfaction in a job where they aren’t constantly having to break the mold. But if you’re looking for something with more variety, or you’re starting to feel like you’ll be doing this job forever, it might be time for a change.

Future Plans
Of course, the timing of a possible career change depends heavily on what you’re planning to do with the rest of your life. Someone who is planning to do something big like start a family or relocate may not have as many options to re-define themselves as someone who has comparatively few new things on the horizon. While many people decide to jump into a new career with both feet, it’s worth evaluating when is the best time for you to do this. Sometimes, waiting even six months or a year so you can prepare makes a successful transition much more likely.

Financial Responsibilities
For most people, the older you get, the harder it is to abruptly shift from one financial situation to another. If you have a house with a mortgage, and a family with lots of expenses every month, you’ve got fewer options than someone who is single and able to move almost anywhere. But it’s worth keeping in mind that a job transition doesn’t have to be a complete pivot from an established, comfortable situation into chaos. If you outline your liabilities, you’ll know what standards you need to be able to hit with a new career.

Transferable Skills
If you expected that the only way to change careers is effectively to start over, you might be pleasantly surprised. When you start in a new field in your 30s and 40s, people evaluating the skills you bring to the table aren’t going to look at you as if you just turned 18. This means that you may have a variety of talents or develop skills that would benefit you in your new career. Take some time to think about the soft skills you’ve picked up so far, such as:

  • Professional communication
  • Computer proficiency
  • Networking
  • Personal finance management

You might not be looking for a new job in any of these fields, but most jobs require at least a little of these.

Changing your career is never an easy decision, but it might be the best one you ever made. To start on the path to your own contracting business, visit CSLS today!

When’s the Best Time to Start in Construction?

Like most industries, construction has times when it’s easier to get established and times when there’s a lot of competition. But since it’s such a large industry and doesn’t evolve as rapidly as others, you’ll find a lot of flexibility. If you’ve been thinking about getting into construction and you’re not sure when is the best time to start, here are a few factors to consider as you make a decision.

Regional Development
As you might expect from almost any job, construction goes through periods where there is a lot of demand for projects and times when there aren’t so many. And while a lot of projects in the pipeline can be a good sign for your career prospects, you wouldn’t necessarily want to come in right at the end of it. Do some research and figure out what the capacity is for new development and renovation in your area. This will help to give you an idea of the likelihood of getting a good job in your chosen field. It can also highlight regions with a lot of potential that you hadn’t previously considered.

Long-Term Career Opportunities
If you have a pretty good idea of which field you’d like to work in, then you’ll need to scope out what the demand is for professionals in that field before you make a choice. People who invest years of work into a career have a pretty good chance of continuing on until they retire. Right now, there are lots of professionals leaving construction after decades in the business. This means there may be plenty of available spots in the type of job that you would like to do. Easing into a new role at this time could be a great opportunity to find your feet with less competition.

Future Growth
Of course, knowing what the region has planned for the next couple of years isn’t going to be enough to last you for a whole career. If you’re thinking about taking a path that you could travel for 20 to 30 years or more, you want to be sure that there is plenty of future growth waiting for you. The good news is that construction is a field that will always have some degree of demand. The trick is finding the types of jobs that are most likely to thrive with technological innovations and updates to construction practices. If you’re ready to make use of construction technology or perhaps even create some of it yourself, now is an excellent time to get started.

Personal Plans
Starting a new career path requires a fair bit of flexibility. This means that you’ll need to consider what your plans are for the next 5 to 10 years and balance them with your life as it is now. It’s not always clear when is the best time to make a big decision like a new job. And yet, they say that the best time to start something that takes years is to have done it already several years ago. The second best time is now.

Ready to Commit
Ultimately, the most valuable and competitive jobs and construction usually take a commitment of at least a few years to get yourself established. In a way, it’s not unlike going to college and then starting a career. If you want to get the most from the experience, you need to be willing to invest the time and effort to make it a success. If you are ready to commit to the work and study that it takes to become a licensed contractor, you’re already on your way to improving your life and building a career you’ll be glad to have.

Almost anytime is a good time to start a career in construction. The time you invest is what makes it a valuable decision. To get started, contact CSLS today!

How Your Contracting Business Can Persuade Employees to Wear Masks

The best way to avoid contracting or spreading COVID-19 is to wear a mask when you leave your home. That’s why almost all states have guidelines on the books recommending or requiring them. But since you can’t do all your work from home, eventually you and your employees will have to go back to the jobsite. In many cases, that means you’ll need to persuade them to wear masks. Here’s what you can do.

Stay Updated on PPE Guidelines
The one constant right now is change, which means that you will need to stay updated on the current best practices. At present, until a vaccine is both available and widely used, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing on the jobsite is likely to be recommended if not required. Remember that requirements may be implemented at the state level or by the city. This means that you should plan to follow whichever rules are the strictest. In some states, inspectors are showing up unannounced and fining companies that do not comply with local regulations.

Identify Acceptable Masks
There have been many innovations in masks that people can wear with in the last few months. This doesn’t mean that all of them have the same level of protection. As a general rule, N95 masks are the best tools to avoid spreading contagion like COVID-19. But in many parts of the country, N95 masks have been prohibitively expensive or completely unavailable. This means that you may have to use something else. Keep in mind that any mask that has an open space or a mesh screen to improve air circulation is unlikely to provide nearly as much protection.

Talk to Employees About Common Problems
Ultimately, people are going to have a variety of reasons that they do not want to wear a mask. If you live in a part of California that becomes extremely hot during the summer, wearing a mask all day may be more difficult than if you live and work near the coast. Some people have common breathing conditions that can make wearing a mask regularly difficult to manage. But you won’t know which problems your employees are having until you ask them. Give workers the opportunity to speak frankly about their concerns, and make a note of them. Be sure to avoid dismissing anything out of hand, because it’s better to find a solution instead.

Look for Solutions
There isn’t going to be a solution for every single problem people have related to wearing masks. The fact of the matter is that most people aren’t accustomed to wearing them on a regular basis, especially not at work. But you know that it is something that can be done, so it’s time to research new approaches. People in industries like manufacturing or healthcare may have to wear masks all day long, every day. Research how these people manage to do it to get ideas. Consider options like:

  • Ties instead of elastics
  • Ear-savers that hook onto elastic loops
  • Disposable masks for people working in hot weather
  • A variety of mask styles, so people can choose which ones work for them

Giving your employees choices may make it easier for them to commit to wearing them.

Be Consistent
As with any work safety policy, you can only expect a high degree of compliance if you can be consistent about enforcing it. For example, you wouldn’t criticize employees for failing to wear personal protective gear that you did not provide for them. Similarly, you need to recognize that if they are unsure when you expect them to wear masks, they may follow their own instincts. Set a policy for mask usage that is clear, publicly available and easy to review on the jobsite. These steps will help to ensure that people know what is expected of them and that you will enforce the policy if they don’t follow it.

Wearing masks is part of a new normal, but it’s also a common part of practicing jobsite safety. For more information about starting your own contracting business, contact CSLS today!

What Your Contracting Business Needs to Know About Changes to the PPP Loan Program

The wildly popular Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), funded and administered by the federal government, is starting to evolve. At first, employers had to prove that they used the vast majority of the loan for payroll, or risk losing the ability to apply for loan forgiveness. Now, the federal government has relaxed these standards somewhat, after learning that almost one in five businesses wanted to give the funds back. Here’s a rundown of the changes, and how they affect your contracting business.

What Are the Changes to the PPP?
The original Paycheck Protection Program allowed businesses to apply for loans of up to $10 million with an immediate advance of up to $10,000. The advance itself would not have to be repaid, and companies that met certain requirements would be able to apply for loan forgiveness. These terms made the loan program so popular that business owners were struggling to find lenders who hadn’t been inundated with applications. To make the program more accessible to businesses making long-term plans, the federal government made the following changes:

  • Up to 60 percent spending on payroll still eligible for loan forgiveness
  • Loan period extended from two to five years
  • Relaxed verification process for businesses borrowing less than $2 million

Although the program originally opened in April, these changes were approved in early June.

Why Did the Federal Government Change the Program?
The point of the PPP was to give businesses the ability to keep employees on their payroll, instead of having to furlough them or lay off a certain number of people. In the implementation of the program, however, many businesses realized that the program wasn’t as practical as they had hoped. Many companies were hoping to apply for loan forgiveness, and the process for it wasn’t entirely clear. As a result, almost one in five construction-related companies were considering returning the loans, out of worry that they would face an audit or lose the ability to have the loan forgiven.

Have the Loan Forgiveness Rules Changed?
Congress approved amendments that would change the minimum spent on payroll to be eligible for loan forgiveness from 75 percent to 60 percent. They also outlined the conditions under which they would audit the company’s use of the loan and application for loan forgiveness. Generally speaking, they said that if a business took out a loan of less than $2 million and made a good faith effort to meet the requirements for loan forgiveness, their applications wouldn’t be processed as carefully as those who requested more.

How Does More Flexibility Help Contractors?
When this loan program was initially proposed, the idea was to help people struggling in a temporary period of economic distress. A few months into the pandemic, people are realizing that this situation is anything but short-term. This means that expecting businesses to have a quick turnaround on repayment may be unrealistic or even impossible. Adding flexibility to the program gives contractors a better chance at meeting the terms required for loan forgiveness. If that makes them more likely to take the loan, it can provide additional cash flow to support them during periods where work is limited due to COVID-19 in the area.

Is the PPP Still Available?
The availability of this loan program could change at any time, and it’s not clear whether the federal government may extend the program beyond its initial end date of June 30. Many business owners have said that it is difficult to find a lender who will process the applications, although that is heavily region-specific. At present, however, the program is still in existence. Business owners who think they may benefit from it would need to apply as soon as possible.

Protecting your cash flow is an important part of managing your contracting business. To learn about everything you need to get started, visit CSLS today!

What’s Behind Construction’s Rebound in May?

The construction industry lost almost 1 million jobs in April. Then, the industry added hundreds of thousands of new jobs in May. The numbers are still down from a year ago, but the change indicates several reasons to be optimistic about the future. Here’s a look at how the industry’s dynamic has changed throughout Spring 2020.

This Year’s Numbers
In April 2020, about 6.6 million people were employed in construction. By May 2020, that number had risen significantly to a little more than 7 million. This growth over one month happened in all sectors, like building, specialties, engineering, etc. Residential construction in particular added the most jobs, proportionally as well as the total number of new jobs. This shows a dramatic increase from earlier in the spring, although the current numbers still lag behind the same period a year ago.

Percentage Change from Last Year
As much as there is reason to be optimistic about the change from April to May, it’s worth keeping in mind that there has been a dropoff from last year. To be specific, the industry as a whole is down about 430,000 jobs when you compare May 2020 to May 2019. This may not necessarily be due entirely to COVID-19, however. There were reports in late 2019 indicating that the wave of new construction starts was beginning to slow down. Given that the industry has been running full-tilt since about 2012, that may be a natural correction.

Temporary Furloughs or Layoffs
If having nearly 500,000 jobs emerge out of the woodwork in a single month seems suspicious to you, it’s not a wrong feeling to have. It’s worth analyzing where those jobs came from. After all, replacing one job with another isn’t always the same as replacing one orange with another orange. In this case, many of the jobs lost and the increase might be easily explained by temporary furloughs or layoffs. The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to make it easier for companies in fields like construction to bring their workers back to the payroll, even if they were still working under heavy restrictions or unable to do business at all. Use of this program would allow business owners to rehire employees in May that they had laid off in April.

Rate of Re-Opening
Industry experts were expecting construction to rebound to some degree, but they may not have predicted the speed at which it seems have happened. This may be a result of the rate or re-opening in certain areas. Many parts of the country, California included, put significant limits on operations in most industries. This was intended to slow or prevent the spread of COVID-19. But as the months passed and numbers stayed constant or dropped, many states have decided to re-open their services. Although some states have chosen to lay low until they get more information, others are almost back to business as usual. While this may pose possible risks for the spread of COVID-19, it could easily account for the increasing demand for construction workers.

Project Backlogs
When something happens to your area while you are in the middle of a project, the project doesn’t just go away. Although many projects that were still in the planning stages were pulled or renegotiated due to COVID-19, there were many others that were too far into development to quit. Most businesses operate at some level of backlog as a way to protect their cash flow. While the backlog of projects for the industry has decreased since last year, it hasn’t evaporated entirely. As such, contracting businesses still need qualified workers to help complete these projects. With a long-term labor shortage, this may mean that companies have had to bring in new workers to get the job done.

Construction is a busy industry with a lot of demand, even in the midst of a pandemic. To start building a career that can last a lifetime, contact CSLS today!

 

Are Virtual Conferences Useful for Your Contracting Business?

Going to construction conferences used to be an opportunity to get away from your normal workflow and network, while learning about the latest practices and trying out new tools. Now that large gatherings present a much higher risk, many event organizers have shifted to virtual conferences. Here’s what to expect, and how to decide if they’re worth the investment.

Create a List of Goals
When you run your own business, everything that falls under the heading of professional development has to make the biggest bang for your buck. This means that if you’re going to invest time and money into a conference, you want to make sure that the conference is the best one to meet your needs. With a variety of virtual conferences available, you’re no longer obligated to spend money on travel or compare hotel prices in expensive cities. But you still want to get a good return on your investment. Keep these factors in mind:

  • Networking
  • Classes
  • Discounts on products
  • Demonstrations

If you know what you’re looking to achieve from a conference, it will be easier to figure out which ones are the best for you.

Look at the Lineup
In order to see if a conference could be a good fit for you, you’re going to need to look at the focus of the conference as well as the opportunities included. COVID-19 has certainly thrown a wrench into many conference organizers’ plans. But since a lot of organizations have shifted to virtual this year, you shouldn’t lose out too much due to cancellations or rebooking. There are conferences that emphasize a variety of specific aspects in construction, including:

  • Sustainable building
  • Technology
  • Management

Once you’ve narrow down the list, take a look at their lineup of talks or demonstrations. You need several options that are interesting or relevant to your field to make the whole conference a sensible choice.

Consider Opportunities to Try Out New Tools
Virtual conferences can be a tricky thing to navigate in an industry like construction, simply because you don’t get that hands-on experience. Watching a demonstration isn’t quite the same as getting a chance to try it out yourself. However, there have been lots of recent innovations in technology built for use on the construction site. You may be able to test out some of these tools within the context of a virtual conference. If you’re not sure which software to choose or how to decide, this could be a good way to get more information.

Evaluate Networking Options
Building a network of people in your area that you can collaborate with related to your field is an important part of attending a conference. If you’re not getting the chance to meet with people in person, there should be other opportunities to network. Not everyone is adept at having conversations with people they don’t know in an online format, and conference organizers should be aware of this. Be ready to look for opportunities to talk shop with other conference attendees, as well as presenters and sponsors.

Compare Costs
When you’re first starting out with your contracting business, the cost of a conference may affect your ability to attend one or not. In this case, comparing costs and benefits can help you make a final decision. Many conferences that were scheduled for the spring and early summer were pushed back to the fall, in the hopes that they could hold those conferences in person. But many others have chosen to stick to a virtual format. This may result in a much lower cost for registration, since the conference organizers aren’t having to pay to rent conference space or hire additional services. Cheaper isn’t necessarily better, but if you can find one that checks all the boxes and doesn’t cost a fortune, you’ll have made a more practical investment.

Virtual conferences are just one more way you can learn how to grow your contracting business. To get started on a rewarding career path in construction, contact CSLS today!