Wouldn’t You Like to BUILD Your Construction Company into Your Dream Business?

This Requires an UNDERSTANDING of your Problems and Having Solutions to Fix Them

Last week we talked about the high number of construction companies that fail and some of the reasons this happens. None of these companies were started hoping that they would go broke and go out of business.

So why is it that construction companies fail so often?

We discussed some of those reasons last week. They included things like – a lack of funding or poor cash flow, poor production performance on projects and not having a good business plan.

These problems are more on the business side of things than doing construction. Most people in construction just want to do “construction”, they don’t want to do “business” stuff.

If you want to BUILD your dream construction company, you need a plan…a Blueprint for BUILDing a Better Business.

This plan starts with Being aware that there is a problem. Most people who own or manage construction companies know that something’s not right, but don’t know what it is. They know how to build buildings but not businesses.

Being aware that there’s a problem is the first step. The second is, Understanding what those problems are. Understanding what their business needs help with. Understanding that just like building a quality building isn’t a simple task…neither is building a successful business.

To help us Understand what construction companies are struggling with, we have developed a short survey. In exchange for your time filling out this survey we will give you a free 30-minute construction company consultation to help you Understand the problems your company’s dealing with.

We’ve talked about the first two steps to BUILDing a better construction company, the B and the U.

  • BEING AWARE of the problems
  • UNDERSTANDING what those problems are

There are three more building blocks needed to finish building the foundation of your dream business.

They are –

  • INFORMATION on how to fix those problems and INTRUCTIONS for implementing those solutions into your business
  • LEARNING how you use these processes and systems in the daily operation of your business
  • DELIVERY of the DREAM – This is where your dream business becomes a reality. It is where all the hard work begins paying off.

In upcoming posts, we will dig deeper into the I, L and D of BUILDing a Better Business and how these building blocks are the foundation that successful construction companies are built on.

If you own or manage a company that is involved in construction, don’t forget to fill out the survey and get your free consultation! Also, if you know someone in the construction industry that you think would benefit from a construction company consultation, please send them a link to this post or the survey.

Link to the survey – Understand Your Problems Survey (surveymonkey.com)

What Do You Need to Know to Run a Successful Construction Business?

It Has More to do With Business and Less to do With Construction

There’s something exciting about the thought of starting your own business. It seems like a great idea initially. The problem is that most people don’t realize what it takes to operate a successful construction company.

We’ve all seen construction companies get started and then go out of business.

 According to the Small Business Administration…

60 percent of US construction companies fail within the first five years of operation.

These companies reportedly blamed several factors for their failure, including labor shortage, politics, insurance, taxes, natural disasters, and subcontractor incompetence. While these things may be a part of the problem, if we look a little deeper, we’ll see…

The real factors that brought about construction company failures are internal and within the owner’s control.

The reasons are more likely poor planning, inaccurate scheduling, hiring the wrong people, inability to innovate, poor management, and bad or no business system.

The good news is, that the next generation of construction businesses can learn from their forefathers’ mistakes and avoid failing for the same reasons. 

Owning or managing a construction business is a hard thing to do. And to do so successfully is especially hard.

The solutions to problems that can put construction companies out of business may not be easy. It takes a lot of planning, production management, hard work, and discipline to keep the business running successfully. But at least…

Most issues faced in a construction business are controllable.

Finding out what challenges are likely ahead can help construction companies be prepared.

Here are some reasons construction companies fail –

Lack of funding and/or poor cash flow – One of the reasons construction companies fail is not enough funds or unwise use of funds.

The ultimate dream of any professional in the construction industry is to earn more by owning and running a business, rather than collecting a paycheck working for someone else. But keeping a business operating at a profit is never as simple as just doing construction work.

There are processes and systems that need to be in place for collecting from customers and paying the bills. Construction requires tools, vehicles, and equipment, and these aren’t cheap.

It’s critical to maintain positive cash flow, have a budget for bills, and money saved for emergencies.

Overlooking these things can quickly lead your company to failure.

Poor project performance – One bad project can lead to a construction company’s closure.

Project performance is more than the physical construction work. The internal business systems for proposals, change orders, project management, invoicing, etc. are often not thought off when thinking about construction projects.

Construction projects are about good results. This includes starting and completing projects on time and within budget. Meeting contract requirements and customer expectations.

Failure in any of these areas may mean the closing of your company.

Failure to plan – Just like good planning can lead to a successful construction project, the same is true for building a successful business.

In project planning, you define goals and processes according to the customer’s requirements. You are intentional and clear on where the project is going and how you’re going to get it there.

A good builder will do the same when it comes to their business.

Consistant clear communication with customers, production teams, and suppliers is one of the important pieces of a good business plan.

The likelihood of companies going out of business without a plan increases exponentially.

There are a lot of risks lurking on a construction site that can cause a project to go poorly. The best way to avoid these risks is through awareness, understanding, and preparation.

The same is true for your company. If you become aware that there’s a problem and understand it, you will be more likely to avoid it. Instruction and learning can lead to building your dream business.

The road to success in the construction industry may be long and rough, but it’s worth it.

Become more successful through improved processes, systems, and management; take it one step at a time, and soon enough, you can achieve your ultimate business dreams.

Let us know what your biggest construction business struggles have been in the comments below.

How Implementing a Plan Can Help Us Build a Successful Business

The Five Remaining Areas of the “Job List” Building Block

Back in December we started discussing the importance of building your business on a solid foundation and why people in the construction industry avoid doing it. Then we talked about how a reporting process like the “Job List” can be an important building block in a construction business foundation. Last week we looked at how the “Job List” can help us plan for the future.

A business won’t stand long if it’s not built on a solid foundation.

So far, we’ve discussed how…

  • Creating and recording project numbers can help you focus your attention on the right kinds of projects.
  • Tracking project bid amounts will give you a clear picture of where you are in relationship to meeting your financial goals for the year.
  • Tracking dollar amounts of signed proposals will give you the rest of the picture of where you are financially in relation to where you want to be by the end of the year.
  • Tracking dollars collected from projects will give you a clear comparison of your signed amounts with your collected amounts.
  • Percentage of jobs signed will let you know if your pricing is too high or too low.
  • Percentage of dollars signed per dollars bid will let you know how you’re doing in relation to reaching our financial goal for the year.
  • Percentage of dollars collected per signed simply lets you know if you’ve collected everything that was bid.

Now let’s look at the final five areas of this document and how they fit into a solid business foundation.

Average dollar amount of projects bid – This number (cell I-30) is just like what it sounds like. It’s the average dollar amount of all the projects you have done proposals for. It can be helpful to know what this information is. It can help you determine if you should make changes to the sizes of proposals that you should be doing.

Average dollar amount of projects signed – This price (cell J-32) lets you see what the average dollar amount of your projects is and how it compares with the proposed amounts. Like the average bid amount, this number let’s you know what size of projects you normally do. You can then make changes to what proposals you focus on.

Average dollar amount of projects collected – Like the percentage of dollars collected, this number (cell K-34) lets you know if you’re increasing or decreasing the dollars you collect after proposals are signed. This can be a critical piece of information about how accurate your proposals are.

These next two areas are instructive when it comes to production planning as it relates to achieving your revenue goals.

Projected timeframe for doing signed projects – This information (cells I-23 and J-23) tell you how long it should take you to do the work of the proposals that you currently have signed. This is determined by dividing what your gross revenue goal for the year is by 52 weeks. Then dividing the current total signed amount (cell J-22) by that weekly revenue target number gives you the number of weeks needed to do that work.

Projected date work should be done – Like the projected timeframe, this information (cell K-23) converts the projected time it should take to do the work of the currently signed proposals to a date. This is achieved by adding the number of weeks (cell I-23) to the starting date (cell H-23). This then gives you a target date on the calendar that the work should be done to stay on task and achieve your dollar goal for the year.

I find these last two pieces of information the most revealing and helpful when it comes to staying on target.

This information can increase the sense of urgency and focus, and this is something that is critical to building a successful construction business.

I hope you’ve found this series on the “Job List” as a foundational building block helpful. If you would like more information about this or other business systems and processes, go to SolutionBuilding.net or reach out us in the comments below.

How Does the “Job List” Help Us See the Future of Our Construction Company?

That’s a Question We’re Going to Continue Answering in This Week’s Solution

Previously we discussed the importance of building your business on a solid foundation and how it can prevent your business from falling down around you. We talked about the different parts of that foundation and their purpose.

Next, we talked about construction companies that are avoiding these foundational building blocks because they are out of their comfort zone. It’s amazing how people in the construction industry will use all sorts of power tools and equipment but are afraid of paperwork.

Then we began breaking down the “Job List”…one of those foundational building blocks. In that post we looked at how it can tell you…

  • Which types of work were consistently the most profitable
  • How you were doing at meeting your financial goals for the year
  • When you should have the signed projects finished to stay on track
  • How well you’re doing at getting proposals signed
  • What the average price of your projects are

We began with how the “Job List” can help with creating and recording project numbers, tracking project bid amounts and tracking dollars of signed proposals.

Now let’s continue looking at how the “Job List” can help us plan for the future.

When we look at the total project bid amount and the total signed amount we can see where we are in relation to our financial goals for the year. (See the previous post for more details on this).

Next is…

Tracking dollars collected from projects – This collected amount (column K) is exactly what it says it is. It is where we enter the amounts collected from each project weekly. This total gives us a comparison to our signed amount (column J) and let’s us see if our projects have increased or decreased after signing.

Percentage of jobs signed – This percentage, 60% (cell I-24) is the percentage of proposals that have been signed. This is cell B-22 (15) divided by cell C-22 (9). This information lets us know how we’re doing with our pricing. If the number is below 15%, we’re not selling well. If our number gets too high, above 50%, we may not be charging enough.

Percentage of dollars signed per dollars bid – Knowing this percentage helps us as we’re looking forward, to know how we’re doing in relation to reaching our financial goal for the year. Based on the percentage of 53% (cell J-26), knowing that if our goal for the year is $400,000.00, we need to have done twice that many dollars of proposals.

Percentage of dollars collected per signed – Just like tracking the amount of dollars collected is pretty straight forward, this percentage of 93% (cell K-28), is the same. This simply lets us know if we’ve collected everything that was bid. If not, there may be some outstanding receivables, or we may have made changes during production that reduced our receivables number. It’s also possible for this number to be more than 100% which means that there were changes made during production that increased our receivables.

There are still five more areas of information that the “Job List” provides but to keep this post from getting too long today, I’m going to stop here. I know that this feels like a lot but it’s not nearly as overwhelming as it seems.

Just like there’s a lot to constructing a building, the same is true for building a successful business.

The five remaining areas are –

  • Average dollar amount of projects bid
  • Average dollar amount of projects signed
  • Average dollar amount of projects collected
  • Projected timeframe for doing signed projects
  • Projected date work should be done

Of these next five areas I think the last two are the most revealing.

I’m looking forward to bringing this “Job List” topic to a close in the next post.

The Final Step in Raising the Construction Contractor Accountability Bar

This is How the Construction Contractor Evaluation Works in the Real World

It’s time to bring this process of evaluating construction contractors to a conclusion. Like most things needed to run a successful business, this process of evaluating and holding the construction industry to a level of excellence isn’t as simple as we’d like it to be.

This doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort.

We started this series by pointing out the fact that there is a problem and that construction contractors have a worse reputation than used car salesmen. Second, we discussed why a system for rating company’s and individual’s performance would allow us to move average toward excellent. Next, we looked at what the process would include and what would be rated. Last week, we concluded with how a numerical rating would allow for accurately scoring the performance of those being evaluated.

This evaluation system will give us some clear and concrete information to help us make better decisions regarding construction projects.

  • The first thing it will do is give our production team a clear understanding of what is expected of them.
  • Second it will give each company and/or individual a report for each individual project.
  • Third it will give production teams a rating to see how they compare to the standard of excellence.
  • Fourth it will let us as the general contractor see how we rate in comparison to our standard of excellence.
  • Finally, it will give us a process for comparing companies and individuals when we are going through the process of determining who will be doing specific construction projects.

Here are some examples of the evaluation process in action.

This process will start by providing companies and individuals with the evaluation process so they will know what’s expected of them. It’s unfair to have something expected without knowing what those expectations are. The contents of what is included in these expectations can be found in Part 3 and Part 4 of posts.

Let’s start by rating Painting Company A on the project that they just finished.

These are the areas to be scored, with each specific sub-section scored independently and averaged will give the score for each area.

_____ Time management – 54

_____ Attention to detail – 67

_____ Communication – 51

_____ Quality of work – 75

_____ Respect for the budget – 76

Overall project average – 65 meets standards

You can see that this company scored lower in a couple of areas and higher in others, ultimately scoring in the mid-range of meeting standards. When this company receives this report…there needs to be some attention given to the areas with the low scores.

The next thing we’ll look at is how the accumulation of scores given to subcontractors can give us, as the general contractor, a way to see how we rate in comparison to our standard of excellence.

Let’s say we’ve done a small bathroom upgrade that included a plumber, an electrician, a painter, and a carpenter. Here is each subcontractor’s overall project average score.

Plumber’s project average – 77

Electrician’s project average – 71

Painter’s project average – 65

Carpenter’s project average – 76

General Contractor’s project average – 72

This score of 72, while it falls within the area of “meets standards”, it’s below where I expect us to be. If we’re doing our job right and meeting our expectations…we should be scoring closer to 85

It looks like we have some work to do.

Finally, this system will provide us with a way to make the best choice when deciding between multiple subcontractors. For example, if we are looking for a painter to do a job, we can compare scores from previous projects or overall averages.

Painting Company A’s project average – 65

Painting Company B’s project average – 69

Painting Company C’s project average – 76

As you can see looking at these averages, there is a clear front runner. What you can’t see is what specific section scores make up these averages. For example –

Company B scored high in the areas of Attention to detail and Quality of work but scored low in Time management and Communication. While Company C scored a constant average in all areas. With this information, we, as the general contractor, can determine which painting company would be the best fit for the upcoming project.

There is no question that the construction industry has our work cut out for us to get the bar raised to excellence. Rome wasn’t built in a day and getting the bar raised that high won’t be either.

Remember, Rome was built by laying one brick at a time.

I hope this series of posts about the construction contractor evaluation has been enlightening and helpful.

We hope to have the finishing touches on this Construction Contractor Evaluation system done before much longer. When it’s ready we plan to make it available at Solution Building. Once it’s ready, get your copy and…

Join me in raising the construction industry bar.

Why We Need Numbers to Help Construction Contractors Achieve Excellence, Part 4

How Else are We Going to Know How High the Bar Actually is?

Over the past several weeks we’ve discussed how low the bar is regarding the construction industry and the need to raise it. We talked about how most people working in construction aren’t even aware that there’s a problem. Then we looked into how an evaluation system could improve those standards. Last week, we broke down what construction contractor excellence should consist of.

This week we’re going to look at the hard part of the process…putting numbers to performance.

The number of goals made or correct answers given provide a numerical value of a person’s accomplishments. Evaluating performance is harder, it’s about expectation and perception.

The variation of perception is one of the main reasons this process gets left undone.

What’s acceptable to me, may not be acceptable to you and vice versa. This is why a system for giving a fair evaluation is important.

The rating part of the process –  

  • This is an objective form of reasoning used to analyze and evaluate companies, contractors, and individuals in each of the five (5) different rating categories.
  • Evaluations must be based on the company’s or individuals actual performance, not the comments or opinions of others.
  • The evaluation must reflect the combination and culmination of events during the entire project. Single events of outstanding or faulty performance should be considered in context of the overall project.

The following tendencies need to be recognized and avoided in order to keep the ratings as objective as possible.

  • “Halo Effect” – rating the company or individual the same in every category based on a general opinion of their performance. Each category must be evaluated separately and objectively.
  • Bias – rating a company or individual based on whether or not the person doing the evaluation likes or dislikes the company or individual being evaluated.
  • Undue credit for length of service – rating a company or individual based on their length of service instead of the quality of their performance. In other words, thinking that they must be exceeding industries standard because they have been doing this work for 15 years.
  • Loose ratings – giving higher ratings out of a desire to please and remain in a positive light with the company or individual.
  • Tight ratings – rating companies and individuals below standards due to the person doing the evaluation being a “perfectionist”. If all the companies and individuals are rated too low, it reflects on supervision!

We need a consistent and simple way to score each of the five (5) areas of accountability that we discussed last week; time management, attention to detail, communication, quality of work and respect for the budget.

Each area was divided into various sub-sections that scored independently and averaged together make up the score for each area being evaluated. These five (5) scores then averaged together give us the overall score of the evaluation.

The following notes offer a further explanation of ratings and describe standards of performance. They should be taken as general illustrations of the standard expected rather than as comprehensive definitions. Evaluators should use their judgment in determining other factors which should be taken into account in particular situations.

Here is the numbering system for rating each area

  • FAR EXCEEDS STANDARDS 4.7 -5.0 –

This is the highest level of performance. Few companies or individuals will score at this level. It is only attained by top performers, if ever. This performance rating is characterized by an exceptionally high quality of superior craftsmanship done in a timely manner. They constantly seek out and assume responsibilities above and beyond expectations and contribute new ideas or ways of improving operational and/or procedural matters.

  • EXCEEDS STANDARDS 4.0 – 4.7 –

Evaluations in this range are very desirable. Companies and individuals who score in this range demonstrate above average performance in their position. Performance approached that of excellent in craftsmanship and production. Require a degree of supervision that is less than typical of most companies and individuals. They make significant contributions to production and periodically seek out and assume responsibilities beyond expectations.

  • MEETS STANDARDS 3.0 – 3.9 –

Performs in a responsible and comprehensive manner, however, improvement should be expected on future evaluations. Requires a higher degree of supervision than should be needed. Performs work in a professional manner and makes acceptable contributions to production.

  • NEEDS IMPROVEMENT TO MEET STANDARDS   2.0 – 2.9 –

Companies and individuals scoring in this range are considered marginal. Performance of is barely adequate. Requires extensive direction and review to keep projects moving forward. Companies and individuals scoring in this group should be informed that if there isn’t improvement they will NOT be used on future projects.

  • FAILS TO MEET STANDARDS 1.0 – 1.9 –

Companies and individuals should never score this low. Performance in this range is nowhere near acceptable standards. The performance is low and chances for improvement are unlikely. Every project that this company or individual is on is sending a message to customers that job performance and quality are not important!

Once each of the areas has been rated based on the performance on the project and the overall average has been determined, that number is multiplied by 20 to give us the overall score.

These scores then will be as follows:

            94 – 100     FAR EXCEEDS STANDARDS

            80 – 93       EXCEEDS STANDARDS

            60 – 79       MEETS STANDARDS

            40 – 59       NEEDS IMPROVEMENT TO MEET STANDARDS

            < 40          FAILS TO MEET STANDARDS

Today’s post along with the three previous ones will provide a construction contractor evaluation system that will begin raising the bar to a level of excellence.

Like most things, this can seem a little overwhelming, but so did your first construction project when you started it.

Just start building the wall one brick at a time and before you know it…it’s done.

The key to building anything is having a good plan and following it. This construction contractor evaluation system is a part of such a plan.

Here at Timber Creek Construction, we’ve been looking for a process to hold ourselves and our production team accountable. Implementing this plan is how we’re going to do just that.

The Next Step in Raising the Bar of Construction Contractor Accountability, Part 3

How Do We Get the Bar Raised to the Level of Excellence?

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve talked about the need to raise the bar of what is expected of construction contractors and how at Timber Creek Construction we’re working on a process to accomplish that.

I used to believe the ultimate goal was achieving perfection. Then I was informed by my wife that striving for perfection was a bad thing because perfection is impossible. The fact that perfection is unattainable leads to disappointment. I struggled with this for a while before determining that…

EXCELLENCE is the goal, not perfection.

Growing up I was taught that there is a level of excellence to be achieved in everything we do. There was no need for a “system”, excellence was just the standard…not so much anymore.

As a general contractor it is my responsibility to provide customers with excellence.

In order to raise the industry standard of excellence, there needs to be an effective way to communicate these expectations with customers, sub-contractors, and individuals working on construction projects. There needs to be a system to evaluate how well these expectations are being met.

Last week I ended the discussion stating the need to rate each construction company and/or individual doing construction, based on their performance and actions for each project.

Here is what we will be included in the process. This is what will be expected from us and our production team in an effort to achieve excellence.

  • The purpose of this evaluation system is to share what the standards are for our construction company and what is expected of contractors and individuals. This evaluation system is designed to hold ourselves and others accountable for our decisions and actions as they relate to construction projects and the industry as a whole.
  • The use of an evaluation system is sometimes misunderstood by the person or company being evaluated. This procedure is designed to assist you and/or your company in making the best possible choices and decisions regarding construction projects.
  • This system is intended to be positive and constructive for each contractor, individual and company. Sometimes evaluations are perceived as negative; however, the intent is not to find fault, but rather to develop better contractors, individuals and companies.
  • Most contractors and individuals want to do good work, which is what our company and customers want. This does not mean only working harder, but also working smarter. The objective of this evaluation is to reinforce the appreciation of performing above and beyond industry standards. It is to assist in improving performance and quality.

Here are the areas of accountability that will be evaluated and what will be included in each area.

Time management – spend time wisely

  • Show up and start projects on or before the time and/or date determined and scheduled.
  • Be productive with the use of time while at the job site and/or working on the project. Make the amount of time spent working worth the travel time. Don’t spend more time traveling than working.
  • Work consistently on the project once it is started, unless there are extenuating circumstances such as waiting on materials, other contractors or weather.
  • Have the project completed on or before the deadline for completion.

Attention to detail

  • Do the work as described and explained in the Scope of Work.
  • Keep the job site organized and clean throughout the duration of the project
  • Follow the “Construction Contractor’s Golden Rules
  • If you open it, close it.
  • If you turn it on, turn it off.
  • If you unlock it, lock it up.
  • If you break it, admit it.
  • If you can’t fix it, call in someone who can.
  • If you borrow it, return it.
  • If you value it, take care of it.
  • If you make a mess clean it up.
  • If you move it, put it back.
  • If it belongs to someone else and you want to use it, get permission.
  • If you don’t know how to operate it, leave it alone.
  • If it’s none of your business, stay out of it.
  • If it will brighten someone’s day, do it.
  • If it will tarnish someone’s reputation, DON’T do it.

Communication

  • Let everyone you are directly involved with or is connected to your portion of the project know what to expect.
  • Make or return calls in a timely manner.
  • Send and sign proposals, contracts, change orders, scopes of work, budgets, etc. in a timely manner.

Quality of work

  • All work is expected to be done above current industry standards, striving for a level of excellence.
  • If work is unacceptable and needs to be redone, make this a priority as needed to help keep the project on schedule.

Respect for the budget

  • Be aware of and stay within the budget, both labor and material. If situations arise where changes need to be made that are going to deviate from the budget, let all affected parties know before proceeding.
  • Manage materials to minimize waste. Return unused materials to supplier or general contractor to be used on future projects.
  • Honor payment agreements and don’t ask for draws ahead of schedule.

I know this seems like a lot of information to digest, but it’s really pretty simple. And although it’s basic, it might not be easy. Because if it was easy…everybody would already be doing it.

This is what it’s going to take to raise the bar to the level of excellence, which is our goal, after all.

Next week we’ll discuss the evaluation part of the process and how it will be shared with those being evaluated.

I know, you’re on the edge of your seat looking forward to next week’s post.

An Eye-opening Process to Hold Contractors to a Higher Standard, Part 2

The First Step is Raising the Bar High Enough So an Earth Worm Can Get Under It

I talked last week about how poorly the construction industry is viewed and the contractor’s unawareness of how low construction standards are. It’s pretty sad when the bar is so low that an earth worm can’t get under it.

We discussed how important it is for a professional builder to –

  • Communicate clearly
  • Listen intently
  • Respect other people’s time
  • Be responsive
  • Be accountable

And how we should live and work using the “golden rules for construction contractors

As a general contractor I’ve allowed myself, sub-contractors and laborers the latitude to leave the bar where it is. When this is permitted as acceptable, it leaves the bar laying in the dirt.

Standard is just average. Average should not be what we’re striving for. Currently the industry average needs to be raised. Let’s work together to get the bar out of the dirt. We need to determine what acceptable standards are and then incorporate a process to evaluate performance as compared to the standard.

We should be working to achieve more than average. We should be striving for excellence.

Usually, we have every intention of doing better. Good intentions are easy, actually doing better is the hard part. It doesn’t help when we aren’t even clear on what’s expected. We need an accountability system to be designed and implemented. A process for sharing and explaining clearly what the expectations are and a way to evaluate how well they are being met.

Now the hard part begins…what is this evaluation system going to be, how is it going to work?

If no one knows what the standards are…it’s going to be hard to achieve them.

We need a way to evaluate the performance of everyone involved in the construction process. We need a system to –

  • Share what our construction business standards are and what is expected from ourselves, contractors and laborers.
  • Assist individuals and companies in making the best possible choices and decisions regarding construction projects.
  • Provide positive and constructive evaluation not intended to find fault, but to develop better contractors, laborers and companies.
  • Minimize differences in opinions and focus on the work done, not personalities and/or our differing perspectives.
  • Evaluate ourselves, contractors and laborers at the completion of each project.
  • Provide construction customers with the best work possible by not only working harder but also working smarter.
  • Reinforce appreciation for performing above and beyond industry standards while constantly raising that level of standard.

This system needs to have a way to rate each company and/or individual on their performance based on a culmination of events and actions of each project. These ratings then need to be accumulated in an overall performance rating to be used to compare to other companies and/or individuals when choosing who will do future projects.

We need to determine what areas we will be held accountable for and rated and reviewed in? We also need a numerical rating system for doing the evaluating.

We’ll get into these areas in the next post.

As I’m writing these weekly solutions, I’m developing an evaluation system that I’m going to implement at Timber Creek Construction. Once I get it finished, I plan to make it available at Solution Building for other companies that would like to help raise the bar in the construction industry standards.

How Can We Raise the Bar of Construction Contractor Expectations?

With An Eye-opening Process to Hold Contractors to a Higher Standard

I read a study years ago that ranked building contractors below used car salesmen. This might not be a bad thing if used car salesmen didn’t have a reputation of…shall we say…not putting the customer’s needs first.

For builders to have been ranked below used car salesmen was very confusing and more than a little disturbing.

Then realized that I viewed customers differently than a lot of builders. For me they aren’t just customers, a project or just a way to earn money. These people have put their trust in me to build them their dream.

Over the years as I have discussed building projects with a lot of people, the number of times that I have heard construction customers say, “It was the worst experience of my life” is unacceptable.

A construction project should be among the best experiences, not the worst.

Many people only get the opportunity to experience a construction project once, especially if it’s a large one like building a new home. This makes it even more critical that we as construction contractors serve every one of our customers in a professional manner.

In a previous post about construction contractor etiquette, I shared a story of a friend meeting with a plumber. While they were in the kitchen discussing the project, the plumber who was chewing tobacco spit tobacco juice in her sink. Not just once mind you, but 3-4 times! He at least had the courtesy to turn the water on and rinse out the sink.   

When the customer told me this story, she was still surprised about this and the plumber…he didn’t even realize he had done anything wrong.

This kind of behavior is a problem and it’s no wonder that contractors have a worse reputation than used car salesmen.

Considering some situations that I’ve seen or heard, it is apparent that this problem needs our attention.

Whether it’s –

  • Standing in a customer’s upholstered chair using it for a ladder
  • Leaving an electric circuit turned off over the weekend which had a customer’s freezer plugged in to it
  • Laying down after lunch and taking a nap on a customer’s couch
  • Throwing food trash in the void behind a wall and leaving it
  • Or…spitting tobacco juice in a customer’s sink

These kinds of things are unacceptable.

The level of expectations for construction contractors has gotten so low that these kinds of actions have become the norm. 

The problem is the unawareness that there is a problem.

If this is going to change, we need to raise the bar. We’ve got to hold ourselves and each other, to a higher standard.

We need construction contractor etiquette.

The word etiquette doesn’t sound like a construction term. However, I think the definition of etiquette speaks to this issue perfectly. Etiquette is a code of ethical behavior regarding professional practice or action among the members of a profession in their dealings with each other and customers.

What would this code of ethical behavior look like for construction contractors?

It would be things that a professional builder would be expected to do:

  • Communicate – Let the customer know what to expect. Return calls, send contracts in advance, sign papers in a timely manner. Remember that they don’t do construction everyday like you do.
  • Listen – This is the most important part of communicating. You need to hear what the customer is saying. This is more than just their words. It means really listening to their hopes and desires and understanding their dreams.
  • Be on time – Show up when you say you will. If you’re going to be late, call and let the customer know. Respect their time.
  • Be responsive – Return communications in a reasonable amount of time. They just want to know that you hear them and care.
  • Be accountable – If you or someone on your team make a mistake, own up to it. Don’t blame someone else. Keep the job site “clean”.  Pick up your lunch trash and water bottles. Dust will be expected, but use plastic tarps, if possible, to contain the dust and/or clean areas if it gets out of hand. Be aware of landscaping.  Don’t park in yards or walk on flowers or other plants. If it’s necessary to work in these areas, do it with respect.

Some of this content is from Construction Etiquette by Stefaney Rants.

We need to use the Golden Rule for contractors and treat construction customers the way they should be treated, not the way they normally are.

GOLDEN RULES FOR CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTORS

  1. If you open it, close it.
  2. If you turn it on, turn it off.
  3. If you unlock it, lock it up.
  4. If you break it, admit it.
  5. If you can’t fix it, call in someone who can.
  6. If you borrow it, return it.
  7. If you value it, take care of it.
  8. If you make a mess clean it up.
  9. If you move it, put it back.
  10.  If it belongs to someone else and you want to use it, get permission.
  11.  If you don’t know how to operate it, leave it alone.
  12.  If it’s none of your business, stay out of it.
  13.  If it will brighten someone’s day, say it.
  14.  If it will tarnish someone’s reputation, keep it to yourself.

As professionals it is up to us to do something about this.

So, what are we going to do?

The first thing is to be aware of the problem. If we ignore it, it won’t go away; it will continue to get worse. This means that we need to hold each other accountable for our actions. As professionals, if we see something unacceptable being done, we need to call each other out with respect and in private. This isn’t about public humiliation. It’s about raising the bar. It’s about the customer.

In the second part of this series of posts, we’ll begin to look at the process for holding ourselves and each other to a higher standard.

Contractors get ready…the BAR IS BEING RAISED.

Now I’m Beginning to See What Virtual Construction Consulting Looks Like

Just Because I Can’t Touch it Doesn’t Mean That I Can’t Help Fix it

It’s amazing what has been made possible with computers, smart phones and the internet. Virtual construction consulting is just one of those things.

The topic of virtual construction consulting came up several months ago when I was talking with a friend, who lives more than a thousand miles away, about his construction project. He and his wife bought some property that belonged to an older lady and the buildings had fallen into disarray. As we talked, I found myself wanting to go help him fix things.

The problem was that thousand-mile commute.

This is when the whole virtual construction consulting thing began to take shape. We began talking through the different things that needed to be done. I shared some of these construction issues in a couple of previous posts. One was what to do when you have a construction problem but don’t know what to do about it. Another was about how to make rafters long enough when you don’t have a “board stretcher”.

Today we’ll discuss a different project.

The problem we’ll be discussing today begins with rotting posts that are supporting (or not) an 8’ overhang.

Here’s the list of issues that we will address.

  • Roof support posts set inground aren’t supporting the roof because they are rotting.
  • Roof sagging due to lack of support because of rotting posts.
  • Header at the roof eave is not adequately attached to the posts or sufficient size to carry roof load.

Roof support posts set inground aren’t supporting the roof because they are rotting at the ground.

To fix this problem, there needs to be adequate concrete support under the bottom of the posts and then you need to fasten them to the concrete with post base brackets that will reduce the likelihood of future rot.

There are a couple of options for this. First is to remove the 4×4 posts, dig a hole outside of the concrete slab, pour new concrete piers and set the posts in brackets on top of the piers. Second would be to move the posts in and set them in post brackets on the existing concrete slab.

Moving the posts in would be the simpler and less expensive of the two options. It would mean no digging, no forming and no pouring of concrete.

The downside to consider is by moving the posts in, there will be more roof extending beyond the support beam.

With the current overhang only about a foot…this won’t be a problem.

Roof sagging due to lack of support because of rotting posts.

This problem will be fixed by moving the posts in and setting them on the concrete slab.

By stretching a string line down the outside bottom corner of the rafters from one end of the roof to the other, there will be a straight line that will be a target when reinstalling the posts.

The roof can be supported temporarily by 2x4s while the posts are being moved and reinstalled.

Header at the roof eave is not adequately attached to the posts or sufficient size to carry roof load.

Currently the header is a single 2×6 nailed to the side of the 4×4 posts and spanning approximately 8’. Code says that a header carrying a roof and spanning 8’ should be twice this big.

The single 2×6 will need to be removed to allow for the moving of the posts. Once the posts have been reinstalled, the salvaged 2×6 can be attached back to the 4×4 posts. Then a second one can be attached to the first. After both are in place and nailed together, carriage bolts can be installed through both 2x6s and bolted to the 4×4 posts.

An additional action that can be taken to assist in strengthening the roof is the removing of the 1×6 fascia board and installing a 2×6 in its place. This will help carry the roof load by distributing the load between the rafters.


This is today’s virtual construction consulting.

There are more in-depth instructions that we could go into, but to keep this post from becoming too long, we’ll stop here.

If you or someone you know has some construction questions that a virtual construction consultation might be able to give you some “support” with, leave a comment below.