As a construction professional, we understand the desire to be your own boss. Take things the direction you want, work hard to make more money, all that good stuff. But starting a construction company is serious business – and just like building a house , you need the right tools. Starting a business requires organization more than anything else, and in several key areas:
- Project management – keep track of tasks, deadlines, and costs. This is a big deal. It can’t be overstated how much you need to keep careful track of who is doing what, and when. Calendaring and automated notifications will free up a huge amount of your time.
- Document control – you need to keep documents for as long as possible, and (more importantly) be able to find them quickly.
- Finances – an obvious one, and rightly so. If you can’t keep track of your money, how will you know if you are really making any?
- Bidding – both sending and receiving bids can be a HUGE headache. Get some software to handle it from both sides.
- Contracts – everything you do – from starting a job to executing on a change order – requires contracts. One mistake here can cost you.
Starting a construction company requires you to be at your best when prospecting for work, executing on a job, and dealing with customers. Leave the details of running the business to a system that can handle it. We like SiteBoss by Pi Software. It does everything listed above, and a lot more. Give it a try. It’s free!
Not all software is created equal. Not even all project management software is created equal. When you are looking to manage specific projects, you really should look for something that is tailored to the job. Never was that more true than when talking about construction project management software.
But why? Projects have tasks, tasks have details. That’s it, right? Well – sure. At that level, every project looks the same. But start digging deeper, and it gets ugly. Does the system you are using allow you to break out and summarize by labor/materials? Can you have the same task type more than once, as is the case when demolition happens at multiple times on a big job? What about associating blueprints files with a specific project or task?
MS Project for Construction Project Management Software?
So OK – how about using something ultimately flexible like Microsoft Project? That could work. But Project isn’t really construction project management software. It’s a TOOL for managing projects of any type. And if there is one thing we understand in construction, it’s tools. Ever tried to hammer in a nail with the end of a screwdriver? Yeah – it can be done – but a hammer is a MUCH better option. Moral of the story: use the right tool, save yourself some headaches.
There are a lot of options out there for software to run your business. Managing projects is important. Next to handling the cash – maybe the MOST important. Don’t get caught with something less than you need. Do some research, get something that fits. Stay away from the screwdriver. :)
Lets face it – construction contracts are really nothing more than a complete hassle, right? A bunch of legal words that will almost certainly never be used for anything. It’s the ultimate safety net – one you will never use. Sure – we all get that a good construction contract will protect you if something goes wrong, but you’ve probably never had anything go wrong, right?
Did it ever occur to you that nothing goes wrong BECAUSE you have a construction contract in place?
Remember what contracts are for – to define an agreement between two parties. You are going to remodel my kitchen, and I’m going to pay you. Simple enough. But what if I decide halfway into the job that I’m not giving you a dime until everything is done? Many – even most – contractors can’t do that because of cash flow issues. You need money to buy materials, to hire labor, etc. You can’t float that kind of money for 4 weeks, let alone 4 months.
Construction Contract to the Rescue!
This is where your construction contract comes in. You SHOULD have payment terms completely laid out in your contract. 10% up front, 20% when demolition is complete, 20% more when materials are ordered, the remaining 50% at completion. End of story. There’s no arguing to be had – it’s all right there. Most times, the owner won’t even bring up the idea of changing payment terms, because they are so clear. If they do – out comes your contract. Problems solved.
Good construction software can help. Look for something with built in contract management, attachment to jobs, and full financial integration. You’ll be glad you did.
So you’re out there looking for some electrician software to run your business. Good for you! Most people spend their entire lives using a yellow pad and a phone book – and it’s far from efficient. Technology continues to march forward, and it leaves nobody behind. Contractors, subcontractors vendors – even owners – can reap the benefits of good software.
But not all software is created equal. As an electrician, there is plenty of electrician software out there – but features can (and do) vary wildly. What you need and want might not be what someone else needs and wants – so it’s certainly a personal preference. But aren’t there some features that would be key for anyone? You bet there are. Here we go:
- Customers – sounds obvious, but not so fast. Having a list of customers is one thing. Being able to track leads, where they came from, reminders to contact, and notes about previous jobs are all things that can bring you MORE business. An that’s a good thing.
- Work Orders – Tracking individual jobs is another one that sounds obvious, but alas – so many don’t do it. Just writing down the address and then handling someone a receipt (and telling them their cancelled check is their receipt) has the potential to go horribly wrong. Getting to the site, reviewing what is to be done, giving a solid quote, getting a signature, doing the work, and getting paid. That’s how you do it, and that’s what the documents should show.
- Finance – this is where most electrician software falls down. Built in finance, along with tracking of expenses, reporting, and reconciliation shouldn’t be something for a separate piece of software. Data should flow from work orders to finance. Period.
- Documents – keeping everything in one place that is always accessible is one of the great joys of the Internet. Filing cabinets, folders, filing systems – all a waste of time when you have software that handles it cleanly.
- Calendaring – looking at the big picture has never been so important. Which of my guys are overbooked? Underbooked? How do things look Monday? Do I need to hire more people? All things that can be answered with a well implemented calendar.
Electrician software has the real potential to make your business grow more easily, and to keep your finance safe in the process. Give one a try.
Work orders can be rough to manage. Most subcontractors end up cobbling together a system with simple tools – Excel, Word, sometimes even – gasp! – paper.
But that’s not going to get the job done. work order software gives you a ton of additional features that would be time and cost prohibitive to replicate manually. For example:
- Calendars created automatically
- Work lists for guys in the field
- Remote access for quoting prices and updating the home office
- Easy scheduling and rescheduling
- Automated capture of customer data
- Interface with accounting systems
How work order software can save you money
Using advanced work order software can directly yield more money for your business. How? Picture the following scenarios:
- Through simple scheduling errors, one of your employees isn’t notified of an appointment
- A customer calls to reschedule, but your employee never gets the message, and shows up at the wrong time
- Your employee can’t get ahold of you in the office, and quote a price that builds in no profit for you
- The client has work that needs to be done, but you have no way to remind yourself to check in occasionally to see of you can help
In every one of those cases, money is being sent to someone else. One of your competitors maybe. No good. Get some quality software, and get a handle on things – quick.
Most people think that subcontractor software doesn’t even exist – that it’s always built for general contractors. Not true! There are several pieces of software out there that can help ANY construction business, and many that apply specifically to subcontractors.
The key things to look for are:
- Work order management: make sure the system can provide for the entry, scheduling, tracking and documentation of work orders – usually the heart of any subcontractor business
- Document management: keeping documents in order can be the difference between winning a nasty lawsuit and losing one
- Finance: this sounds obvious, but having INTEGRATED finance software is what turns good software into great subcontractor software
- Bid management: you probably get a lot of requests to bid jobs – why not handle it all in the same place?
Spend some time looking around. There is a lot of good stuff out there.
Wether you are starting a construction company or just looking to make life easier for a company you’ve been running for years, quality construction software is the ticket to making it happen.
Lots of construction companies run just fine for decades using yellow pads and schedules in someone’s head. But it’s not efficient, and downright dangerous when things get busy. Forget a promise, lose a customer. Truer words have never been spoken. In addition, good construction software can enhance the experience for everyone – the builder, subs, owner – even your accountant.
So what makes for good construction software? Glad you asked:
- Project management – keeping track of each of the tasks in your projects starts complicated, and goes up from there. Look for something that handles task relationships and dependencies, has flexible scheduling rules, and templates.
- Work Orders – subs live and die by daily jobs, and work orders are crucial. Simple and efficient is the key when you are dealing with volume – and we hope you are.
- Scheduling – being able to schedule and see schedules from anywhere (iPhone, iPad, anything with an internet connection) makes scheduling much less daunting.
- Document management – one place to store everything, all online, and searchable. This is non-negotiable.
- Bid automation – if you send out a lot of bids, you already know you need help. Something that sends, collects and allows you to compare and request revisions is crucial. Ideal would be one that integrates with project management to immediately import the selected bid data into the project.
- Full financials – no brainer. Having a separate financial system means 100% duplicate data entry. That’s just a huge waste of time.
- Owner access – a screen where the owner can see pictures, schedules, statuses, etc.
Get these things squared away, and you’ll have more time for the important things. Taking on more work maybe. Or better – a vacation. Remember those?
There are two kinds of software you can use on your iPad – Apps (the ones you download from the App Store) and web systems (the kind you just navigate to in your browser). We like both, but honestly, prefer web based applications. Why? Well -
- They are available on any device – your desktop, laptop, iPad, even iPhone
- They don’t require updates – they are just always showing you the current version
- Unless an app requires some part of the device hardware (the camera, the compass, etc), they don’t NEED to be apps
- They work the same everywhere – including Android devices
There are a lot of apps and websites that break up individual functions, but we like all-in-one apps. Trying to find an all-in-one iPad app for construction hasn’t been easy, but we like Pi Software’s SiteBoss. It’s complete, addressing all of the following:
- Project management
- Calendaring/work orders
- Full financials
Give it a look. Highly recommended.
Construction jobs are out there – always. Even when the economy is bad, people need their houses fixed, if not upgraded. So how do you get more construction jobs when the competition is fierce?
The key is differentiating yourself from the crowd, and you need to do it in multiple ways if you want to win new jobs. For example:
- Start by being able to show examples of past work, and how those jobs met client expectations and came in on budget and on time
- Show the tools you use to manage construction jobs. Is it a yellow pad and your memory? Or is it a computer system that allows you to track project details from anywhere?
- Show how the customer can keep tabs on the project without having to call 5 times a day. SiteBoss by Pi Software is excellent for this.
- Sh0w how tracking of project details – especially change orders – is the way you do business, not an afterthought.
Getting more construction jobs isn’t something you can usually focus on day in and day out – but if you use the right tools, you shouldn’t have to.
Plumbers are a special breed. Their design needs, their management needs, their coordination. It’s all part of running a successful plumbing business. Plumber software, therefore, needs to follow suit.
- Managing projects isn’t easy. There are multiple parties (customers, subs, vendors), deadlines that are always moving, and documents galore. A review of plumber software in the workplace shows a stunning lack of cohesion. The key features, as we see it:
- Full feature project management – including the ability to automatically alert responsible parties of date changes
- Document management – centralized and clean
- Bid management – a MUST have.
- Full financials – this is the tricky one. Almost nobody includes financials.
- Work orders – for managing the day-to-day business
- Web accessible – nowadays, you shouldn’t be considering anything else.
- Mobile aware – ideally with apps.
Keep your eyes open. It’s out there.