Making the drive home the end of your day as a subcontractor
What happens when you’ve finished work for the day kind of depends on how things are going. If projects are behind schedule or over cost, then the world and its worries are probably piled on your shoulders, so when you do actually finish up for the day, you’ll probably go home and arrive like a bear with a sore head. You’ll be too tired to interact with your kids, and all you’ll want to do is go to sleep. Or go to the bar. Neither can untangle the knot of problems you have in your head or the knot of worry in your stomach.
So why do some projects fall behind, or something happens to put a job on hold? Sometimes, there’s no way to figure that out – stuff just happens. But oftentimes, if you had the time and space to get the heads up, you – or someone you know & trust – could head off problems before they happen.
That’s what this article is about.
“There are fundamental differences between eSUB and other general contractor-based solutions. Every feature and workflow in the GC Solution has to be adapted for us – the subcontractor.” A&P Air Conditioning, Hialeah, FL.
It’s about technology
People just a few years younger than you seem to be OK with technology, but not you. Some say you’re the real-life Magneto: every piece of technology in your hands just kind of stops working. It’s your superpower.
Your kids are naturals with gadgets, and one day, you hope they’ll be running the business, maybe with technology’s help. And, of course, you’ve seen folk from the GC of your projects with their iPads on-site, tapping away. But you know the technology they’re using isn’t for you, and in fact, you’re right.
The gadget you want needs to do two things. One, give you the heads up on where problems are happening so you can fix them before they impact you. Two, fix your paperwork mountain and give you the big picture. Right now, you run into trouble you should maybe have seen coming, and the clues to the problems that caused the trouble are somewhere in the pile of receipts, bills, and labor invoices that are in the growing pile on your desk.
It’s about paper
When the paperwork is all processed, labor and materials costs tallied, invoices raised, and POs sent, you get the full picture of where the business stands. But mostly, that happens at the end of the day, after you’ve driven home, maybe grabbed a bite to eat, and begun your second job at a desk. Instead of playing with your kids, you’re up to your neck in paperwork.
If we’re honest, that office work sometimes gets left for a few days, even a week. And that’s where problems start to grow. It’s almost as if there’s a red warning light flashing away on your business’s dashboard, but it’s hidden under daily reports, receipts, inventories, RFIs, and handwritten notes.
Getting the office work squared away is why you, or your people, drive from site to site, back to the office, pulling paperwork and moving it around. It’s a full-time job, and chances are good it’s what someone who works for you does all day. That someone might even be you. If it’s not, it’s someone you’re paying more for than you did a year ago for the same results.
Labor costs are up, and because margins are tight, if a project comes in either late or over cost, it’s the little guy that ends up paying. Either you end up paying back today’s losses from the next job, or you have to turn down work from the big GCs.
“eSUB is a pretty good indicator, early on, of how we’re doing. With a high level of accuracy, we can see how we are doing on each task.” Geauga Mechanical, Chardon, OH.
Really. It’s about technology
The tech that could give you the heads up on problems and fix your paperwork? Sounds great, but your “unique talents” with technology are not going to work, are they, Magneto?
Without getting too far into the weeds of computing history, software today doesn’t try to be all things to all men (it used to try, back in the 90s and ’00s). The stuff used by big general contractors is written for that type of business. In the same way, the engine management software the auto shop uses for newer cars was written especially with them in mind.
There is software out there that’s been built for subcontracting businesses, and it usually comes from companies that specialize. All the problems we’ve talked about here – tight margins, not enough people, endless paperwork – need to have been experienced by people who make software. In 99% of cases, they haven’t been through it.
So what do we need to fix the problems? First, the technology needs to be Magneto-proof. That’s a given. Second, it needs to do your paperwork for you as you get it – every receipt, delivery note, and invoice. Thirdly, it needs to tally every figure in every column and give you, the person who makes the decisions, the big picture.
In the next article in the series, we’ll be looking at one of those pieces of technology that ticks the boxes. Instead of the commute home being the start of the next few hours of work, the right technology can let you turn off and concentrate on what’s really important in your life. Who knows, you might even get to play with the kids for an hour.