Hands up if you find building work stressful? Or maybe you’re running such a tight ship and are using all the right software!
You are not alone if you have more bad days than good ones. According to the Lighthouse Club, the construction industry charity, ‘stress, depression or anxiety accounts for a fifth of all work related illness’.
I can’t think of any builder I know who started their building firm because they liked the business side… they just wanted to build stuff. So the admin end is particularly tough for this sector.
We’ve noted down ten issues that typically cause sleepless nights for builders, along with suggestions on how to rethink your approach.
What’s squeezing the joy out of your building projects? This is supposed to be the best bit! If it’s delays that you feel you could have avoided then it’s probably because you’re trying to hold too much in your head. Get everything down in writing or onto the computer. You can’t project manage every job on your own when you have so much else to do.
Get your project digital from the off. Start with an accurate estimate. With every last nail and hour of labour accounted for there’ll be less to go wrong. Use estimating and/or project management software because they’ll lay out the whole job in front of you in clear colour-coded phases. Help is at hand.
‘I love admin’ said no one ever but it’s a necessary evil and one that can cause real anxiety. Procrastination will only make things worse. Why not let a mix of software programmes take the strain – you’ll shorten your admin time, reduce errors, and improve your professionalism – all in one hit. So much of the information you need is automatically generated; it’ll give you schedules, cash flow analysis, the lot. Nail this and you’ll put an end to many other stresses too.
Problems happen. Saying yes all the time doesn’t help. Before you know it you’re behind. Your workload will effect your evenings, weekends, relationships… I’m going to say it again. Software. Estimating software with project management will reduce the problems in the first place. It will keep jobs on track putting the right people, plant and materials in the right place at the right time. It’ll also reduce your visits to the Builders Merchant – a big waste of your time! One set of data in the estimating software can also feed health and safety software, contract software, project management software… And if delays happen (and they will) the alterations will automatically cascade through.
Cracking the whip because you’re up against it is very stressful. Make sure you accurately calculate the length of time a task will take in your quotations. Quote the true cost of a job and if you present yourself well, you should still win the work. And it’ll mean you can employ high quality trades on a decent wage – and keep them.
Don’t risk sub-contractors disputing the work or their pay; give them a contract like you would a customer. And communicate clearly with your crew, particularly on health and safety matters. You’ll have a much more supportive and happy workforce.
The buck stops with the building firm owner and I can’t sugar coat that. Simon Lazarus from the Better Business Group always says, ‘you don’t put yourself through all this to be the last to get paid’. Building work is generally always stressful, so at least make the risks worth your while. Return a level of profit that will give you money in the bank for now and in the future. You do want to retire one day? And as for shouldering all this responsibility, make sure you have someone to talk to. Maybe find a mentor? Simon Lazarus can help you there.
And with responsibility comes bills. Overheads. Leases. Insurance. Merchant invoices… Use good accounting software. Use good estimating software. Understand your outgoings. Don’t ever quote for just the materials and labour. The van payments need to be covered as well. “I’ll just do one extra job to cover X, Y, Z” is not the way forward if you want to reduce your stress levels.
You’ll feel far less anxious knowing that every job is offsetting your overheads. And should you suffer a bad debt, decent profit margins on every job will compensate. To quote the man of the moment, Simon Lazarus, ‘Don’t drop your prices. Look up. Your competitors are charging more and winning work. You can do it too.’ Watch his profit video and our article on quoting with confidence.
You have a legal obligation to the homeowner, your workforce and the public generally to look after their health and safety. Now that’s one heck of a stressor. Don’t manage this alone. Either appoint a Health & Safety Consultant or use software produced by H & S experts.
Go for the latter, and a good software programme will walk you through every phase of the project, all the latest legislation will be there, you will only be given the documents you need for that particular job and at least half the paperwork will be filled out for you. And if it’s a surprise visit from an HSE Inspector that keeps you awake at night – you can sleep easy knowing you have all the evidence you need to show him.
And one more thing, you could find yourself in legal trouble if you don’t provide a ‘right to cancel’ along with an estimate, so nail that one with a letter (contracts software for construction will include one), before this becomes an added stress.
Life would be so much easier without them… In fact there are probably more cowboy customers out there than there are cowboy builders. So don’t give them an inch. Make your estimates easily understood. Too little detail is ambiguous and open to interpretation. Be clear on provisional sums. If they move the goalposts be able to move the costs. And don’t hide problems from the customer, that’s really not good for your health. Be upfront about delays, whatever’s causing them. The outcome won’t be half as bad as you might imagine. Oh and make sure there’s a contract!
To paraphrase – ‘you can’t work with them can’t work without them’. Chances are you’re busy right now. But if you’re worried about the work drying up in the future then you need a plan. While you’re not chasing work think about who you want to build for. What are the more profitable jobs? How can you tweak your business to be more attractive to the big spenders? We’ve some promotional suggestions here. Get all your ducks lined up now, admin nailed, strategy right, marketing sorted, and your order book will stay full.
You don’t need them in your life. They’ll always cause you stress. Produce a contract. The right software will give you everything you need and take minutes to set up. It’ll will enable you to give your payment terms, final payment date, retention figure, interim or milestone stage payments. Build in stage payments. Don’t give a customer reason to stall or avoid making the final payment. Chase payment as soon as it becomes overdue.
Building work is stressful. If you’re able to take on board any of these points you’re starting the process of reducing your stress levels. For details of organisations who help with mental health, including those focussing on construction, click through to our dedicated page here.