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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Wilson

Six Strategies for Making the Most of a Slowdown in Construction Work

Tips for Maximizing Your Time When You're Not as Busy as Usual

Construction is boom or bust, and when business is booming, you’re riding the wave and raking in the cash. Most subcontractors love being super busy because more work means more money, but inefficiencies in workflow can make these periods stressful. When business slows, you can finally come up for air only to ask yourself, “what now?”

Instead of waiting for more work to start coming your way, you can take calculated action toward improving the overall health and longevity of your construction business. The added bonus is that the steps you take to streamline your business while work slows down can actually make your busy periods more consistent, organized and even less stressful.

The question is… How can I improve my subcontracting business when the work slows down?

The construction industry is cyclical, but owners can use slow periods as an opportunity to take a closer look at processes and job performance, nurture relationships and introduce improvements that can make their businesses stronger.

1. Ensure Productivity Doesn’t Suffer

An unfortunate phenomenon many subcontractors experience when business slows is a coinciding slowdown in productivity. One thing business owners should absolutely do when work slows down is be extremely present with field staff. Hourly employees will often drag out the work if they don’t feel like there are a lot of hours in their future.

However, a slowdown in worker productivity compounded with a slowdown in work will come at a heavy cost to your company. Time clocking apps with GPS capabilities can help you keep tabs on field staff because you can see when and from where employees are clocking in and out. By using a construction management tool like A.C.E. Construction Software, you can compare tracked hours with hours bid in order to better evaluate employee performance.

Using these tools along with the firm, direct communication style that has made you a successful business owner and stellar boss, you can limit the damage done to your bottom line when you experience a slowdown in work.

2. Nurture Your Network

A temporary slow down in business is the perfect time to spend a little time reaching out to your professional network. Send a few emails to your friends at the builders’ offices, or finally accept an invitation for drinks with the new supplier you’ve been working with. Hit up that friend of a friend you met at last year’s holiday party who also works in the industry. As a successful business owner, you know that taking a little time to nurture your relationships can go a long way.

In addition to socializing, you can spend time generating positive reviews for your company. Solicit testimonials from some of the builders and suppliers you work with and add them to your website. Ask you most loyal customers to submit reviews on Facebook, Yelp or Google, and make sure you’re responding to each and every review that’s posted. Maybe even post a few positive reviews of companies you work with in return to generate goodwill.

It also might be a good time to think about a customer referral program. For example, when you finish a job, give your client some business cards and ask them to send friends and family seeking the same services your way. You can ask for a referral source when new business comes in and send gift cards to the former client who referred you. This doesn’t cost a lot of money and is a great way to incentivize your customers to recommend you. Plus, in some cases it could generate repeat business!

3. Work on Your Web Presence

What’s the first thing you do when you’re looking to hire someone to do a job for you? Whether it’s repairing your water heater or scheduling a haircut, you’re likely to start by researching local service people in your area via the web. You might take to Facebook to ask your community for recommendations. Having a strong web presence is considered critical to the success of most businesses, yet many subs rely on existing relationships and word of mouth for much of their business.

While this strategy might work for the time being, it’s extremely likely that creating a strong web presence for your company will be essential to its success in the future. If your web presence is nonexistent, you can utilize the extra time you have during a slow period to purchase a domain name and build a basic website using a program like Wix or GoDaddy. You can also create a Google listing, learn a thing or two about SEO (search engine optimization), make social media pages for your company and start engaging with the local community to gain visibility.

If you already have a web presence, you can focus on updating your website and finding ways to improve your search ranking, drive more traffic to your web page and grow your social media following. If you’re willing to invest a little more in developing your web presence, then you have the option of enlisting the assistance of digital marketers, social media experts or web developers who are experts in the field.

However, if hiring professionals is outside of your comfort zone or budget, then there’s still a lot you can do solo with a little bit of elbow grease and help from the numerous online resources that cover the topic, like this article about Using Social Media to Grow Your Business, as well as podcasts like Marketing School with Neil Patel and Eric Siu.

4. Reflect on Job Performance

Oftentimes when we’re busy, we don’t even stop to do a job costing report. When we do get around to it, the report is often a simple “did we make money or not?” situation. But we can’t learn much about how to improve using these simple reports.

Having more time on your hands will allow you to focus on figuring out why certain jobs made money while others didn’t. You can look into where certain projects went wrong and pinpoint areas where you can improve. For example, you might discover that one of your projects required more material than you had accounted for during the bidding phase. The next time you take on a similar project, you’ll know to factor more material into your bid.

Or, you might find that one of your crews has lower productivity than your other crews, so the projects they work on are consistently going overtime and over your labor budget. In this case, you can communicate the problem to your field manager and inspire some motivation.

Unfortunately, many subcontractors don’t have a way to access data that would provide these detailed insights. If this is the case for your company, then make sure you read on to tip number six, which discusses the ways construction software can revamp your operational processes and lend some much-needed transparency to what’s happening on your job sites.

5. Look for Ways to Diversify

If business has slowed down, it might be a good time to consider branching out. Perhaps if you typically do new construction, consider taking on some remodels or service work. What would it look like if you expanded your workforce and took on larger projects? Reach out to a few new prospects and see if you can grow your business.

Maybe even consider becoming a multi-trade contractor by adding a complementary trade to your business, i.e. drywall and painting. A slow down in your typical workload can be a good time to reassess and see how you can diversity in a way that expands opportunity and/or generates additional profit streams for your business.

Of course, growing your business or bringing on another trade is a big undertaking, especially if you don’t have a good handle on your operational processes. Read on to learn more about how implementing the right construction software can empower you to take control of your business so you can continue to flourish and grow.

6. Revisit Operational Processes

Now that you’re not flying by the seat of your pants every minute of every day, you can get around to accomplishing some of those projects that have been on your radar for far too long. You’ve been seeing advertisements for construction software and reading about advancing technologies promising to streamline your business, but it seems you never have enough time to explore your options, let alone implement new processes.

A slowdown in work might be the perfect time to start exploring how you can improve your company’s operations. For example, throw away your paper time cards and train your employees on using a mobile time clocking app, like the free one provided by A.C.E. Construction Software. If they can send a text from a smartphone, then they can use a mobile time clocking app.

Evaluate your current processes and identify inefficiencies. For example, how is project data being communicated to the field? Is there a way this process can be improved? Revisit your bidding process and be honest with yourself about how these bids are being calculated and if there’s a better, more accurate way you should be bidding. How about material ordering? Do you deal with a lot of waste? Consider how your purchasers are figuring out the amount of materials needed and identify a potential solution for improving this process.

Construction software has come a long way in recent years and because the industry is old school and tends to be slow to adopt new tech, is providing more progressive subcontractors with a competitive edge. It’s definitely worth exploring, as many of the solutions can help streamline business processes dramatically and provide data-driven insights that can drive greater profitability for your company.

For example, A.C.E. Construction Software features a wide scope of capabilities that allow data to flow from bidding to project management to job costing and even accounting. You can improve the accuracy of your estimates using the bidding portal, which allows you to create highly detailed bids that act as the game plan for the build. Once you are awarded the project, all of the data from the bid transfers to the project management side, where exact material amounts can be ordered through the system and tracked along the way. Labor hours are also tracked via an associated mobile app, so all of your actual project costs can be compared against bid amounts in real time.

It’s designed for subcontractors and, in addition to enabling a more streamlined workflow, has helped businesses save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Learn more about A.C.E. Construction Software by signing up for a no obligation software demonstration.

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