Time to dust off the marketing playbook

While most construction businesses are still pretty busy and the runway of work ahead should see you into 2023 without too many issues, the longer term picture is looking a bit more fuzzy. It’s time to start reviewing what you are doing in the marketing and sales space and look to make some improvements.

There is a habit of many business owners in the trades to just take what the market dishes up and not put some proactive systems in place to generate work.  “I get all my work from word-of-mouth” is what I hear a lot.  That’s great when WoM is working, but what if it isn’t? What’s the back-up plan?  Usually there is none.  This is particularly true when the market is stronger and the perceived need to generate leads is less. With building consents running at record levels over the past year, you can understand why marketing has not been high on the priority list of most people. Inflation, Covid, supply lines and labour shortages have naturally dominated the headlines. A downturn in building activity however will naturally make some of those issues die away. The need to generate more leads and improve your conversion rate will start to sneak up on you if you don’t take proactive steps.


How to Manage Variations

As the old saying goes, “The only certainties in life are death and taxes”. In the building industry that should read, “The only certainties in life are death and taxes AND VARIATIONS”.

There is seldom a project completed without some change to the original plan or scope and this can lead to work being done that is not well documented or billed to the client on a timely basis. Variations are therefor a major potential cause of profit leak from a business, and also disputes with a client. It is essential that you, your client and your build team clearly understand what variations are and you have a reliable system to capture and process them through the job management and billing areas of your business.


Are profits leaking out of your business bucket?

It’s profit reporting season. Do you have your latest financial accounts back from your accountant yet? Does the Net Profit seem lower than you expected? Maybe the profit is leaking out somewhere.

Your business can be viewed as a kind of bucket.  In the top you pour revenue, which comes from your marketing, sales and production efforts, then deduct the direct and indirect costs of producing that revenue.  Unfortunately everyone’s bucket leaks and so the amount left over (as net profit) is often a lot less than it could be and what is required to balance the effort and risk that you assume as the business owner.  It leaks out through holes such as: too many overheads, insufficient margin, working with the wrong clients, burning hours on fixed price contracts and a number of other ways.


Building Inflation Monster Rising

Building materials are up in price around 34% compared to a year ago and more increases are on the way. We are suffering a perfect storm of high demand, due to the boom in building, and tighter supply lines due to Covid, shipping bottlenecks and now the effects of a war in Europe.

While most, if not all of this is beyond your control, how you react and deal with it is something you can take action of. Two key actions should be at the top of your list….


5 Mistakes of General Contractors

As part of my business coaching for builders, I am in the fortunate position of seeing what successful builders do versus those who have some improvements to make. One thing I think we can all agree on, running a business in the construction space is not easy. The work is physically hard, it’s often quite complex, it often comes with emotionally charged clients and margins are often too slim. There is limited space to make errors, either technical or in running your business. 

I can’t help you become a better builder, from a technical perspective, but I can help you reduce errors in the running of your business. So what are the main errors I see by builders finding and running their own jobs, ie the general contractor? There are many, but here is my top 5 to work on first…


5 Elements of Effective Leadership

Becoming a leader isn’t easy because it takes a conscious commitment and consistent effort to develop one’s leadership skills. It is focusing on doing the right thing first, rather than focusing on doing things right. That’s what a good manager does. But on the positive side, anyone who is willing to make the effort can become a good leader. And because good leadership is critical to business success, your efforts to improve your leadership skills will be amply rewarded. By working on these five keys of leadership, you can become the leader your small business needs.


The Great Resignation

One of the main frustrations of business owners at this time is the difficulty in finding qualified staff to grow their teams. A strong construction market, coupled with a close to zero immigration flow, is resulting in the demand for workers increasing while at the same time the supply is shrinking.

Now, according to a recent report in the NZ Herald, employers are also facing a growing trend in team members actively looking at quitting their current jobs and finding something new. It is a phenomenon that has been noted overseas over the past 12-18 months and it looks like it is coming here. In the US it is being referred to as The Great Resignation. The widespread trend of a significant number of workers leaving their jobs during the pandemic. Many are leaving the cities and looking for jobs in smaller centres, or looking for less stressful roles. Some are using the opportunity to better themselves and go for a higher paying position. 

What should you do about it?


Operate Above The Line

Is your team (and you) operating above the line?

I was meeting a builder client of mine today and we got on to the topic of incentives versus fines for staff performance. Also how some team members seemed to constantly come up short and be quick with an excuse. My client said he regularly talks to other builders and they often compare stories of what excuses their staff come up with as to why they failed at a task, forgot to do something or generally screwed up. While they laugh about the excuses, there is a river of frustration running below. These team members are choosing to be “below the line”.
What does that mean and what can you do about it?


Personal Resilience and How to Improve It

In challenging times it can be tough running a business. While people are far more aware of the mental health aspects of business ownership, you can’t hide from the tough decisions needed also. This video post gives you a simple process to follow that will help you improve your personal resilience to stressful situations, be they in business or life generally.
It was shot in mid 2020, but still is relevant to today. And the future for that matter.


Act Like The All Blacks

One of the main foundation stones I help my clients develop is a written set of core values, the company culture. I believe it is a vital element of a successful company and one that is often left to chance, or ignored altogether. Get it wrong and it can help to drive away your best customers and your best team members. You may have had one of these situation in the past:

A team member with a bad attitude who constantly complained about your company and its managers. 
You been part of a team with a person who didn’t work as hard as the rest
You worked for a company in which one old-timer is not required to follow the rules or learn new systems and technology
Any sound familiar? These people drag down the atmosphere to their level and make it unpleasant to be around them. To develop a happy, productive and positive company, everyone has to work together, follow the same rules and maintain positive attitudes.

Taking some lessons from top sports teams can be the best place to learn. Read on….