Everywhere you turn these days there is some type of construction project. Whether it is a new house, a new shopping center, or an upgrade to a kitchen or an outdated office building, it is clear the construction business is booming. In fact, the U.S. government reports, construction is a $1.2 trillion industry with predictions that it will continue to increase for the next five years.
If you already own a construction business, have been thinking of starting your own, or are planning on partnering with a friend or colleague, you probably know there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes of every construction project.
Every job requires administrative work including estimating costs, staying on top of regulations, scheduling your crew, and of course, generating new business. Doing all of this quickly and accurately, without getting overwhelmed in paperwork, can be one of the best ways to build your successful business.
Here we bring you all the information and tools you need to help you build best practices and strategies that allow you to not only get each job done right, but to build a business that can expand and grow.
Nearly all business is conducted online these days, even the U.S. government is forcing everyone to go digital to receive benefits, and it is imperative that construction companies go digital as well. Not only is going digital convenient, effective and inexpensive to use for marketing, but it is also critical for easy access and submission of the incredible amounts of documentation needed to run a business.
GoCanvas is one of many companies that eases the burden of paperwork for construction company owners by offering a suite of mobile apps ranging from safety inspection forms, construction cost estimators and work order management to job tracking and permit applications. Don't worry, you can capture photographs and signatures digitally as well! Companies that offer these digital services also manage the data via their Cloud or web-hosting services freeing you up from worrying about the challenges of IT management.
Filing cabinets are a thing of the past, and if you still use them, you should assess what is in there and determine what can be shredded or recycled and what you must keep. Everything that is in your "save" pile should be converted to a digital format.
With countless computer software and applications available that help you get more organized and eliminate mounds of paper you will quickly adjust to pulling your Smartphone out to look something up instead of driving to the office to sift through those torn and tattered manila folders.
Studies have shown that going digital will not only save time and money, but it will also save the environment. In this day and age, everything you could possibly need that is related to your business, whether it is compliance or financial information, is instantly accessible from your SmartPhone, tablet or PC.
Construction company owners know that the myriad of regulations and safety requirements require permits, approvals, inspections and lots and lots of signatures. Shuffling through an accordion folder in the back of a construction truck, and hoping the forms are not grease-stained, when trying to produce a form for a supervisor or supplier is not practical or professional. However, using a mobile app removes the fear and uncertainty of not being able to find the final, signed copy of a form - you know it is securely stored with all your documentation in the cloud.
When you want to get in on a project, it is critical to be accurate, but it is even more critical to deliver the bid and proposal on-time. Through mobile bid and proposal apps you can build a final proposal using mobile app job estimates date calculators, and more - and add signature blocks with date and time stamps for approval to make expedite proposal acceptance.
Securing a contract for a construction job requires comprehensive documentation covering all aspects of the job: costs, change clauses, time and materials, schedule, worker safety, final approval checklist, and more. Accessing any and all of this information when out in the field is very important, and when you process your information electronically pulling it up on your Smartphone is fast and easy when it is stored securely in the Cloud.
When it is time to get paid for all your hard work on that renovation, you will want to make sure all steps have been completed and all your documentation supports that work. Using an application for a payment form that clearly identifies how you will be paid for the services executed helps expedite payment and limit errors. With so many payment forms on the market, make sure to take advantage of the convenience in digital payment forms so you can keep your bank account full.
Whatever your specialty or niche is in the construction industry you will need to focus your business procedures, compliance needs and hiring needs on industry and government requirements. It is important from the outset that you run your operations from a paperless platform and use mobile apps and computer programs to keep your business running smoothly.
Apps in the marketplace can help you meet National Electric Code (NEC) standards for electrical safety for electrical work, National Uniform Plumbing Code standards for plumbing work, and OSHA requirements for nearly any job you take on, as well as many more options. All of these apps can streamline your processes and speed the time from work start to approval and acceptance, ultimately leading to faster payment allowing you and your team to move on to the next job.
See the individual trades below to find out more about how apps can help you succeed in your business.
If you bid on jobs related to the design, installation, and maintenance of electrical systems, it is important that you have access to licensed, certified electricians who meet local, state and federal guidelines. It is also important that you are aware of, and can access, all the safety and compliance paperwork needed to ensure the project meets National Electric Code (NEC) standards for electrical safety.
Let your electricians focus on their work and not the hassles of paperwork. Turn to mobile contract apps designed specifically for electricians, such as those that allow them to detail the scope of work, estimate time for project and build and track purchase orders directly on their Smartphone.
Plumbing jobs require careful, detailed plans and quality installation to prevent damage from water leaks. Plumbing work must also conform to building codes to prevent dangerous and unhealthy conditions. All work must meet National Uniform Plumbing Code standards, but may also need to comply with local plumbing codes.
Just as with every other type of construction project, plumbing jobs require keeping track of critical documentation important for bringing the project to closure for payment. Don't worry about soggy pages and smeared signatures. GoCanvas has a variety of mobile apps designed specifically for plumbing jobs, such as inspection and functional test checklists, scope of work apps, time and product estimates, and more - all managed from a Smartphone, tablet or PC.
Excavation work can be financially rewarding - every construction and demolition job relies on an excavation team - but it also requires specialized equipment, a licensed crew as well as business and professional licenses and permits. Excavation and trenching work are among the most hazardous construction operations, and all work requires close adherence to OSHA Safety Standards.
There are varying types of excavation work ranging from prepping an entire subdivision to grading to digging a trench for internet cable. With each job comes a different set of permits, documentation, and approvals. Managing all of this is much easier with digital forms, photos, and signatures included as part of the many mobile apps available today to help you run your excavation business.
When you run a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) business, you and your team are tasked with keeping the building tenants and visitors comfortable and safe from airborne pollutants. HVAC workers must also keep these systems running quietly and efficiently contributing to lower bills for businesses and homeowners. HVAC workers are skilled and often require training and apprenticeships through community colleges or trade schools. Business owners must follow worker, indoor air quality (IAQ) and environmental standards set by the EPA and OSHA, as well as local and state standards.
One of the most important aspects of running a construction company is keeping proper financial records. Making payments on time, billing clients and receiving payments, paying your workers, and filing taxes quickly and accurately can keep your company running smoothly. Accounting for a construction company can often be a complicated and stressful affair, especially if you are just starting out, or if you have learned the hard way with late payments. Trying to do all this yourself may only add to the stress, so consider hiring a reputable accountant who has experience in construction accounting to help ease the burden and to keep you compliant with local, state and federal laws. In addition to helping you keep your cash flowing, an accountant will know what records to keep, how long to keep them, and what is needed to be compliant with the IRS when it comes tax time.
GoCanvas has thousands of mobile forms to handle every part of your businessLearn More
There are a variety of accounting packages on the market today, so finding one to meet your needs should not be too challenging. The best bet is to find one that is all encompassing and targets small businesses. PC Magazine did the work for you and reviewed many of them on the market.
Many of these software packages manage all aspects of your financials, so when considering how to handle receipts, mileage, etc., as listed below, make sure to assess your accounting package as well.
Any employee who incurs out of pocket expenses or uses their personal or company credit card for business-related purposes will need to submit an expense report for tracking and for reimbursement. Mobile apps are the best way to handle this to capture images of the receipts and eliminate all the paperwork.
One of the biggest challenges with mileage reimbursement is determining the rate of reimbursement and policy. Many companies default to the mileage rate used by the federal government, in 2017 it was 53.5 cents per mile for business miles, but others set their own.
Once you have established the policy around mileage and when to reimburse employees for travel, you will want a process for tracking and reimbursing them. Find a mobile app that is readily accessible from any location via Smartphone, tablet or laptop.
A purchase order is a binding contract between a buyer and seller indicating item, quantity, sale price and payment requirements. When you first start out you may be tempted to call a friend who will sell you carpeting for a reasonable price, and you forego a PO. However, ensuring that you track all goods (and their costs) is critical to protecting margins and ensuring there are no misunderstandings with suppliers. With a PO app, you can fill in the key information and push the send button as soon as you hang up from your buddy, keeping your accountant happy!
Nobody wants to keep track of receipts, but once again, it is critical to track purchases when running a construction business. Whether you send one of your employees to Home Depot to buy some nails that just ran out, or you just got a shipment of wallboard dropped off at your work site, keeping every receipt is the only way to track your financial outlay. With a Smartphone or tablet, taking a picture of the receipt is now one of the best ways to keep all of them handy.
When tax time rolls around, it is imperative that all of your financials are organized and easily accessible. When all areas of your recordkeeping are electronic, it will make preparing your taxes easier, quicker and more accurate. Make sure your accountant has access to a tax software product, one of the biggest tax software products in the industry is TurboTax, and is well-versed in IRS requirements.
Even though you have an accountant, make sure as the business owner you stay informed and are involved in the key accounting decisions that affect your taxes. Examples of decisions that you should be involved with, including knowing whether you are filing as a small or large contractor ($10 million or less is designated small), how to manage income when you have projects that span calendar years, and how to separate costs and expenses like advertising dollars versus equipment repair. There are many more types of decisions like this that could affect your tax filings. It is important that you work with your accountant in determining the best way to manage your finances.
It is easy to lose sight of available goods when on a construction site, but it is important to keep track of your inventory not only to make sure you have what is needed to complete a job, but to have records available in the case of loss or theft. Taking inventory does not have to be time-consuming, and ideally, is done at the end of every day. Using a mobile inventory app can save you lots of headaches and stress down the road.
When you get to the point of generating an invoice it is time to celebrate, not to be stressed out about filling out another form! Accurate invoicing is critical and finding an app that covers costs of materials, labor and any extra charges for additional construction services is vital to bring your project to closure. Keep your invoice professional yet simple by going paperless and using an electronic option.
Managing the materials and items your employees need, whether it's items for your office manager, or lumber needed for your home site, can be handled through requisitions. Whether they are received via email, or on a 'sticky note', completing requisitions helps better manage your budget and control spending. Requisition apps are easy to use and can integrate with your financial system to ensure funds are available.
Monthly pricing structure to meet your needs.
|Be tax ready|
|Receive customer payments|
|Run payroll and more|
Purchase software with option for add-ons such as credit card processing.
|Run and report on all aspects of your business|
|Time billing, and more.|
Free software with pay-as-you-go services.
|Payments & receipt management|
Keeping your pipeline full of construction projects is critical to your business. While, ideally, you will get much of your business from word-of-mouth referrals, you should also find other ways, whether through traditional advertising or social media, to build up your lead file. Many businesses mail postcards with discounts in their territory or place signs at current construction sites, for example, but one thing the most successful companies do is have a website.
These days that can be done inexpensively and quickly, so along with an accountant, it will be worth your while to budget for an IT resource to help get a website up. There you can highlight your services, add client testimonials, photos of completed work, insert license numbers, professional affiliations and accreditations to build trust, and even blog DIY tips. Prospective clients can contact you immediately after finding that one tidbit that makes them want you as their contractor.
Making sure those leads turn into business is critical, and expediting estimates, proposals, contracts, and agreements is one way to get those leads closed. Nearly every household in America has access to either a computer, laptop, tablet or Smartphone, so it is easy to reduce your paperwork and rely on digital products to quickly get the key information into the hands of your prospective clients. Don't spend time printing, copying and relying on the U.S. Postal Service to do your job, when a mobile app and cell tower will work in a fraction of the time.
Monthly pricing structure to meet your needs.
|Reports and dashboards|
|Reports and dashboards|
Monthly pricing structure to meet your needs.
|Reports and dashboards|
Believe it or not, tracking prospective clients from lead generation through sales approval can now be done digitally. You no longer have to carry a notebook and calendar with you, and tie a string around your finger to remind you to call that client you promised an estimate to by the end of the week. Software packages and mobile apps allow you to build your contact list, track notes, setup notifications with audible reminders and even integrate with your backend system so you can pull estimates and proposals quickly.
Winning a bid for a contract does not always mean that your estimate is the least expensive. Clients are more and more savvy these days and they can read an estimate and gauge the accuracy and completeness of it by asking friends and family members or even conducting a Google search. When you build your estimate, you don't want to overstate or understate anything, especially labor costs or material costs. With so many tools available electronically, you will want to use an automated construction cost estimator that helps you generate a complete and accurate estimate. With a paperless system you will also have the capability to accept electronic signatures and to send estimates electronically.
Let your customer know exactly what you intend to do, based on their needs and requirements, through a work order that allows them and your team to see all details to ensure a smooth engagement. Build digital work orders that include time and material information, employee assignment, address, cost and approval signatures using mobile apps. These can also be used to generate an invoice upon completion of the work.
When it is time to submit a proposal, one of the most important aspects of it is the project scope. While the specifics of materials, payment schedule and costs are all important, making sure you (and the client) have a clear completion measurement for the project is important, so you don't end up with scope creep and a never-ending job. Once the proposal is accepted it is time to build your contract and agreement. Use the best app for the job to save you time and effort.
Construction work is inherently risky. If you own a construction business, you will need to have proper licensing, permits, and bonds and insurance in place to help protect you and your business in the case of an accident, breach of contract, or other type of lawsuit. The type of construction projects you undertake often drives the legal requirements of your business. These requirements often run the gamut from federal requirements down to your local municipality. According to construction law, the legal rights and responsibilities of all parties are captured in the contract and are driven by the regulations of government authorities. Government regulations typically win out over a contract, which is why it is imperative you know the law and regulations before undertaking a job.
As a construction business owner, you will need to retain the services of a construction lawyer at various times. Before selecting one, make sure to interview him or her to feel comfortable that he or she knows the construction laws of your jurisdiction and that you are comfortable the firm will represent you.
Another critical piece of information needed to protect you and your client is the contractor's affidavit. The affidavit is a legal, signed and notarized document created by the contractor indicating that the project is complete and it indicates the outstanding monies due for the final payment. This is submitted to the customer upon final completion. This form is REQUIRED by law if the case arises that you must sue the customer for final payment or if you want to put a lien on the property. If work is done for a government agency, at any level, an affidavit is often required to get final payment.
More than likely, an approved proposal, which contains the timeline and scope, will drive your contract. The contract will also contain all of the necessary legalese to protect you and the consumer. It is important that prior to signing on a new client, you and your lawyer develop a contract template that contains the key information you will need such as bond information, warranty, penalty clauses, fire and damage protection clauses, etc.
The need to rent heavy equipment is a given for any construction company, and understanding the terms and conditions of that agreement is important. When you review the agreement, in addition to cost and length of rental, make sure to be aware of all terms. Most agreements contain specific language freeing the rental company of liability, leaving the construction company open to claims if an employee gets injured while using the machine. Make sure to have your lawyer review agreements prior to signing. Work with a rental company that has gone digital by using mobile apps, such as a construction mobile app available from GoCanvas, to help ease the burden of managing a paper contract.
A waiver and release form should be signed to signify completion and payment of a project to free all parties of liens. Many states or jurisdictions will supply a standard form in order to ensure proper execution of the waiver. In addition, you can use digital forms to make the process smoother and easier.
Contractors can create a contractor's lien, or a legal claim, against a property if they have not been paid according to contract. A lien is an effective way to ensure payment, but some contractors will negotiate with a customer if they are unable to pay fully to avoid the legality of placing a lien. A lien will remain in effect until your debt is paid or the judgment expires.
You have probably heard the adage, "change is the only true constant." It is inevitable that once you have begun work according to the contract, something is going to change. Regardless of whether it is the costs submitted from a contractor, or a simple change in the type of fixtures, all parties must agree and sign the change order. Change orders serve to protect everyone in the case an issue arises later.
When it is time for a change order, you want the change to be generated and approved quickly so you don't lose any time on the project. The closest guarantee to achieving that is by using an electronic form, after a conversation with the affected parties. Your lawyer should have given you an idea of what to include in your change order to keep it legal and viable, so finding an app that allows you to generate a change order and get digital approval is important.
Construction work is among the most dangerous in the U.S. As a result, closely following all safety regulations is a critical aspect of running your construction business. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a mission to reduce or eliminate workplace hazards, and as a construction company owner, it is incumbent upon you to help the meet that goal. Before beginning any construction project make sure you are aware of the safety regulations and building standards issued by OSHA.
Admittedly, it is difficult to know all of them, but GoCanvas can help you conform through its vast library of mobile apps designed specifically for construction companies. When it comes time to establish proper safety protocols, GoCanvas apps can help business owners, construction crews and general contractors stay in line with OSHA standards so your safety inspections are not events that bring you stress and penalties.
If you have done your homework by getting familiar with OSHA requirements, trained your staff, and consulted a lawyer with any questions, passing a safety inspection should not be an issue. An accident or an employee complaint may prompt an OSHA inspection, but otherwise you may have little or no warning before OSHA inspectors appear on your site. Being prepared and knowledgeable is your best defense to avoiding any safety violations.
Every day you should assign an employee who will be on site to be the point person for an inspector. Before moving forward with an inspection make sure that person confirms the legitimacy of the inspector and captures the inspector’s name and office. The person assigned to be the escort should be courteous, accommodating and honest.
Safety inspections can range from general to specific. While new home and commercial construction inspections may be more common, safety inspections are also conducted for HVAC and excavation, for example. One of the best ways to be prepared for any safety inspection, in addition to attending OSHA training, is to download safety inspection checklists mobile apps (GoCanvas has a variety of them) and conduct periodic audits yourself so you can correct any hazards before they cause injury - or you are penalized by OSHA.
Inspectors also need to see lots and lots of documentation about your employees, business, job site, etc. To avoid growing piles of paperwork, and trying to find it all when on the job site, construction businesses that go digital can more easily find the needed documentation and protect themselves.
Hiring and retaining employees is important to keeping your business competitive, and good health and safety provisions are a critical component for employee loyalty and longevity. Providing for employees on a jobsite is complicated, but you need to include basic necessities for comfort such as toilet facilities, minor first aid, break stations with water, and protective gear.
Aside from offering fair wages, another key element of construction human resource fulfillment is establishing crew work hours. Keeping projects on time often require overtime hours, but making sure you follow OSHA safety guidelines may require extra crew so your team does not get injured due to fatigue.
Obviously, there are many more human resource issues that must be handled, and the type and size of your jobs will drive much of the human resource requirements. If you are running large scale construction projects, you will more than likely have an HR specialist on your team, but owners of smaller companies often handle the HR aspect of a business themselves. Since some HR complaints can become complicated, and may result in legal issues, you may want to have an HR expert available to consult if needed.
You may consider paying for a membership in a construction consulting organization, such as Certified Contractors Network (CCN), that offers consulting and training services from experts in the field. Another option is to find a company that offers hourly or regular consulting services to answer your questions on an as-needed basis, like Construction Programs and Results, Inc.
Tracking the hours worked for your construction team is a critical component for tracking labor costs on a project and for paying your employees. The most practical way to track this is via a mobile app designed to track daily, monthly and project hours and staff pay and that ties directly in to your accounting system.
Employee evaluations are one of the biggest debated human resource issues. While evaluations are not required, they are recommended to help protect a construction owner against potential unfair practice claims. They are useful on a construction job where employees work with different supervisors or managers to help keep the project manager and owner apprised of the competency of the staff. Using a mobile app, such as the Employee Evaluation App from GoCanvas, you can build your own form to capture skill level, attitude, leadership skills, or other qualities you deem important in your team. Also, recording all this directly onto your Smartphone allows you to conduct evals anytime, anyplace with your construction workers.
Sometimes one of the last thing construction business owners think of when it comes to taking on building a house is project management. But project management is a huge aspect of the construction and general contracting business, especially as the business scales. Hiring a competent construction project manager is one of the best ways to make a profit, generate new clients and to help retain employees. Who doesn't want to be part of a well-run project?
A good manager will build a complete plan with a reasonable schedule and deadlines; a thorough scope document - only do what you are contracted to do; a resourcing plan to let you know appropriate skillsets of your team and when to bring them on board; and a contingency plan in the case issues arise. The construction project manager's job is to stay on top of all issues and communicate, communicate, communicate!
As you can imagine, project management can generate lots of information and require lots of reports! Now, there are a myriad of project management software systems and mobile apps that allow you and your manager to go paperless and to track and update the plan where ever you are.
Although many traditional project managers will argue that construction project management is just another project, using a software package specific to construction work is highly recommended. If you want to meet the definition of project success: one delivered on time, within budget and delivering the full scope, you will need a good construction management software package.
A package that includes easy-to-use estimating and resourcing features, scheduling for multiple ongoing subprojects, a strong calendaring function, and, above all, robust reporting will be your favorite tool during any construction project. Of course, the package should be mobile friendly to allow on-the-go updates and adjustments. The time saved in trying to manage multiple spreadsheets and flipping pages on a calendar will be well worth the investment and will free you up to generate more work!
As the owner of a construction company, ensuring you have the right information at the right time is critical to your success. The only way to stay on top of all jobs, billing, cash flow and staffing is to turn to digital reporting apps. With the right construction management software application you will be able to view reports online or generate a .pdf file so you can email it to the appropriate parties.
You will more than likely want to see inspection reports, resource utilization reports, inventory reports, progress reports, reasons for delays or disruptions, cost to completion and much more. And, you will want them when you want them, making online reporting a necessity. The ability to build your own construction management reports is also something to look for in a construction reporting app.
Permits are an important aspect of any construction site, and they are a requirement by OSHA for many construction jobs. In effect, a permit details the safeguards that you have put in place to protect an employee in dangerous jobs. Dangerous jobs include working in a confined space, welding and cutting, or working on live electrical equipment. Permits must be filed with OSHA and must also be posted at the construction site as well as saved for a year, or a pre-set specified amount of time, after the work is completed. There are many guidelines around permits, and it is important you are aware of all requirements before beginning any construction job.
No doubt, you will be generating lots of permits, and the one way to ensure you keep them consistent and accurate is by using a mobile app that allows you to create a template to meet your needs. (OSHA does not provide permitting forms.) See GoCanvas for construction app permitting options.
Inspections are vital to any construction project to ensure federal and local standards are being followed to keep workers and the public safe. To assess the adherence to safety guidelines, safety inspections are conducted that serve as a formal means to document the conditions, contractor performance and resolutions to problems, as well as inspector notes. These inspection reports are permanently filed with OSHA.
Conducting a safety self-audit is one way to help avoid penalties or delays in your project. By taking an inspector's view of your worksite you can identify and correct issues before someone gets hurt or before avoidable delays occur with your project. There are a variety of mobile apps available that offer inspection checklists for every aspect of your construction.
Although the traditional definition of a successful project is one delivered on time, within budget and according to scope, the only true measurement of success is a happy customer! You feel great when your customer tells you "great job," but in this day of social media, you want them to tell their friends and family on Facebook or Twitter, or even via online review sites like Yelp or Angie's List, that you are awesome.
Hopefully, before anything gets online, you have managed your customer's expectations and they truly are happy. If you did a bad job, make sure that they let you know and you have an opportunity to rectify the problem. If you did a good job, you want them to scream from the rooftop that they are happy!
How do you know if your customer is happy besides receiving the final payment indicating their approval? Instead of just asking yourself questions like "did I communicate enough?", "did I keep my customer apprised of any changes or issues?" and "did I address my customer's concerns?" ask your customer those questions with a survey.
Customers point to quality of work and communication as the key driving factors for being happy, but it is important that you measure what that means so you can strive to improve. Not only can you find software and apps to help you manage all of your communications with your client, but you can also find one to manage all aspects of customer service, including helping you build your own survey. The best software for you depends on your business size and your goals, but most products grow with you.
Good customer service is critical to your success, and finding software packages that can help you manage it is a no-brainer!
Although we built each of our GoCanvas Construction apps with your business in mind, we know that using our apps to build your business takes time, resources and knowledge. That is why we developed this Toolbox of resources for you.
Just like every toolbox, though, we know there is always something new and improved that comes along that can make your life easier. We design our apps with that in mind. We update our forms as new regulations and requirements come out and you can customize any of the existing forms to meet your needs.
We also want to offer useful information on this page to help you succeed. Let us know of any additional resources that would be beneficial to you - is something missing or outdated? - and we will do our best to add it. Contact us so we can help you.