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Latest Advancements in Construction ERP Software – Look for Cloud-Based Solutions with App Integration

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is a suite of integrated applications that seamlessly work together to manage ALL aspects of a business. ERP systems integrate purchasing, marketing, sales and operational data. By design, ERP systems are large and complex, and they streamline business data and processes to improve profitability.

Questions to Ask about Construction ERP Software

In the construction industry, an ERP system typically includes applications for job cost accountingpayrollproject managementpurchasing, inventory, reporting and more. In the best-designed construction ERP systems, all the applications “talk” to each other and share data back and forth.

Is it Scalable and Being Improved for the Future?

Finding the right construction ERP software requires research to fully understand how things will work for your specific situation. While many software companies claim to have fully integrated ERP solutions, you need to do your own research and make sure the systems are scalable and can grow with your business. Also, double check to make sure the company is reinvesting in the software so you don’t select a system that gets phased out or is not being properly supported to keep up with industry changes.

Will it Work in the Cloud?

With everything moving to web-based systems, it’s also important to make sure the software was developed specifically for the cloud and is not just being “used” in the cloud. Software developed originally for a desktop environment often does not fully integrate even though it can be set up for remote access. (Some functions and commands and “keys” often don’t work properly when linking to tablets and smartphones.)

Will it Integrate with Apps?

ERP software can be linked behind the scenes to integrate with apps. For example, apps that allow workers to quickly enter field data, time or equipment usage, greatly improve productivity when connected into an overall ERP system. When entered by employees in the field, these items can be immediately posted to the payroll system and charged to the correct jobs. Not all ERP systems easily integrate with apps, so it is important to do your homework.

See What Your Peers are Saying about Spectrum Construction ERP Software

 

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Take the Next Step with with Cloud-Based ERP Solutions for Construction Firms

cloud-based-erp-solutionsFor most business owners, technology has not always been a friend. The collaboration of business computers with phones, tablets and even the network can create a headache for businesses as well as a delay in efficiency and growth. Technology that not only works cohesively together but functions in real-time from anywhere, is a pipe dream for most business owners. The good news is that there is technology and software out there that can do just that. Cloud-based ERP solutions for construction firms are now making it possible for traveling business owners to walk into their hotel and immediately pull all their information in real time off the cloud.

Cloud-Based ERP Solutions for Construction Firms

In the ‘olden times’, circa 2000’s, most online applications used for business were only dabbling in the internet world. Many were only able to function as on-premise software. As the industry has progressed, sophisticated convergent technologies are making technology accessible to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Better technology that supports comprehensive software has been developed, allowing companies to utilize software systems that can do exactly what they need when they need it and wherever they need it.

These cloud-based ERP solutions for construction firms are leading the software industry for businesses because they not only perform functions that are helpful for business owners, they collaborate and simplify each step of the process for each employee.

Do I Need ERP Software?

Yes. The benefits of having technology at your fingertips outweigh the costs in most all situations. Your team is on the same page which makes them work more efficiently. It also gives them more time to do the things they love and less time manually accommodating your current software situation - which likely frustrates and takes energy away from them.

“When organizations successfully engage their customers & employees, they experience a 240% boost in performance-related business outcomes compared with an organization with neither engaged employees nor engaged customers.”

State of the American Workplace’ - Gallup

Other than engaged employees, another benefit of ERP is that there isn’t any middleware involved. All of the ERP software modules and applications are created to speak to one another and help you stay ahead of the conversation in all aspects of your business.

Helping Construction Firms with Cloud-Based ERP Solutions

At Strategies Group, we are in the business of helping industry specific businesses set up cloud-based ERP solutions that help them succeed. We have over thirty years of experience helping clients refine key processes, increase sales, improve customer satisfaction and become more profitable. We follow a unique process to discover your business, design a custom software solution, deploy the software and deliver the right results. We’re on your team from the day you start working with us and long after we’re done training you on the new system.

Are you ready to take the next step and learn about Strategies Group? Contact us today for a free consultation and see how we can help your business.

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On-Premise vs Cloud-Based Solutions

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is the idea of using the internet to connect to a shared tool. Instead of working from a local, on-premise server, the cloud utilizes a remote network on the internet and can host an entire company’s pool of resources.

Cloud computing represents one of the most significant shifts in computing and software technology in years. Like all new waves of technology, there is some hesitation from consumers on whether the benefits of the new solution warrant making a change.

Cloud Computing Benefits

Low Cost for Setup and Ongoing Maintenance

With an on-premise software solution, businesses must schedule maintenance and regular updates that could shut the company down for days or longer. With cloud hosting, all the hardware, backups and maintenance can be outsourced to a cloud provider so companies don’t have to manage reliability and IT costs that they would have if they had an in-house IT setup.

No Need for Internal IT Team

Software as a service (SaaS) allows users to subscribe and use software in the cloud. Companies using the cloud no longer need an IT manager because they can utilize the SaaS company they’ve chosen to work with. In most cases, these companies have exceptional customer service.

Less Maintenance to Upgrade System

Cloud applications do the upgrades for you, and you’re immediately switched over. This allows for more frequent updates and is much more convenient.

Fast Setup and Implementation

Cloud computing is especially helpful for growing businesses. It allows owners to scale up quickly without fronting the cost of installing an infrastructure on site. This keeps your team efficient and creates transparency as the software is being implemented.

Easy to Scale Up and Down with Engagement

Typically, when we have a client that has been using an on-premise software and wants to switch, we help them review and update their internal processes so they are more efficient when they move to the cloud. Our team at Strategies Group looks at your business structure and implements process improvements to make your company run more smoothly.

Saves Time, Keeps Margins Low

By operating in the cloud – you are saving time because you don’t have to load software onto each computing device you use. Most software runs in the browser or through an app, so it allows your team to be up to date at all times.

Is the Cloud Secure?

Security is a big concern with cloud computing and this question is something that our team at Strategies Group hears regularly. ‘Is the cloud secure?’ – Yes. It’s as secure, if not more secure, than an on-premise server would be.

The truth of the matter is that any server can be hacked, even a private on-premise structure. The advantage of using a cloud server is that issues are often detected more quickly because there are more customers using the same cloud software. Providers can identify issues quickly and often can work out any kinks because of the large influx of data that they can see.

Are You Ready to Upgrade to the Cloud?

At Strategies Group, our goal is to help your business succeed. When software is combined with the knowledge and expertise of a Strategies Group certified consultant/trainer, your business benefits from having a customized solution that works exactly how you want it to.

We offer a robust set of software solutions. We understand that growing companies need to keep operation costs to a minimum because of thin margins. Transferring your software to the cloud will give you more control and transparency of your IT costs.

Contact Us!

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3 Year-End Tax-Saving Tips for Computer Hardware and Software Purchases

Did you know you can deduct the cost of your newly-purchased computer hardware and software? The IRS gives three options that benefit companies purchasing computer hardware and software.

1. Section 179

The IRS through Internal Revenue Code Section 179 has provided that computer hardware and software purchased for the use of business can be deducted as an expense in the year it is placed into service. For the 2016 tax year, a company may deduct up to $500,000 of newly purchased computer hardware or software whether it is new or used. However, the software must not be modified or customized, but must be available to the general public. You must make an election to claim a Section 179 deduction in the year that you take it.

2. Bonus Depreciation

Bonus deprecation, under Internal Revenue Code 168(k), allows a 50% deprecation rate in the first year of use for newly purchased computer hardware or software in the 2016 tax year. Bonus deprecation is available for only new assets placed in service within the tax year. It cannot be applied to used assets, even if they are newly purchased. Unlike Section 179, there is no limit to the amount of bonus deprecation a taxpayer can take in a given tax year.

3. De Minimis Election

Taxpayers may also elect to make an annual de Minimis Safe Harbor election for the year and expense any assets purchased that are less than $2,500 under Internal Revenue Code Section 263(a). Each asset less than $2,500 does not have to be capitalized, but must be deducted as an expense in the year the asset is placed in service. If the taxpayer has an internal policy on the amount of expense that should be taken, then that policy should be followed within the guidelines of the election, but no more than $5,000.  This $2,500 deduction per item does not count towards your Section 179 deduction.

Don’t Forget…

The important thing to remember no matter which option you chose, is to keep a record of your purchases in order to accurately identify the specific computer hardware or software, how much you paid for it, how it was purchased, and when it was placed into service.  The regulations on deprecation change from year to year so it is important to contact your tax advisor when deciding which options are best for you and your company.


About the Author:

Mike is the Senior Manager in charge of the Construction Tax & Department of Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund. He has been working with construction and real estate clients since 1997. Mike has served over 250 contractors and developers in both the public and private sectors. His primary areas of concentration include providing audit, review, tax compliance, tax planning and consulting, multi-state taxation, working capital and surety consulting, cash flow management, IRS audit support, construction accounting software consulting and continuity, succession and strategic planning services for the firm’s clients. For more information, please call 1-800-477-7458 or visit www.saltmarshcpa.com.

Ready To Update Your Construction Software?

Learn more about Strategies Group and our construction software solutions by contacting us today.

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A Perfect Storm: How the Surety Cycles Impact Contractors

By Daniel Oaks of Nieslon, Hoover & Company, Inc.

The surety market is a market of cycles. Similar to the insurance market, the surety market has its ups and downs or its hard markets and soft markets. However, the insurance and surety market do not necessarily coincide. As a contractor, it is important to understand these cycles and specifically how surety cycles impact contractors.

Understanding How Different Surety Cycles Impact Contractors

How Surety Market Cycles Work

The surety market cycles consist of hard and soft markets and the time period between transitioning from one to the other – this is no different than the insurance market.

  • As the graph shows, a hard market is characterized by a period of strict underwriting, increased premiums, contracted capacity and increased surety company profitability.
  • Conversely, the soft market is defined by loosened underwriting, decreased premiums, excess capacity and increased surety company competition.

The transition from a hard to soft market is not an overnight sensation and as a result, there are periods of time between cycles where the market indicators may not fully specify a hard or soft market, but fall somewhere in between. Each cycle is entirely unique with no set time frame or indication to move from one to the other. The only certainty is that a hard market will eventually lead to a soft market and vice versa.

Recent Surety Cycles Impact on Contractors

An adjustment in cycles usually begins by an outside event forcing the market to correct. The oil crisis of the 1980’s and the tech bubble in the 1990’s both instigated hard markets. More recently, the 2001 Enron Scandal and 2006 real estate crash, resulting in a recession, both generated hard surety markets. The 2006 hard market was a unique phenomenon for several reasons. The two main reasons are that the surety underwriting results remained profitable and that it was longer than a typical hard market.

In fact, for the past 11 years (and counting) surety results have been extraordinary. Typical hard markets generate an industry-wide net underwriting loss or break even. However, the last hard market (caused by real estate crash and recession), the surety industry maintained profitability, and not just barely, but at unprecedented levels of underwriting profit.

The Current Soft Market

Another major external event or events that influence the surety market is spending, and for the surety market most notably, construction spending. While we are not at the levels of construction spending we saw in 2006, at that time over $900 billion, the market has recovered nicely from the low point in 2010 of only $501 billion to just under $700 billion in 2015 at $698 billion.

Fortunately for most of the readers, this spending is occurring within the Southeast, as a report from the Associated Builders and Contractors reported that the Southeast had an average construction backlog of over 11 months. This outpaces the next highest regional backlog in the Northeast of just about 8.5 months. The benefits to the Southeast are obvious, high employment in construction, increasing margins, therefore increasing bottom lines, and the point of this article, a softening surety market.

As noted the surety industry has experienced unprecedented profitability. This has made the business of surety very attractive and as a result, the surety industry has seen an influx of new entrants into the business of writing surety bonds. In fact, since 2007 there have been 25 new companies enter the surety market. At an average of tens to hundreds of millions in capacity, with the new entrants, billions of newly available capacity dollars are available to be utilized to write bonds.

High profitability, excess capacity and now a growing market have created a perfect storm for a soft surety market. Surety companies are clamoring to write your next bond.

What does this mean for a contractor?

It means that there has never been a better time to obtain surety credit.

The competition in the marketplace currently has driven sureties to become ever increasingly creative and lenient. If you have never had surety credit before or have been declined by a surety before now is the time to consider bonded work or even just pre-qualifying for surety credit, as the time to obtain surety credit has never been easier. With the right surety representation, you will be able to position your company to prepare for harder times.

For the most qualified surety credits, items such as rate, capacity, and indemnity are on the table. If you are not now discussing these issue with your surety agent, I would encourage you to ensure you are represented by an industry professional. Someone who has significant experience in surety and can facilitate the navigation of the current soft market. Because as experience tells us, the only certainty is that our next market will be a hard one and making the right moves now in the soft market can give you and your firm the competitive advantage needed in future cycles.

Learn More

If you would like to speak to a surety expert, please contact Daniel Oaks of Nieslon, Hoover & Associates, Inc. He has over 12 years of surety experience with more than 8 years as an underwriter and manager for top tier surety companies. For several years now he has used that expertise to represent contractors and maximize their surety programs. He can be reached directly at (813) 786-0831 or (850) 733-8868 or email him at doaks@nielsonbonds.com. You can also learn more about Nielson Hoover & Associates, one of the largest surety agencies in the nation, at www.nielsonbonds.com. Or, contact us!

 

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How to Improve Heavy Highway Construction Reporting to Save Time & Money

heavy highway construction reportingHave you ever questioned the importance of heavy highway construction reporting? Think about this - each day, project superintendents for heavy highway projects come in and prepare for a typical day. It’s their job to have a constant pulse on what’s happening. Daily, the superintendent and project managers work with different people to attain the right information to inform their decisions - daily field reports, budget expenditures, safety protocol, etc. It takes only one mistake or mishap in reporting or communication to throw off the entire operation. Without streamlined jobsite reporting, project managers and superintendents put themselves at risk for costly consequences.

The Ripple Effect

For a heavy highway construction project, an unplanned breakdown or maintenance can influence all of the tasks that follow. For example, let’s say the project manager comes in and realizes that his 35,000 lb Rubber Tire Paver is out of commission. This single breakdown impacts the budget, schedule, and even safety protocols.

In most cases, the onsite project manager does what he or she can to ameliorate the problem and verbally redirect everyone to a different task to keep the job moving. This isn’t a rare case, either. Projects all over the United States deal with daily issues, making it more difficult to keep projects moving. Even in Atlanta, where Strategies Group is based, roadwork delays are causing already slow traffic to grind to a halt. That pressure is stressful enough without throwing new problems and delays into a project.

So What’s the Issue?

Project Managers are accustomed to dealing with machinery breakdowns and other unexpected roadblocks in projects. They typically can come up with a game plan pretty quickly on how to solve the issue at hand. Where things get muddled up is when that game plan gets distributed to the team on-site. Everyone hears something different, or not everyone is in the loop. Someone still sends a daily materials report even though we’ve now switched up the material schedule. The lack of transparency in communication is where many projects spiral out of control.

New Heavy Highway Construction Reporting Software, Better Communication

Updating your construction operating software will make a huge difference. There’s no way to avoid it anymore, the risks are too great. The good news is that once you learn the new software, you will have access to tools that improve speed and transparency of information across all of your channels. This opens an entire world where unexpected roadblocks don’t have a huge negative impact on your project but are handled with efficiency to keep the project moving forward.

Spectrum Reporting

spectrum heavy highway construction reportingToday, construction project managers and superintendents have real-time access to heavy highway construction reporting systems that helps them make speedy decisions for a project. Haven’t seen this? Well, you’re missing out.

Construction reporting software allows for mobility and cloud-based project management as well as real-time reporting. Instead of throwing a wrench in a project, an unexpected breakdown can be dealt with in real-time through a smartphone or tablet. The entire team is immediately updated on what’s going on and what the action plan is. It gives everyone the visibility into historic and current data so that they can make the decisions from a bigger picture for the project.

Spectrum Reporting allows for various types of reporting in real time, including:

  • Daily field reports
  • Inspection reports
  • Resource updates
  • Safety reports

Learn More about Spectrum Construction Reporting

Learn More about Spectrum Reporting

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Thinking Ahead: The Value Of Maintenance Programs for Construction Equipment

Preventative Maintenance Programs for construction equipment save contractors time and money. Are you leveraging the most advanced equipment maintenance tools to maximize your profits?

Unplanned Maintenance vs. Planned Maintenance

There are two types of maintenance – planned & unplanned. Unplanned maintenance includes machinery breakdown or emergency maintenance for project equipment like crawler excavators, wheel loaders or dump trucks. In these situations, the project manager or contractor will wait for the part to fail before fixing it, costing time and productivity. Unplanned breakdowns can cost up to 9 times more than planned maintenance due to overtime, rushed parts, onsite service and scrapped production.

Planned vs. Unplanned Maintenance | Strategies Group

Maintaining construction equipment directly impacts profit potential. Unplanned maintenance inflates the cost of ownership and reduces the ability to competitively price products and services. The best way to avoid surprises is to take a proactive approach and schedule planned maintenance that aligns with the projected hours of machine usage. Planned maintenance helps outline timeframes, internal costs, and parts pricing, creating a firmer placement for profit margin.

Benefits of Maintenance Programs for Construction Equipment

DEFINES AND CONTROLS COST

Planned maintenance gives contractors the ability to predict maintenance budgets and forecast costs throughout the life of the project.

MITIGATES RISK

Regular maintenance programs for construction equipment help identify minor fixes early so they don’t develop into major repairs. Planned maintenance takes the guesswork out of maintenance costs.

INCREASES PRODUCTIVITY

By scheduling planned maintenance ahead of time, your team doesn’t have to halt production or take the time to send off machinery for repair. You can service machinery at a time and location that doesn’t disrupt workflow and productivity.

EXTENDS MACHINE LIFE

The depreciation of machinery depends on a number of variables, but regularly planned maintenance has been proven to extend the life and value of equipment.

CREATES POSITIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT

Nothing is more frustrating than going to use a piece of machinery and it not working properly. By scheduling maintenance regularly for your equipment, your onsite workers will be less stressed and happier to work with well-regulated tools.

IMPROVES RESALE VALUE

Equipment condition plays heavily into its resale price. A comprehensive maintenance plan is the best way to preserve the value of the machine and slow depreciation over time.

Calculating Planned Maintenance Percentage

Planned maintenance percentage, or PMP, is one of the most widely used tactics to calculate planned maintenance costs for a construction project. By using this structure, contractors are able to create a customized approach to planned maintenance that can be very valuable.

PMP is calculated by taking the total amount of planned maintenance hours and dividing them by the total maintenance hours in the same period.

What percentage of time are you spending on planned maintenance?

Construction contractors that are seeing the value of planned maintenance typically spend 85% of their time performing planned maintenance.

If you fall into the range below 85%, further outline and research some of the more predictable maintenance needs that to fall into planned maintenance. Moving forward you can document, schedule and address these needs before a breakdown occurs.

How Strategies Group Helps Contractors Improve Equipment Management

Strategies Group works with Spectrum construction software to maximize returns on one of the largest investments you will make as a contractor, your equipment. Spectrum Equipment Management helps manage planned maintenance plans and track the usage of your equipment to keep it working and help predict issues that may arise.

Functionality includes:

  • Track Owning and Operating costs
  • Provide better Job Cost and Estimates
  • Fleet Deployment optimization
  • Track ROI on each piece of equipment
  • Preventive Maintenance management

Learn More About Maintenance Programs for Construction Equipment

 

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Top Risks Facing General Contractors in 2016

Top Risks Facing General Contractors in 2016 & Strategies to Mitigate Risk

General contractors already face difficulty when it comes to getting paid – not to mention getting paid on time. Scope of work issues, inspection problems, change order disputes, contract disputes and a number of other factors can greatly impact the profit margin for a construction project. Each year contractual requirements and litigation are becoming more complicated in the construction landscape, making risk assessment and mitigation a necessity. It’s imperative that contractors are aware of potential risks that can impact a project. Accepting these realities can help mitigate risk and identify problems before they spiral out of control.

Labor Shortage

The 2008 recession caused the construction labor force to decrease drastically. Construction companies are struggling to find qualified laborers as well as salaried positions such as project managers and engineers. The result is that the workload has increased for workers on a typical job, thus increasing workers’ compensation claims and premiums. Additionally, newer workers need more resources put into them for on-the-job training. It’s more important than ever to make sure to hire the right people for the job. Not putting time into this on the front end can result in costly expenses down the road.

Construction Technology | Strategies Group

Scope Creep

A common risk to project success is scope creep and design/project changes. Owners and investors are ultimately bound to a specific budget for most projects and major changes can kill a project or create expensive delays. The best way to mitigate and prevent scope creep is to create an open communication stream between stakeholders and general contractors. The ultimate goal is to ensure that everyone is on the same page for a project and has the same vision and priorities.

Compromised Technology

Construction specific technology solutions are the new norm for contractors. It allows them to improve job timelines, streamline workflows and meet bid and contract requirements while lowering the amount of time and resources put into planning and organizing.

This shift increases liability in compromised technology. A lost computer on a job site or even a cyber breach can cost thousands if the right management strategy isn’t in place. Partnering with an insurance broker to make sure privacy management and security are covered will give construction teams the ability to protect themselves and focus on what they do best.

Project Approval Process

Pre-planning and early design can also put a contractor at risk of committing resources to a project that never makes it through the approval process. Likewise, delays in milestone approvals throughout a job can stifle project momentum and waste time and money. This is an unavoidable reality, but it can be counteracted by setting clear, specific goals and deadlines with each party in the project so that everyone is on the same page.

Safety

Safety is still at the forefront of risks in the construction world. Oversights in safety can lead to litigation for owners and contractors alike. High profile accidents can be damaging to reputation and risk a decline in future project opportunities. Safety training should be the top priority for general contractors and subs to reduce risk.

How Strategies Group Can Help

Want to look at other ways to manage risk in your business? Strategies Group helps clients review and refine existing business processes to streamline workflow and improve profitability. We also help clients evaluate, select and implement the most appropriate technology solutions based on their specific needs.

Our Business Process and Software Utilization Reviews will help:

  • Clarify your current business processes and compare them to industry best practices.
  • Provide you with a detailed roadmap for automating your processes that yield results.
  • Ensure you are utilizing your technology to its greatest potential
  • Maximize your return on your investment.

Our Technology Search and Evaluation will help:

If you’re looking for ways to improve your business processes and want to make sure you are leveraging the best technology tools, please contact Strategies Group today.

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3 Ways Construction Accounting Software Can Save You Money

In the construction industry, projects are the lifeblood of the company. One of the critical management functions for a construction executive is making sure that financials are tightly managed. One way to improve profitability is to utilize accounting software that is designed exclusively for the construction industry. The appropriate construction accounting software solution will help improve the efficiency and profitability of your construction company. Here’s how…

3 Ways Construction Accounting Software Can Save You Money

1. Accurate Job Costs

Are you still using a non-industry specific accounting program such as Quickbooks or Sage 50 to manage your job costs? Traditional accounting software makes job cost accounting convoluted and creates a higher risk for error. One of the biggest advantages of construction accounting software for the contractor currently using a generic accounting product is that it saves you money by creating a smaller margin for error. Your software should not only keep record of your costs, but allow you to innovatively analyze the data you’re given so that you can effectively budget, manage and forecast your job’s performance.Construction Accounting Software Can Save You Money!

Spectrum gives you the functionality to quickly build budgets, forecasts and track the accuracy of those reports so you can adjust them in future projects. You can import estimates and apply them to a job’s budget with ease, saving you time and money. A typical construction job tends to come with unforeseen challenges and material adjustments. The Spectrum Accounting application is easily adjustable along the way so you can update information and your managers in the field can see it in real time.

2. Information Management

Whether you’re a general contractor, heavy highway contractor or specialty subcontractor, you’re dealing with financial data from a variety of team members and subs throughout the life of the project. Few jobs are done all ‘in-house’ and most require collaboration among many construction trades. Construction-specific accounting software makes it much easier to manage all of the job’s moving parts.

Whether you’re a project manager in the field or an accountant in the office, you rely on the same documents for job updates, changes, expenses and overall job profitability. Basic construction software applications allow for document storage but lack the comprehensive programming to intuitively link jobs together. Spectrum tags all of the documents, contracts and related correspondence uploaded to the system so that the data can be quickly and easily found for anyone working on the project.

3. Staying Ahead of the Curve

The construction industry requires collaboration throughout the entire project team, including the project manager, contractor, sub-contractors, field managers and more. This type of collaboration requires a technology that is accessible to everyone. If your software provider hasn’t shifted to cloud-computing and seamless mobile technology integration, it may be time to explore new options to enhance communication and profitability.

Accounting software for the construction industry is highly specialized to handle the unique challenges of the industry. If you’re on the fence about moving to a construction accounting software solution, please contact Strategies Group today. We can help you understand the pros and cons of various packages and help you select the right solution for your company.

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Pitfalls of Professional Services Planning: Don’t Miss the Boat (or Plane)

Have you ever made plans for something in the future only to realize later that you weren’t thinking clearly during the planning stage? I am all too familiar with this feeling. In January I had some fairly major surgery that kept me in the hospital for four days and another two weeks at home on painkillers and house arrest (I mean rest…) One of my first ventures out of the house was when my wife and I attended a funeral in Tampa, Florida on Friday February 6th with a return flight on Sunday, February 8th. We flew down on an uneventful flight (the kind we all love) and spent the weekend with the family of our friend.

On Sunday, we arrived at the airport at 2:15 for our 4:00 flight back to Atlanta. I tried to check in online but was unsuccessful so we tried the terminal kiosks and were again rebuffed. The last alternative was the ticket agent line. The agent was pleasant and tried to check us is but her system said it was “too early” to check into the flight I had booked. She asked for the confirmation number which I gave her and watched as a puzzled look crossed her face. “Mr. Collins, this is Sunday FEBRUARY 8th , it seems you booked your return flight for Sunday MARCH 8th , which makes your flight home next month!” I looked at my wife for relief or encouragement and let me just say, there was none. I quickly looked back at the confirmation email to investigate and sure enough, there it was, return on March 8th. As I looked at the date of booking, I realized I had booked this flight during my house arrest while on some nice morphine based pain killers. Nice….. but what does this have to do with the pitfalls of professional services planning?

Lessons Learned to Avoid Future Pitfalls of Professional Services Planning

As I drove back to Atlanta in our one-way rental car that night, I realized that I often approach business decisions with this same reckless abandon. There are times and events in our company’s life that should preclude us from making definite plans for the future. It’s like going to the grocery store when you are hungry, just don’t do it. We should never make future commitments in our business when our judgment is clouded by something. Other than narcotic painkillers and hunger, some other things can be just as detrimental to our ability to think rationally. For example:

Manufactured Crisis Leading to Pitfalls of Professional Services Planning

Manufactured Crisis All businesses have crises (yes that is the plural of crisis..thanks Intenet!); however some crises are manufactured. A misplaced priority of a team member can throw the entire team into turmoil. Just because Fred wants the company to branch out into a new product offering or market by an arbitrary date doesn’t make it a crisis if it isn’t part of the mission statement or strategic plan of the business. Look through the lens of your plan.

Unrealistic Goals Contributing to Pitfalls of Professional Services Planning

Unrealistic Goals We all have goals. We need goals to push us forward; however, when we set unrealistic goals it can lead to operational chaos. Desperate and unfettered actions often follow a goal not tied to the reality of your business. Be bold, just don’t let the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) force you into unwise decisions.

Pitfalls of Professional Services Planning Due to Obstructed Views

Obstructed Views The other side of the coin of Situation #2 is making a decision with only an obstructed view of the opportunity in front of you. Many times companies choose to abort a lucrative strategy because the due diligence put too much weight on the complications and possible negative outcomes. These scenarios are important to consider but only as a compliment to the realistic potential upside of the strategy. We need to make sure that when we forge a path ahead, it is not only with a clear mind but also with a clear and unobstructed view of the target.

I love business. I love overcoming the pitfalls of professional services planning and dealing with the constantly changing opportunities and challenges. But I am fooling myself if I think I can make wise and accurate decisions while under any of the mind altered states mentioned above. Believe me, when we make bad decisions it is a long, lonely, quiet, seven-hour drive back home.

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