Construction business owners get accustomed to having to do it all. When your business is small and there’s no choice but to stay lean, you become your own bookkeeper, HR specialist, VP of sales, project manager and chief marketing officer.
That roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done approach is part of what makes owning your own business exciting. But as businesses grow, the challenges evolve.
Owners face an ever-increasing workload, including taxes, expense paperwork, sales negotiations—and much of that work goes far beyond your original skillset. That can mean longer and less fulfilling hours at work. What’s worse, the hesitation to let go of responsibility creates inefficiencies and can stifle growth.
So how and when do you let go of responsibility? Essentially, when someone else can do the work and it’s not the best use of your time. Sounds simple, but it’s easier said than done.
1. Identify Where You (Really) Need Help
The first step is to determine the tasks you don’t need to do yourself. According to business coach Bryan Kramer, it’s important to go through your responsibilities and ask yourself some simple questions. “Before delegating, ask yourself if others could perform this task to a suitable level in order to help yourself let go; can someone else take on this task with their current workload; could someone do the initial research and legwork and then return the responsibility to you; will this task stop you from making more meaningful progress somewhere else?”
Letting go of work isn’t easy. If you started your own business, it’s probably because you prefer to do things on your own terms and be an expert in all parts of your business.
One of the hardest lessons to learn once you have assigned a task to someone else—be it an employee, subcontractor, vendor, or freelancer—you actually need to let go and not micromanage. But to get to the point where you can actually step away, you need a system that gives you confidence. That means choosing people and solutions you can trust, setting clear expectations (in a contract, if necessary) and following up periodically to make sure work stays on track.
2. Think Broadly About Adding Talent
Bringing in talent is about more than adding extra pairs of hands to finish a job. Getting help is also a critical part of keeping your business profitable. You might choose to do a piece of non-core work yourself and not lose money, but what if you have to turn down a profitable opportunity because you’ve taken on too many marginal jobs?
Adding talent can mean hiring, but it doesn’t have to. The Wall Street Journal’s guide to hiring suggests: “Deciding what tasks to outsource and what to hire an employee for may come down to whether the work lies within your business’s main areas of strength and whether that function is needed on a regular basis.” As the Journal also points out, a specialist vendor or freelancer may have more skills and experience in a job than any employee you could afford to hire.
Construction business owners will probably be comfortable delegating and supervising work in their own specialty, or in areas where they have experience. But often, you need to think beyond your delegation comfort zone to help your business grow.
That was the experience of Ken Y, a millwork business owner who found himself increasingly tied up in tedious tasks, from managing payroll to chasing payment from customers. The hands-on work he really cared about started to suffer as a result.
If you’re thinking of starting a business, my advice to you is to think beyond tradesmen when bringing in talent,” he tells bid management solution iSqFt. Finance, marketing, building a website, and sales are all areas where construction companies may benefit from a talent injection, even if you’re not hiring a full-time employee to help.
3. Streamline With Technology
Technology also has the ability to be where you’re not, streamlining tasks that would otherwise consume your time. Expense management solutions can simplify tasks that would otherwise fall on you or your busy team—and avoid hidden inefficiencies that can cost you money.
The construction technology universe is constantly expanding. For bookkeeping, Intuit QuickBooks can help manage bills and customer payments, integrating with your bank and credit card. Apps such as Breezeworks can help you organize customers, jobs and invoices, as well as track employees in the field. Other apps can help you calculate construction costs accurately and minimize project risk, or even store construction drawings or project documents.
Getting materials into field workers’ hands is another place where inefficiencies can be lurking. Slow, painful reimbursements can discourage efficient purchasing of materials. If your field workers don’t know when they’ll get repaid, they have an incentive to lay out as little of their own cash as possible—increasing the odds of site downtime and wasted trips to the hardware store.
Plus, someone has to process field workers’ reimbursement claims—and that someone is probably you.
At PEX, we help construction business owners free up time unnecessarily spent on manual employee expense processes. Our expense management platform lets you get funds into employees’ and subcontractors’ hands with greater flexibility. The PEX Admin site allows you to add or remove funds from cards in real time, set spending categories and limits and much more, helping you maintain control.
To learn more about us, schedule time with a rep today.