Would you like to start a construction company but can’t seem to move forward with your plans? There are a number of people who pass advice on how to start a profitable construction company, however, very few have actually done it. Hardly any of the ones that had done so had a clear understanding of where they were making or losing money, some have never gotten past the point of owning a J.O.B. (Just Over Broke) into a real company with employees who actually generated more money than they cost starting up.
I am one of the few that has done it all and hopefully, this article will be of use to you. First, make sure you are open to a Paradigm Shift. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a paradigm shift is an important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way.
Three Steps To A Paradigm Shift
Unfreeze – Being open to a new idea that is an agreement with your core values
Change State - Arriving at a new understanding of something. Education is the foundation for shifting paradigm. In ancient Greece, Socrates argued that education was about drawing out what was already within the student. "I cannot teach anybody anything; I can only make them think."
Refreeze – Closing the portals of your mind for now
Since 99% of your success will depend on whether you follow directions or try to re-invent the wheel, consider the following fundamentals first to avoid unnecessary risks:
First, decide what you want from your construction company.
Do you want to get rid of the boss? Do you want to work in a more structured environment? Are you sick and tired of working for the boss's son or daughter? Do you want to make a lot of money? Do you just want to make enough money to pay the bills and enjoy a vacation now and then? There are no wrong answers, whatever is right for you is the right answer; however, you need a reason to do it otherwise when the going gets tough, and you will either win or lose depending on your reason. With a big enough reason, you will find a way to win. Write it down on a piece of paper, it doesn’t have to be perfect or complete.
Second, put together your board of advisors.
Most of them are FREE or very low cost while you are just getting started. They are from the Five Key Areas of Business Success:
Find a Commercial Banker you can work with
Go to your bank and ask to speak with the commercial banker. Every bank has one and they can be one of your most powerful allies and mentors. The really good news - they are on the bank’s payroll.
Tell them you are working with a construction accountant that is involved with the bookkeeping and accounting and that you have a totally separate firm that prepares your Annual Federal Tax Return.
Bankers like to know you are using the tried and true method of "Trust But Verify" to help limit fraud and errors. We recommend you have different companies doing your bookkeeping and your Annual Federal Tax Return because that will provide you with checks and balances in your system. In addition, if you need to replace one or the other it will be a lot simpler.
Plan on meeting with them on a monthly, quarterly, semi-annual basis, whatever works for both of you and bring two printed copies of your Profit & Loss and Balance Sheet for them to review with you. Always keep your commercial banker updated about any major changes that may affect your business or personal finances. NEVER SURPRISE YOUR BANKER!
Ask your commercial banker these questions:
- Is there anything on the financial reports I should pay closer attention too?
- How can you and the bank help me run my business more profitably?
- Who is your target customer and how can I refer new customers to you?
No matter what size your construction business is now, whether you need a loan or line of credit or not, you need to understand that lending money is only part of what the banks offer to help your business succeed. Likewise, lots of people need all construction services and some of them will ask their banker for referrals.
Find a Construction Accounting Specialist
You may not need one in the beginning but don’t wait until you have big problems to find one. Outsource as much of your construction bookkeeping, payroll processing, complex invoicing, and monthly and quarterly tax reports as you can afford. It will free up time to do what you do best and the books will be kept in order.
Make certain they have current technology which means they have equipment in a secure server farm that allows you remote access to your QuickBooks desktop version on the internet. You do not want the QuickBooks Lite Online Version because you need to see the same QuickBooks software you have on your desktop now. The only difference is you have remote access anywhere you have an internet connection and your construction bookkeeper can get to it from their office. No construction bookkeeping service needs to ever be in your office unless you invite them.
Your outsourced accountant needs to provide an easy way to get the paperwork to them with fax, scanning, email, and in person. Make certain they are in an office building, not their home. A more professional environment attracts a better class of professional bookkeepers. And the building needs to have a secure lock box that allows you to drop paperwork off 24/7/365 when it is convenient for you, not just during business hours.
Obviously, scanning all your paperwork into a paperless secured server and link source documents to the transactions in QuickBooks for easy retrieval later is a given. This makes it easy for you to get to it remotely, see it, print it or email it without having to dig through a file cabinet or pile of papers.
Finally, they need to be available to meet with in person to discuss how your business is doing. And they need to be able to explain in easy to understand language what your Financial Statements, Profit & Loss and Balance Sheet mean.
Your Income Tax Preparer
If your bookkeeping is solid you can use any qualified tax preparer to fill in the blanks and generate the return. I used to believe only a C.P.A. (Certified Public Accountant) could fill out a tax return. Now with the advances in technology and properly set up QuickBooks, I no longer feel you need a C.P.A. for this.
Your Commercial Attorney
If you own and operate a business, you absolutely positively need a commercial attorney to:
- Setup your business entity, LLC, Inc. or whatever is best
- Review contracts you will ask your customers to sign
- Review contracts you will be asked to sign
- Keep you out of trouble wherever possible
- Keep you out of litigation if at all possible
- Setup your partnership agreements
Two kinds of contractors: ones who have a commercial attorney and ones who will get one after having locked horns with somebody else's commercial attorney. A good commercial attorney will draw up employment agreements, construction contracts, review insurance policies and more. A qualified commercial attorney is worth every dime they charge.
Your Financial Planner
Eventually, you will want to leave your business and pursue other interests so plan ahead now. You could start with Quicken software and play around with it. You can learn a lot about investing, and run some scenarios that will show you how much income you will need to retire and develop an action plan.
Once you have some basic knowledge, get a Certified Financial Planner. If you do not have a lot of money, ask your commercial banker to recommend someone at the bank.
Third, understand Construction Psychology
It is one thing to be a carpenter, plumber, electrician, framer, drywaller, painter or any other master crafts person and quite another thing to own a construction company that does those things.
When you are doing the work, you have only one thing to worry about, getting things done. And things tend to do what you want them to most of the time. When they don't you simply use more brute force.
When you are the owner of the company, you will find yourself dealing with people, and people can appear to be illogical, unpredictable and until you understand them and learn how to lead them, they will drive you crazy or you will degenerate into a grouchy, irritable, mean, nasty troll with your face in a constant state of anger and frustration.
We live in a world of what is, not what should be, and when we understand there is a "Hall of Justice" but not a "Hall of Fairness" we are better equipped to succeed.
The last thing I leave you with is "knowledge is power". Write important things down as you gain insight, make notes of your meeting with your board of advisors, and never stop learning. You have what it takes to be successful and you deserve to be wealthy because contractors like you add value to other people's lives. We stand ready to serve when you are ready to contact us.
About The Author:
Randal DeHart, PMP, QPA is the co-founder of Business Consulting And Accounting in Lynnwood, Washington. He is the leading expert in outsourced construction bookkeeping and accounting services for small construction companies across the USA. He is experienced as a Contractor, Project Management Professional, Construction Accountant, Intuit ProAdvisor, QuickBooks For Contractors Expert and Xero Accounting Specialist. This combination of experience and skill sets provides a unique perspective which allows him to see the world through the eyes of a contractor, Project Manager, Accountant, and construction accountant. This quadruple understanding is what sets him apart from other Intuit ProAdvisors and Xero accountants to the benefit of all of the construction contractors he serves across the USA. Visit http://www.fasteasyaccounting.com/randal-dehart/ to learn more.
Our Co-Founder Randal DeHart - Is a Certified PMP (Project Management Professional) with several years of construction project management experience. His expertise is construction accounting systems engineering and process development. His exhaustive study of several leading experts including the work of Dr. W. Edward Deming, Michael Gerber, Walter A. Shewhart, James Lewis and dozens of others was the foundation upon which our Construction Bookkeeping System is based and continues to evolve and improve. Check out our Contractor Success Map Podcast on iTunes.
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