Owning your own electrical contracting business is worlds away from being an employee: the hands on work may look the same, but behind the scenes… well, there's a good reason it's behind the scenes.
Almost everyone is an employee before they are a boss. People who become business owners often do so because they love their profession and want more control; the action of running a business is an unfortunate consequence.
If the world were honest, business owners would tell you that running a company is like being a firefighter: racing around putting out fires. There is no solution to that problem because it's not a problem, it's the job description.
How can you make your workday easier? Tighten up your business practices by staying organised and minimising distractions so you can put those fires out properly.
Take note of these tips, they will make your day as a contractor so much easier. You'll save money, stress less and find more time to enjoy your hobbies and family.
Organising Your Tools
When was the last time you popped into the store to replace a tool you misplaced? How often do your staff have to spend an hour finding equipment before they head to a job? Lost tools are a huge waste of time and money, things that you are no doubt in short supply of already.
If your mantra has become 'I'll clean it tomorrow' and you're making almost daily trips to buy this and that from the hardware store, great news: you'll be better off financially with a bit of organisation.
Check out this article by an ex-sailor, someone who knows the perils of leaving tools laying around. He has plenty of ideas on how to get organised and stay organised. Who doesn't want to reduce time wastage and expenses?
Use a Project Schedule
Yep, that thing that every project manager carries around on their clipboard and frowns at when you show up to sign in. Did you know they work for sub-contractors too? Not only do they work, properly kept project schedules have lots of benefits.
They can support your case if jobs run overtime and the plumber drops you in it, they can keep your team working efficiently, and - perhaps most importantly - they drastically reduce the 'I didn't know that' excuse.
If you have employees working on different jobs, project schedules help you know if your team is on track and exactly where on that track they should be, whether you're at the job site or not. Update - or have your team update - the project schedule at the end of every day ready for tomorrow, and you'll finally be able to relax when you get home.
Not sure how to create a project schedule? This article from a UK Project Management company will help get you started.
If you grew up in New Zealand, you probably went on a school camp in the bush. Did you do isolation training? Teachers leave students spread out along a bush track for about half an hour, just kids and their fears of getting lost in a forest.
Sitting alone with no human or first world interaction is a powerful act.
There is no distraction from your thoughts, good or bad. What else can you do but address them? And that’s the secret to alone time: giving yourself the space to come head to head with all the issues you've been filing in your minds 'other' folder.
Taking a tech-out - where you leave all access to technology and human-made distractions behind - gives you the time and space to address and solve the issues that you've been hiding from. You'll realise pretty quickly that you weren't putting things off because you didn't know what to do - you were putting them off because you didn't have the time to mull over your options.
So, the next time you find yourself freaking out about the tough stuff you haven't solved yet, take a long breath and schedule in some (tech free) problem solving time, just you and your incredible brain.
Oh, and take a pen and paper for all those solutions you'll be throwing around.
Have an Office Space
You've probably been told this by everyone that runs their own business from home. If you have recently joined that bandwagon, you know what we're talking about. Even if your own space is a bit tight and slightly disorganised, at least you know the general vicinity of your important documents - and finally, it isn't in the kids room covered in pen!
At the very least, your office space should be some labelled shoe boxes tucked away under a work table in the spare bedroom. Folders in the back of your truck with a lap desk is an option that works for some small business owners. The key is to have a space that is yours, where you can control your papers, work on your business and have easy access to get your daily paperwork sorted.
It's normal to put off the admin tasks of your business, so remove any big hurdles - like having nowhere private to work - and help encourage yourself to just get it done.
Be Smart About Software
CAD systems are a must have for any small business owner in the construction industry. The level of competition is high, so being able to produce your own technical drawings in house is faster and cheaper than outsourcing. Maybe you're not a huge fan of drafting, but someone in your team is. Get them trained up in an industry standard CAD system and take your business to the next level.
Beyond bringing your drafting services in house, getting your computer systems sorted is another seemingly small action that will have big effects on your efficiency and finances. Whether you like Google or Microsoft, or have no idea what the difference is, talking to a professional about your business software and systems can do incredible things, like getting your invoicing time from one hour to one minute!
Just imagine what you would do with your time if you didn't have to spend it finding that email about the job you need to quote, or trying to save said quote in the right format to email it back. Engage a professional business software company (yep that's a thing) to help choose, set up and train you in the right business software. You can write it off on your taxes, plus you'll get a fully working system, buyer protection and support as you learn the ropes.
Conclusion: Get Smart About Organisation & Grow Your Business
No matter what else you do in your business, getting organised will increase your chances of being successful. We hope these tips help you see how much you can save when you get with the plan. Look at it this way: if one single tip helps you save one hour a day, that one hour of your time is basically a wage your paying yourself. Here are some more ways being organised in business can make you happier and your company healthier.
In 2019 there are 261 working days in New Zealand. That's 261 hours you're saving, nearly 11 days. What would you do with 11 days of holiday time? While you think about it, go organise the toolbox!