Now that the year-end crunch has passed and payroll’s been completed, it’s tempting to take a step back and relax. But any downtime before the summer coatings crunch is actually the perfect time to make sure you have your ducks in order. Taking the opportunity now to give your business a self-assessment can help save you the pain of last summer’s busy project season — and the pain of year-end payroll down the line.
What’s the Goal?
To make sure you’re heading into your summer work rush in the best shape possible, start with two questions:
1. What is your main goal for the year?
2. Are you prepared to meet that goal?
If you ask most contractors, company growth will be their top answer. After all, that’s good news and increased opportunities for everyone in the company. But growing the business doesn’t just mean more revenue. More jobs usually means more workers, more estimating, more billing, which in turn hopefully leads to even more jobs — you get the picture.
All of that begins with ramping up your payroll for the upcoming project season. So being prepared for this jump in employee headcount is vital, especially if you’re looking to move from a crew of 10 to a crew of 20, 40, or possibly more.
How to Prepare
To get ready for a boost in business and any incoming employees, you first need to make sure your back office is running as efficiently as it can.
Think about your experiences over the last year. Were there any areas or processes that stood out as especially difficult? For example, was there a week your team struggled to get payroll done or breezed through it in another? What accounted for that difference? Take some time to go over what you think worked well (or didn’t) and why that happened. Once you have a few ideas in mind, write down four or five. Then have anyone else on your team do the same.
This yearly lull is also a great time to bring your office together to go over your team’s workflow. If you’re a team of one, go over your personal workflow. Either way, run a quick inventory of everyone’s responsibilities. Then look at individual processes, such as entering timecards or sending invoices. How do the different pieces fit together? Make sure it still makes sense for each responsibility to “live” where it does, and check that everyone feels comfortable with the tasks he or she has been assigned.
As the year progresses, it’s easy for people to pick up an extra workload in some areas while becoming light in others. Making sure that every member of your company has a clear view and system for what they’re doing can help keep things around the office moving smoothly.
Can You Change Anything?
Chances are, your team members have a lot of ideas about what’s working and what isn’t. Listen to them, and go over areas that you all feel you can be improved. This doesn’t have to be anything extreme; it can be as simple as re-organizing the office space. For example, moving filing cabinets so they’re accessible or grouping team members with related tasks can go a long way to making certain processes simpler.
In the same vein, eliminating or changing some of your outdated processes can help boost productivity. If there’s something you can automate or outsource — be it payroll, timecards, or job costing — this may be the best time of year to test it out. It can be difficult to see the benefit of changing tried and true methods, especially when the return can feel further down the line, but any hours you can save your office will add up quickly once your projects are in full swing.
Do a Trial Run
The final step in your self-assessment is to do a trial run. If you think you’re set for your annual spike in timecards or to handle the 40 or 70 employees you want to grow to, it’s time to test it. Run a mock payroll for the number of employees and kinds of timecards you need to be prepared for. For example, if you increase your Davis-Bacon (aka federal or Washington, D.C.) jobs, do a practice certified payroll report, or if you want to grow into another state, run a multi-state payroll.
If you’re adopting any new procedures, testing them is not only a good way to see what works for you but a great way to see how your team can adapt to change. For example, pick a normal day to run your typical business processes, and pay close attention to how everything is working. How much did you get done and how long did it take? Did you or your team feel pressured at any point to complete things?
In both cases, select another day to run the same processes, but cut out an hour or two. How well does the office run then? The point here is to simulate those unexpected interruptions and work-stopping crises we all know happen in real life. Simulating less time for tasks can mimic the loss of a staff person or the increase of your workload. It can also highlight whether some of your methods are more idealistic than realistic.
Finally, plan for action. Using what you’ve learned, you should have a better idea of what new methods, office arrangements, software, and contingency plans you may need to try implementing to prepare for your busy project season.
Set for Success
Take those first steps to investigate your options. If getting extra help for processing your construction payroll and filing taxes might make sense for you, begin talking with vendors. By doing the work now, you may be setting yourself up to being able to meet your goals for 2018.
Editor’s note: The original version of this article appeared online at www.payroll4construction.com.
About the Author:
Jim Welsh is an outside sales rep for Payroll4Construction.com. For more information, contact: (800) 949-9620.