What does the recent stock market volatility mean for construction spending?

If you’ve been looking at the recent volatility in the stock market – which has been all over the news – you might worry that tough times are on the horizon.

Cyclicality is one of the hallmarks of the construction business. If you’ve been around a while, you know that keeping an eye out for coming slowdowns is an important part of maintaining a healthy, and profitable business. So…does the drop in the S&P500 mean that the US economy (and the construction business) is about to follow suit?

It’s always hard to predict anything with certainty about the US macro-economy, but the data points that have the strongest connection to future construction activity say that it’s not quite time to worry (yet).

sotckvolatility

As reported:

  1. Building permits for work not yet started were up 7.5% year-over-year in July;
  2. Mortgage financing remains widely available, and – critically – interest rates are low (around 4% on national indices) and remaining steady;
  3. The tough economic news coming out of China, the epicenter of the recent worldwide market turmoil, may actually benefit American builders;
  4. Critical materials like steel or copper wiring should continue to get cheaper as the world’s top consumer (China, by an enormous margin) sees its consumption decline from truly astronomical levels; and
  5. Big institutional US investors are increasingly turning to “safer” cash flow yielding domestic assets like commercial property to protect their clients from the risk we’re seeing in global equity markets.

What does that mean for contractors?

Could be good news. As long as interest rates stay where they are, and financing remains available, construction activity will have a tailwind behind it.

Low interest rates increase property values, make HELOC-funded renovations more affordable, and income-yielding investments like rental properties and commercial buildings more attractive. If interest rates begin to rise, this tailwind could swiftly turn into a headwind. Be prepared. Be efficient. Be profitable.

So, don’t freeze like a deer in the headlights. Regardless of what happens in the market, those who survive and thrive during times of turmoil are the contractors who pay attention to running their businesses…who monitor jobs and profitability…Who keep the lines of communication open between their GCs, subs, and clients.

Information is power. During an uptick or a downturn, make sure you have the processes and procedures in place to run your business. If you have any questions or wish to share your feedback, you can find us at support@knowify.com.

Ask me about how we’ve helped other contractors like you get a handle on their business Bull Market or Bear Market. Or…you could keep running your business on Excel spreadsheets.

Knowify. Built for the real world.

Submit your bids to GCs correctly-formatted, faster

A General Contractor invites you to bid on a job. Now what?

How do you cost out the work and submit it within the confines of that GC’s specifications? And what do you have to do once you win the bid to actually manage the project?

Is your first instinct to turn to your trusty spreadsheet and calculator? Lots of contractors run their bid/submit/PO processes that way. QuickBooks® and Excel are great tools, but they can only take you so far.

What if you could manage all of the painful administrative work associated with your contract jobs faster and more accurately?

With Knowify, you click on Contract Jobs and quickly cost out a job to produce a bid based on estimated costs. Knowify’s bidding tools automatically output a bid form (and yes, custom templates are available) ready to submit to the GC.

Subcontractor proposal for a GC job

Win the bid?

Click on Knowify’s Purchasing Module and create purchase orders for materials and send those POs directly to your vendor right through the system. Then schedule your crews in the resource scheduler. It’s easy!

Track time

Knowify’s On-site Foreman Module tracks worker time – or, if you prefer, lets each worker Check in / Checkout on their mobile phone for fully automated timekeeping. Your office reviews time reports in real time — as they come in — so you can quickly process, approve, or reject as appropriate.

Are you making money?

Knowify’s Project Plan Module automatically tracks each job’s progress against budgets as time and purchases come in. You get a real-time look at each project’s performance!

Change orders

Knowify makes it quick and easy to create a change order and then send it out for e-signature directly through the system.

Invoicing is easier, faster

Whether you bill at the end of a project or choose progress billing, Knowify compiles the information and lets you submit using standard invoicing or AIA-style applications for payment.

If you have any questions or wish to share your feedback, you can find us at support@knowify.com.

Or…you could keep running your business on Excel.

Knowify. Built for the real world.

Now is the right time to invest in business efficiency

It’s probably fair to say that happy days are here again for contractors. Total construction spending was up over 8% year-over-year as of May 2015, the more recent month for which data are available, with strong gains in both residential and non residential construction. We know from the many different types of contracting businesses we work with – from flooring and plumbing subs to homebuilders to handymen and more – that just about everyone is busy right now. And busy means less competitive bidding means profitable jobs.

http://eyeonhousing.org/

This is all well and good; and trust me: no one wants the construction industry to be strong more than we do. But here’s the funny paradox of bountiful times: most of the seeds for future trouble are being sewn now. When lots of money is being made, less attention is paid to process efficiency. Worse, no spare capacity and tight schedules can results in slips in quality, leading to trouble with partners and clients.

We know that the idea of taking time to work on improving your processes now – when time is precious and more easily turned into profit – may sound crazy. But it’s a really powerful way to invest in the long term health of your business. Even with the present opportunity costs, we believe that implementing solutions that will make you a more efficient company will deliver a positive ROI, albeit smaller now than when construction work is less profitable; but the goodwill you earn from clients for, say, your professionalism with your paperless change order management and on-time billing, will bear big fruit in leaner times when bidding gets more competitive. More importantly, these same process improvements will allow you to run leaner, with vastly improved business intelligence, when the cycle turns and conditions aren’t as strong. It could mean the difference between making money and not making money, and over the long term having better processes will undoubtedly give you a leg up on your competitors, and enable you to grow your business with less administrative oversight or hassle.

We acknowledge that the opportunity cost for focusing on the administrative side of your business right now is probably high. But process administrative and process improvements are critical investments that will bear tremendous long-term fruit for any business, and especially in businesses with the cyclical swings experienced by contractors.

What do you do when a customer calls for help?

What do you do when you get a call for help? How do you:

  • – Create a job ticket?
  • – Specify pricing?
  • – Determine who’s available to do the work?
  • – Assign a ticket and get it to that available tech?

AND:

  • – Where do you enter work order notes?
  • – How do you alert your field person a new job is waiting?
  • – Where does he/she record jobsite notes, track extra materials used, etc?

Maybe you’re working off a spreadsheet? Or texting your field teams? Waiting until they get back to the office to hand you their paperwork at the end of their day or first thing in the morning?

If you are, you’re not alone. Lots of contractors rely on paper and pencil to run jobs. And they spend weekends at their computers plugging all that information into their Excel spreadsheets.

Or…what if you could automate the process? I mean really automate it. If you were using Knowify (www.knowcontractors.com) this same scenario would play out like this:

A service call comes in from a customer. Your service manager goes to the “Dispatch Jobs” section of Knowify, and quickly creates a ticket for the client. He enters whether it’s a time-and-materials job or a pre-defined, fixed-price service. The manager looks at the schedule for all your technicians and assigns the job ticket to the available tech (or multiple techs, as necessary). He then adds the work order notes specifying what the client needs done, finishes the ticket, and clicks send. The tech is notified of the assigned work on any smartphone or tablet and sees the ticket added to his/her job list in Knowify’s mobile app. Click. Click. Smart.

When your tech arrives at the jobsite, he clicks on Knowify’s GPS-enabled Check In to automatically record work time. The tech opens the job ticket to view the service notes and materials specified, and goes right to work. Done, your field tech records any jobsite notes, identifies additional materials used, and marks the ticket completed. The tech checks out, and the work time is recorded.

Back at the office, your service manager can immediately prepare an invoice for the job and close out the ticket. Try that with a pen, paper and QuickBooks® alone!

Knowify is built for the real contracting world. It’s flexible, so you can address issues on the fly, as they occur — like pulling workers off jobs at a moment’s notice to handle an important or emergency service item.

Or…you could keep running your business on Excel!

If you have any questions or wish to share your feedback, you can find us at support@knowify.com.

Knowify. Built for the real world.

I’d KILL for a system to manage my service ticket and contract work!

If you’re a contractor who performs service ticket and contract work (electrical, HVAC, plumbing contractors, etc.), you’re probably struggling to find a system that helps you manage both aspects of your business. Sure, you’ve got QuickBooks®, but that doesn’t help you bid or manage projects, produce change orders and get them signed, schedule crews, etc. And most project management software is either really expensive or really clunky.

Why, you ask yourself, can’t someone build a system (yep, on the “cloud”) you and your crews can access from anywhere that also provides clear visibility to office-side superintendents, service techs, and jobsite foremen?

Full disclosure: We built it. It’s called Knowify, and here’s my two sentence commercial:

Knowify is the one-technology solution that delivers all the tools to run an efficient, profitable contracting business. Imagine you could tap powerful project management, bidding, change order management, purchasing, and invoicing tools that helped you really manage your long-term project work and team dispatch.

Knowify’s Resource Scheduler is built for the real contracting world. It’s flexible, so you can address issues on the fly, as they occur — like pulling workers off jobs at a moment’s notice to handle an important or emergency service item.

Or…you could keep running your business on Excel…

If you have any questions or wish to share your feedback, you can find us at support@knowify.com.

Knowify. Built for the real world.

How much thought have you put into managing your equipment?

Knowify makes it easy to manage your business, from the office or on the go. But how much thought have you put into managing your equipment? One important area where a bit of time and effort now can save you a lot of time and effort in the future is loss and theft of equipment.

Imagine discovering that a drill is missing just when you’re about to head out for an important job. You have no idea for how long it has been missing or who last used it and where. You’re running late for the job but you have no idea if there are any other drills left or where they are. Not a fun situation!

Luckily you can avoid this kind of drama with a few simple tips.

  1. If equipment you were using is lost or stolen, contact the person in charge of equipment management as soon as possible. The sooner a theft is reported to the police or the search for a missing item is started the better the odds of recovering the equipment.
  2. Always keep track of who last used equipment. This will save you valuable time once something goes missing. Avoid having to contact everyone on your team just to establish who last used a missing piece of equipment!
  3. Store the details of all of your equipment in one place so you can easily file a report. Do you know the serial numbers of all of your equipment by heart? Keep track of this information so you can easily file a police report to have the best chance of reclaiming your valuable equipment.
  4. Don’t just check equipment out, check it in as well so reporting of theft or loss can be done as quickly as possible. By requiring items to be checked in you notice that an item is missing when it is overdue, not when it is urgently needed two weeks later.
  5. Keep track of all of your equipment to minimize the impact of an item being stolen or lost. If you have a full overview of all of your material you can quickly find a spare or know if you need to order a replacement.
  6. Use the right software and tools. You don’t use a horse-drawn cart to get around, so why would you use an equally outdated method to track your equipment? Spreadsheets are an improvement over pen and paper, but they have their drawbacks too. Using the right tools will make your equipment management and your business as a whole more efficient.

It is difficult to 100% prevent loss and theft of your assets – but you can prepare yourself to handle the inevitable so it has less of an impact on your business!

And this is just one of the many ways in which modern software can make your life easier – read here how they can improve your relationship with your clients.

This guest blog was written by Henri Van Bost, Marketing & Content Manager for CHEQROOM. He loves new technology, with a focus on how it can make our everyday lives easier and more comfortable!

Why Accountants Are Now the New Trusted (Technology) Advisor

We Love QuickBooks (But They Don’t Do What We Do!)

Knowify-Loves-Quickbooks

 

QuickBooks is excellent software for small business accounting. Hiking boots are great shoes. But just as you wouldn’t try to run a marathon in hiking boots – that’s not what they’re for! – you shouldn’t try to use QuickBooks to manage your day-to-day business processes… That’s not what it’s for! Now, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, there is a certain case for which QuickBooks alone would be fine as your core business management tool: if your business has very few employees, you have a background in accounting, and you don’t mind doing just about all the administrative tasks yourself. Needless to say, we think that most businesses would be much better off having both QuickBooks AND Knowify.

To see why, consider the simple example provided by purchasing: in QuickBooks, purchase orders are entered by permissioned users as vendor bill previews. Note that there are no workflows, so the permissioned users can only be those folks in your company with unlimited purchasing authority – and that’s probably not a lot of people! Note also that QuickBooks wants to know which account to put the expenses in. If you’re uncomfortable with accounting, you might accidentally make a nice mess for your bookkeeper to clean up! Knowify, on the other hand, is designed to allow all of your employees to enter purchase orders – you can control their purchasing authority in setup, and then let Knowify’s simple approval workflows kick in if a purchase order they’ve entered exceeds their spending limit. Knowify also doesn’t ask for inputs that they might not be able to provide – like accounts -, and instead asks only for information that they will know: is it for a client, for a project, etc. To make sure that spending ends up accounted for correctly, Knowify gives bookkeepers and accountants a chance to set defaults and direct traffic via the “accountants view”. So, as you can see, Knowify puts the business process first, but without sacrificing the accounting step. There are many, many similar cases across the two platforms, and that’s still leaving aside all the features in Knowify (like project management or resource scheduler) that aren’t found in QuickBooks at all.

Now, don’t get us wrong – we love QuickBooks. It is without question the best small business accounting package available… That’s why we chose to sync Knowify with QuickBooks – we know that businesses need to account for things. And indeed we believe that Knowify has one of the tightest integrations with QuickBooks available today. We push and pull near real-time updates to invoices, bills, clients, and vendors, ensuring that your actions in one platform are quickly reflected in the other. We also push Knowify timecards to QuickBooks, allowing you to take advantage of Knowify’s very powerful features involving time (like project management, time approval, and contract-specific billing rates) while retaining the payroll functionality you’ve come to rely on in QuickBooks.

Add Knowify to your business today, and find out what the combined power of QuickBooks and Knowify can do for you!

The Compelling Math of a Comprehensive, Cloud-Based Platform

As you know, Knowify is a cloud based platform of business management tools. Unlike some of our competitors, we are very transparent about our pricing. And why not? We think that our customers – both current and future – are unlikely to find many things with value propositions as compelling as Knowify’s. Here’s why:

Think about all the time lost – small amounts every day, larger amounts once or twice a month – from little inefficiencies in your business processes. These are things like handing off POs to be signed, figuring out the purchasing history behind an invoice, or figuring out when you should schedule an important meeting. Then there are larger time sinks – looking way back through your file cabinets to see if you can find some old record that could be very helpful to some current job, or syncing up the team in the middle of a complex project, or matching billable time and purchases to contract terms. For a single person, these slippages probably cost them one or two hours a month. As you add more people, which virtually guarantees lower levels of visibility and higher business complexity, these slippages probably grow to five or ten hours per person per month. And that’s if nothing’s really going wrong!

Using the latest data available  (BLS Aug. 2014), US average hourly earnings are $24.53. That means that a twenty person company with a very modest 5 hours of business process “slippage” per person per month is losing $2453 per month to inefficiency! Ouch! If they were paying $119 / month for Knowify and Knowify lowered that number to 1 hour per person per month, you would save more than $1,840 per month! And that doesn’t even consider bookkeeping savings or the benefits to planning or growth that come from being better organized and more productive. One of our customers recently wrote to share that they’ve gone from a full time bookkeeper to one twice a month because Knowify has so improved their ability to translate their business processes to accounting, so their return on their monthly investment in Knowify must be very significant indeed.

Affordable, easy-to-use 21st century business tools are available for your business. Give Knowify a try, and if in 30 days you don’t think the value proposition I’ve laid out above ultimately applies to your business, you can cancel without ever having paid a cent.

Just remember: if you have 20 people in your company, every day you wait could be costing you $100! 

Knowify Keeps it Easy for You

Contracts and Estimates Desktop

We’re very proud of the simplicity and ease-of-use we’ve achieved with Knowify. Though many business processes are by their nature quite complex, the reality is that that complexity doesn’t have to be the user’s problem. In short: we’ve tried to capture the complexity in our business process software so that you don’t have to worry about it on your end. Look at the diagram above – that’s a highly simplified overview of all the work Knowify does for you behind the scenes. That’s why Knowify is able to deliver the productivity benefits it does – because it seamlessly connects all of these business processes with only (very carefully thought out) minimal input from the user.

Have you ever had to go back and re-read a contract to ensure you’re billing for your employees’ time correctly? Have you had to drop receipts or purchases orders into a filing cabinet to ensure that they get passed through the client – and, with luck, have the appropriate markup applied? Have you ever had a vendor’s invoice hit your desk and wondered: “What is this for? Who ordered this? Why are we spending so much money on [insert item]”? Knowify provides tools to handle all of these issues. Better yet, Knowify’s advanced project management module will bring all of your purchasing, contract, and time entry data together to give you visibility on the status and health of your projects, and will provide you and your employees with communication and collaboration tools to ensure that your projects get completed on-time and on-budget.

21st century business is competitive. Your competitors, especially larger ones, are embracing technology to get an edge. It’s time to level the playing field: try Knowify today. Let us know what business you are in to get started.

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