Let’s start with this simple fact: the longer your crew is working on a project, the fewer projects your crew can complete…and the less money you’ll make. Nothing frustrates a contractor more than knowing that sales is fully capable of bringing in more jobs but production isn’t efficient enough to complete the amount of work your sales team can close. How frustrating is it to say no to a job?
Increasing efficiency and reducing the amount of time spent on a job is absolutely critical to a contractor’s success. Completing a job on time and on budget leads to satisfied clients, which leads to referrals, which leads to more jobs and increased revenue. As a contractor, you trust your team and know they’re skilled at what they do. Efficiency doesn’t mean a roofer swings a hammer faster, it means their time is spent doing what they’re best at.
So, how do you make that happen?
Workflow Management: Your New Best Friend
Workflow Management is an infrastructure for the set-up, performance and monitoring of a defined sequence of tasks. It’s a way to make sure that everyone involved in the project knows what they’re supposed to be doing and when it’s supposed to be done. It allows all parties – from Contractor to Foreman to Landscaper – to know what point they’re at in a project, what comes next, and who’s supposed to do it.
Workflows are the foundation of process and system-building. Think of workflows as planning a trip you’ll need to take over and over. Say you’re traveling from Houston to Los Angeles. Workflow is when you look at a map and highlight the way you think is most efficient to get there. Process is how you’re going to travel the way you selected: using a car, traveling by bus, taking a plane. System-building is the steps you take along the way: Uber to the airport, check baggage, go through security.
This example is applicable to every contracting job you book. Installing a new roof? You need to create a workflow that starts with the approval of the bid and ends with the final payment from the client. Remodeling a kitchen? You need to define each process that goes into selecting and installing the flooring, the countertops, the appliances and the cabinetry. Landscaping the backyard? You must build a system for who arrives at the job site, when they arrive, what they do there, and who signs-off on the work.
It may sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Think of your current situation and one or two simple ways that applying workflows might make your work more efficient. Start by sketching it out on paper, or in an Excel spreadsheet. Think of the gaps in your process, or where communication falls apart. With a little thought, you’ll be able to see where the inefficiencies are in your system.
The Devil Is In The Details
One of the most important aspects to creating efficient workflows is that each task is well-defined and assigned an owner. The owner is the person responsible for making sure the task is completed and then letting the next person in the workflow know it. This final step is absolutely critical. You can’t do the siding without first installing the roof flashing…did someone tell you the roof was finished?
In most workflow systems, the owner of a task personally marks a task as completed, which triggers a notification to the next person in line in the workflow. This next person is given their task and the processes involved in completing it, then they in turn mark their tasks as completed, pushing the workflow further along to conclusion.
As important as the details are, your workflow has to be easily understood by your workers and not so detailed that they limit flexibility. Most of your details should be in the processes, so that the steps in getting to the process can change due to acts of God and other circumstances beyond your control. It’s a fine line to balance, but the truth is, there is no “cookie cutter” methodology to workflow that applies to every contractor in the world. Workflow has to work for you and your unique situation.
Track Your Changes
Another important facet of a successful workflow platform is the ability to track your changes and analyze data. Look, no one is going to get it perfect the first time. That’s why you need to be able to assess your workflow at the end of a project to see what worked and what didn’t. The key to building a good system is to have the objectivity to say, “Here’s where we failed and here’s what we did right.” This allows you to change the system, refine the processes and create an even more efficient workflow.
The key is to take what you learned on the jobsite and apply it to your workflow. Again, the workflow has to work for you, not vice-versa. A workflow process is about optimizing the efficiency of what you already do – it’s not going to change what can’t be changed. Freshly laid floor tile should be allowed to set up for 24 hours before someone steps on it. Your workflow process isn’t going to change that. But when you look back on your kitchen remodel job, your workflow should be able to tell you if, for example, two days went by after the tile was installed and before the appliances were delivered, so a day was wasted that could have been used moving the job forward. This requires you to dig into the data of your workflow platform, but it is one of the most productive uses of your system.
By implementing a workflow process in your office, you should be able to make each job more efficient, more productive and less time consuming. This will allow you to bid on and accept more jobs, increasing your revenue exponentially.