Category Archives: Business

Customer Success: More than a Feeling

March 1st is our three-year anniversary here at Joy Accounting! Special thanks to our team members, our customers, and everyone who has supported us. What better way to mark our anniversary than by sharing what we know about a topic near and dear to our hearts – customer success.

At Joy Accounting, we believe in asking a lot of questions, both of our customers and ourselves, to ensure continual improvement in every aspect of our business. Most of these questions center around one central theme – how do we ensure that our customers are experiencing success, an all-too-elusive goal for too many small businesses? Helping our customers obtain this ‘holy grail’ drives everything we do in our business.

But before we can help our customers, we work with them to define what success looks like in each case. Finding this “True North of Success” involves, of course, consistent tracking and improvement on tried-and-true metrics (including profitability, employee turnover, etc.). But the more challenging aspect involves identifying the aspects of success which are unique. Discovering these individual success markers involves answering some simple but profound questions covering everything from why the business was started in the first place to what life values are most important. If you are a father of four young children, for example, a critical success factor could be spending more time with your kids as they grow up. We find that the personal side of success is every bit as important as the more obvious business metrics.

No small business owner wants to continually spin their wheels, grinding their way through year after year without ever experiencing the fruit of their labor. Despite this, anyone who owns a small business experiences ‘spinning wheels’ mode at least occasionally and many are perpetually in this mode. At Joy Accounting we really strive to help owners take a step back and get off the wheel!

Recently in one of our internal brainstorming sessions our team came up with a number of characteristics that make a successful business. These recommendations to success are by no means exhaustive; please leave a comment if you have any additional ideas!

5 Recommendations for Small Business Success

Ensure your company Mission, Vision, and Goals are clearly articulated and consciously pursued

Many businesses fail because the owners don’t set their goals or purpose up front, and many others lose their way because the business veers off course due to a lack of strategic thinking built into the weekly cadence. As a business owner, it’s important to always have your vision, mission, and goals at the top of your mind, with every decision and tactic derived from these things.

Consider the following, among other questions. Why did you go into business in the first place? Who are your customers and what are you doing to attract them? What kind of lifestyle do you want to live while you are getting your business going, and will this change in 5 years? How often do you look to see whether you are aligning with your mission/vision/goals, and what do you do if you aren’t on track? Without a specific blueprint and a focus on adhering to that blueprint, it’s easy to get blown off course and simply move to survival mode.

Keep a finger on the pulse of your business

Many businesses are constantly in ‘fight or flight’ mode, fighting fires all day, every day. If you don’t take your head out of the sand, your business can be a long way off from where you want it to be – even you are busy serving a ton of customers. As an owner, you absolutely need to identify your key metrics and check them, at least monthly.

Discover one or two things holding you back and focus on improving those things

Of course, the next step in keeping a finger on the pulse of your business is determining what the metrics mean – that is, identifying what can be improved.  If your profitability is low, is it because you are behind on invoicing or because your processes aren’t crisp?  Once you discover what is wrong, develop a process that works, ensure everyone is on the same page, and focus in a laser-like manner on correcting it. This is harder than it sounds, as these areas of improvement typically will come from a blind spot, so it won’t feel natural at first. Never fear, though, when you focus on improvement in this area and see improvement in a short time you will feel great and your business will be on a much better track. Then you can focus on the next area of potential improvement!

In addition to keeping up on metrics, small business owners should continually look for processes that are broken or inefficient and work on fixing them. One broken process can create a lot of wasted time, money, and resources, and it can possibly be the difference between success and failure.

Confirm that everyone knows their role in making the company successful

First, of course, you need to understand your own role in the business. As an owner, you need to spend some of your time thinking strategically, setting goals, and tracking against these goals. So many business owners that we work with are burning the candle at both ends trying to do everything themselves. Sometimes this is necessary in the short-term but ensure that you are building a business that works for the long-term, and start by ensuring you are spending your own time on the right things that will lead to success.

Beyond your own role, it’s critical that your employees know exactly what their roles entail. As the owner, you need to come up with a specific job description for each employee and utilize that job description to track employee performance over time. Additionally, always be noticing what each employee excels in and use that knowledge to continue to evolve their position (or move them into a new position altogether).

One thing is certain – the overall success of your company is dependent on all of your employees being on the same page, so an effective hiring process is extremely crucial.

Do what you are good at while leveraging advisers outside of your core competencies

Small business owners are almost always very skilled and passionate about their craft; so why do so many fail? Part of the reason is that it’s very tempting for small business owners to try to run all aspects of the business – even those that are not really within their core competencies. This could include Human Resources, Accounting, or Sales.

Obviously, a small business owner can’t outsource everything, so deciding on the right things to outsource becomes a critical success factor in the business. When do you know that you’ve chosen correctly? A few possible times are: 1) When the outsourced company you are working with really ‘gets’ you and feels like an extension of your own team, 2) when the company you are working with is helping you improve your profitability, or 3) when you are feeling more relaxed and at ease about your business because you are more informed about what is going on.

Of course, at Joy Accounting this is exactly the type of partnership we aim to provide for our customers! If you have any questions or would like to ask about our services, please call Terra at 425.394.9747 or email her at terra@joyaccounting.com.

 

 

 

Tools of the Trade Post #1: Procore

Year end is quite a busy time, and it’s been a while since we’ve posed a blog at Joy Accounting. But never fear, a new year is upon us, and new posts are coming!

In fact, we’re kicking off the year with a new series called ‘Tools of the Trade’, in which we will review a number of tools (or ‘apps’) that we recommend and help implement for our clients. The title is a play on Tim Ferriss’ book, ‘Tools of Titans’, in which Ferriss interviews many high achievers in different fields to understand the secrets of their success. Like Ferriss, we at Joy Accounting are constantly researching, analyzing, and selecting different tools to enhance the success of our contractors and trade-related customers. We find that when the right tool is matched up to the right business need, magic can happen!

In this first blog of the series, we’ll be examining Procore. Please feel free to comment or let us know about your experiences with Procore as well!

What is Procore?

It’s difficult to be in the construction field for long without running into someone who is using Procore. In fact, it is the most widely used construction management software in the world.

Many apps that we utilize focus on doing a few things well; this is not how Procore is designed. In fact, there are so many aspects to Procore that you really need to become an expert in the tool in order to maximize your success. Here is just a sampling of what Procore does:

  • Management of your project portfolio and high level settings that apply across every project
  • Construction financials management, including processing of Prime Contracts and Commitments (Subcontracts), management of the monthly draw process, and creation and tracking of change orders
  • Everything Superintendents need to track quality and safety, including inspections, observations, punch list, and daily logs
  • Everything else Project Managers needed to manage the project, from sending out bids to submitting RFI’s (Requests for Information) to updating drawings to managing the schedule.

Procore is an amazing tool for a contractor because he or she has all the needed tools to manage the project itself and everything needed to manage relationships on both sides of the project (Owners on one side, Subcontractors on the other). When implemented in the right way, it truly is an end-to-end solution for large-scale projects. Let’s talk about our perspective of the ‘right way’ to implement Procore.

What We’ve Learned about Procore

As you saw in our last post, “The Fast-Growing General Contractor“, Procore is a key solution that enables our client, Bob the GC, to manage his set of projects. As Bob’s key partner and accountant, the Joy Accounting team has invested a lot of blood, sweat, and tears developing expertise in Procore (okay, maybe not ‘blood’).

We’d like to share our learning with you. Here are the top 6 things we consider essential for any General Contractor (or Owner) who is thinking about Procore:

  1. You can’t go halfway with Procore. Investing in Procore is an all-or-nothing proposition. Technically you can utilize some tools and not others, but we believe that if you are paying for this system (which is not cheap) you should just go all the way and use most of the tools available.
  2. Along with #1, although technically you can pay for Procore on an annual basis, we wouldn’t recommend getting started unless you are sure you can give it 3 years to work for you. Year 1 might be rough, but it’ll get better – and it’s important to remember that there is always pain associated with change. In this case the pain you experience at first will likely be worth it if you stay the course.
  3. You have to be able to get ALL stakeholders on board. It goes without saying that all internal employees need to actively participate in the system, but you also need to get Owners and Subcontractors firmly on board. Many stakeholders will be resistant because they are used to doing things a certain way, and others won’t be comfortable using such a technology-first approach. Before you take the plunge, analyze whether you think you can sell this to all stakeholders. Once you purchase Procore you must become an advocate/salesman for Procore as your success depends on everyone else using the tool.
  4. Reward Procore compliance in your contracts. This goes with #3. When everyone uses Procore to the full extent, people are on the same page, processes run smoothly, and everyone is happy. When stakeholders decide they don’t like the system and refuse to use it, duplication of effort and wasted time can occur. Ensuring that Owners and Subcontractors utilize Procore is critical to your overall success, so our recommendation is to write your contracts accordingly.
  5. Ensure your business processes are in place. Like any app, Procore is just a piece of technology. Before you even implement the technology, you need to ensure you have solid business processes that you plan on using. Then you can configure Procore based on the processes you want to use. Don’t expect Procore to be able to tell what your processes should be. This is really homework that a contractor and his or her team needs to do on their own – regardless of whether Procore is used.
  6. Make someone on your team the ‘Procore expert’. It is absolutely critical that your team has an expert in Procore who is staying current on updates to the tool and ensuring that your company is utilizing Procore the way that it should. Procore cannot be treated like an afterthought, and it’s also not something that you can learn just once. You need to continue learning, and we believe the best way to do that is ensure that part of one of team member’s job description is to be the Procore expert.

Top 5 Reasons a General Contractor Should Consider Procore

  1. The monthly draw process is a big pain and a Subcontractor or Owner isn’t getting paid on time.
  2. Change orders are getting lost or are difficult to track.
  3. The tools you are currently using on the job site aren’t giving you enough data, or aren’t working well for your Superintendents.
  4. You feel out of control, are tired of chasing papers all over the place, or don’t have the data you need at your fingertips to make decisions.
  5. You understand the value of spending a fair amount of money on technology, and you are willing to put in the time to maximize your investment.

Top 5 Reasons a General Contractor Should Not Consider Procore

  1. You have very little ability to control whether or not your stakeholders (Owners, Subcontractors, etc.) end up using the system.
  2. You don’t have the time to devote to learning a new system (although, conversely, this could be a symptom that shows that you really need it!).
  3. Your operation is really small or you would only think you would use a small number of the tools within Procore.
  4. You are not comfortable with technology.
  5. Everything is already working smoothly without Procore!

Where Does Joy Accounting Fit?

One of the themes that we will continue to revisit in our posts is that, while keeping books clean is a critical part of our services, it is far from all that Joy Accounting does for our clients. Our work with Bob the GC and Procore illustrates this point.

As mentioned above, it’s critical to have your business processes in place. When we started working with Bob, he had a relatively new operation. He had a lot of information locked in his brain about how he wanted things to work, but nothing was on paper. Over the next couple of months Joy Accounting worked with Bob to lay the groundwork for how he would ultimately want to use Procore. This involved the following:

  • Interviewing Bob and getting all the processes in his brain on paper, in the form of process diagrams. This covered items like the monthly draw, change orders, RFI’s, and much more.
  • Putting together packets for each stakeholder type (Owner, Subcontract, etc) detailing everything they needed to know about utilizing Procore. These packets included both information that was specific to Bob’s implementation of Procore and great resources from Procore (videos, etc.) about how to use the tool.
  • Training internal staff on how to use Procore.

With the building blocks in place, Bob was able to start utilizing Procore to the full. Since then, Joy Accounting has been working alongside Bob and his team to ensure that the processes are continually followed.

Currently we are at the 1-year mark into the Procore implementation. As mentioned, the first year can be challenging. There is a LOT of learning to be done. However, it’s clear that there are so many benefits to utilizing this system. There is no longer any question about where a change order is, or who is responsible for it. Subcontractors have clear, system-mandated dates to submit bills, ensuring everyone is paid on time. RFI’s are assigned to the correct person, and issues are resolved in a timely manner. We’re still at the point in which it is sometimes difficult to quantify the benefits; but there is no question that Procore has brought a lot of order into the situation.

One thing to keep in mind if you are considering Procore is that the system is designed to meet the ‘most’ needs for the ‘most’ customers. Practically, this means that some of your ‘custom’ needs may not be met, at least right away. Procore does have a custom development team, and they certainly try to meet your requirements. However, at the end of the day it is just a piece of software – and if your needs are too far out of their box it might go unmet, and you may have to make changes in your business to accommodate (or consider workarounds). This factor is important to if your business has a lot of unusual or ‘out-of-the-box’ processes.

The bottom line is this: it’s never easy to take on a new system like Procore. But if you are aware of potential pitfalls, and you have completely bought in to the system, it can revolutionize your business. Please let us know if you have any questions!