Managing projects in the trades can be tricky business. From staffing issues to weather-related scheduling hiccups, each day presents new challenges for construction and trades entrepreneurs. If you thought you had your hands full effectively managing all the responsibilities of a single project, juggling multiple jobs may leave your head spinning. Fortunately, several strategies are available, helping construction entrepreneurs manage multiple projects at the same time.
A small business feature recently explored everything you need to know when managing multiple jobs. According to the piece, running more than one project results in these common concerns:
- With a larger sum of money in play, managing cash flow for multiple projects may be more difficult than keeping tabs on financing for a single job.
- Extended in multiple directions, maintaining high service standards may require extra thought and attention.
- Workers spread across multiple jobs may be harder to supervise.
To avoid growing pains and keep multiple jobs on track, account for these concerns as you gear up for more than one job.
Roles and Responsibilities
Efficiency and precision go hand-in-hand, so accounting for each team member’s role and responsibilities is critical – particularly when you’re juggling more than one gig. Before breaking ground on a new project, identify each player’s responsibilities, providing procedures and expectations for tasks to be completed. Sharing the “big picture” thinking behind staff expectations empowers team members, ensuring each contributor has a vested interest in the success of the project.
Coordinating sub-contractors includes specific instructions about the work to be done, how the job will be laid-out at the site, and when it needs to be completed. Spelling out responsibilities during project planning assigns accountability for each phase and task, allowing workers, clients, and projects managers to monitor progress and understand the work flow.
Clearly articulated roles and responsibilities unite your work force on the same page. Structurally, a procedures manual can be a valuable tool, taking the guess work out of job expectations. Working multiple projects, a standardized manual can help you maintain consistency from one jobsite to the next. A dedicated project manager for each job brings further continuity to your busy organization, keeping tabs on
- permits and compliance,
- client relationships,
- materials usage,
- other critical aspects of each job.
Once underway, the project manager is responsible for communication between the client and the boots on the ground, completing the work. Change orders and other midstream challenges are common in the trades; with a system in place and a project manager at the helm, each job receives the attention it deserves.
The size and scope of each project is unique, so trade professionals use job costing to evaluate and price work requests. Experienced estimators have a sixth sense, projecting costs, enabling them to compile a reasonable ball-park estimate, without complex calculations. A detailed proposal follows, putting a price on each of the job’s elements, including materials and labor costs for every phase of the project.
In much the same way designating responsibilities ensures project details are not lost between the cracks, following a proven system for preparing bids protects profitability, with multiple jobs underway. Consider these factors when putting together your next bid:
- Profit Margins – Net income from sales is a key metric, illustrating how much you make on each sale. When profit margins slip, you may be spinning your wheels, completing projects without bringing home reasonable returns. While the figure can help you measure overall profitability, you can also use profit margin calculations to compare net income earned from individual jobs.
- Competitive Factors – Competitors have a pronounced impact on your earning potential. You can’t afford to sacrifice profitability for the competition’s sake, but clients typically seek multiple bids, so you need to be aware of pricing in your market.
- Perceived Value – The value of goods and services are exactly what consumers are willing to pay for them. If your reputation contributes to a high perception of value among prospective clients, you can charge a premium for your high quality work.
- State of the Industry – General economic conditions and the state of the trades have an influence on profit margins, which may be regional, in some cases. Though the factors are beyond your control, understanding the industry can help you manage expectations and competitively price your services.
Running multiple jobs is not an excuse for relaxing safety standards; job site safety is always a top priority. With projects in progress at multiple locations, a standardized safety program provides the best defense against incidents and injuries. Like other aspects of your business, you can increase accountability by assigning responsibility to a trusted individual within your organization.
Not only should general safety protocols be covered in the employee procedures manual, but each project should also be protected by an individual plan addressing safety at specific sites. A comprehensive safety plan covers:
- Access – Everyone visiting the site needs to know the lay of the land. Safety signage and personnel monitoring exits and entrances help ensure deliveries and visits from sub-contractors proceed without incident.
- Protective Equipment – Boots, protective headgear, gloves, and specialized safety equipment are often required on the job; these needs are addressed in your safety plan.
- Scheduling/Coordinating – Whether you’re managing a sizable worksite, or shuttling staff and equipment between jobs, project managers are responsible for safely coordinating the efforts. For instance, minimizing the number of workers and vehicles at job sites combats congestion and keeps sites safer.
Simultaneously managing multiple projects creates vexing conditions for small trade businesses. From cash flow concerns, bankrolling multiple jobs, to staffing and scheduling challenges; ambitious trade entrepreneurs find ways to cover all the bases, without sacrificing safety and profitability.
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