Raising the Bottom Line

Why You Should Outsource These 5 Business and Accounting Tasks to Your CPA Firm Right Now

Posted by Scott Handwerger on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 @ 09:09 AM

accounting tasks to outsource.jpeg

Do you find yourself stuck performing (sometimes mundane) tasks in areas of your business that might be better off performed by someone else? Most small business owners would answer with a resounding “YES!”

In the ideal world you’d have a chief financial officer who generates financial reports that help you monitor profitability. Wouldn’t it also be nice to have a human resources director to coordinate hiring and employee benefits for your business? Let’s not forget about a chief technology officer who can make sure your computer network and software are up and running smoothly 24/7.

If this sounds like a dream come true for your business, join the club of small business owners who would love to delegate accounting, HR and technology tasks to someone else. But what if that “someone else” doesn’t exist in your business?

That’s where outsourcing comes in.

Why Outsource?

If you are like most business owners, you find yourself tending to time consuming internal administrative tasks when you could be spending that time developing new marketing strategies, expanding or developing a new product line, or creating a new internal process that enhances efficiency.

I have heard many business owners express frustration about how they are bogged down in handling day-to-day internal business tasks. While those tasks are necessary to keep a business running, they prevent business owners from concentrating on revenue-generating business initiatives.

And you know what? Business owners are realizing those tasks are getting in the way of guiding a successful business to the next level.

As a result we’ve seen a huge shift toward business owners outsourcing various internal functions to their CPA firm. There’s no real magic to deciding which tasks to let an outside firm handle. The idea is to free up your time to focus more on managing your business, without getting bogged down in the weeds.

Tasks You Should Outsource

Here are five common business functions that you can consider outsourcing right now.

1. Accounting

Accounting is one of the easiest areas to delegate, and one where you can get the most benefit from outsourcing.

Most accounting firms can help you with financial reporting, cash flow projections, A/R and A/P processing, bank reconciliations and month-end processes. And for those times when you struggle with your accounting software, most CPA firms can offer QuickBooks support. In a past blog post, we considered six reasons why outsourcing the accounting function makes sense.

2. Payroll Processing and Reporting

You can have your accounting firm process paychecks and handle your monthly, quarterly and annual government reporting.

3. Human Resources Support

While good employees are essential to the success of your business, managing those employees and the whole HR function takes an unbelievable amount of time. Outsourcing HR tasks like hiring, employee benefit plan administration, training, and writing and updating employee manuals can substantially free up your time.

4. Technology

Put simply, it’s a no brainer to have an IT professional handle computer software and network support. Spending time trying to fix computer problems isn’t a good use of your time.

Helpful tip: sometimes a business owner doesn’t even realize they have a technology problem on their hands until it’s too late. Outsourcing your IT function to a technology professional can help ensure that your business and its computers are protected from hacks, viruses and malware, and catastrophic data loss.

5. Business Advisory Services

Depending on the nature of your business, there are countless other tasks to delegate to a qualified accounting firm. We’ve already blogged about the reasons to use an outsourced CFO.

There’s also an opportunity to have someone else handle third-party reporting that is required by a bank, insurer or government agency. There are times when it makes good sense to have an outside firm review your internal controls and policies and procedures.

The list goes on. These are just a few of the internal tasks that can be outsourced to a qualified CPA.

Remember, it’s less about WHAT you outsource, and ALL about freeing up your time to do what you’re really good at – growing your business, developing new products and increasing revenue.

By outsourcing these tasks, you’ll free up your time to concentrate on more important things. As a bonus, you will likely save money, gain expert advice, receive insightful professionally-prepared reports, and make more informed decisions as a result of having outside quality experts involved in your business.

Does Outsourcing Make Sense For You?

Our Smart Accounting Support Solutions team can help you weigh the benefits of outsourcing any of these business functions. Contact us online or call 800.899.4623.

Subscribe to the Gross Mendelsohn blog

Tags: Scott Handwerger, accounting, business owners, outsourced accounting, Smart Accounting Support Solutions, outsourced CFO

9 Nonprofit Fundraising Ideas To Try Right Now

Posted by Ernie Paszkiewicz on Fri, Nov 03, 2017 @ 08:47 AM

cash

Coming up with fundraising ideas for your nonprofit can be tough. Not only are you competing for donors’ time and money with other local and national nonprofits, but you have to come up with ideas that work and, more importantly, make enough money to make your efforts worthwhile. I’ve been working with nonprofits for almost four decades now, and in that time, I’ve seen the gauntlet of fundraising tactics.

Here are a few ideas to consider for your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts:

1. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding websites like GoFundMe can be great opportunities to boost your fundraising dollars. While crowdfunding shouldn’t and won’t replace your day-to-day fundraising efforts, crowdfunding can serve as a powerful tool in soliciting more money. It is expected that by 2025, crowdfunding will become a $96 billion industry, a good indication that online giving will only continue to grow. (Learn more about nonprofit crowdfunding here.)

2. Engraved bricks, benches, placards, etc.

Permanent engravings are a great way to raise money and let people leave their mark on a building or area with meaning to them. Oftentimes, due to their prominence, these engravings “sell themselves” due to their high visibility. Some examples include: engraved bricks, fence posts, placards or benches.

3. Sip and paint

With “Paint Nite” events cropping up across the country, it makes sense that nonprofits would capitalize by hosting “paint and sip” nights of their own. Typically, participants pay a flat rate for the cost of materials and the instructor’s time. To cut costs, you can ask participants to bring their own beverages to “sip,” and bypass any restrictions on selling or distributing alcoholic beverages, or include the cost of a drink or two in the registration fee.

4. 50/50 rafflewatch-nonprofit-fundraising-webinar

If you are looking for a low-cost way to add a few additional donation dollars to your next event, consider a 50/50 raffle. To play, all your organization will need a roll of tickets that participants can buy, with the understanding that the winner will receive half of the game’s profits.

5. Game night

Hosting a game night, whether it’s bingo, trivia or a Scrabble tournament, can be an effective way to raise funds for your organization. You can charge money per game or as an overall registration fee. Consider also utilizing some mid-event fundraisers (like special games or raffles – like 50/50) to bump up your overall net revenue.

6. T-shirts

If you’ve been to a ballgame recently, you probably noticed people going gaga over t-shirts. T-shirts can be a cheap and effective avenue for brand awareness and potentially even profits. Your nonprofit can have t-shirts printed as part of a campaign (like a walkathon or for volunteers at an event) or create custom shirts to sell on your website (check out this example from the Maryland SPCA).

7. Mini-carnival

Hosting a full-blown carnival can be an intimidating process, so why not start small by ditching the rides and focusing on easy to manage games? Ring tosses, face painting and balloon art can be cheap and fun ways to make money for your organization. (Want more DIY activity ideas? Check out this site.) For food, you could invite a local restaurant(s) or food truck(s) to sell, with a set percentage of their profits being donated to your organization.

8. Auctions with a twist

Chances are you’ve seen a good number of jerseys or sports tickets being auctioned at events, but you can draw some eyeballs (and hopefully dollars) with a prize outside the norm, including:

  • A vacation package (like a trip to Disney World or the Bahamas donated or subsidized by a local travel agent)
  • A fixer-upper package (win a set number of hours donated by a local handyman)
  • A relaxation package (like a trip to the spa donated by a local spa)

9. Yard sale

Ask donors, supporters and the community to donate unwanted items to be sold at a community yard sale, with all proceeds going to your nonprofit. You’ll be surprised how quickly dollars add up, no matter how big or small the purchases.

Learn the basics of nonprofit fundraising

To learn more about how your organization can be successful in its fundraising efforts and techniques to get you there, check out our free on-demand webinar, “Secrets of Successful Nonprofit Fundraising,” presented by fundraising expert Vince Connelly. To start watching the webinar now, click here. 

Tags: Ernie Paszkiewicz, nonprofit, fundraising

The Impact Of Built In Gains Tax On Business Valuation

Posted by David Goldner on Mon, Oct 30, 2017 @ 11:02 AM

impact of built in gains tax on business valuation.png

Prior to the Tax Reform Act of 1986, a C corporation could sell its appreciated assets, or liquidate, and avoid any tax inside of the company. The shareholder would only pay a single capital gains tax.

However, after the law changed – and it’s still the case today – things became less advantageous for the shareholder. Now, if a C corporation liquidates, they pay a tax inside of the corporation on any appreciation of its assets, and then a second tax is paid on the liquidation. 

This leads to a question: if an appreciated asset (or business) is owned inside of a C corporation, is that corporation’s stock worth less than the same corporation that owns the appreciated asset, but has always been an S corporation? 

Let’s look at a simple example to illustrate this question.

In our example, a building is owned inside of a C Corporation as opposed to a being owned directly by an individual. If the C corporation sells a fully depreciated building for $2 million, the company pays a tax at, say, 40% or $800,000. So, if you liquidated that company, you would get $1,200,000.

On the other hand, if you buy the building directly for $2 million and then resell it, you get your $2 million.

Which is a better buy – buying the building directly, or buying the stock of a C corporation that owns the building inside? The building is worth $2,000,000, but inside of the C corporation, how much is the stock of that corporation really worth? Is it worth $1,200,000, or $2,000,000?

That’s the big question.

Different Rules for Business Valuations

In the real world of business deals, buyers and sellers negotiate the built in gains tax as part of any agreement of sale. But in the world of valuations, different rules have applied.

For many years, the IRS took the position that no adjustment was appropriate for hypothetical built in gains. For a long time, the courts followed the IRS’s position. However, in the landmark Estate of Davis case in 1998, the tax court held that even though no planned sale of the appreciated assets was contemplated, it was reasonable that a hypothetical willing buyer and willing seller would take into account the built in gains tax when valuing the stock for estate tax purposes. Subsequent court decisions have followed the decision in favor of the taxpayer, allowing for a reduction in value for built in gains tax.

Other court cases have accepted the idea of discounts, and have applied a variety of computations of what the discount should be. Some approach the discount as a simple adjustment from the value of an asset. Others say the adjustment should be included in the discount for marketability. Overall, the key factors that enter into the computation include (1) the expected holding period, (2) the appreciation of the asset and (3) discounting that value back.

The Missing Piece In Determining A Discount

Most analysis stops right there. In my opinion, this analysis is missing one of the key factors in determining the amount of a discount.

One side of the discount, as the courts have discussed and ruled on, is related to the future tax cost of the asset. The other impact to the buyer who will continue to own the building or business is the lost tax savings opportunities of depreciation or amortization deductions. The depreciation and amortization deductions would be available to save taxes each and every year until that asset is sold.

Download our free whitepaper for divorce attorneys!Valuing a Business In a Divorce

In divorce cases, courts often follow the decisions of tax court cases regarding applicability of discounts. Shannon Pratt, the leading authority on valuations, stated that he considered it an unfair result if taxes are not included as an adjustment to the value of the assets, as compared to giving assets that have no built in gain. The interesting extension of Pratt’s opinion as it relates to divorce is: does the idea of the discounts only apply to C corporations or should it be applied to partnerships and S corporations as well?

There are no clear-cut answers pertaining to the issue of potential capital gains taxes in determining the value of a business in a divorce. State tax law is the preeminent authority in the area of divorce. Divorce case law across the different states is not consistent in the analysis of discounts for built in gains taxes, although the general expectation is that the courts will be slow to apply a tax discount, unless there is an immanent transaction. If the company being valued is a C corporation as opposed to a pass-through entity, like an S corporation, the issue becomes even more cloudy.

Need a Seasoned Valuation Analyst?

Our Forensics & Litigation Support Group can help. David Goldner, CPA, CFP, CVA, prepares business valuations for divorce cases, estate planning, and business sales and acquisitions. Contact him online or call 800.899.4623.

Tags: business valuation, tax, David Goldner, litigation support, attorneys

It’s Time to Increase Your Construction Company’s Pricing – Here’s How to Do It

Posted by Steve Ball on Wed, Oct 11, 2017 @ 10:07 AM

competitive-pricing

There is no question the construction industry has recovered from where it was in 2009, so why haven’t Maryland construction companies started increasing their pricing? We surveyed nearly 200 Maryland construction contractors in the 2017 Maryland Construction Industry Survey, and over half of respondents said they didn’t increase their pricing in 2016.

Now, more than ever, is the time to increase your company’s prices, and those who fail to make increases will end up paying more in the long run.

Costs will rise

There is no “maybe” about the reality of increasing material costs. As the amount of work increases, so will demand for resources. The Turner Cost Index, which measures costs in the non-residential building construction market in the United States, has found that costs increased 4.96% between the second quarter of 2016 to the second quarter of 2017. For a company that spends $250,000 in material costs, that’s an additional $12,400 a year.

Learn what other Maryland construction contractors have to say about the industry and the future of their construction business.

This increase not only includes costs for materials like wood or steel, but also human resources in the form of skilled labor. 62% of Maryland construction contractors say their #1 concern for 2017 is finding and retaining good employees, and for good reason. As the market continues to recover, skilled construction employees will have more leverage than years prior.

Companies who want to retain their top staff must commit to paying their employees competitive wages, and the only way to minimize the impact on your bottom line is to up your pricing.

Tips for raising prices

While all signs point to raising prices, many construction companies will continue to waver. Much of this apprehension has to do with the fear of losing business, especially to a competitor who may still be getting plenty of business with rock-bottom, post-recession pricing. Here are some tips on the best way to get your prices up (without losing business):

  1. Explain the situation
    One bad way to go about price increases is to blindside customers with a huge price jump on their next bill. People want to know and understand why the price for your service is going up, and lucky for you, you have some pretty visible evidence. New construction projects are cropping up around the country at a rapid rate, only helping your argument on the rising demand of service and associated materials.

    This is also a good time to remind customers just how long it’s been since your last rate hike (and if that was in 2009, that was eight years ago!). Customer loyalty is undoubtedly important, but customers will have nothing to be loyal to if your business can barely break even. There is always the risk a customer or two will walk out the door when prices go up, but you have to hold firm in your propositioning. You are providing a high-quality service, with high-quality materials and staff, and that requires a bigger budget than substandard work from a much cheaper business.

  2. Evaluate your current service
    Before you start increasing prices, take a minute to ask yourself – are there areas where we could be doing better? If your business has been struggling on the customer satisfaction front, raising prices without addressing existing concerns could result in major pushback, and rightfully so. Happy customers will or can be convinced to pay more. Unsatisfied customers won’t be able to get to the door fast enough.
  1. Give notice
    Price increases should never be made after a contract has been signed. If you are performing reoccurring work for a client, and their contract is almost up, send them at least a month’s notice so they are able to get their ducks in a row. Springing last minute increases, especially on a repeat customer, will leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and may dissuade them from doing business with you in the future.

  2. Have confidence
    One big mistake small to mid-size businesses make is apologizing for price increases. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have empathy for customers (after all, they’re trying to do the same thing as you – be diligent about their funds), but that doesn’t mean expressing guilt over your price increase. Explain your reasoning; express understanding when encountering pushback; but don’t undermine yourself by apologizing for making a sensible business decision.

Still on the fence?

If you’re still in need of some convincing, download a free copy of our executive summary of the results of the 2017 Maryland Construction Industry Survey to get a first-hand look at the data showing improving industry conditions and what’s coming down the pike.

2017-maryland-construction-survey-executive-summary 

Tags: Steve Ball, construction, Maryland, 2017 Maryland Construction Industry Survey

4 Things We Learned From the 2017 Maryland Skilled Nursing Facility Outlook Survey

Posted by Jim Crisp, CPA on Thu, Oct 05, 2017 @ 08:23 AM

nurse skilled nursing home.jpg

With the minimal amount of outlook data available, getting a pulse on what is happening in the Maryland skilled nursing industry can be difficult. To help, we surveyed Maryland skilled nursing facility owners, executive directors and administrators as part of our 2017 Maryland Skilled Nursing Facility Outlook Survey to get their feedback on topics like their optimism for the future, top concerns and more. Here is what we learned:

1. Optimism levels are not great

With the turbulence of today’s political environment, along with proposed Medicaid cuts and the continually rising cost of business, it should come as no surprise to any provider that Maryland skilled nursing facilities are not exactly hopeful for the future. 35% of survey respondents said they are less optimistic about their facility’s outlook for 2017 than they were for 2016, with 38% saying they feel about the same as last year, and only 27% saying they feel more optimistic.

 

snf survey results

 

2. Facilities are worried about changes in payment/reimbursement systems

When it comes to what is keeping facilities up at night, survey respondents overwhelmingly said potential changes in payment/reimbursement systems (70%). Unsurprisingly, finding and retaining qualified employees ranked second on the list of top concerns (43%), followed by the level of outside regulatory requirements (38%).

 

snf survey results

 

3. Facilities think the current administration’s approach to healthcare will have a negative effect on the industry

With the level of uncertainty regarding the future of healthcare, we asked skilled nursing facilities what effect they believe the current administration will have on the industry overall. More than half of survey respondents said they believe the current administration’s approach to healthcare will have a negative impact on the industry, citing the ambiguity regarding the future of Medicaid in their reasoning. The remaining half of respondents were almost split 50/50, saying they feel the effect will be neutral or positive.

 

snf survey results

 

4. Nursing remains the most expensive cost area and the most difficult to control

Minimizing costs while maintaining the level of service has and will continue to be an issue for skilled nursing facilities. 57% of survey respondents said nursing costs are the area that they have the hardest time controlling, only a marginal drop from our 2016 survey when 63% said the same. 27% of respondents said they have the hardest time controlling costs related to salary and benefits. (Need some tips on controlling salary and benefit costs? Here’s some advice we got after our 2016 survey from our HR director. 

 

snf survey results

 

Want more data?

We’ve analyzed data from facilities across Maryland to develop our free 2017 Benchmark Study for Skilled Nursing Facilities in Maryland. To start reading your free copy of the benchmark study, click here.

2017 Benchmark Study for Skilled Nursing Facilities in Maryland

Tags: healthcare, Jim Crisp, 2017 MD Skilled Nursing Facility Outlook Survey

5 Things to Consider Before Issuing Your Nonprofit’s Next Audit RFP

Posted by Ernie Paszkiewicz on Tue, Oct 03, 2017 @ 08:16 AM

woman writing in notebook.jpg

Selecting an accounting firm for your nonprofit’s next audit can be a daunting task. Not only might you be unsure of which qualities to look for in a firm, but requesting and reviewing proposals can be a long and tedious process, requiring time and attention that may be needed elsewhere.

However, when an organization relies on templates or outdated requests for proposals (RFPs), they often end up with “proposals” disguised as boilerplate marketing material, which do little to help an organization make an educated decision on which firm to choose.

So, what can help your organization solicit better proposals?

1. Ask about the CPA firm’s clients

It’s important that you know how a potential new firm interacts with their clients. The best way to solicit this information is by asking proposing firms to provide references for a few current nonprofit clients, and preferably organizations of a similar size to yours.

However, when it comes to your RFP, don’t ask firms to disclose information on the biggest client(s) they’ve lost in the past X years. While firms are able to solicit permission to share the contact information for existing clients for referral purposes, firms cannot disclose contact information for past clients.

As a rule, CPA firms – including our firm – guard their clients’ confidentiality tooth and nail. You’ll save yourself and your audit committee time and energy by ditching any questions about specifics on client relationships (past or present), which will only result in answers citing confidentiality. Instead focus on getting in contact with the firm’s provided references so you can make your own conclusions based on your conversations.

2. Focus on what you care about

If your organization is seeking a firm who specializes in client service, make sure your RFP reflects that. Likewise, if you’re looking to find a new firm to lower your audit fees, make sure fee inquiries are first and foremost. By writing your RFP based on what you are looking for in an audit firm, you’ll save your organization the time and energy needed to wade through information that doesn’t address what you really want to know.

For example, if you are looking to lower your audit fees and aren’t quite as worried about the firm’s experience or level of service, consider asking firms for abbreviated proposals that highlight fees and include a limited amount of background information. This will save you time when reviewing proposals by ensuring the information you are looking for is front and center.

3. Ditch the boilerplate RFPLearn what to expect during your nonprofit's next audit (free eBook)

If you’re hoping to receive a proposal tailored to your organization, it’s best to ditch the boilerplate RFP your organization might be using. Most RFP templates are similar, if not the same, to the templates other nonprofits in your area are using, which makes it that much easier for proposing firms to simply copy, paste and send the same proposal to many different organizations.

Learn what nonprofit executive directors and board members must know about the audit process in this free eBook.

By creating an RFP that asks questions that force firms to think, you are more likely to receive proposals that go beyond the same customary verbiage being sent to a nonprofit down the block.

For example, let’s take one of the most common bullet points in nonprofit RFPs: “Detail your firm’s experience in providing auditing and tax services to companies in the nonprofit sector, as well as organizations of a comparable size to ORGANIZATION NAME.”

How do you think the responses would change if you rewrote that statement to address qualities you’re looking to be demonstrated – competency and experience?

For example, you might change the question to: “Based on the documents attached to this RFP (FY## Financial Statements and Form 990) and your firm’s experience in the nonprofit sector, provide three suggestions you would make to ORGANIZATION NAME as our accounting firm.”

4. Be specific

If you are looking for certain information, be clear about how you want firms to respond. For example, let’s take a common RFP statement: “Identify the partner, manager, and in-charge accountant who will be assigned to our job if you are successful in your bid, and provide biographies.” 

While you want information on the people who will be working with you, is there any information in particular that matters to you? Do you want three pages of biography information or three sentences? Do you really want information on the in-charge accountant or will the partner’s and manager’s information be enough?

For example, when rewriting the statement as the following, how do you think the responses would change?

In 500 words or less, please provide the following information on the partner and manager who will be assigned to our engagement team:

  • Brief synopsis of professional experience
  • Any related professional designations and how they will directly benefit the work for our organization
  • Organizations they serve as a volunteer or board member, including years of service
  • Any personal relevance or meaning to our organization’s mission

5. Limit the number of firms you send RFPs to

If you and your audit committee are already strapped for time, consider limiting the number of firms you send your RFP to. While some firms might decline to bid, you should consider that if you send your RFP to ten audit firms, you may receive ten proposals in return. To put this in perspective, depending on how many questions you ask in your proposal, sending RFPs to ten firms could mean you easily end up with over 200 pages of proposal verbiage to review.

One easy way to cut back on the number of firms you send your RFP to is to first ask for recommendations for audit firms from your colleagues and trusted contacts in the nonprofit sector. These conversations will not only help you narrow your list of firm choices but can also clue you in to any firms to outright avoid.

Preparing for the audit

Just like soliciting proposals, doing some work ahead of time and having a basic knowledge of the process can save you and your organization headaches down the road. Learn the basics of the nonprofit audit process, including what you should expect from the audit, how to understand a management letter and your responsibilities if you get a negative comment, and more, in this free eBook, Demystifying the Audit

Questions? Contact us here or call 800.899.4623 to talk over your organization’s situation.                            

Tags: Ernie Paszkiewicz, audit, nonprofit

How to Completely Change the Way Your Construction Company Does Performance Reviews

Posted by Steve Ball on Thu, Sep 28, 2017 @ 02:03 PM

man drawing arrows

Whether you like giving reviews or not, employee performance reviews are critical to your construction company’s success. After all, expecting your employees’ behavior to change without acknowledging the areas they must improve is a lot like expecting a job to finish itself –it’s not going to happen.

Despite this, having worked with many construction companies throughout my 30-year career, I’ve watched time and time again as contractors fail to give employees the feedback they need. 

construction employee feedback statistic

This can lead to unintended consequences, like lost revenue due to habitual and avoidable mistakes, and the loss of all-star employees who are seeking to move up or challenge their skills.

The truth is, employees, and especially younger generations, want and expect regular feedback. In a 2017 survey of Maryland construction contractors, nearly 3 out of 10 contractors said they don’t give feedback on a regular basis. This number is far too high, especially given that 62% of contractors said that finding and retaining good employees was their top concern for their company.

So, how can construction contractors give feedback in a constructive, meaningful way?

Review every major job

Let’s say you have two guys on your team – John and Bob. They both have similar skill and experience levels, and are good employees overall.

You start meeting with John on a regular basis to review his performance. During these discussions, you discuss which areas he could improve, areas he is doing well, and things you’d like to see from him upon completion of his next job in two months. On the other hand, you don’t have time to meet with Bob, and almost a year passes when you sit down with him to review his performance.

Who do you think is going to have made the most progress in a year – John, who you’ve sat down with several times in the past twelve months or Bob, who you’ve only met with once? Not much of a question, right?

Want to get started now? Check out this free construction job employee evaluation form.

The simple truth is that employees who receive timely feedback are better able to correct mistakes and improve over those who receive that same feedback a year down the road. After all, what good is feedback if it comes twelve months too late?

To avoid this, construction contractors should review an employee’s performance after every major job. This review can be brief, but it should provide an overall evaluation of the employee’s strengths and weaknesses on the job and where they are expected to do better on the next job.

These job-to-job evaluations will not only allow you to correct mistakes and issues sooner rather than later, but will give you an opportunity to identify and mentor the all-star employees who are looking to develop their skills throughout the year.

But, I don’t have time!

These days, your company is most likely firing all cylinders. Today’s recovering economy, paired with a growing backlog of work, probably means you and your employees are spending more time than ever in the field. This can mean routine tasks – like performance reviews – often take a backseat to jobs that pay the bills and may end up getting pushed off or forgotten all together.

This, however, can be a costly mistake.

We all struggle to find time to take care of important but seemingly non-essential tasks, but those “less important” tasks we push off often come around to haunt us.

Take for example, oil changes in your company truck. You depend on the vehicle to get you, your guys and your tools from point A to point B, but when that check oil light goes on, you decide to push it an extra few miles. A few days become a few weeks and then the summer is gone by the time you get around to changing the oil. This process repeats for several years, until one day, your seemingly okay engine dies in the center of the beltway in morning rush hour. Now, you’ve got a dead engine, a half a day of lost work and a bill from your mechanic that would make even Bill Gates raise an eyebrow.

The same thing goes for performance reviews.

When you push off reviews, whether they are job-to-job or year-to-year, you get in a bad habit of thinking performance reviews aren’t really that important. And if all your employees are already operating perfectly 100% of the time and are content to stay exactly where they are in your company, you’re probably okay to forgo reviews. For the rest of the construction industry, putting off reviews is a lot like putting off those oil changes – it’s going to catch up with you eventually.

Get started now

Job-to-job performance reviews don’t have to be complicated. To get started now, check out our free construction job employee evaluation form.

employee-evaluation-form

Tags: Steve Ball, construction, 2017 Maryland Construction Industry Survey

89% of Manufacturers Are Optimistic for the Future

Posted by Edward Thompson on Wed, Sep 20, 2017 @ 11:02 AM

arrow

Despite slower than expected movement on the legislative front, manufacturers in the United States continue to show historic levels of optimism. In the most recent National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) Quarterly Outlook Survey, which covers data from April – June 2017, over 89% of manufacturers said they had a positive outlook for their own company. This is only a slight drop from a few months earlier, when manufacturers reported an unprecedented 93% rate of optimism.

NAM contributes this continued positivity to the expectation of “pro-growth policies” from the Trump administration, which many manufacturers hope will address some of the existing tax and regulatory burdens. When asked about the regulatory actions taken by the Trump administration so far, over 80% of manufacturers said they approved, with 57% saying they believed the actions taken thus far would reduce overall regulatory burdens.

However, with nearly 29% of survey participants reporting they were “unsure” if the country was headed in the right direction, NAM says it is possible some manufacturers are “grappling with political uncertainty.” Despite this, more than half of manufacturers said they believe the country is headed in the right track.

When it comes to top business challenges, manufacturers said rising healthcare and insurance costs (75%); attracting and retaining a quality workforce (64%); and an unfavorable business climate (56%) remain top concerns.

Maryland Manufacturers

In Maryland, 96% of manufacturers reported their recent sales have been “good,””very good” or “extremely good,” according to a survey of nearly 100 Maryland manufacturers by the Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland.

It is concerning, however, that close to 20% of survey respondents said they were unfamiliar with the More Jobs for Marylanders Act, which provides tax incentives for manufacturers who create new jobs in Maryland. For a complete overview of the More Jobs for Marylanders Act and how it affects manufacturers, check out this blog post.

Get more data

While NAM’s Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey is released on a quarterly basis, manufacturers can get up-to-date news and articles delivered straight to their inbox when they subscribe to our manufacturing blog.

subscribe-manufacturing-blog

Tags: Manufacturing & Distribution, Ed Thompson, manufacturing

Beginner’s Guide: How to Find New Construction Employees Online

Posted by Steve Ball on Tue, Sep 12, 2017 @ 07:01 AM

handshake-computer

While construction companies have historically relied on word of mouth to find new employees, the internet is changing the way job candidates discover new opportunities. 

blog-statistic-graphic

Between 2013 and 2015, a staggering 90% of Americans said they went online to search for jobs, with 84% having applied for a job online1Despite this, according to the 2017 Maryland Construction Industry Survey, only a third of Maryland construction contractors said they find new employees using online job boards like Monster or Indeed.

As the demand for qualified construction employees continues to rise, companies who continue to rely purely on word of mouth will undoubtedly miss out on the growing number of individuals looking for jobs via the internet. Luckily, posting your company’s open positions online doesn’t have to be hard.

Where to post your company’s positions

The secret to getting the most eyes on your online job ad is posting the information in more than one place. You’ll want to start with creating an account and posting the position on websites like Indeed and Monster. For some examples of what kinds of positions other Maryland construction companies are posting online, check out the search results for construction positions in Maryland or check out this sample listing:

Utility Construction Laborer
ABC Construction Company
$## - $## an hour

We are seeking experienced laborers to join our team in Baltimore, MD. This is a full-time, year-round position, with a competitive benefits package.

Laborers will be responsible with utility construction work, including, but not limited to, digging, heavy lifting and operating power tools, in all weather conditions.

All work will be completed in a team environment, but employees must be able to follow directions with minimal supervision.

Requirements
2+ years of construction experience
High school diploma or equivalent
Valid driver’s license
Pass pre-employment drug screening and background check

Benefits
Health, dental and life insurance
Seven days paid vacation and three days of sick leave per year
Employee bonus incentive program

If you have a company website, consider creating a career page and keeping a running list of all of your company’s open positions (check out our open position page as an example). By making this list available, future job candidates looking at your website can see what positions are currently open, making applying that much easier.

Social media accounts like your company’s Facebook or LinkedIn page are also great places to post information about open positions. It’s free, easy and often results in people sharing your posts far and wide.

What’s this going to cost me?

Just like the classified ads, posting jobs online isn’t always free. Listings can often cost companies a pretty penny, especially if you are posting one job at a time versus several at once. At the moment, Indeed still offers free listings, but sites like Monster can charge up to $300 for a 30-day listing.

This kind of expense can be staggering to smaller companies, and especially those looking to limit overhead costs. However, there are discounts for companies who post more than one job at a time. So, if you’re looking for laborers, a project manager and a new bookkeeper, you would receive a discount by posting all three jobs at once.                   

The don’ts of writing a good job description

1. Don’t forget how competitive the market is

The goal of posting job openings online is to entice candidates to want to apply to your company. It’s important to remember that while the people applying are looking to sell themselves as the best candidate, your company must also be selling itself as a desirable employer. Construction workers have more job opportunities than ever before, and when posting a job online, you want to distinguish your position above the other job postings in the same list.

While you don’t want to write too much, you do want to explain what the job entails and the responsibilities involved. Not only will this save you from fielding a tsunami of calls from unqualified applicants, but you’ll be better positioning your description to stand out among others and attract the right kind of candidates.

It’s also important to use your job posting to mention why your company is different from your competitors – like those free lunches you provide on Fridays or the employee bonus program that you offer.

All in all, you want to avoid positing a position like:

Laborer
ABC Construction Company

Construction laborers needed. Competitive pay. Call 555.555.5555.

2. Don’t pick an overly general job title

When it comes to clicking on a job description, most candidates click based on the title of the position. For example, if you have the choice between clicking “Laborerand “Heavy Construction Site Laborer,” which would you choose? Specificity about the type of position, experience level, etc. can make the job more attractive to candidates and can potentially attract more eyes to your posting.

3. Don’t forget to use keywords

Without going into the rabbit hole of how internet searching works, it’s important that the word “construction” appears in the majority of your job titles. Put yourself in the shoes of a job candidate. If you were looking for jobs in the construction industry, chances are your search would contain the word “construction.” In fact, “construction” may be the only search term a candidate uses in their search, meaning your job posting may not even show up in their results if you didn’t use the keyword in your position description.

Despite this, while it makes sense to have position titles like “Construction Laborer” or “Senior Construction Project Manager,” there is no need to have titles like “Construction Bookkeeper” or “Construction Administrative Assistant.” A good rule of thumb is that if the job isn’t directly related to the industry, you don’t need an industry keyword in the job title.

Need a hand?

Finding qualified employees is no walk in the park. If you’d like to have a sounding board to figure out how to find good employees, retain your best team members for the long haul, or improve your online presence, we can help. Contact Steve Ball, CPA, online or call 410.685.5512.

2017-maryland-construction-survey-executive-summary


1Pew Research Center of Internet & Technology

Tags: Steve Ball, construction, 2017 Maryland Construction Industry Survey

How to Respond to a Bad Review About Your Construction Company

Posted by Steve Ball on Thu, Aug 31, 2017 @ 07:02 AM

steam ears woman.png

If you’ve never googled your company, you might be surprised at what you find. Chances are, your company’s website (assuming you have one) will rank high in your search results and, more likely than not, so will a few online reviews of your business.

In a 2017 survey of Maryland construction contractors, 43% of contractors said they believe the reviews posted about a construction company online don’t impact whether a customer will do business with that company. This, however, cannot be further from the truth.

Online reviews have become standalone marketing tools for (or against) businesses, and if you’ve ever decided to make an online purchase based on the reviews about that product, you know how powerful a well-written review can be. Online reviews are not only booming in popularity but in their strength of influence, with over 84% of people in a 2016 BrightLocal survey saying they trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation.

The problem most contractors run into in dealing with online reviews is how and what to say in response to reviews, and especially the bad ones. Responses can range the gauntlet from arguing with the reviewer (bad) or failing to respond at all (equally as bad).

How should your company respond to a bad review about your business?

1. Take a breath

Criticism about your company can be a bitter pill to swallow. When you come across a scathing review of your business, it’s normal to feel angry or upset, which is why – regardless of how mad you are or untrue the review is – you need to take a breath before responding. If you’re really angry, it’s best to take several days to cool off or, better yet, ask someone who is more impartial to respond.

It’s important to remember that responses to reviews are public, which means every word you publish will be accessible to anyone who stumbles upon that page. That means your response is a direct reflection on you, your business and the type of relationship you have with your customers.

Learn what nearly 200 Maryland construction contractors said about their company’s outlook, marketing strategy and more.

The things you write can come back to haunt you. Even if you cool down and delete an angry response you’ve written two days later, your comments may still be out there. The person who you replied to or another page visitor may have taken a screenshot of your response can repost your words wherever and whenever they please.

Bad reviews can sting, but losing business because potential customers think you’re a hothead will sting a lot worse.

2. Take the time to truly understand what happened

Just like our children, pets, spouses, friends, etc., we all want to believe the best about our business and staff. Unfortunately, no business or person is perfect, and mistakes will be made – mistakes we might not always know about. Before responding to a review, it’s important to find out what actually happened and, namely, if the reviewer’s story is true.

For example, if you receive an angry review about how rude and unprofessional your foreman acted on a job, it’s your responsibility to check in and see what really happened. Chances are, your staff acted just as they should, but before you reply to the review, you’ll want to know how accurate the reviewer’s version of events actually is.

3. Claim your page

If this is your first time responding to a review, you’ll most likely have to claim your business through the website by creating a company account. This may have to be verified through phone or email, but once your account is created, you are free to respond to the reviews on your company’s page. Check out these pages to claim your business on Yelp and Angie’s List.

4. Be positive

When it comes to writing your review, the point is not to play the blame game. The goal in responding is to either:

  1. apologize
  2. explain

In the first case, your goal in responding is to admit a mistake was made, apologize and potentially make amends. For example, you might write:

“Sarah, thank you for writing. I spoke with the foreman on your account, and you are absolutely right that mistakes were made, and we truly apologize for the inconvenience it caused you. While I know it can’t make up for the time you lost as a result of our slipup, I’d like to waive the balance on your final invoice in hopes you will consider doing business with us again.”

In the second case, your goal is to explain the situation from your company’s perspective in order to put the review in context for anyone else reading the review. This is typically the route you would take when you receive a review with some debatable facts. For example, you might write:

“John, thank you for writing. I apologize you had such a negative experience with XYZ Construction Company. Unfortunately, the carpet you mentioned was the sample you picked and signed off on. We always want to prevent mistakes like these from being made, which is why we had you sign off on the carpet right before it was installed, after you were permitted to make a first-hand inspection.”

5. End the response with your contact information

Even if the reviewer has written the most scathing, untruthful review ever written, you want to appear the bigger person. Staying cool, calm and collected will show those reading your reviews that they will be doing business with professionals. By offering contact information, you put yourself in a position where you are showing the public that you take reviewers’ comments seriously and care about your customers. You might do this by ending your response with:

“If you have any other questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 555.555.5555 x55.”

Other marketing and business development tactics

To learn what other Maryland construction contractors are saying about their company’s marketing and business development tactics, download a free copy of the executive summary of the results of the 2017 Maryland Construction Industry Report.

2017-maryland-construction-survey-executive-summary

Tags: Steve Ball, construction, 2017 Maryland Construction Industry Survey