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Design/Build: When do you do your office work?

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by Steiner, Jul 31, 2014.

  1. Steiner

    Steiner LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 409

    Small hardscaping/design/build/plant install company here having a hard time fitting it all in. Overwhelmed with estimates, billing, invoices, paying bills, drawing designs, calculating overhead etc. Seems to sap family time and piss my wife off.

    For guys who have one crew and are out working on each job, when do you do your paperwork, office work, estimates, drawings, billing etc?

    I work in my business currently and not on it. I work all week running a job site, and have little time to sneak away for phone calls, estimates, paperwork, billing etc. I end up building up huge mounds of receipts and saving them for months at a time. My estimates are behind, and I am constantly playing catchup.

    I am looking to come up with a system for my design build company. I have a hard time fitting everything in and I was wondering what each one of you do, or if you have tips or tricks?

    My ideas/things I have tried:

    1. Do paperwork before the crew arrives for an hour each day.
    2. Do paperwork on a certain day, like Friday afternoons.
    3. Do my accounting every month into quickbooks and set aside one evening per week for office hours as my wife calls them.
    4. Doing most of my design work in the winter months to save time during the rush.
    5. Using rain out days to catch up and get things done.

    Future ideas:

    -hire competent people in the field and take an afternoon for office hours
    -set up job each morning and allow foreman to handle all site work and customer interactions.
    -daily input of receipts

    Any help you guys can offer? What has worked for you?
  2. WenzelOSLLC

    WenzelOSLLC LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 709

    Nothing I've done personally but have heard mentioned is to hire someone part time who can do the routine things like data entry and returning calls, etc or hire a foreman who can allow you more office time and allow you to just make periodic visits to the site. Those eat into profits though.

    It sounds like you've done the other things I would suggest. I don't know what hours you keep but I do paperwork in the AM before I can run machinery.

    And spending the few minutes at the end of a day entering receipts can actually save a lot of time later so keep up on those. I also work through lunch if I have to; sit In the truck with your sandwich and start doing whatever paperwork you can.
  3. TX Easymoney

    TX Easymoney LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,082

    Most of routine data entry can be done if you use one of the scheduling software programs...it automates the routine recurring jobs like mowing routes... Then as you complete the work by hitting a key, it will log hours...input any material costs and your done.

    At end of day scroll down list and hit either y or n or skip job and post all of work as completed. It will take less than 5 minutes... At end of week, sync to QuickBooks...and email bills and your done..takes 20 minutes.

    You can also shave off time by putting expenses on credit cards and downloading them into QuickBooks... Or on bill payer via your bank...most banks now allow transactions to be downloaded to excel or QuickBooks.

    I use clip2go...you might also try free version called clipitc ...many available programs...jobber or service auto pilot... Anything better than nothing...do it in winter so you can properly set it up...after setup, you'll have the means to quickly record job data.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  4. alldayrj

    alldayrj LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,793

    Hes not talking about mowing

    I'm in the exact same spot, i don't have a guy i can trust to run the job all day so i start with them but leave around 2 or 3. They can clean up without me and complete some tasks or set up for the next day. I do my estimates from 4 to 7.

    As far as designs, i used to be swamped. Now i ballpark the job, if they like the price and they like me then they can give me a deposit and we can design the project.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  5. Steiner

    Steiner LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 409

    Design time kills me, that is the biggest pain.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  6. alldayrj

    alldayrj LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,793

    How much/ how many are you designing? What are you using? Is there a way to speed that up? Hire it out?
  7. Steiner

    Steiner LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 409

    It is just revisions/changes/customers who can't decide etc.

    I use sketchbook pro on the iPad and an app called paper by 54.

    I can bang them out quickly, I just have a hard time not having any evenings free after work. I am whining really. :)

    Here is an example:

    Parsons Master Design.jpg
  8. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,765


    Here's the scope chappy.

    Quickbooks isn't the right tool.

    You need to get industry specific software that FEEDS quick books.

    My preferred system is CLIP combined with PRO LANDSCAPE.
    It's not perfect but the only thing that does as much as it does.

    so the proper (industry SPECIFIC) software helps tons… it also immensely speeds up my design work and estimates.

    Also, I STOP selling design/build late may/early june. booked for the year before then, everything else becomes backlog/next year line waiters.

    Designing/selling basically starts in february.

    Additionally, I slowed things down by a) telling prospective customers this was a two way interview , I assume they are looking for only the best design/build firm, and I am looking for ONLY the best customers/job opportunities. I often tell the prospect after listening to them and seeing what they want, that I don't think the job is the right fit for the company. and move on.
    Many times, I can tell that right over the phone and save the trip out.
    b)have a job minimum (like 5-9,000), will keep you from spinning your wheels in the mini jobs, if the customer doesn't want to spend/have a budget for your minimum? No meeting needs take place.
    c) hire an answering service, set them up with the phone questions to ask (like scope of work, budget, etc) and have them ONLY interrupt you during the day for customers that meet the criteria you set forth. all the rest of the calls get pushed back to a "review" list, that you can look at later and see if there is something you might have missed or the answering service made an error.
    When you look at the list, and double check it's ok, you decide what to tell anyone you do no have a need or desire to call back, and assign them the call backs and what to say like "Thank you for calling, but we are currently already booked past the period of time you are looking to have your work done, please call again with any future needs" or "thank you for requesting our services, but at this time we do not feel your project fits our work portfolio, please call again if your parameters change"

    Something like that.

    I get people all the time who want like their vegetable garden weeded….yea, we don't do stuff like that…so sorry.
    I used to do solo tree installs (one tree thats it)
    Not anymore.

    Think of it like fishing, you don't keep every fish, you just take the bigs one to meet your bag limit.
    If fishing gets slim, lower your expectations to meet your bag limit.

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