When the weather's warm and you're scrambling to finish a long list of projects, it can be easy to forget that things aren't always so hectic.
You're probably not thinking about those quieter periods, perhaps when winter weather slows down your workload or when there are just fewer projects up for grabs. But the offseason can be an ideal time to improve and streamline your business—as long as you're prepared.
Larry Clay, owner and president of Clay Construction in Langley, B.C., says builders in his part of the country often aren't faced with the same cold-weather offseason challenges as their industry associates. Still, the ups and downs of the market can create slow times, which he says should be used wisely.
Among his top recommendations? Use the time to make those changes you've been thinking about for months, like switching to new accounting system or construction management software. Take time to meet with your team and assess what's working and what's not, from customer service to money management.
"If you're smart with your business, you work on your systems [when business is slow] so when the market picks up eventually, you're ready," he says. "[Ask yourself] how you do a better job with your budget with less time, how you do better for customers."
Oliver Drerup, who ran an Ottawa, Ont.- based custom home company for nearly three decades and now works as a senior consultant in housing systems for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, says the offseason can be a great time to gauge your equipment needs, as well.
"Obviously tool repair is a big [consideration] and equipment maintenance is a big one," he says.
Plus, Drerup says, it's a chance to try out some new types of products or services, or get yourself ready to launch them once business picks up again. His company made a shift toward prefabrication work by making good use of free time between big projects.
"As we made the moves to prefabrication, we would use wintertime as an opportunity to try and develop our skill at putting together a plant, installing pneumatic equipment," he says.
Drerup says the mark of a well-balanced business is one that knows how to manage staff size and workflow so that it's never in trouble, despite ups and downs due to weather and the economy.
When you've got some time to sort out those issues, he suggests doing a thorough assessment of your staffing needs and the types of projects you can complete to keep your workers busy in the offseason.
"In order to do that, if you're small, you really have to vary your work by including not just new housing but also renovation and maybe even odd job stuff, depending on your size," he says. "If you eventually grow bigger, or if you wish to restrict yourself solely to the new construction game, you may have to grow somewhat larger to stay busy year-round."
When you've got some time in the office instead of on the job site, think about bumping up your marketing efforts and refining your brand. Drerup says it's something worth thinking about all the time, whether you're busy or in between jobs.
"You market all the time, every single minute you're out there," he says. "People need to know what you do and need to understand your attitude toward what you do. That's where you garner new clients."
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