by Karen Ensley Board-Certified Construction Law Attorney
Managing people, processes and product can be the biggest collective hassle in your organization, robbing you of the time, energy and money you need to grow the business. Simplify management by using these proven, effective strategies.
Create a job description for each type of job, identifying personality types that are the most likely fit. Don’t hire people just because their personality is similar to yours. Check references and perform a background check on each potential new hire.
Avoid the extremes of micro-managing or failing to exercise sufficient management by hiring the right people and empowering them to do their jobs.
Be personable but maintain professional distance. For example, don’t share too much about yourself, the company, or another employee. A good rule of thumb is “If there is no ‘business need to know,” then don’t share. Your long-term/trusted employees may know much too much about your company and personal business, which can put you and the company in a compromised situation.
Your employment manual should have clearly defined policies and a meaningful reporting structure. Make sure it is signed by all your employees. Don’t include “phantom” divisions that don’t exist, even if HR is one of those divisions.
Your overtime policy needs to be very clear. Begin by communicating who is exempt and non-exempt. Since exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay, ensure that your sales staff, supervisors, and anyone with managerial or decision-making authority are listed as exempt and that they are aware of the policy.
Don’t fall into the “overtime trap.” If your eligible employee works more than 40 hours in a week, you’re obligated to pay overtime whether you were aware of/approved it or not. Include a policy about travel time; otherwise, someone may request to “stop on the way in and pick up XYZ” and include that time on their timesheet. There’s no such thing as working “off the clock.”
To properly handle performance issues, have a progressive disciplinary procedure and follow it. Remember this: “If you didn’t document it, it never happened.” And when it’s time to say goodbye to an underperforming long-term employee, be very careful. Oftentimes there may be ADA issues. Consider a severance package to mitigate the risk. As with any “for cause termination,” you need documentation. Make it a habit to document issues as they occur.
What do you do when someone walks off the job? Your policy manual should define what constitutes job abandonment and all unauthorized missed work should be documented.
Be honest in managing your workforce. When laying off workers due to a “reduction in workforce,” for example, only do so if you really are reducing your workforce. Always provide evenhanded treatment of similarly situated employees.
Insist on non-disclosure and non-competition agreements for sales staff, project managers, and anyone else who has access to confidential or proprietary information, including client lists. In most cases, your front line labor force isn’t privy to anything particularly confidential so trying to limit future opportunity for them based on claims of specialized training is unlikely to be enforceable.
Managing Office Processes
The purpose of having office processes is so the office will run smoothly. Define them clearly and put them in writing. Distribute them to those responsible for carrying out the work then provide training as well as accountability.
Providing checks and balances in accounting is a must! First and foremost, the person who opens the mail should not be the same person making the deposits or posting payments to the accounting system. Review your payables and receivables weekly. Of course, it should be very clear who is authorized to sign checks.
In today’s world, managing technology is one of the most important aspects of company governance. Have and enforce internet usage and social media policies. In order to protect confidential company information, block access to all but those with a “need to know,” use write-protection or view-only options and encrypt when necessary.
There are several ways to use media to your advantage. Have a functional and visually pleasing website. Use LinkedIn and Facebook to connect with and stay in front of your clients and target markets. Blogging demonstrates your knowledge and capabilities, which adds to your credibility. Blogging also provides a value-add to your customers and prospects.
Use a phone system that encourages customer calls. If you use a remote answering service, carefully research their capabilities. Either way, provide direct dials for people and departments.
Managing the process of obtaining and executing on contracts also has important checks and balances. The salesperson should not be the only person reviewing the contract terms. Tie sales compensation to job profitability.
It is as important to specify your exclusions as your inclusions. Examples: tax, permits and fees, trash, storage of materials, warranties and warranty limitations.
Include a deadline to accept the bid. Specifically identify the plan sheets/dates. Include payment terms such as due date, interest, and legal fees and a signature block.
Should you include a refusal to negotiate? Maybe or maybe not. But if not, at least know what you are agreeing to. Hot topics that should be included are pay-if-paid, indemnity, change orders, delays, back charges, sole discretion, contingent pay for change order work, agreeing to a unilateral push-down schedule, overtime, cost to fix damage to your work, and paying the GC’s costs to collect from the owner.
By implementing these strategies, you’ll have more time and energy to focus on developing your business to meet your goals.
© Karen Ensley and Brian Benitez, Ensley Benitez Law, PC, 2021. All rights reserved. This article is provided for educational reasons exclusively and is not meant to be construed as legal advice. Ensley Benitez Law, PC, will represent you only after being retained and that agreement is made in writing.