Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Profitability’

Hey gang…we are giving the guest posting another shot as we received a lot of very good feedback from our first posting from Chris Hill, construction attorney. Next up is Kevin Kaiser who is here to share with us about the importance of a strong bonding program. Hopefully, you will read Kevin’s post and ‘bond’ with what he has to share. (Sorry, I could not help myself…Bobby)

————-

Being in charge of your company’s bonding program is an important task. And often the people in the company consider the surety program to be a simple tool that should be dealt with only when absolutely necessary.

Unfortunately for you, this is not the case. If you want to succeed easily, then it’s important to be proactive when it comes to your surety program. Things change all the time, so staying current really helps when it comes time to secure the bond for your next project. Plus, we can always improve things, right? A good thing today could be great tomorrow as long as you take the time to care and grow it. This is exactly what should be done in your bonding program and here are a few ways to go about it to make sure you get the surety bond you need for your company to succeed.

Can You Call Me?

Having solid communications with your bonding company can really improve the service you receive and speed up the process for both parties.

Talk to your agent. Tell them what you need, what you expect, and make sure they follow through. If the surety makes a decision about something that you don’t quite understand, ask them. Setting up meetings with your agent on a regular basis can really help make sure your bonding program is on the right track and progress is always being made.

Also, making sure that you answer when your agent contacts you will help them provide better service to you.

How Much Are You Worth?

A big indicator a surety looks at is your net worth. In other words, do you own more stuff than you owe? Sureties look at this because it shows whether your company is going to be able to turn a profit in the long haul. It also shows if you can lose a wing without the plane crashing, so to speak.

For example, when considering two companies, the surety will most likely bond the one with the most net worth, so it’s something that should be definitely be on the mind of everyone in the company.

Another thing worth building up is your working capital. It’s often seen much the same as net worth (it’s the difference between current assets and liabilities), though it covers a much shorter period, usually the previous 12 months. Find your company improving these two things and bonding companies will be much more likely to write bonds for your company.

Last Tips

We all want our company to grow. It’s perfectly logical. Unfortunately though, there are many companies that grow too fast and flop. That’s why it’s important not to grow too much in the eyes of your surety. A good tip is to not try to do anything more than twice the size of what your previous job was.

Being honest really helps. If you decide that you’re going to wait to tell the surety that the project is not going as expected, you can sure to be find difficulties down the road when trying to get a bond. Just keep open the lines of communication with your surety and let them know anything that might be related to your bond program immediately so it can be dealt with efficiently.

Follow these tips and your bonding program will no doubt improve, allowing your company to take on larger contracts and in turn, grow your business.

—————

Kevin Kaiser is a principal at SuretyBonds.com, the nationwide leader in surety bonds. You can connect with him on Twitter, @suretybond or Facebook.com/suretybond.

Feel free to contact Kevin directly: kevin{at}suretybonds.com.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Having played guitar since I was a youngster, I have developed a deep appreciation for guitar players. Once, a friend asked me, “What is the difference between you and Sonny Lallerstedt?” (More on Sonny in a moment.) I replied, “I play guitar, Sonny is a guitar player.”

I could regale you, if you are a music fan, with Sonny Lallerstedt stories for the entire blog but I will make a point before I am done. Sonny is one of the best friends I have ever had, and without a doubt the most talented musician I have ever known. He played Phil Keaggy’s ‘Wedding In The Country Manor’ at our wedding, has played on hundreds of albums from Elton John down to people no one has ever heard of and he is as humble as he is gifted.

A couple of quick examples of Sonny’s musical abilities:

– When Sonny was 12 years old, he could play any song on the radio by Chet Atkins (His major guitar influence)

– Sonny has perfect pitch. You can put a guitar tuner in front of him, ask him to sing a ‘C’ and the tuner will indicate a spot on ‘C’.

– I was in his recording studio once when he was working on a project for the ‘Miss South Carolina’ beauty pageant; they were making a track of ‘New York, New York’. He had six horn players, all partitioned from each other but still playing/recording at the same time.

After they finished, Sonny had to point out to one of the horn players that at a certain measure, he played a ‘F’ instead of a ‘G’. Obviously, the trumpet player asked to hear the playback. Sonny ‘punched out’ all the rest of the horns so we would only be hearing the player in question and sure enough, the mistake was obvious.

There are so many other examples I could share but the bottom line is I have been very blessed to have so many experts at so many things among my circle of friends. When I am buying a new guitar, piece of equipment or whatever, I always ask Sonny’s input first.

Now, back to business; when Eddie Van Halen came on the scene, the tones he got out of his home-made, Fender ‘Stratocaster’ copy guitar were amazing. I once mentioned to Sonny how I would love to play Eddie’s guitar to get those sounds. He replied that it would sound different if I played it. (He was not just talking about the vast talent gap either.) That thought never left my mind.

When I got the idea for his blog, I dropped Sonny an email just to make sure I remembered this conversation correctly, that if I picked up Eddie Van Halen’s guitar, played it, it would sound differently. Sonny’s reply was:

You’re right! Everybody has a different touch. We might get close to the sound, but the little things that each of us does makes a difference.

This was good news for me. First, I would not have to abandon my idea for this blog and secondly, my memory may not be as bad as I feared.

As we try to build new business, we are inundated with solutions, tools, opportunities and experts all offering help. I have no doubt that we can all learn something…even from a blog like mine! The thing to remember is when you hear someone say “This is the way to do this.” or “This is the way to do that.” each one of us, no matter how closely we follow the recipe, will have a different result because of, just like Sonny said, we all have a different touch.

It you play guitar or are a guitar player and you want to improve…read a book, attend a seminar/webinar or even better, take a personal lesson that will help you develop your unique touch. What may be comfortable for me to say in front of a building committee will be different than what you would feel comfortable saying. If you are in charge of growing revenue and/or increasing profits for your company, I believe the same holds true.

There are many solutions out there that will help you grow your company, just remember that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. Or, one ‘sound’ doesn’t fit all.

Post Script – I want to thank Chris Hill for his guest post last time. Chris is an incredible resource and his blog, ‘Construction Law Musings’ is the best law blog I have read.

Also, if you want to see a very short clip, less than a minute, of Sonny:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22tMBjerRdk

——————–

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

www.cmconl.com

Read Full Post »

Through the years, I have been a member or an associate member of many trade organizations and have to admit, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in each and everyone. Color me a ‘geek’ but I love networking, learning new aspects of our industry and attending tradeshows. My involvement in these organizations has afforded me many opportunities to indulge in all three.

A few years back, I received a call from one of my mentors, an incredibly successful real estate developer and owner of a large REIT. (Real Estate Investment Trust) Charles asked me if I would not mind meeting a friend of his just to talk and hash out ideas. Charles explained to me how he met James at Harvard’s MBA program and they, both being successful serial entrepreneurs, have stayed in touch through the years.

I met James for breakfast to discuss a company he is involved with and how they could build new business within the A/E/C marketplace. During our conversation, James introduced me to an Enterprise Forum that he chaired and invited me to attend one of their local meetings. I jumped at the chance and it proved to be, without a doubt, one of the most influential gatherings I have ever attended.

The night I arrived, I felt very much like a student attending fraternity rush on my own. The room was filled with some amazing people but the moment I walked in, one of the greeters introduced himself and asked me what I did. When I replied with, “I am Bobby Darnell and I have a small consultancy group that does business development, sales and marketing consulting for the A/E/C marketing place.” he grabbed me by the arm and said, “You need to meet Mike.” and proceeded to lead me across the vast room and introduced me to Mike.

After chatting with Mike for a few minutes, I learned that he just recently sold his construction company and was looking for something new to get involved with. (I later learned that he sold his construction company for $160 million dollars) We chatted, exchanged numbers, had a few meetings and that was really about all that happened.

The real impact of my time with this organization came when I attended one of their functions that pretty much resembles the NBC show ‘Shark Tank’ with the exception that the panel was offering a critique of the presenter’s business plan as opposed to capital. It was a most fascinating event.

I watched people present their business plan ranging from a one-man shop offering the latest and greatest metal drive (golf club) to a former television executive laying out his company’s plan to take on CNN. The insight the panel offered was amazing and worthy of a blog posting all its own.

However, the main nugget I walked away with was when one of the panelists, after hearing the pitch from the entrepreneur walked over to the whiteboard and wrote. ‘C.F.I.M.I.T.Y.M.’ and asked if anyone presenting knew what that stood for. No one did and I admit, being a ‘fan’ of acronyms, I did not either.

To sum it all up…’C.F.I.M.I.T.Y.M.’ simply means: ‘Cash Flow Is More Important Than Your Mother.’
Now, apart from any personal moral disagreements with that phrase, one would have a difficult time challenging the wisdom behind it from a business perspective.

We picked up a new client this week and are in the process of working with this owner as he begins to develop a transition plan to new ownership. On our laundry list of items to discuss and understand is the company’s cash flow since this company maintains and sells inventory in the A/E/C marketplace.

Selling, marketing, advertising, responding to RPF’s, building new business, etc. is all fun, necessary and vital to any business. But in chasing these important pursuits, we must not ignore the fundamentals of any business and that is staying on top of cash flow, revenues and expenses.

There is nothing I enjoy more than walking into a room, knowing I will soon be giving a presentation for either my company or on behalf of a company we represent with the goal of walking out with a commitment for new business.

Sales!

Revenue!

Closing Deals!

I love them all!

However, every business owner needs to always remember that the most important rule in business is that it’s not how much you make…it’s how much you keep.

Also, never forget…business is a verb!

——————–

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

http://www.cmconl.com

Read Full Post »

Being a product of the south, I have heard and used more than my share of colloquialisms. I especially enjoy being able to sneak one in during a major presentation or group of ‘heavy hitters’ to see what, if any, reaction I get.

This past week, I was in the corporate office of a Fortune 200 company and was able to use one of my favorites, ‘Shuckin’ it down to the cob!’. For those unfamiliar with the phrase, ‘shuckin’ it down to the cob’ refers to shucking an ear of corn with so much enthusiasm that you are left with nothing but the cob. Translation: it means no frills, no extras, as bare bones of a proposition as one can find.

In this particular setting, we were negotiating a rather large contract for over 200 locations and the setting felt much like the stereotypical ‘buying a new car’ scenario with the price haggling bouncing back and forth like a Forrest Gump ping pong match.

It was close to ‘walking out’ time when I was able to remind the prospect that, regarding our price, we have ‘Shucked it down to the cob’. I was able to gain a double sense of satisfaction by (A) getting the business and (B) being able to use one of my favorite colloquialisms in such a setting.

This post is not so much about winning negotiations with corny, no pun intended, sayings but rather taking a look at one’s business, tossing out the fluff and focusing on that which is most important.

Here are a few ‘Shuckisms’ since my last post.

I had a meeting with a new client this week, and as we were reviewing the business development strategy we were putting together, the owner of the company expressed his excitement about all the new techniques we had gone over.

Shuckism: I had to remind him that results are the only thing that counts.

I was watching one of my new favorite shows, ‘Shark Tank’ and there was a candidate there seeking money for her store that catered to teaching children how to shop. If you are unfamiliar with the show, it is kind of like an ‘American Idol’ for entrepreneurs, seeking funding as opposed to a recording contract. After making a pitch for their business and stating an amount they are seeking oin exchange for ‘X’ percentage equity in their business, the ‘Sharks (Successful Venture Capitalists) either opt out or strike a deal.

It was obvious the lady had passion for her business but there really was not much of a model for success. All of the sharks opted out and while most were trying to be kind, one shark was brutally honest. He said, ‘Shut it down, I am the only one here who is your friend.”

Shuckism: There is a big difference between being in business and ‘playing business’.

A few years ago, we redid our kitchen. You know, the whole nine yards: granite counter tops, new appliances, cabinets, lights, hardwoods, etc. My wife did the budgeting as this was her project. I did give her a template to follow and she did indeed do a great job of researching all the costs.

When we reviewed the budget, I noticed she left blank the line marked ‘Contingency’. When I inquired, she assured me she thought of every cost and provided me her research to back up her claim. She was correct, her numbers for the labor costs and appliances and fixtures were spot on. I honestly could not think of any contingency so we left that blank.

Low and behold, when one is having a kitchen redone, the opportunity to cook in said kitchen is greatly reduced and the cost of eating out for three weeks could fall into your ‘contingency’ cost line.

Shuckism: If you are not sure, ask someone who has done it before. Measure twice/cut once applies to more than lumber.

There are so many great resources on the web…tons of great blogs, websites, discussion groups, e-newsletters, etc. If you are having challenges building new business…just ask.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know Michael Stone author of the construction blog ‘Markup and Profit’ (www.markupandprofit.com). He is very much like me in that he truly enjoys helping people build new business. The same with Mark Buckshon, author of the new book, ‘Construction Marketing Ideas’ (www.constructionmarketingideas.com). I would not be blogging if it were not for Mark. I know for a fact, both welcome inquiries and offer a lot of great information on their sites.

There are a lot of great resources out there that can help you build new business, you just have to take advantage of them. It may be the simplest small pearl of wisdom someone else shares with you that helps you land the next contract. Very much like trying to solve magic tricks, people often way over think the solution.

Shuckism: The answer is always ‘no’ until you ask.

——————–

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

www.cmconl.com

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

Read Full Post »

WARNING: This blog does not have any pictures and may be considered lengthy by some.

I remember doing some channel surfing many moons ago and coming across George Carlin doing a bit about how all we really need in life is a ‘place for our stuff’. He went on to say that all life is about is finding a place for your stuff. Your house is really nothing but a place for your stuff with a roof. When you go on vacation, you take a smaller version of your stuff but you will still have a place for your stuff.

In the same spirit and thinking of Mr. Carlin’s wonderful piece on having a place for one’s stuff, I will contend that the parallel for business is not so much having a place for our stuff but, from Wal-mart all the way down to the sole proprietor, business is all about finding ‘shorter lines’.

Sure, we all have ‘stuff’ for our business. Where would I be without my laptop, my Blackberry, iPod player, copy machine, coffee maker, scanner and printers? These are merely tools to help me obtain what I truly desire – shorter lines.

Everything in business is a part of some type of line and we all want shorter ones. Think about it: You pull into the bank to make a deposit and there are four open drive-thru lanes. Which one do you pick? The one that has the shorter line. This also applies to checking out at the grocery store, going through security at the airport and any visit to your friendly Department of Motor Vehicles. We all want shorter lines.

In business, every single task we engage ourselves with involves a line of some kind with, I believe, the broader category being ‘time lines’. For each of the following, whatever process we choose, we cannot escape getting from ‘A’ to ‘B’ via a line of time.

• Complete stranger to loyal client

• Zero revenue to our first $1,000,000

• Profit margin from breakeven to 15%

• One location to ten branch offices

• Three employees to 50 employees

I think you get the picture. Every business person worth their salt is quite aware of the different lines involved in achieving one’s goals but what separates those possessing shorter lines from the ones with longer lines, is the amount of preparation put into each goal.

How does one reduce the timeline from meeting a complete stranger to having that person as a loyal client from 10 months down to three?

How does one shorten that timeline to seven figures in revenue from three years to one?

The simple answer is planning.

This past week, I am happy to report that we moved four companies from our ‘Prospects’ folder to our ‘Client’ folder…each being an entity in the A/E/C marketplace. If I had to highlight one item as the most profound and common issue of every single company we have worked with it would undoubtedly be how amazed I am to find the number of companies who make their living designing or following a set of plans and specifications…yet do not plan for their business.

What would the timeline be to build a 10,000 SF retail store without plans and specs versus the timeline with plans and specs?

What would the timeline be to build a million dollar business without a plan versus having one?

The late great coach Paul “Bear” Bryant once said, “Have a plan. Follow the plan, and you’ll be surprised how successful you can be. Most people don’t have a plan. That’s why it’s is easy to beat most folks.”

The shortest distance between two points will always be a straight line. The best way to make that line shorter is to plan for a shorter line.

——————–

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

Read Full Post »

I went to college in the 80’s when a couple of things happened in my life that are still with me today. The first, I became greatly fascinated and interested in the study of Philosophy and secondly, music changed.

I still study philosophy and from time to time still listen to some of the music from that era. (Don’t forget, though they 80’s did give us the music and haircuts of ‘A Flock of Seagulls’ we also got Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ and R.E.M.)

I went to school in Athens, at the University of Georgia, where, at that time, the local music scene was getting quite the attention thanks to The B-52’s, R.E.M., Pylon, Widespread Panic, The Normaltown Flyers and a few other bands.

I also worked in a record store (Remember those?) and played in a rock and roll band but so did, it seemed, every other person in Athens at that time. Music was, and still is, a very big part of my life.

I remember one day, at work, I was able to engage in two of my favorite subjects in one conversation, music and philosophy. On that day a co-worker who was really into Madonna, so much so to the point that she dressed like her just about ever day, commented to me that Madonna was the best singer in the world.

Not being the fan of Madonna as my co-worker, I challenged her to define what she means by ‘best singer’ in the world. This led to a music/philosophical discussion which included such topics as the ‘Definition of terms’ and argumentum ad populum (appeal to the populace).

Since my co-worker could not define what makes someone the ‘best singer in the world’ all she could do was point to a poll where Madonna was voted ‘Best Female Singer’.

I say all that to say this: Today, this blog was voted ‘Best Construction Blog’ in a contest hosted my Mark Buckshon’s ‘Construction Marketing Ideas’ and the final results are that ‘Building New Business’ was voted at the top and I am truly flattered.

Amongst my ‘competitors’ are some really, really great blogs. During these past few weeks, I learned of some really good ones that were new to me and am happy that they ones I already were aware of, and have had links on my blog space for some time, did quite well. (See the ‘Links’ tab at the top of this blog.)

I was not that familiar with Michael Stone’s ‘www.markupandprofit.com’ until the contest. Michael has been blogging before I knew what one was! He has a great blog and it is full of wonderful information. Michael’s blog comes from the perspective of someone who not only has the formal construction education, but has the real world experience as well. I will definitely be adding his blog to my ‘list of links’.

I have known Mark Buckshon for five years and how we met makes for a great ‘networking’ story in and of itself. I read Mark’s ‘Construction Marketing Ideas’ nearly every day and it is the top entry of my ‘Newsreader’. I did not know about this contest until I saw that I was leading it. I believe Mark summed it up quite well, in today’s announcement…I sell my ‘networking skills’ for a living…that is what I do and that is what I teach my clients.

Anyway, I am flattered each time I receive an email, comment or phone call from a reader. I am flattered to have been nominated and to have been able to participate in Mark’s contest and I am especially flattered to have been at the top of the voting. That said, do I believe this blog is the best construction blog? Well, let me say that I don’t believe Madonna was ever the best singer in the world.

——————–

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

Read Full Post »

Welcome to 2010!

No, this is not an entry on the three most important aspects of real estate but, I am borrowing this item after meeting with two business owners seeking to ‘reinvent’ themselves for 2010. Naturally, both are involved in the A/E/C marketplace, both have been very successful since starting their business and both have been profoundly impacted by the state of our current economy.

Way back when Jack Nicklaus was the undisputed king of golf, he would start out every season with his golf coach by reviewing the fundamentals…how to grip the club, proper stance, etc. When I first became aware of this, I found it pretty amazing and close to unbelievable. Here we have the greatest golfer in the world, having his instructor show him how to hold a golf club. Jack would then go through all the fundamentals of his swing…his stance, his take-back, the club alignment at the top of his swing, the down swing and the follow through.

While I cannot think of a better time for companies to be considering additional ways to build new business, I can also not think of a better time to review the fundamentals of how you got to where you are.

So, what does this have to do with the famous, ‘Three Most Important Factors about Real Estate’? If you are indeed one who is working on the 2.0 version of either yourself or your business, never forget or lose focus on the ‘critical mass’ that got you where you are today.

When I am approached by a prospective client, to get a better understanding of their needs, I typically make a few simple inquiries, one for example: Tell me, categorically speaking, what are the top five groups of your client base and how much does each represent of your total revenue? Rarely do I get an immediate answer.

Something as fundamental as being able to define your clients as ‘A, B, or C’ where ‘A’ represents 40% of your revenue while ‘B’, 25% and C 20% with the rest being several smaller components of ‘D’ is the business owner’s equivalent of ‘griping the golf club.’ when it comes to target marketing.

Location, Location, Location refers to not just real estate. If you don’t know the ‘location’ of your top three types of clients, then how in the world are you going to be able to effectively troll those waters for new business?

I have had some conversations with business owners that remind me of the old joke about the guy searching for his lost wallet under the streetlight. A stranger walks by, asks the man what he is looking for and then decides to help. After somewhat lengthy and futile search the stranger asks, “Are you sure you lost your wallet under this streetlight?” The response he gets is, “Oh no, I did not lose it here but the light is so much brighter, I figure It would be easier to find.”

Never stop looking for new ways to increase revenue but if you are an architect, engineer, general contractor, sub-contractor or building product manufacturer (the categorical breakdown of our client base) I would not consider adding baking cakes, chauffer services or pet sitting to your menu of ways to build new business. Review the fundamentals of how you got to where you are, know your clients and get creative. Just don’t stray too far from where you ‘lost your revenue’ and start looking in places you shouldn’t just because the light there is better.

Location – Are you able to readily identify your competitive geographical area?

Location – Are you able to readily identify your ‘critical mass’ prospects by category?

Location – Are you able to readily identify your marketing success? (Turning prospects into clients)

Now, the first two are probably easier to ‘locate’ but the third may require a bit more digging. Here is where I refer back to my entry on CRM. I honestly believe the single biggest area of opportunity companies over look when it comes to resources for building new business is how they manage/mis-manage their data.

I can actually think of a couple of more ‘locations’ worth identifying but choose to focus on these three for now. With margins tighter than ever, new opportunities as scarce as ever, quality data becomes that much more important.

Do you need to get a new ‘grip’ on the basics such as your prospects, your clients, your pricing structure? There is no better time than now to start shoring up this very important aspect of your business.

If you are going to play golf on Friday, you check the weather forecast. If you are a buying a stock, you check past performance. If you are buying a new washing machine, you look at ‘Consumers Reports’.

Is your own company’s knowledge base too close to skid row or is it a penthouse with a view of the mountains?

——————–

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »