It feels like you're in a race right now. Old Man Winter is peeking around the corner, and you know this means the inevitable slowdown is coming for your residential construction business.
But with some careful preparation and adept planning, you can maximize your time and hopefully minimize the downtime for your workers as well as your income.
Here are 6 ways to prepare your residential construction business for winter:
Make Hay While the Sun Shines
Get outside and get as many houses winterized and ready for indoor work as you possibly can. Unless you've promised a lot of homeowners the chance to be in their houses for the holidays, delay as much interior work as you can now to focus on exterior projects.
Once the siding and the roof go up, you can focus on the interior work when the weather gets cold and take advantage of those warmer, dryer days in winter to take care of the smaller detail projects outside.
Pour, Pour, Pour
Make sure all of your exterior paving work is done before you get the winter rain and snow that turns your work site into a big pit of muck. Having driveways and sidewalks ready will allow your workers to move around the site more easily without making a big mess.
This does mean you want to schedule all of your sewer, water, gas and electric lines into the house before you're ready to pour.
Plan, Plan, Plan
This points to the need for you to really work your schedule to have subcontractors and utility crews meet the goals you need to reach before winter. Subcontractors especially will be motivated to work toward your schedule if it gives them better guarantees of having more interior work from your company during the winter months, as well.
Manage Your Crew
In the rush to prepare for winter, you might consider whether spending a little more on wages right now will pay off in the long run. If you can get more houses secured and ready for winter work, you'll keep more revenue coming in over the winter. Look at two options here:
• Hire temporary help to get a boost in output over the next couple of months. This is the more budget friendly option, as you won't pay these workers as high of wages as your permanent employees. The downside is you will be unsure of the skill level and motivation of these temporary workers.
• Authorize some extra overtime for your best crews now. While this might cost you more, you know you'll be getting the best quality work. You'll also be boosting morale among some employees who might face short-term layoffs during the winter.
Evaluate Your Work Force
This is also the time to assess your staff and determine who are the workers you want to keep on for the most time during the leaner winter months. It's also best practice to be honest with your work crews and let them know if and when short-term layoffs are most likely. You certainly want to keep your best workers on as long as possible and also ensure they want to come back to work for you in the spring when business picks up.
Consider Cash Flow
Speaking of looking ahead, you also could improve your cash flow during the winter if you get some of those spring projects paid, at least partially, in advance. Consider offering a percentage discount for spring customers if they are willing to pay in advance. They might be planning to pay with their tax refund, so if they can save a little and already have the money sitting in a bank drawing no interest, they could jump at the savings.
The trend you might notice in a lot of these ideas is that you, as the owner, need the time to make sure all this happens. That could mean passing along some of the administrative duties for your residential construction business to seasoned professionals so you spend your time leading your company into the leaner months. Let Harbor America take some of that weight off your shoulders so you have adequate time to map your winter strategy.