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March 2018

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5 Tips for Running Your Family-Owned Construction Business

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Do you run a family-owned construction business? While having members of your own family work for you has several benefits, it also comes with its own unique challenges. In addition to managing employees who aren’t part of your family, you may have to handle family conflicts at work. What’s more, you’ll probably need to choose a younger family member to take your place when you retire. Here are five basic tips for running a family-owned construction business and avoiding common problems:

Let Family Members Participate in Selecting Their Positions

When you run a family business, you don’t want to be a dictator. For example, when picking family members for various positions, why not give them an opportunity to choose their roles and define their job descriptions. Use your business website to state and explain their roles. Usually, this is done on a business website’s “about” page.

Create a Clear Plan for Settling Disputes

Conflicts that occur in any business can be difficult, but disagreements can be even more frustrating when they involve members of the same household. Unlike coworkers who aren’t related to you, you have to live with members of your family or at least see them regularly. One way to prevent disputes from getting out of hand is by drawing up an agreement that everyone signs, stating that all conflicts are to be resolved by arbitration or mediation and never by litigation.

Practice Good Communication Skills

A huge way to avoid conflicts is by communicating properly. This is even more needed when you operate a family-owned business. If you see a situation in which a family member is angry at another family member, don’t let it escalate. Carve out a safe place where the conflicting parties can talk. Most importantly, do not involve other employees who aren’t in your family.

Don’t Show Partiality to Family Members

One of the most important tips is to hold everyone in your family-owned construction business to the same basic company standards, values and policies. This means you should never show partiality to family members.

When you prefer your own family members over your other employees, you’re creating a negative workplace environment where envy can develop and hurt your business. Showing favoritism to a family member who’s also your employee can affect your business’s reputation and integrity. As a result, people won’t want to do business with you.

Establish Boundaries Between Work and Family Time

If you run your construction business from home, it’s essential you establish boundaries, such as setting definite business hours. Some families with home businesses don’t know when to put up the “Closed for the Day” sign.  Just because you work at home and have family members as part of your team doesn’t mean you can “burn the candle at both ends.” When it’s time to call it quits for the day, close your business and focus on your family life. Otherwise, you and your employees will suffer from burnout.

Other Considerations and Warnings

  • If you intend to “hand over the baton” to an adult child, start making your exit plan several years before you retire.
  • Watch out for any divisiveness in your family and business, remembering that your construction company should be viewed as a united front.
  • When important decisions must be made that can affect your entire family, be sure all your family members are allowed to share their input and have a say in a decision.
  • Spouses should especially have a voice in major decisions, even if they’re not on the company payroll. Consider how a husband or wife can see matters from a different perspective, as an outsider.
  • If your family business involves at least two generations, consider yourself fortunate. You can benefit from the wisdom and experience of the oldest generation, while at the same time, learn how millennials think from the youngest family members.
  • Be aware of the unique strengths of each family member on your team and don’t forget to point them out as this can promote self-confidence.
  • Challenge family members to set future goals, such as asking where they see themselves in five or ten years.
  • Have monthly or quarterly meetings where everyone shares some of their projects and main goals they’re working to achieve. This helps in making your employees feel more valued.
  • Never take your family employees for granted and find ways to make them feel more appreciated.

Hiring a PEO (Professional Employer Organization) can free you from many of the burdensome jobs you have to do as a business owner. Please contact us at Harbor America for a free consultation and learn more about our wide range of services for construction companies and other blue-collar fields.

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Small Business Human Resource Mistakes that You Need to Avoid

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As a small business owner, you have to wear so many hats. Not only do you have to focus on revenue and customer service, but you also have to keep track of your paperwork while finding time to market your business. If you have employees, there is even more work. You have to run your own Human Resources department.

Being your own HR department is not easy and many small business owners struggle with it. Here are a few common human resource mistakes to look out for and avoid if possible:

Hiring the Wrong Employees

Too many business owners wait too long to hire help. By the time that they decide to get some help, they are already overworked, exhausted, and possibly burnt out. Because of that, they may hire the first person that they see.

However, that is a big mistake. Hiring the wrong person costs you money in the long-run and can even lead to increased workplace conflict. To make sure that you hire the perfect person, make sure you know exactly what you are looking for and don’t settle for less than that! If needed, outsource your hiring so you can get the talented applicants you deserve while saving your time for running your business.

Not Focusing on Training

Employee training is one of the most important parts of having employees! It is essential that all of your employees are trained properly so that they will know exactly what is expected from them right from the beginning.

Once your employees are well-trained, your job is not done. You need to make sure that all of your employees keep up with their training so that everyone is working to their full potential.

Not only are properly trained employees good for the success of your business, but in industries like construction, adequate training keeps your employees safe!

Not Having an Employee Handbook

It is important that your employees know exactly what is expected of them. Because of this, no matter how small you are, you need to have a handbook that outlines your business policies.

However, just having a handbook is not enough. You need to update it as your policies change. When employees have a clear, concise employee handbook to refer to, you spend less time fielding questions and problem-solving.

Not Acting Like a Boss

Though you may want to have an informal and relaxed work atmosphere, it is also important that you act like a boss or your employees might not respect you as much.

You need to maintain appropriate boundaries with your staff or you may struggle when it comes to leading them. It is important to make sure that you are making the tough decisions, while still being someone that your employees can come and talk to.

Not Communicating With Your Employees

Communication is key in everything that we do, from marriage, friendships, and even business! No matter how many employees you have, it is important that everyone knows exactly what is going on with the business.

Let them know your hopes, dreams, and goals for your business. Make sure that they know how they can help you reach these goals. Many people work harder if they know what they are working for.

For this reason, you should communicate, communicate, and communicate some more. The more that people know, the better your business will be. Remember that communication is a two-way street. Take the time to listen to your team and ask them questions on a regular basis.

Doing It All Alone

Outsourcing your HR to an experienced PEO leaves you more time, energy, and money to focus on the aspects of the business you truly love. Contact us today to get started.

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Financial Wellness Benefits: Should You Offer Them to Your Employees?

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The 2017 Employee Financial Wellness Survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that 53% of employees are stressed about their financial situation, and only 45% say they would be able to meet their basic expenses if they were unemployed for an extended time. Their financial concerns affect everything from their health to their relationships to their productivity at work.

That is a big concern to you as an employer.

A distracted, worried employee may become an unhappy or unhealthy employee, which comes with enormous costs to your company. If the employee is constantly concerned about money, she may be putting that ahead of her job–and your vision for the future of the company. If another job came along that offered more money, she may be more likely to take it to help ease some of those financial concerns.

Taking these financial concerns into consideration, you might be wondering if you should offer financial wellness benefits to your employees.

What Are Financial Wellness Benefits?

Many people simply don’t know how to manage their money, or what their options are for investing and saving for their futures. Financial wellness might include workshops on budgeting, managing debt, or preparing for retirement. Here are a few examples of financial wellness benefits you could offer your employees:

  • Confidential Financial Assessment
  • Retirement Planning
  • Healthcare Cost Planning
  • Tracking Tools to Meet Financial Goals
  • Investment Planning
  • Customized Financial Education
  • Saving for College
  • Paying Off Debt
  • Daily Budgeting
  • Financial Wellness Guest Speakers or Conferences

The Growing Popularity of Financial Wellness Benefits

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggested that 2017 was the year of financial wellness benefits (although USA Today noticed the trend back in 2014), noting that such programs can reduce employee stress and increase productivity. While retirement has long been a part of traditional benefits programs, today’s focus on financial wellness includes student loan management, security, and more.

Still, companies that offer a particular benefit are not the majority: SHRM’s 2016 Employee Benefits survey indicated that 27% of companies offer one-on-one financial advice while 22% offer a classroom learning opportunity. The PwC survey says 40% of employees work for a company that offers some type of financial advice service. There’s plenty of room for growth–and space for you to differentiate your company as one who is concerned about the financial wellness of its employees.

Good for Employees, Good for Your Company

The PwC survey showed that financial wellness means different things to different people: for some, it’s about not being in debt or having to worry about unexpected expenses; for others, it’s about being able to enjoy life and retire when they want to.

As an employer, you’re in a position to help them experience that wellness, no matter what it means to them. It’s a nice thing to do, but it’s more than that: it can improve your bottom line.

The Financial Wellness at Work Report points out that financial stress is, of course, stress, and stress can lead to health problems. That could mean missed days at work, decreased retention, and higher health care costs.

Financial wellness benefits can also increase employee engagement and loyalty. Everyone wants to feel they are appreciated and their work matters. When they feel cared for by the company, they’re more likely to stay in the position–a great thing when you know the cost of turnover. These types of benefits are one more way a company can say, “We care about you, not just about what you do in the office. We want you to live well. Let us help.”

More good news: these programs are affordable for you as the employer. There are many ways to implement these types of benefits, from in-person and online classes to gamified programs that encourage employees to keep learning for the gratification of earning points or badges and mastering “levels.”

Given the financial worries weighing on the minds of the majority of employees, it’s not a question of whether or not you should offer financial benefits–it’s a matter of deciding which ones to offer.

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5 Ways to Streamline Business Operations in 2018

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If you’re like many small business owners, you may be inclined to take on too much responsibility and make things more complicated than they should be. As a result, valuable time is wasted and you’re less productive. Confident small business people realize the key to being successful is found in using their time wisely. Here are five ways you can streamline business operations in 2018 in order to save serious time, make more money and meet more of your goals.

Take an Inventory

Unfortunately, too many small businesses don’t take the time to clearly define or document their work processes. It’s essential you make a list of each individual work process, defining its chief purpose, listing the steps, and naming the employees who are engaged in the processes.

Try to be as comprehensive as possible. Write down even the simplest tasks, which may even include ordering sandwiches for a group of workers as even this job still requires effort and time when it’s done regularly. Just about any job is considered a process if it’s performed on a regular basis. It will be much easier to find ways to streamline your processes when you have them in writing.

Go Digital

Are you still using the old pen and paper method? If so, consider the benefits of going digital. In other words, replace pen and paper with computer programs or software. Besides being environmentally friendly by saving a few trees that would otherwise be cut down, you can also save time. Just think about not having to waste precious time searching for files that can easily become misplaced and disorganized in file cabinets.

Why not invest in an online storage system, like Dropbox, rather than using paper? Keep in mind how digital data stored in a cloud is so much easier to find from multiple devices. Furthermore, it’s considerably safer as it can’t be physically destroyed from weather events, such as floods or fires.

Reduce Staff Meetings

Cut back on the number of staff meetings you hold. Ask yourself if a staff meeting is really necessary every week when you could easily send updates in emails. Make the meetings you do have really count by reducing the small talk and filler. When you don’t have as many staff meetings, you’ll have more time to work and focus on revenue growth. What’s more, your employees will appreciate the fact they have more time to do their job.

Do Some Outsourcing

You may think it’s best to control every operation of your business, but sometimes, it makes more sense to outsource jobs, wherever possible. This means using exceptional and dependable professionals to do anything from basic errands and entering data to monotonous administration jobs.

Hire a PEO

One way to outsource HR (Human Resources) is by using a PEO (Professional Employer Organization). In fact, more and more businesses are discovering the advantages of using a PEO for streamlining their operations. When you hire a PEO to handle HR functions, such as payroll, administering benefits and other jobs, you have more time for your business. Often, business owners devote more than half their time doing the jobs that PEOs can do. In addition to handling payroll and benefits administration, several other valuable services are provided by PEOs.

Other Considerations

  • Take advantage of social media, especially if your particular business involves engaging potential clients online. Look for affordable tools that can check how clients are reacting and relating to one another, regarding your products or services.
  • Breaking down processes into separate steps can also help simplify your business. Consider the beginning, the middle and the desired result or end of a process.
  • Limit the time spent making and returning personal calls. Also, create other boundaries, such as setting a specific time for lunch.
  • Do your taxes electronically.
  • Create a schedule for your employees by using scheduling software and be sure everyone sticks to their schedules.
  • Pay bills now, instead of later. For example, rather than paying a monthly bill, you could save time, besides money in stamps, by paying for six months of service. Another benefit is that you won’t have to worry about incurring any late fees.
  • Learn when to say “no.”

Are you feeling overwhelmed with everything you have to do for your business? If so, contact us for a free consultation and discover how you can invest more hours in your business by partnering with a highly reputable and qualified PEO, such as Harbor America.