Contractors

Associations, Contractors, Support Continuation of St. Louis Construction

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE

St. Louis construction industry players are urging the city not to take the path that Boston has in ordering stoppage of all commercial construction projects during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Associated General Contractors of Missouri President Leonard Toenjes said Thursday that he had spoken with Pat Kelly, executive director of the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis about it. The League is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, voluntary association comprised of cities, villages and county governments dedicated to improving quality of life for area residents.

“I asked Pat to send out a notification to St. Louis-area municipalities, urging them to keep their permitting and inspection services operational if and when they decide to close their physical locations,” said Toenjes, “and he did indeed send out that notice, which we appreciate. We’re trying to make sure that our construction companies can get building permits and inspection certificates during this time so they can continue building. We’re talking to our friends and partners in labor to send that same message to our elected officials.”

Safety is always a number-one priority, Toenjes said, but keeping job sites active and workers working is also a big concern.

“Our members are doing everything they can to make sure work gets done safely, work gets done in a healthy manner, but that work gets done,” he said.

Enterprise Bank & Trust Regional President Steve Albart said he has spoken with clients who are worried about what would happen to the St. Louis region’s construction economy should the city follow Boston’s lead. On March 17, Boston’s mayor ordered work stoppage on all construction job sites.

“There is great concern that job sites are going to be shut down here like they have been in Boston due to government (population density) restrictions,” Albart said, “that the wave that began in Boston might continue. We’re also hearing from construction clients who’ve experienced some slowing down of projects because they’re awaiting permits from government offices that have had to shut down. It’s another evolving issue.”

On a related issue, early Thursday afternoon the American Subcontractors Association in Washington D.C. hosted a videoconference moderated by Brian Wood, an attorney with Smith Currie, a firm specializing in construction and government contract law. The video conference briefed thousands of ASA members nationwide on potential legal impacts of any subcontractor work disruptions due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Contractors Rely on Mobile Device Management to Protect Client Data, Control Usage

/
Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

By KERRY SMITH, Editor, St. Louis Construction News & Review Magazine

As the amount of sensitive project data transmitted from construction sites is increasing exponentially, so is the need to remotely manage and protect that information.

Mobile device management or MDM has been in existence for years. Security software that is capable of monitoring, managing and securing employees’ mobile devices – namely their smartphones – is and has been a reality within a myriad of industries. But for the design and construction industry in particular, tracking who is transmitting what from where to whom in real time is critical.

“If you have mobile device management capability, it means that the owner of the device – the construction company in this scenario – has full access to its intellectual assets,” said Brad Hagemeyer, a technician with St. Charles-based eTech Solutions. “It puts you, the owner of the smartphone, in control with regard to what information is being shared and with whom. If necessary, at a moment’s notice you’re able to wipe sensitive data from the phone, selectively delete information from it, remove contacts or even render the device inoperable,” he added. “And all this can be done remotely in very little time.”

Hagemeyer says that Apple keeps device owners and operators at arm’s length when it comes to accessing and controlling data. “That being said, however, Apple does allow remote managing of the device in terms of usage,” he said. “And with an Android device, you’re able to tap into an unlimited range of mobile device management applications.”

For construction companies whose mobile devices are held by project executives, project managers, estimators and many others, MDM is a necessity in order to protect the privacy of client data. And in a human resources context, MDM enables a firm to ensure that the devices are being used only for what the company intends, according to Teresa Whitcomb, chief financial officer at St. Peters-based Blanton Construction.

“Our customer security is very important to us,” Whitcomb said. “Although the construction industry in particular has a more transient workforce, we still need to enable that communication and also to monitor usage. MDM allows us to restrict mobile device usage from sites that are not work-related, to monitor and control bandwidth usage and to be able to lock down and secure data in the unfortunate case where we do have a termination. Keeping company assets – smartphones and tablets – secure is essential, especially in our industry where so much of the information sharing that we do takes place at the job site.”

In the event that a device is unintentionally lost, stolen or damaged, MDM allows for near-immediate lockdown of the device, according to Hagemeyer. “MDM also makes it possible for contractors to monitor the location where the mobile device is being utilized,” he said. “For example, with MDM a company can track whether a particular worker is transmitting data from where he is supposed to be at any given time and within geographic parameters. Mobile geofencing is the use of GPS or RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology to create a virtual geographic boundary, enabling software to trigger a response whenever a mobile device enters or leaves a particular area. If the worker assigned to the device is supposed to be at a particular job site from 7am to 3pm but leaves the job site at 2pm, by tracking the device’s most recent IP address, the geolocator can send a message to the manager that his worker has left the job site.”

Hagemeyer and Whitcomb said there’s often a misconception with regard to mobile device management that its purpose is to act as “big brother” with regard to surveillance of the nature of the data being transmitted. “That’s really not what MDM is all about,” said Hagemeyer. “As a third-party monitoring agency, we cannot see the actual data and we don’t want to see it. Unlike computer systems, our monitoring software does not remote in and see screen shares of information. What we monitor for construction companies and other clients depends upon the degree of control they want to have over the devices they own, devices that are a company’s intellectual assets. A big facet of what we do for contractors is to control the use of their devices for activities that are directly relevant to their employees’ work. If that device is also being used to stream YouTube videos, Netflix or anything like that which really racks up data usage, we have the capability of knowing about it instantly and restricting the device,” he added.

Monitoring and controlling a contractor’s entire fleet of mobile devices can translate into significant telecommunications cost savings in the short term and long term, Hagemeyer says. “If the company is paying $3,700 a month, for example, for usage of its mobile devices, initiating MDM and taking control of those company-owned assets can immediately spell significant savings,” he said. “In this scenario, we were able to reduce the firm’s telecom bill by approximately $2,000 or 54 percent.”

Whitcomb says employing MDM is a wise human resource strategy for any company, particularly one whose daily scope of work includes large amounts of sensitive data being transmitted remotely from and to job sites.

“Working with eTech Solutions and using (Cisco) Meraki software has enabled us to restrict our band width usage to what is necessary for performing work-related functions,” she said. “It has also enabled us to restrict mobile device usage from sites that are not work related. All of us have done it…we’ve unintentionally left our smartphone somewhere. There is sensitive data and contacts on these phones that we wouldn’t want out in the public. MDM gives us the ability to be able to lock down that phone anywhere at any time instantly if necessary.”

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Contractors: Did You Know That Your Whole Company is Selling?   

/
Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail
Tom Woodcock

Sales is an all-inclusive, company-wide effort. Anyone having direct or indirect contact with the customer influences the customer’s buying experience. Failure to demonstrate value in virtually any area of the company can cause the customer to head in another direction. Departments such as accounts receivable, reception or even transportation (drivers) play a bigger role than many companies realize. Direct contact positions such as project management and estimating can acutely affect the customer experience. In construction, so much of the focus is on the project itself. The scope, schedule and costs are at the forefront. What can be lost in the details is what the customer is feeling throughout the project. Not having the sales skills to handle customer personnel may mean the company’s front-end sales efforts have been in vain, and prolong the endless cycle of having to be low bidder. That’s if the relationship isn’t damaged to the point of elimination from the bid list.

Taking the time to train all company personnel in relation to their role in the sales process accomplishes at least three key objectives:

  1. Creates a Company Sales Culture – Many companies sell but few have an actual sales culture. A company-wide sales culture is an understanding that sales are the most important aspect of any business. Cultivating and protecting customer relations is a top priority. The desire to meet and exceed customer expectations permeates all departments and personnel. This ensures the customer will feel well served and appreciated. All staff responsibilities are measured against the ultimate impact on the sales experience each and every customer has.
  2. Breeds a Unified Team – If everyone is pointed in the same sales direction with the same sales focus, a sense of achieving a common goal is realized. Staff members hold each other accountable and encourage one another. Sales and administrative personnel respect each other’s role. Employees become more supportive of each member’s role, knowing the sales success of the company is at stake. Understanding this affects everyone’s financial position.
  3. Instills Customer Confidence – Customers notice the sales cohesiveness of the company and feel they are being taken care of. Though basic in nature, trust and security are a big part of the sales experience. The more consistent the communication is company-wide, the more secure the customer base will remain. Customers entrust the company with their projects and funding. Consistency is the core of sales trust.

The strength of a company’s overall sales effort can make the difference between strong and weak profitability, growing and flat revenue and large or small market share. These are the drivers of business success. Having an entire company that understands the critical nature of sales and respects the role each person plays is exceptional. I rarely see it in my travels, but I have witnessed it in the construction industry. Contractors who engage in these practices reach high levels of sales success. Many achieve it for generations. An authentic sales culture becomes more than just the company culture; it establishes a firm’s corporate identity. This becomes the company to beat, the contractor no one wants to bid against. When that company is spotted on a bid list, competitors drop off and choose not to bid. These are the elite contractors. Sales excellence permeates project performance, estimating and vendor relations. It is not a stretch to link a strong sales culture to virtually every aspect of the business.

Finally, a strong sales culture can drastically influence your marketing results. Marketing in itself cannot become a sales effort. However, a marketing message embraced by a staff well trained and educated on the importance of sales goes a long way. Employees reinforce that marketing message when speaking with customers and even go out of their way to communicate it and this can magnify the overall marketing campaign, gaining greater reach and penetration for the firm. The thought that your marketing isn’t working because your internal staff doesn’t perceive the sales value is a foreign concept to most contractors. It would be like working for Apple, supporting Apple’s marketing campaign but buying a Samsung for your personal use. That one sale makes a difference, small but real. A staff that understands the importance of each customer – and even more so, each sale – will embrace the marketing message.

Making sure team members are aware of the role each plays in the sales process is an indicator of a company with a mature sales culture. Most will think it’s trivial and do nothing to improve the climate. They’ll continue to irritate the customer base and wonder why they have to fight for every project, often placing the blame on the customer. It’s not that they don’t want results; they simply won’t invest the time or resources for the training. Those companies that do will create an edge very few will be able to compete against.

 

   Tom Woodcock, president, seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide and is author of “You’re Not Sellin’, They’re Buyin’!” He can be reached through his website, www.tomwoodcocksealthedeal.com or at 314-775-9217.

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail