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Managing Your Team Through Difficult Times

Managing Your Team Through Difficult Times

Being a team leader can be both rewarding and challenging, even for the most experienced managers. Dealing with schedules, conflicts and each employee’s personal situation can make the job feel tough. However, there are also some amazing things that come along with people managing like being able to positively influence people, give recognition for hard work and so much more. When life becomes challenging, whether business related or otherwise, many employees look toward their leaders for reassurance and comfort. This is a great time for leaders to shine! With the current level of global health and economic uncertainty, now is an excellent time for you to use your influence and leadership skills to bring peace of mind and encouragement to your teams. Here are a few tips on how to do just that.

  1. Be Honest– There is an overwhelming amount of misinformation floating around on the internet. Finding information, whether factual or not, on any topic is almost as easy as blinking. Access to so much information can generate lots of speculation and cause more questions than answers. When people are unsure about their futures, they can begin to make their own assumptions. This translates into unnecessary worry. It’s crucial to be honest with your team as soon as you can. This doesn’t necessarily mean taking a deep dive into your business financials or personal life, but it is important to let your people know what’s going on and how it will affect them.
  2. Be Factual– During financial hardships, eliminating the fluff is probably a good idea. It also gives you credibility with your team and helps build confidence between you and your employees. It will also cut down on people filling in the blanks when they may not have the answers.
  3. Get Buy-In From Your Team– Many times you will have to make the hard and fast decisions when you’re a manager. If you can get suggestions and opinions, you might find a creative solution to a problem. You might even receive creative suggestions on ways to continue making a profit, even through economic hardships.
  4. Have an Open Door Policy– Recessions and economic troubles will inevitably cause some stress and anxiety for you and your team. Give your team the chance to come and speak with you. You can help reduce some of the angst that they may be feeling. You may find that having open conversations with your team is just as beneficial to you as it is for them.
  5. If Possible, Ask for Volunteers– Depending on your business or on your team, you may have the option to ask for volunteers to be laid off, furloughed, or have their work hours reduced. You might have an employee who is close to retirement and your gentle nudge might be just the decision-maker they need to turn their dreams of living on a sunny beach in Florida, into reality. You might also have people who could use the time to be with children or take care of aging parents. Truthfully, you’ll never know until you ask!
  6. Weigh Your Options– Can you cut hours instead of laying people off? Are you in a position to pivot your services so that you can stay in business but maybe in a different way? Can you keep your location open by decreasing the hours of operation or by reducing services?

Have a Plan for the Future– Recessions and tough economies are hard. The economy affects us all, for better or for worse. The silver lining is that recessions do NOT last forever. This could be a good opportunity for you to think about ways to expand your business, create a financial safety net for the future, or trim unnecessary costs that will help you get back to business faster and more efficiently than before. Once you have a plan, share it with your team. Be honest and hopeful that although things seem bleak right now, you will all land safely on the other side.

Building a Nest Egg: Teaching Your Kids About Financial Independence

Building a Nest Egg: Teaching Your Kids About Financial Independence

Teaching financial independence to young people is more important now than ever. Having a financial plan in place is of the utmost importance as we navigate a world that is rapidly changing in every aspect. Financial independence can also create a sense of stability and reduce future stress. The next generation will forever be impacted by the decisions that we make and the lessons that we teach them today. It is important to give them the necessary tools to thrive and have the best fighting chance possible to be successful.  Understanding financial independence can be difficult for adults, therefore teaching it to children and young adults can seem like an impossible challenge to overcome. However, there’s no need to worry, we’ve got five tips to help you teach the next generation about financial planning and independence.

  1. Make sure that YOU understand finances– In order to be a skilled teacher of any subject, you must first make sure that you understand the information for yourself. It is important to examine your personal relationship with money before trying to get others to develop one of their own. Do you have a 401k? Do you invest in stocks? Do you know your debt to income ratio? These are just a few important questions to consider when thinking about your own financial security and knowledge.
  2. Teach them how to pay bills on time– It can be so easy to put off a bill payment, but the method of covering your eyes and hoping things will magically go away has never worked for anyone when it comes to bills. Collections calls and “last notice” letters won’t just disappear. Explaining the importance of credit and paying bills on time can be one of the most basic, yet most beneficial, aspects of financial independence. With reocurring and automatic payments being so readily available these days, it’s easier than ever to make sure all bills are paid on time.
  3. Start a 401(k) or other investment account– No matter the age of the audience, seeing money move can be exciting! If you are teaching a child about investing, it could be fun to help them start their very own investment account. There are a plethora of free trading tools available such as Robinhood and Stash. If your financial independence lesson is geared toward someone a little older, maybe just starting out in the workforce, explaining the importance of a 401(k) is crucial. Although, thinking about retiring as soon as you get your first real job may sound counterproductive, it is essential to explaining how taking a few dollars out of each paycheck can add up to thousands in the future.
  4. Teach the importance of saving– Allowances are a great way to help young people understand how to save. It could be simply helping a child set aside a certain amount of their allowance for their savings. If your child has been asking for a specific item such as a toy or video game, give them the opportunity to earn and save up the money themselves. This lesson in saving could also help them avoid impulse purchases. If they are saving for a high-ticket item remind them that if they buy two items from the Target dollar section, they will have $2 less going toward their big item, which means it will take even longer to get it. Teach them to ask questions like, “Am I really going to play with this toy or do I just think I want it because I see it?”
  5. Open a checking or dividend earning savings account– Just the act of having a bank account can create a huge sense of pride for a young person. This will create a sense of independence and responsibility. Let them log into the account periodically to have a visual of how their debits and credits impact how much money they can access. If you decide to open an interest earning savings account, give them the chance to see how earning interest helps them have more money. This lesson could bleed over into teaching about investment accounts as well.

It’s true, children are our future and it is our job to prepare them to become successful, well prepared adults. Teaching young people how to become financially independent, significantly increases their ability to move through the world with confidence and stability. The more we can teach the next generation about financial independence now, the better off they will be in the future and the more they will be able to instill in the generations that follow.

Rising Costs and Skilled Labor Shortages- A Growing Concern

Rising Costs and Skilled Labor Shortages- A Growing Concern

In recent years there’s been a widening gap between unemployment and job availability. The interesting part is that the gap isn’t because there aren’t enough jobs to go around, instead there are a plethora of jobs, but not enough workers to fill open positions. In theory, a huge job market sounds like a great problem. However, the truth is that without enough available skilled workers, many jobs are sitting vacant. This causes businesses to suffer because they can’t move their ships (or businesses) forward without people steering.

There has also been a trend in rising costs specifically in construction-related materials such as crude oil, metals, lumber and raw materials. This rise in cost combined with the shortage of labor has caused construction industry prices to climb sharply.

A shift is happening within skilled labor jobs

Working-class baby boomers are retiring in droves and younger workers aren’t filling in the gaps. This is creating huge holes that were previously occupied by this elder generation.  Older skilled workers have perfected their crafts and become efficient at their careers, and many employers aren’t willing to foot the bill for training programs to get younger workers up to speed.

The generational thought gap

As our world and education becomes more technologically focused, there is less emphasis on skilled trades. Once referred to as blue-collar jobs, the trades are looked upon as less than appealing.  Many colleges and universities boast courses in tech-driven areas rather than trade or occupational roles. In 2019, the number of available jobs grew faster than the number of people seeking employment. In general, employers are having a harder time filling skilled labor positions than they are filling college degreed jobs.  Another societal and educational shift is that more students are encouraged to attend colleges and universities.  Some are rewarded with professional careers, yet many students take temporary less-skilled jobs; the result is being under-employed in order to repay student debt. Manufacturing and/or the trades is seen as shop, and skilled trades are marginalized.  Students that are exposed to careers as mechanics, craftsmen, electricians, welders and plumbers are more aware of the discipline and training required to be successful in their careers.

The Hiring Discrepancy

Some businesses, specifically in building trades, are trying to address the labor shortage by hiring immigrant workers. (Legal vs. illegal migrate workers is not a discussion we plan on debating.)  Some estimates are that as much as 30 percent of the construction workforce being led by immigrants. Many firms outsource projects to day laborers in order to remain competitive throughout the bidding and building processes. With the more recent fears and threats of deportation, many laborers have decided to exit the US market. This has had far reaching impacts in several markets, outside of construction. For instance, the farming industry does not have enough workers to hire pickers and cultivators. Travel and tourism is suffering from the shortage; restaurant workers and hotel laborers are in a dramatic shortage of workers, which directly impacts the travel and tourism industries.  The transportation industry and construction industries also face shortages.  Our highly educated young workforce is not interested in these career choices.

There is a solution

There are ways to solve the labor shortage problem. We, as a society, need to invest in vocational and technical training programs and certifications for high school or at the collegiate level. By promoting these programs, students have to ability to practice and perfect skills that they may not have previously known existed.  Another solution is to offer internships or partner with local trade schools to provide training enrolled students. In this approach, all parties benefit, and students are shown a path to opportunity. Students get hands-on experience that prepares them for future roles and employers have immediate access to the emerging workforce. Another way to bridge the gap is for employers to promote themselves to potential candidates. This may take some creativity, like offering worksite perks that stand out, or flexible schedules. It is also important to have competitive pay and good healthcare benefits for employees, demonstrating that the trades are alternative career choices, not a step-down from a college degreed position.

The reality is…

The labor gap is widening. If conditions don’t drastically improve, it will slow economic growth and have huge impacts on many different industries.  The first step is to recognize the U.S. labor shortage is a very real problem that needs several very real solutions.  There needs to be a shift in perception and ongoing incentives for the skilled labor force.

Technology and the Construction Industry, Changing for the Better

Technology and the Construction Industry, Changing for the Better

Although we may not know it, technology is influencing every single aspect of our daily lives. More and more primary schools have smart TVs and iPads for each student to use. Doctors are taking notes on tablets instead of writing them down. You can even put your photo into an app and it will show you the best eyeglasses for your face type and let you order those glasses by pushing a button.

Utilizing technology showcases your company’s ability to embrace change, and often attracts the next generation of workers, whether in offices or on the construction site. Because the young workforce is entrenched in technology, they want to see that your company is adaptable. It gives future workers an opportunity to showcase their skillset; which you will need to stay competitive.

Technology is entrenched in both our homes and our businesses. The construction industry is no exception.

3D Renderings

One way that technology has impacting the construction industry is through the ability to have full insight on a job prior to starting it. Using 3D renderings can give project managers a complete look at a plan from start to finish. They can successfully predict the needs of the project, including materials and labor. By having full transparency, project timelines can be shaved, saving time and money.

Tablets and GPS Tracking

Using tools such as tablets on a construction project can also be handy for every person from general contractors to subcontractors. Equipment manufacturers are even starting to utilize tablets as a selling point. These tablets are complete with GPS systems for drivers so that they will have a hands-free way of finding a construction site. Many also accept payments on behalf of their respective companies. GPS tracking can also show where equipment is in relation to a job site. This can cut down on costly thefts and help with time management by being able to predict when a piece of equipment will arrive.

Drones and Action Cameras

Being able to capture a job site and the live movements of workers on site can have so many benefits beyond the construction project. Motion camera action can be used for later projects as well as future marketing materials such as social media photos and videos. Action cameras (such as go pros) and drones enable managers to see potential mishaps on a jobsite such as injuries or misconduct. Drone footage can also help architects and engineers prior to the start of a project by helping them understand the landscape and potential issues that may arise.

Smartphones

While smartphones have been a huge added value to most people’s personal lives, they can also be extremely valuable on a construction site. Smartphones allow you to easily communicate with the workforce on the site. Workers can also effortlessly take quick photos or videos needed. Now that there are wireless headsets, construction workers can communicate on their devices while being safe on site. With the increase of apps available for speedy food order delivery, everyone working on a job site will never go hungry (added bonus)!

As technology continues to become more advanced, every industry will continue to use these new developments to help them become more efficient. Construction is an industry that technology thankfully can’t fully take over, but it certainly adds a huge value to it.

Cross Merchandising

Cross Merchandising

Cross merchandising is a way to create interest in products that are related but would normally not be displayed together. An example is to add Safety Buckets in close proximity to the Shingle Eater display (see image 1). Or tools used to clean up the work site worked into the Shingle Eater product display (see image 2). These items are a requirement for roofing contractors but might not come to mind when they are focused on materials for the full roof install. This technique can be used in any product category. This needs rework: the basic rule is that the items added to the display add function to the anticipated end use of the display.

The following is a list of items that can be used in a cross-merchandising display.

  • Safety Bucket with Harness Included
  • Work site clean up supplies
  • Work gloves
  • Roofing nails
  • Sealant
  • Stapler
  • Staples
  • Utility Knife

 

Every store has a basic floor plan and customers like knowing the basic flow of a store. Utilizing merchandising techniques keeps your store looking fresh, introduces products to customers in different ways and promotes specific product without discount pricing. There are many merchandising tactics that can help drive sales to meet specific goals.

As always, your staff is your biggest asset. Discuss merchandising plans with your staff so they can answer questions related to the product displays and placement. They may also have suggestions to work into your merchandising rotation plan.

Merchandising Techniques

Merchandising Techniques

The basic premise of merchandising is to create interest in products and entice customers to purchase.   Effective merchandising uses product design, selection and pricing to create demand that results in increased sales.

The layout of your store and how the product selection is organized is the foundation of a merchandising plan. The goal of an effective floor plan is to encourage customers to walk through the whole store. In grocery stores, the most common items like eggs and milk are positioned at the point furthest from the door. The majority of people who walk in needing milk or eggs will have to walk by all the other aisles and will inevitably buy more items than just the milk and eggs they initially intended to purchase. This is an example of a merchandising tactic used to increase the average units per transaction and overall sales.

End Cap Displays

Creating an end cap display can increase the sales of the highlighted product up to 30%, even if you don’t change the price. Product that is clearly visible and by itself on an end of an aisle automatically catches the customer’s attention. End cap displays can be created for products that are over stocked, seasonally appropriate or create to a “story” with the goal of selling items that are cross functional. One basic rule is make sure you have enough inventory to keep the display well stocked. End cap displays are prime real estate in your store. Planning a monthly rotation of the endcaps introduces different products and keeps your store visually interesting to your customers.

Brand Consistency and Awareness: Never merchandise inventory on a competitor’s unit:

Maximize inventory on your displays- Empty Displays are a waste of space…

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