Category Archives: project management

Principles That Help In Growing A Small Business

Growing a small business is a daunting task. It is a fact that most start-ups fail within a few years of their start. As per a study conducted by Statistic Brain Research Institute, a whopping 50% of start-ups in the U.S fail after five years of their operation. So, the challenge remains in understanding what usually goes wrong and how small business owners can overcome the obstacles. However, there are also few that despite all odds manage to rise high and flourish their businesses. So, let’s explore the five principles that these people follow to grow their small business over the years.

Adaptation and moving forward

One of the key reasons behind the failure of start-ups is their failure to adapt according to the changes in consumer demand and market. The solution lies in adapting as soon as possible and to move forward. The reason is sometimes, product or service offerings of a small business could be exemplary but way ahead of the customer demands. For example, even the mighty Kodak company failed to adapt as per the rising trend of digital imaging and collapsed miserably.

Creating a positive image

Amidst soaring competition from other businesses with similar product or service offerings, it is essential to focus on creating a positive image to attract and retain customers. Successful entrepreneurs never fail in creating such image through targeted marketing campaigns and excellent customer service. Nowadays, some start-ups prefer to hire professionals for managing their online reputation from the very first day. With the rising power of social media, they don’t take any chances and keep a watchful eye on their brand image.

Willingness to invest in technology

Majority of businesses with humble beginnings are those who have dared to invest in the latest technology available at that time. The fact that there is an increased trend of mobility across the world also demands a willingness to embrace technology as it pays rich dividends. A disruptive technology can threaten the entire business model if businesses fail to quickly respond or adapt accordingly. There are many who hire wireless support service providers or cybersecurity experts to ensure optimal use of technology for their small business.

For small businesses, it is imperative to understand that growing a small business demands immense dedication and hard work apart from all the above. Right planning, excellent infrastructure, and networking also play a huge role in ensuring business growth.

3 Keys to Persistence

When in your life have you needed to be most persistent? Perhaps you have been looking for a job, pursuing a higher education degree, losing excess weight, training a puppy, raising a child, learning a new skill, writing a book, starting a business, developing a process, working to find sales, looking for something you lost, recovering from an injury, growing a garden, etc. In these examples, there is a difference between just making something happen in the moment. They all have a length of time in which a vision or goal is set and regular work is needed in order to obtain the desired outcome.

There are many characteristics and attributes of one who is persistent: determined, focused, hardworking, confident, motivated, open, adaptable, driven, etc. However, when thinking what persistence is really about, it is most present when faced with a true challenge requiring a person to dig deep within themselves to achieve something not easily attained. Persistence might be summarized by these three keys.

1. Hungry Vision. Clear sight or objective of something wanted or imagined.
2. Consistent Action. Regularly moving action forward.
3. Resilient Drive. Pushing through the obstacles or overcoming barriers.

First, Hungry Vision. The word vision is often used for future focus. “What is your vision for the day?” “What is your vision for the organization?” “What is your vision for your kids?” “What is your vision for the program?” Often we talk about vision as seeing the potential for something in order to design and create it. “Hungry vision” however is a deep inner desire and commitment to achieve something. It is not passively creating. It is not openly wandering. It is not a good intention or idealistic wish. It is an internal resonance to focus and attain success or master the challenge. You have to see it clearly. You know your “why?” You are clear on what success looks like and know it will take work. You are dedicated to doing what it takes to make it happen. This is the hungry part. It is an ever-present craving that keeps you focused on your vision.

Second, Consistent Action. It is not random action, action when you “feel” like it or action when it is convenient. Rather and more likely, it is the daily action that chips away a bit at a time toward the goal. An example is the little steps a baby makes learning to walk. There is usually failure and set back, but also effort, repetition, intentionality, and progress. It doesn’t happen with hit or miss activity. There is a dedicated and committed resolve to focus and move it forward.

Last, Resilient Drive. There is an old phrase, “Nothing worth having comes easy.” There is truth in the belief that what we work hard for has more value. Thinking back in your life, what are you most proud of? Consider things that are given to you versus things you had to work for. It required a personal “push” and ability to “come back” when feeling discouraged, overwhelmed or weighed down. It took great self-talk and confidence to “get back up” and “keep going”. We had to push through obstacles, overcome fears and rise to new heights of personal potential. We had to toil and dig deep for the resolve to finish. We have a great sense of accomplishments for these achievements; they stand out as personal “highs” in our life due to the significant investment of time, energy, and work. We are proud of the success and actually attaining the vision that was set.

Persistence is something that can be part of our daily life. Recently a retired military leader shared his personal commitment and persistence to getting up each day at 4:30 AM to run and keep in shape. He doesn’t “have” to, but he “wants” to because it is part of the discipline for the life he wants to lead.

Persistence is a healthy attitude and energy we can employ for those “big” things as well as anything we are up to. What would your life look like with deeper resilience? What would you accomplish?

With all that said one note about drive and persistence. Usually, persistent achievers are in a constant state of humble learning. However, at times persistence can take an obnoxious swing to “hard-headed stubbornness” if one gets hijacked by their ego and is unable to hear feedback and other perspectives. At times immaturity can misunderstand persistence as permission to bulldoze and be very independently focused on your mission, losing regard for the world and relationships around you. Keep yourself in a humble state that is open to learning and reflection. This will support you as you pace yourself toward the goal. You will then be able to hear and yield to inputs that will support the sustainability and success of your mission while respecting and staying in synergy with the people around you. Surround yourself with wise mentors and confidants that don’t just tell you what you want to hear, but give you candid and honest feedback, even when hard to embrace. At times our ego can become blinded by our passion or drive. It is a gift to be redirected and challenged when we are pressing the wrong direction or in the wrong way. As Anthony J D’Angelo said, “Never let your persistence and passion turn into stubbornness and ignorance.”

So with a spirit of learning and openness, consider what is a noble and hungry vision you want to aspire to attain. Determine what is the consistent action you will need to take to stay the course. Commit and feel in your gut the resilient drive needed to hurdle the obstacles and stay the course making wise adjustments along the way to accomplish the goal. Enjoy the journey, much of the growth and achievement is in the lessons along the way.

8 Outstanding Tools to Be More Productive Every Day

Life is full of distractions, ranging from social media, chitchat with friends, catching up with family among others. These distractions deter us from achieving our day-to-day goals and, in most cases, we end up being busy the whole day but hardly productive. Here are some productivity tools that can break this chain. By keeping you focused on small actionable objectives, you can accomplish the daily goals which translate into long-term goals. These are some of the best-recommended productivity tools for you to try.

1. Flat Tomato – Time Management Tool

The flat tomato application employs the Pomodoro technique to help you accomplish more in a more effective way. The Pomodoro technique is one of the oldest concepts in queuing theory designed in the 80’s by Francesco Cirillo. It uses a timer to break down complex work into simple tasks with 25 minute intervals for each. At the end of every interval, there is a short break referred to as Pomodoro, hence the name.

The flat tomato is a time management tool that employs this technique in breaking down your project into 25 minute intervals. By employing the Pomodoro technique, the flat tomato helps you to improve your concentration on a project. It helps you to avoid distractions while working on a project by breaking down the project into 25-minute intervals. When the timer goes off after 25 minutes, take a break from the project. When you resume after the break, you will be more refreshed, energized and focused. This way, you can concentrate for long hours without getting fatigued.

2. Trello – Project Planner

The Trello project planner enables you to plan, organize and prioritize your tasks in a fun, flexible and smart way. This tool can help you organize anything in your life, ranging from job-related tasks, planning a party or even planning your long-term life goals. The Trello project planner tool uses cards and boards with the board representing the event and each task represented by the cards. For instance, if you are planning a party, the board represents the party while the cards can represent events like booking a venue, shopping, sending out invitations among others. Further, this tool has an option for you to add anyone who can help you in the event. For instance, if your friends want to help you plan the above party, you can add them to the application. In addition, it has amazing graphics and visuals to make the planning process fun and interesting.

Features of the Trello project planner

  • The tool has a quick overview feature for all the tasks in the project.
  • It comes with easy organization tools containing tags, categories, and labels.
  • Contains a checklist with a progress meter.
  • Comes with a dateline reminder tool to help you meet your datelines.
  • Contains a data filtering feature for easy editing of the data.

3. Google Calendar

With the Google calendar tool, it is easy to keep track of life’s most important events all in one place. The tool allows one to create a calendar of events of the most important tasks in a day, week or month. For instance, a company CEO can create a calendar of all meetings he/she must attend. Similarly, a socialite can create a calendar of all parties that she must attend. The calendar is stored in Google’s cloud system, hence it is always available on the web, unlike the traditional calendar which must be accessed through the computer or phone.

4. 30/30 – Task Manager

Planning is an important aspect of completing any task, but sometimes, it is hard to predict all tasks with certainty. Thus, all you need is to set a start period and end period and this tool is great for that. With the 30/30 planning tool, you can manage your to-do list by assigning times for all the tasks, then start the time. When the timer goes off, simply switch the tasks. This way, you can avoid the temptation of over concentrating on one task, especially in cases where some tasks are more fun and interesting to accomplish. Thus, with this tool, you can divide your time to allocate equal time intervals to all the tasks.

5. Google Drive/Google Form

Accomplishing a project on time requires you to visualize, plan and track every step of the way and this is exactly what Google drive forms can help you attain. With the forms, you can outline all the tasks in the project, every activity during the tasks and expected completion date. The forms indicate the start and end period for each project. Hence, at every stage, you can compare the expected completion date with the actual completion date, compare the two and outline the reasons for the difference. Normally, a huge difference between the expected completion date and actual completion date can tell whether the project is on-time or there are delays and corrective actions can be undertaken.

Also, with these forms, you can identify the critical path, which is the shortest path that can be used to complete the project within the shortest time possible. You can also share the documents with your team, a customer or any other concerned parties. Hence, this is a great tool for planning, whether you are working on a personal project, completing your day-to-day activities or making long-term life goals. Also, you can save and share all forms in Google drive.

6. Remember the milk – Thing-To-Do Application

Remember the milk is one of the most basic thing-to-do application, but also one of the most effective. With this tool, you can break down complex tasks by creating tasks, dividing the tasks into sub-tasks and then, organizing the tasks creating multiple lists for the sub-tasks. Further, the application includes powerful tools for searching and a smart list to improve your organization. It can also integrate with most project planning tools like Google calendar, Gmail, Twitter and Evernote among other tools.

  • Ease of organizing the tasks and sub lists to ensure each task is integrated into the main project.
  • Enables you to set the start and due dates, hence ensuring you can complete the project on time. Further, it outlines the recurrent tasks.
  • It has a dashboard which can help you prioritize the tasks, hence you can distinguish between emergency, high-priority and urgent tasks.
  • It can integrate perfectly with other planning tools and applications.

7. Password – Keeping Passwords Secure

Remembering and keeping passwords secure is one of the tasks that can waste your time and reduce your productivity. Some people prefer to use one password for computer logins, social media networks, phone, work emails, personal emails, and other sites, which increases your risk of exposure to hacking. Thus, with this application, you can keep track of every password that you have. This way, when you need to retrieve the password, simply go to the application and get it, rather than wasting time trying to remember, or searching for the password in your diary, or even resetting the password on the site which might waste your time.

8. Workflow

Tasks like sending texts, calling Uber, or even uploading photos on your social media networks can waste your time. Luckily, with the workflow application, you can automate such tasks. The application allows you to customize your phone, this way you can tell your phone what to do when you realize you need something done.

10 Amazing Google Hacks to Boost Your Productivity

Google is a life-saver. No two ways about it. As a professional, Google has invaluable features including, but not in the least limited to, its search function, stocks, and its advertising clout. However, there is so much more it is capable of, that most of us are barely scratching the surface.

Here are some nifty little tricks we have gathered through the years:

1. Type using your voice (No more strained fingers)

Sure, we’ve all used Google search on our phones, and we know it has a fantastic voice search function. But, this feature can do so much more. Google Docs (the cloud-based version of a text editor) is becoming more powerful by the day, and as part of its features, is voice-based typing. With a few weeks of practice, the AI is capable of flawlessly understanding human speech, whatever your accent may be. As a fun tidbit, this article has been written by using voice typing!

2. Timer: Know when to get back after a break

Google has a calendar that is used extensively by professionals. However, in their bid to replace offline apps with cloud-based real-time systems, the software behemoth has introduced a tiny, but extremely useful widget in the form of the timer feature. Capable of counting down, it is handy to keep track of time leading up to a meeting or the re-commencement of a professional appointment after a break. Just search for “Timer” in the Google search bar to access this feature.

3. Calculator: Calculate on the fly

Another applet introduced by Google is the calculator feature, removing the need for an external app. Just Google the calculation you need to be done, and the website is capable of handling arithmetic, percentages, or almost any other calculation that is performed by professionals.

4. Conversions: Convert on the fly

Dealing with international transactions is often a troublesome affair, due to the simple reason that currencies fluctuate in value with respect to each other. Google offers real-time conversion from one currency to another. Let’s say you need to know the value of 16.50 pounds in American dollars. All you have to do is type “Convert 16.5 GBP to USD” in the search bar.

5. Draw perfect pictures – You don’t have to be an artist

Autodraw.com is a nifty little website for when you wanted to illustrate your articles, but just couldn’t find the right clip-art/stock image. By drawing a very rough version of the image in mind, you will get cute little clip arts that suit your purpose just fine.

6. Language translation: Be a pro in multiple languages

Google translate is already the most reliable option for tourists in a foreign country for translation to the native language. However, most professionals are yet to realize that this software has an extremely significant application in their respective fields. It provides a quick and efficient way of translating any blog/article that has already been written, into another prominent language, such as Spanish, for example, greatly widening the target audience.

7. Store documents: No fear of disk crash

We all keep important documents and drafts on our computers or hard disk drives. However, there are significant risks in doing so. Loss or damage of the storage medium will lead to a loss of the data too. Hence, a software widely recommended today is Google Drive, which is a cloud based document storage medium. You don’t even need the storage medium to work with the documents, since it can be accessed by any device with an internet connection. As an added bonus, it makes the sharing of any of these documents incredibly easy, and all you need to know is the recipient’s email address.

8. Set reminders for special days: Save your marriage

As part of its calendar app, you can easily set reminders for the future from the Google app (for mobile) or website. All you have to do is type (or say out loud), “Set a reminder for ” and enter in the name of the reminder and at what time you want to be reminded.

9. Flow chart: No worries if you don’t have MS Visio

Free software is great, right? One little problem, though. There isn’t too much of it on the internet. we have often been asked by BA aspirants, as well as others, on whether they have to purchase software to make flowcharts. The good part is, Google Docs handles all that. It allows us complete freedom in designing the charts, and is a quick and efficient way of making them.

5 Ways To Add More Personality To Your Brand

We’re adapting all the more every day about the intensity of human link. Individuals are undeniably liable to confide in a business that has an identity behind it. While organisations may have possessed the capacity to escape by just sharing their items before, I think customers are improving at spotting and blocking advancements, paid promotions, and attempts to sell something. It just isn’t sufficient to share your work any longer; you require a brand identity!

One of the greatest things I’ve seen for the current year is a move toward greater genuineness and helplessness on the web and through that, more profundity of the associations we’re making with our customers, clients, and devotees. If you genuinely need to take individuals from basically devotees to genuine fans, it’s an ideal opportunity to centre on making a brand that offers more than what you need to provide.

Photos Of You
Need to know something insane? The vast majority’s best posts are photographs of THEM, not their work. Isn’t that stunning? I trust that with the end goal for individuals to genuinely interface with the work you’re making, the first need to know, similar to, trust, and comprehend the maker.

The more you let individuals into your life, the more they feel like you are a genuine human, not only an attempt to sell something. When you can turn into an unmistakable face, you’ll begin to feel more like a companion and less like an advertiser. Venture out of your usual range of familiarity and before that focal point and grin… since individuals are going to go gaga for you.

Sharpen Your Voice
If we were sitting eye to eye, how might you converse with me? It’d presumably be easygoing, fun, and influence me to feel great – like we’ve known each other for a considerable length of time. In any case, by one means or another when we go to sort or discuss the items we offer or the administrations we offer, we get all damp and sound like an unbalanced TV advertisement that individuals need to quiet.

This is on account of conventional advertising persuaded that we must be formal keeping in mind the end goal to be considered essential and that with a specific end goal to offer we need to pitch always rather than have significant discussions. It’s an excellent opportunity to focus on the manner in which you address your companions and begin to utilise that same voice online with the goal that you turn out to be more receptive, and your voice emerges in the ocean of advertising pitches.

Show Behind The Scenes
I know, I know, it’s super not-fabulous, but instead here’s the thing: individuals love imagining you working, your life. I never considered the house I lived in or the outings I went on yet when you make a genuine brand (not only a business) individuals get put resources into YOU and this not merely makes unwaveringness, it additionally gives you a chance to recount a significant story in your feed, your posts, and on the web.

Regardless of whether you share a crude Instagram story or post a little off camera enchantment of what you’re doing, you’ll have the capacity to cultivate more association and let individuals feel like they are being let in on the procedure. (If you’re wondering: yes, I’ve posted the loveseat that I’m dealing with as I make this post and individuals LOVED it!)

Genuine – Perfect
Doesn’t it feel like every other person has the photo idealise feed/life/closet/house and you’re thinking about how your wreckage could transform into a significant message? Better believe it, we as a whole vibe a similar way. One of the greatest exercises I’ve mastered running an individual brand is that individuals are longing for genuine (particularly in multi-day and age where everything looks so darn consummate!)

While I’m no more peculiar to styling pretty pictures or repairing the one beautiful corner of my house, I’m additionally not reluctant to discuss the genuine stuff – not only the feature reel stuff. Getting a little powerless makes you, even more, a human and more relatable and it gives individuals the chance to say “me as well conceivably.” You can’t hope to make association exclusively from what you’re offering, so having touchpoints that make you a genuine human behind the screen can serve you for quite a long time to come.

Try Not To Be A One-Hit Wonder
It’s simple once you begin a business to need to share the stuff you’re offering, yet frankly, you can’t expect your item or administration to be that critical association point that will take somebody from primarily being a devotee to turning into a genuine, paying customer. It’s vital that your image isn’t merely in light of what you’re offering (which implies your feeds? Indeed, they should be multifaceted as well! )

What Are the Major Types of Diesel Generators?

Diesel generators are a practical piece of machinery in many different situations. They are often used as a backup option in the event of a power cut or when it isn’t possible to connect directly to the power grid. Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular types:

Commercial

Generators are frequently used in the commercial environment. For instance, the workforce on a job site is likely to be in a setting that does not offer an alternative power source. Any of the commercial units are very large with the ability to produce a significant amount of power over a long period of time.

Also, the power output can vary significantly with the different models. The power rating is classified using the total number of watts used. The diesel generators intended for a restaurant, bar, or similar commercial environment can put out up to 30,000 watts of electrical energy. However, if it is only necessary to run a few power tools on a job site, a generator rating of 3,000 watts is likely to be enough.

Domestic

The domestic generator is a much smaller piece of machinery. They are typically used in the home as a stopgap in the event of a power cut. A generator may be installed in the home for those with medical related issues and need a constant supply of power. For most homeowners, a generator with a power rating of 3,000 to 6,500 watts is likely to be enough power to keep the appliances and lights on during a power cut.

Additionally, the noise level of the generator is an important factor when looking at the generators used in a domestic environment. The majority of diesel generators are labeled with a decibel number. A generator in the region of 60 to 70 dB isn’t likely to be too intrusive in the home.

What about the cooling system

In order to operate efficiently and avoid overheating, diesel generators have a built-in cooling system. There are two major types of cooling system, but the water-cooled system is the most durable.

Water-cooled

The water-cooled generators are built with a radiator and hard-wearing tubes to let water flow around the engine while it is in operation. However, it is necessary to check the water level at regular intervals. Also, they will typically need more ongoing maintenance compared to the air-cooled system, which is the other choice.

Air-cooled

The air-cooled generators rely on air to keep the operating temperature of the machinery within an acceptable range. A specialized system is built into the generator to help increase the air intake to the desired level.

3 Useful Extras to Install on the Plate Compactor

Proper compaction is an essential part of getting prepared to lay paving stones, concrete, asphalt, or similar surfaces. If the surface isn’t compact, there is a high risk of the lower levels shifting, which will have a major impact on the entire project. One of the best tools to prepare the base material is the plate compactor. The standard tool is highly effective in preparing the surface, but with a few useful additions the plate compactor will be a lot easier to use. Let’s take a look at three of the extra features to consider using:

Throttle control

The typical plate compactor is likely to have the throttle control positioned in an area close to the engine. However, this isn’t the easiest place to reach, especially if it is necessary to start and stop the machinery at regular intervals. Also, it can be quite a safety hazard to bend over to reach the control while the unit is still active. A practical solution to make the tool a lot more straightforward to use is to install a handle-mounted throttle control. It not only gives much easier access to this control, but will also ensure the plate compactor is safer to use.

Hoist hooks

A plate compactor is a heavy piece of machinery, so relocating from one job site to another can be a difficult process. A simple solution to lift the unit onto the rear of a vehicle is to make sure a built-in hoist hook is in place. While this feature may be common for certain brands, it may need to be an extra or upgrade on some of the older units.

Wheel Kit

A wheel kit is a useful but often ignored piece of kit for the plate compactor. The wheels are only effective in certain situations, but they are certain to benefit when it comes to moving this heavy tool in a showroom, around the repair shop, or on any hard surfaces on the job site. In most cases, the wheel kit is an optional extra, but these are some models that will have the feature as a standard part of the build. This is certain to help with any projects that need the plate compactor moved around a lot and will definitely save time.

Even though these extra may seem small, they are certain to make the all-round experience of using a plate compactor a lot easier to use and handle.

3 Useful Tools for Compacting Soil

Creating a solid foundation is an essential process before starting a wide range of projects. This type of work is achieved using one of the many compaction tools. They are very effective at removing air voids from the soil, which leaves the ground more dense and able to accept the higher load. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common tools to compact soil:

Tamping rammer

One of the most used tools is the tamping rammer. They can operate with a gas or electric engine. It is a walk-behind tool that is very useful for the many types of cohesive soils, such as silt or clay. The tamping rammer is a versatile tool that makes it very easy to use close to a wall or in tight corners. The bottom plate for compacting is typically in the region of 11 x 13 inches. However, there are also smaller models to fit in the tight spaces. The weight of the tool is a further thing that needs to be considered. Any tool with the ability to deliver about 3,250 pounds of force per square foot is usually enough to reach the desired level of compaction. The gas-powered unit is the most versatile and useful in the remote locations. The tools with an electric motor will need a nearby electrical outlet or a generator to operate.

Plate compactor

The plate compactor is a great option for someone planning to work on granular soil, such as dirt, sand or gravel with plenty of aggregate material mixed in. It is a very effective tool at removing air pockets to leave the ground surface extremely compact. The standard plate compactor will operate in a single direction. If the soil isn’t compact enough after the first pass, it will be necessary to fully turn the tool to make a repeat pass. For greater flexibility, there are the plate compactor units with a reversible design which is a lot easier to maneuver and change direction. Also, the plate compactor can include extra features such as a water tank to stop the ground surface sticking to the plate.

Walk-behind roller

A walk-behind roller is the next option and slighter larger than the plate compactor. This type of tool relies on multiple vibrating drums to help compact a wide range of materials, including asphalt and soil. It is a very useful option for working on road building or similar projects.

Selecting the Right Supplier for Bridge Steel

Types of Steel

Various types of bridge still are used in the construction of a bridge. What you need will depend heavily on the design of the bridge as well as the amount of traffic that will be going over the bridge. For example, if you are creating a residential walking bridge versus a commercial traffic bridge, the type of steel you need is going to vary.

Additionally, you might need different types of steel in order to complete the bridge project. A supplier needs to be able to provide you with all of the different types of steel that you need. If you have to work with multiple suppliers, it is going to become an overwhelming process to order what you need. It might also take longer to get the supplies and cost you more money.

Inventory

It is important to look at the deadlines you have in place for your project. The supplier you choose may or may not have the inventory that you require for your project. As such, it may require them ordering additional inventory in stock. If this takes several weeks, he can throw off your entire deadline.

You should contact several suppliers to find out what their inventory is and the timeframe it would take in order to deliver the quantity of steel you are looking at purchasing. If it will take too long, it might be worth spending a little bit more to go with a supplier who has a larger inventory of steel on-hand.

Reputation

The reputation of a bridge steel supplier is vital. You don’t want to run into a situation where you going to business with a company that is unreliable. Although you will sign contracts with all of your suppliers, you want to make sure that they offer competitive pricing and deliver materials when they say they are going to deliver them.

If their reputation is not well known within the area, you will want to rely on online reviews to tell you everything that you need to know. You should also plan on calling a supplier to ask questions.

Costs

Finally, you need to talk about pricing with a supplier. You should focus on getting quotes from at least two or three suppliers so that you can make comparisons. Otherwise, you could end up spending more on bridge steel than what is necessary. If you are purchasing a large amount of steel or plan on placing several orders throughout the year, negotiate.

It’s worth taking a little bit of extra time to explore the different aspects of a supplier. It will ensure you know exactly what you are getting into so that there are no surprises later on.

Ranger Steel has always strived to form personal relationships with customers in a wide variety of industries. The industries we serve are as follows: ship building, oil and gas, mining, light and heavy commercial and industrial construction; service centers; as well as fabricators for heavy plate, vessel and heat exchangers, storage tanks, bridges, electrical transmission, and railcars.

Construction Bonding

To provide an expert’s view on construction payment and performance surety bonds, I sat down with Ellen Neylan, the owner of Surety Bond Associates, a WBE surety bond agency and consulting firm that provides specialty surety services to small, minority women and veteran owned contractors.

Often projects presented accompany a bonding requirement – too many times this is seen as an automatic disqualifier to an unbonded GC. Ellen stressed the abundance of options out there, and the importance of differentiating all risk reduction instruments from viable alternatives.

Many GCs are working with their insurance agencies to tackle bondability needs without realizing surety agents are their own specialty that add a different, more precise value. Ellen explained to me the contrast between a surety bond and subcontractor default insurance (SDI), two concepts that can be easily confused. In almost all cases, SDI is very inferior to surety bonding. Surety bonds exist to protect taxpayer dollars and a general contractor’s organizational health, while SDI serves to allow a GC to default subcontractors quickly with no payment protection downstream for anyone. High deductibles are associated with it – and since there is no qualification process to gain this protection, it is much more of a high-risk instrument.

Along with the confusion of bonds and SDI seeming interchangeable, comes a misinterpretation that bonds and insurance in general are comparable. I’ve previously heard the phrase that “Bonds are not insurance-they’re a credit instrument” and Ellen confirmed that in her Bonds 101 workshop, this is an idea that’s represented as fact.

Even though insurance companies can provide bonds, contractors have to qualify for bonding, which makes it quite different than insurance. Anyone can buy insurance if they can afford it, however bonds require an in-depth qualification process that fully vets a firm.

Prior to my conversation with Ellen, I read that many bonding professionals sum up their evaluation of a contractor with the use of “the three c’s: character, capacity, and capital” – and I was interested to hear if this captured her interpretation of the GC review scope. She emphasized that those are definitely the main ideas, however the importance of each area isn’t quite weighted equally in thirds.

The surety typically puts 70% emphasis on financial strength. For the capacity consideration, the contractor’s experience with project management and portfolio of work shape their rating. Some factors that are evaluated include:

– Staff resumes
– Typical project valuation “sweet spot”
– Scope of work
– References with subcontactors, suppliers, and banks

When evaluating the character review, this is a bit more challenging. Ellen rightfully mentioned that you don’t really realize a contractor’s true colors until there’s an issue. Since surety bonds are essentially a partnership between the surety and the contractor, the surety has to feel comfortable that the contractor can help them resolve any problems and deliver on promises. Project success is largely tied to a GC working with the surety so that they don’t have to file a loss.

So once you’ve taken the steps to become bonded – what is required for a firm to take steps to grow that bonding capacity?

Much of growing bonding capacity involves not taking on jobs that are too large for your company’s bandwidth. Preserving as much cash in the company and tightly managing it alongside accurate job cost accounting systems is key. A great CPA is critical to keeping a company in line financially. Surety companies look for detailed financial statements because the accounting needs of construction are very unique from other industries. Building that team of a solid CPA, surety agent, and bank is a powerful trio.

Payment and performance surety bonds can seem confusing, however with a bonding expert’s guidance, contractors are able to realize their full potential and not have to lose out on opportunities from lack of bonding. There are plenty of resources available for organizations looking to become bonded, and a “dead end” is far from how a bonding stipulation should be perceived.

About the Interviewee, Ellen Neylan:
Ellen Neylan is the founder and sole owner of Surety Bond Associates. Ellen is a surety veteran with over twenty-five years’ experience in the surety industry, holding positions with several major surety companies fulfilling a variety of underwriting, management, and operations, business and product development roles. Ellen has lectured diverse audiences on surety principals and underwriting disciplines, and is an active member of the PA and NJ Chapters of the Surety and Fidelity Association of America.