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Winter 2012 Newsletter

January 6, 2012 at 9:12 AMDoug O'Roak

We are pleased to release the January Winter Edition of the C/F Data Systems newsletter.  We welcome any feedback.  Enjoy!

 

construction accounting software

'Tis the Season to Do Year End.....

January 5, 2012 at 5:06 AMDoug O'Roak

 

   I’ve been feeling guilty because I haven’t written anything in a while.  I’m not one to make excuses, but in this case, I blame it on the time of year.

 

   No, not because of the holidays, but because it’s Year End time in the business world.  Year End for payroll.  Year End for reporting.  Year End for Tax Forms.  Year End close.  Year End everything…

 

   Our offices go crazy this time of year.  Because we work in the accounting software business, and because our live in-house support is the biggest feature of our software, our support lines are on fire.

 

   We start releasing all of the new Year End documentation in November.  We get our new tax forms ready for our customers.  We make updates to our support website.

 

   Because Year End only happens once a year, many of our customers forget how to do it.  On the flip side, we forget how to do it, so we all start refreshing early to be able to support our customers.

 

   In the midst of all this, come January, we need to be ready to roll out the new tax changes.

 

   From mid-November through mid-January, our support staff doesn’t take a breath.  They are here early, work through lunch, and stay late.  I’m almost afraid to leave my office.  When I do, it feels almost like the tenth-grade trip I took to Wall St. and visited the trading floor.

 

contractor accounting software

   I can’t imagine this is an easy time for our customers, either.  The culmination of an entire year’s work fit nicely into a series of reports, and the headaches it takes to make it happen.

 

   What I can’t imagine is how people who don’t use our software do it, how they are able to manage without a world-class support team.  I see our staff walk our customers step-by-step through the process, log into our customers’ systems to get a first-hand feel of what is happening or what the user is trying to do.  They follow up with phone calls or e-mails, and include our developers and programmers on the more complex questions or problems.   We’ve got a team who consult each other to make sure the best solution is found.

 

   Imagine it’s Year End time at your office, you need to take a year’s worth of data, be it payroll, taxes, ledgers, or whatever, and put it into a usable report…and since it’s not something you do every day, you need help.  Well, if you’re not using STRUCTURE, I imagine how frustrating it must be to try to find your answers in the manual, or maybe in a support CD your software came with.  Or better, the support manual that is a PDF on the CD your software provided that you get to load and then scroll through 1,000 pages to find your answer.  And I can imagine what it must be like to try and call in and get an automated “Press or Say 1 if you have a question about Year End”.  After a dozen or so menu options, you finally get an operator, who puts you on hold to re-direct you, then you find out you called the wrong department, so a new operator is going to give you a new number – no, he can’t direct you – where you go over another dozen options only to be put on hold again, and finally – when you do get someone to help on the line – you don’t understand what they are saying through their accent other than they need your credit card number for this billable service….

 

   If you’re using STRUCTURE, the previous paragraph means nothing to you…Happy New Year!

 

Posted in: Accounting Software | Customer Service | Customer Support | General | tax changes | tax codes

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Shot of Adrenaline for Massachusetts Contractors

November 18, 2011 at 9:47 AMDoug O'Roak

This has been quite an exciting week, one that has brought incredible news for Massachusetts contractors.

First, an agreement has been reached, and ownership of Weymouth’s South Naval Air Station will transfer from the U.S. Navy to Southfield.  This has been a 15-year negotiation in the making, and the last obstacle was the Navy’s commitment on the environmental cleanup of the property.

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The benefits to the development of this property, according to an e-mail from U.S. Congressman Bill Keating, will be 10,000 construction and contactor jobs created over the next 10 years.  He states the development will include 2,800 new homes, including a mix of apartments, condos, townhouses, and single-family houses, as well as 2 million square feet of commercial space, of which 450,000 will be retail.  Additionally, 70% of the property will be reserved for open space and active recreation.

contractor accounting software

Secondly, the Massachusetts House and Senate have both come to an agreement and passed a casino bill, and it currently sits on Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk waiting to be signed into effect.

We faced this same scenario last year, and the governor vetoed the bill.  However, the governor had given ultimatums regarding what he would be willing to pass last year, and those demands were not met.  Specifically, he would only allow one slot parlor in addition to the three casinos, but the bill allowed for four slot parlors. This year, there are no indications that the bill is outside the scope of what the governor is willing to pass, and there is strong speculation the governor will be signing the legislation on Tuesday.

construction accounting software

Once this passes, it will allow three resort-style casinos to operate in the state, as well as one slot parlor sited at a former dog racing facility.

Each resort casino must invest $500 million towards development to be considered for licensing, so these are going to be some really big casinos, with plenty of work for contractors.  There is already activity by at least a dozen investors, including the Mohegan tribe, who purchased large tracts of land in Palmer, a Las Vegas-based casino developer who has made an offer on a $16 million parcel in Springfield, and two developers are looking at two different sites in New Bedford.

The owners of former dog racing facilities Suffolk Downs and Raynham have both spent considerable money over the past 15 years in hopes of converting to world-class slot parlors with restaurants, retail, and hotels, and will be competing fiercely for the one available license.

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The Wampanoag tribe from Mashpee will be given first go at the license for the southeastern part of the state, but may be held up in litigation with the town of Middleboro for a site they had already signed an MOU for.  The town’s board of selectmen has threatened to sue the Wampanoag if they do not pursue the Middleboro location, which could prove harmful to their chances of securing one of the state’s $25 million licenses.

In all, estimates show these two bits of news will create 50,000 jobs for the construction industry over the next ten years, and will lead to even more development in the surrounding areas, as well as necessary infrastructure improvements.  The boost to our industry is incredible, and couldn’t have come at a better time.

The light at the end of the tunnel just got a little brighter for Massachusetts contractors, and as one of the top companies supporting those contractors, we look forward to being really busy very quickly!

Dealing With Year-End Office Stress

October 28, 2011 at 11:03 AMDoug O'Roak

The days are getting colder, the nights are getting longer, the holidays are fast approaching, and it’s almost time to start performing all of your end-of-year business duties (and I’m careful not to add to the pile by mentioning the T-A-X word.)

I was searching my network the other day, and came across a letter from 5 years ago that was written for our weekly staff meeting by one of our staff members.

To paraphrase, it basically was a reminder that stress levels increase starting around November, and to remember not to take this out on your co-workers.  It warned us to take a deep breath and smile, not to talk down to or yell at each other, and to bear in mind that we were all going through the same stressful time together.  It suggested the continued use of “Please” and “Thank You”, and to consider the tone of your voice.

I thought this was a great letter, and I even had a talk with the author about the idea of the letter, since this is my first year in the office, and I haven’t experienced a November yet.

So as you grumble about the cold mornings and the cold nights, and you curse at the heating bill after you have your tank filled, as you drive to work in the morning in the dark, and return home, in the dark, and as you try to figure out how to pay for your holiday purchases, and as you hunker down to prepare your taxes, try to remember how to do year-end after not having done it for a year, and your weekends are spent inside, just remember:

·         Don’t take it out on your co-workers.

·         Take a deep breath and smile.

·         Don’t talk down or yell.

·         We are all going through the same things.

·         “Please” and “Thank You” go a long way.

·         Consider the tone of your voice.

The biggest thing to remember:  The holidays will be over, tax season and year end will be over.  The weather will get warmer.  Your co-workers will still be your co-workers, so how you treat them now will be remembered when the stressful time is over.

Unemployment Figures Show Boost to Construction Industry

October 14, 2011 at 11:38 AMDoug O'Roak

While things may still seem down for many construction companies and contractors, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released their Employment Situation Summary last week, and while the national unemployment rate remains steady at 9.1%, it seems the construction industry has seen a gain in jobs over the last month, and the industry unemployment rate is down to 13.5%.  This is quite an improvement from the 17.2% the same time last year.

Supply of workers is still outpacing the demand of jobs, but with many new projects on the horizon, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

According to the Business Examiner, the employment gains in construction are also dynamic, with large gains in heavy, civil engineering, and specialty trades.  The significance of balanced growth within the industry shows that it is not just one type of growth that affected the numbers, but rather a balanced growth.  A good example of an artificial spike is the telecommunications industry, which reported growth, but was mainly due to returning Verizon workers coming back after the strike.

Balanced an dynamic growth in the industry is a recipe for continued growth.

Even better news is the president's new trade agreement signed this week with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea, which will reduce traiffs on exported U.S. goods, and this will especially benefit U.S. based Catepillar heavy equipment manufacturer, especially in Colombia where there is currently heavy demand for coal mining equipment.

 

Posted in: General

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Tightening the Belt in Lean Times

October 7, 2011 at 6:29 AMDoug O'Roak

When you run a business, it’s common sense that in lean times, you lean up your operations.

The obvious ways to cut fat are through labor, equipment, inventory, overtime, and overhead.

If you’re only getting half as much work as you have in the past, it makes sense to reduce your labor force, sell off extra equipment, reduce your stocking levels, kill off expensive overtime, and cut back on as many bills as you can, such as warehouse space, and cut back on any major purchases.

But in the front office, it’s tough to know where to place the scalpel.  In sweet or lean times, everyone in your office has a function, and every manager will tell you how important their staffing levels are, and how impossible it is to make cuts without jeopardizing the smooth operation of the business.

contractor accounting software

But just as technology makes you more efficient in the field, it can make you more efficient in the office.

What do I mean?  Take painting contractors as an example.  As rollers replaced brushes, and sprayers replaced rollers, fewer painters were needed to complete a job.  Wooden scaffolds were replaced by metal tube scaffolds, which are now replaced by modern snap-fit scaffolding on wheels.  Imagine how long it would take a crew to build scaffolding from wood at every job site!

As you adapt new technology to your business, you realize a savings in labor.

This can easily be applied to your office.  These days, every desk has a computer.  But if every computer is using better tools to do the job, they become more efficient and easier to use. 

contractor accounting software

Choosing the right business management software will allow you to more easily cross-train your office staff, so they are able to act in more than one function.  If your construction accounting software allows your staff to spend less time running and organizing reports, inputting data, and waiting for background processes to run, it gives them more time to invest in other tasks.

When trying to overcome objections with potential customers who are considering using our contracting accounting software, we often hear that they are not ready to make a switch, or they can’t see the cost benefit, or the software is more than they need.

But consider this:  Paint sprayers are much more costly than paint brushes.  Wood is much cheaper to buy than modern scaffolding.  But since you’ve made the change, you realize that the new technology offers a long term cost benefit, and allows your business to run leaner.

This is also true of your software, and how lean you can run your office. 

Look around your office, and think how much it costs you to run it.  Then imagine you had some beefed up tools that would allow you to cut that cost in half. Then imagine what you could do with that savings.

business management software

Rebuilding Iraq: Will American Contractors Benefit?

September 30, 2011 at 10:52 AMDoug O'Roak

 

Back in 1995, I remember one of my first jobs was working for a company that installed fiber-optic computer networks.  Back then, the internet was fairly new, and the idea of high-speed networks was just taking off.

 

The company I worked for took contracts all over the country, networking banks, hospitals, and large office buildings.  We had so much work, all over the country, because at the time there were only a handful of companies installing fiber networks.

 

On top of all that, two-thirds of our guys were taking contracts in Kuwait.  This was just after the first Gulf War.  Kuwait had been decimated by Iraq, and the rebuilding was going full-tilt.  I remember picking up newspapers and scanning the help wanted section, and seeing pages of ads looking for workers to go to Kuwait and help contractors with the rebuilding.

 

In 2003 there was a lot of talk about a new mission to rebuild Iraq.  The Madrid Conference on Reconstruction was held in October of 2003, and there a plan was outlined to rebuild the infrastructure, power grid, hospitals, schools, and public buildings.  They established the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF) to pay for the reconstruction, which consisted mainly of monies allocated from Iraqi oil production and multi-national aid.

 

There has been a lot of traction in these rebuilding efforts, and the contracts were awarded to big companies like Haliburton and Bechtel. 

 

Today, much of the power grid has been restored, oil wells have been rebuilt and put back on line, and roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, and public buildings have been rebuilt and reopened.

 

Since the majority of fighting in Iraq has stopped, there has been a Baghdad Renaissance Plan proposed, which will consist of high-end homes for a half million people, commerce, banking, medical centers, broadcast stations, IT, exhibition space, and convention and cultural centers.  There are also plans for high-rise development, and Baghdad’s first skyscraper, all built in Tahir Square, along the banks of the Tigris River.

 

Unfortunately, there is still a high rate of corruption with the funds, attacks on workers, and high rates of insurance claims among the workers.  Political and social instability in the region are making these ventures risky, and security concerns are making it cost-prohibitive.

 

However, as the region stabilizes, and these projects begin to take foot, demand will increase, and there will be room for contractors from the US to win some of the bids.  The proposed projects could offer a very high rate of return on the investment.

 

It really would be great to see American contractors win these jobs, and put US laborers back to work, while bringing millions of dollars back home.  Instead of reading about the high-unemployment rate, especially for the construction industry workers, I would love to flip to the employment section and see pages of ads for workers and contractors to go to Iraq and help the nation rebuild.

 

To view a demo on STRUCTURE Construction Acounting Software:

To see a video testimonial on STRUCTURE Contractor Accounting Software: CLICK HERE

Posted in: Bidding | General | infrastructure

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Fall 2011 Newsletter

September 30, 2011 at 7:29 AMDoug O'Roak

C/F DataSystems, LLC has released their quarterly newsletter.  Click on the photo to read it:

 

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Work Orders: Easy, Fast and Profitable

September 23, 2011 at 10:18 AMDoug O'Roak

When describing STRUCTURE construction accounting software to potential customers, we often focus on the accounting aspects.  Just about every customer uses the accounts payable, accounts receivable, general ledger, and job cost features, and most use the payroll feature.

But, when I ask customers who have been using STRUCTURE for some time what really sets STRUCTURE apart, I often hear that it’s the Work Orders component that really sets it apart from other software packages.

You see, STRUCTURE really makes creating work orders easy, fast, and profitable.  The system offers instant access to client history and credit history, and your service rep and equipment at the site.  It allows you to dispatch service at the site, while allowing you to keep an eye on your resources and profitability.

You can set up zone analysis for routing and scheduling, and you can log times of call and dispatch.  You can also set up screens to enter the problem, and, ultimately, the resolution.

It gives you all the automated features you need to keep your trucks on the road and your paperwork out the door.

What are some features that set STRUCTURE Work Orders apart from other accounting packages?

How about the ability to generate quotes for your customers, and then convert them into orders?  Or the ability to check open orders reporting by status, priority, date/time, customer, order number, job, truck, service rep, or zone?  You also have the ability to automatically recall work orders for billing, and handle COD’s, as well as automatic pricing for labor and material that is updatable from services such as Trade Service or Harrison.

You can also cross-post to accounts receivable, job cost, payroll, and general ledger as required. It automatically tracks material inventory by truck, and automatically bills scheduled service contracts.  It offers preventative maintenance scheduling capability with automatic PM work orders, and has the ability to generate cost and profit analysis by job and service technician.

Is your current accounting system able to handle all of that, seamlessly?

Information is only good if you are able to extract it and use it the way you need to.

Our Work Orders module allows you to run inquiries and pull reports such as Dispatch Board, Work Orders, Open Orders, Service History, Inventory Location, Service Contract, Contract Expiration, Invoice, WO Scheduling, Recurring Billing, Make/Model Problem Analysis, Service Rep Profitability, Invoice History, Service Contract Labels, Preventative Maintenance, and Call Analysis.

However you are generating work orders now, stop for a minute, and think about how nice it would be if an easier way exisited.

To view a demo of STRUCTURE Contractor Accounting Software:

 

To view our latest YouTube video:

 

 

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Remembering 9/11

September 9, 2011 at 8:05 AMDoug O'Roak

Where were you on September 11th, 2001?

I remember where I was.  I was home from work, nursing an injury, and sleeping late.  I woke up to a phone call from a friend who told me to turn on the television.  A plane had just crashed into one of the towers.

I got up from bed, went to my living room, and turned on my new big screen and saw the footage.  At the time, no one knew what was going on yet.

I thought it was some freak accident, a plane coming in too low trying to land, and so did many of the reporters.

I sat, with most of America, watching the first tragedy, as a second plane struck the second tower.

I remember my stomach knotted up with the realization that this was deliberate.

As the day unfolded on the screen before me, the towers collapsed, and a third plane struck the Pentagon.

Having grown up during the Cold War, I was shaking, imagining Russia was attacking, and these were the pre-emptive strikes.  My biggest fear was we were under attack, and this was just the beginning.

It seemed like something out of a Tom Clancy novel, and amazingly, the reporters called Tom Clancy in to give his commentary as we watched the scene unfold through the day.

Luckily, all air traffic was grounded or diverted, so there were no more strikes, save for the flight that went down in a Pennsylvania field.

That day, for the first time, I learned who the Taliban was, who Al-Quaeda was, and who Osama Bin Laden was.  And, for the first time in my life, I realized America was vulnerable.

I remember the rage that filled Americans to get whoever did this to us, and the frustration that it was not a nation that attacked us that we could swiftly punish, but a group of terrorists.

In the days that followed, on the television and on the internet, we were flooded with images of the destruction and loss of life that occurred on that day, and we all vowed never to forget.

Here we are ten years later, and though the towers are not rebuilt, New York City is back to business as usual.  The Pentagon is fixed.  And Osama Bin Laden was brought to justice.

The events were a tragedy, and the terrorists were able to inflict a sense of fear in America, but ten years later we’ve proven that we can persevere.  Though we will never forget that unfortunate day, we will neither be crushed by it.  America will continue to rebuild and become stronger, and we will never let the terrorists win.

I look forward to this weekend, honoring the victims and heroes who were affected by the bombings, and will stand proud knowing that America will always stand strong.

Posted in: General

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