Friday, April 29, 2011

Trying to find the right formula

I work for a small company that has run on the current antiquated accounting system for years.  The number of copies of "invoices" that has to be made before the material ships out the door is overwhelming and distressing for the trees. 

I was told as I was being hired 19 months ago, that the company was implementing a new system that a former employee created in Access.  My boss was very excited.  Personally I feel this all this former employee did was create a convoluted system in the hopes of always having a job versus for the betterment of the company.  Only half of us are on this new system because it has been apparent from the start that it doesn’t work. 

I give my boss a lot of credit.  After spending a lot of money for the system created in Access he has spent more money and purchased Quick Books Premier for Manufacturing.  We all have the software installed but it will be a few weeks before we are up and running.  The work at the top is well worth the future benefits in my opinion.
In the meantime I have become friendly with Excel and have created all sorts of reports to help me in my job.  Job costing, Works In Progress, Projections, etc etc.  The one spreadsheet that I have reworked over and over again is the Project in Process.  I want to be this spreadsheet to tell me how much the contract base and any change orders totals; what has been invoiced to date and what my costs are.  Part of me thinks that every piece of material being sold with the project should be listed on this form with a cost and assigned sell, but in my business that would make for a very long spreadsheet.  So I am looking for help/suggestions on how to achieve this please.

Also if anyone is currently working with Quick Books Premier for Manufacturing and has tips please comment below.  Thanks!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Building Blunders

I was looking for pictures on this very subject and stumbled upon this blog.  I couldn't do better so I thought I would provide a link and let you see for yourselves.

When Construction Goes Wrong:


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Down South
We all have had it happen.  We all learn and grow from the challenges.  But during the travel southward it is a roller coaster ride.  I am talking about projects that bite (me in the ass!) 

No matter how hard one works it seems trouble lurks around every corner.  At 4:50 pm today I was bit.  I am hoping it is just a nip and I can remove the teeth tomorrow.  In the meantime, tonight, I am thinking about any and all possible solutions.  Until I know my course or have exhausted all possibilities I won't call the customer. 

I know these challenges are opportunities to shine but there are 5 or 10 minutes where I want to just scream! Of course I don't because it is counterproductive.  If I am really upset and need to get a grip I close my office door for a few minutes. 

What helps the most however is at the end of my day, on my drive home, my BFF and I spend 40 minutes expunging all that wasteful energy.  Some days we have equal amounts, some days one of us needs the whole 40 minutes.  The best are when we both have had great days full of productivity!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Let’s Blog Off – Things that make me go hmmm?

Every two weeks Bloggers unite for a day to write about a communal topic.  This week the title is where do you get your ideas?

That’s the real answer, whatever makes me go hmmm.  Unloading the dishwasher last night I had an hmmm moment.  It was a thought that gave me pause and then a laugh.  It will probably become a blog post. 

It is more introspective for me than an aha moment simply because I ponder the hmmm until I can write or think it out.  It may graduate to an aha moment or dive back into my subconscious until I am ready to face it.   I love when it is a laugh out loud moment!

That tilt of the head, for me, is a great feeling.  It means I am in the moment and not thinking ahead or behind.  Which happens far too often is this busy world.   

My excessive use of a calculator tells me I am not a left brain person.  Do right brain people hmmm more often than left brain?  I don’t know though I would tend to think so. 

What makes you go hmmm?


Monday, April 25, 2011

3 Day Weekend

Ya’ll are going to call me crazy but I have a hard time with time off unless I have activities specifically planned.  This weekend all I had planned were chores (which I don’t consider activities) I hadn’t gotten to yet.  All I hear in my head when thinking about starting a chore – it’s early I have the whole weekend!   Here it is Sunday at 5:30 and none of my chores have been completed except some shopping.

What I did instead? On Friday I worked a bit, went out and measured some doors for a customer.  Other than that I read, drew, painted, watched some movies and napped.  I know it is good to unplug and relax but I wish I had more...I don’t know focus, drive, energy – all three! 

Part of it is watching my budget; I no longer get in the car and just drive and discover new places.   But a big part of it is me.  Like so many I work hard 50-65 hours a week and there is little energy leftover.  I make lists with big plans, like this weekend, but many times I ignore it.  I also seem to work best “at the last minute”.   Makes for crazy!

When my co-workers ask me tomorrow if I had a nice weekend I will say yes, cause I did, but I will cringe a little inside knowing I didn’t get done what I should have.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day 2011

This day always reminds me of my mom.  She was into conservation before it was cool.  It started with birds and escalated somehow.

I remember being dragged (sometimes kicking and screaming) on these bird watching trips.  Getting there wasn’t bad but once we had gotten to the bird place the world slowed down.  I had to sit quietly and not jump about.  The car trips were so long and slow, not always fun for a kid.  I was always in the back seat someone would be driving and my mom would quietly say stop. Brakes slammed, everyone out the car doors with binoculars searching for the bird.  Oh and if you are ever birding here is a tip: don’t slam the car door. If you are with serious birders you will get a “look”.

My memory isn’t the best but the trip that stands out most in my mind was to the Everglades.  Back when alligators were afraid of people we walked through Everglades National Park and heard the roar of the bulls (male alligator) and could see them slithering off into the water.  On one path we ended up having to run for our lives because the mosquitoes were going to carry us off!

I saw painted buntings, peregrine falcons, bald eagles and more, not realizing at the time what a gift it was to be able to see these birds in their natural habitat.  Not understanding we would be destroying their homes.

My mom smoked so she always carried an empty baking soda can on the birding trips so she could flick the ashes into and store the butts.  Not once did a cigarette butt end up on the ground.   What we carried in we carried out.    

At home we were taught to turn off the water while brushing our teeth.  We hung our laundry outside to dry.  My mom also planted native plants so watering was at a minimum or whatever the rain brought.  She left a wonderful legacy as my cousin loves birding, my brother and his wife received an award for the native habitat they created in their yard and me....I have her smile.  We all try to be responsible citizens of this earth. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Right Fit

I am not an every size project fits me type salesperson.

It seems in today’s tough economy distributors are bidding on any and every project that comes their way.  While I understand the knee jerk reaction I personally don’t feel it is the best approach.   In order to provide the best experience for a customer I think both size and project type need to be considered.

A large distributor that employs estimators, salespeople, detailers, project managers and warehouse staff should be able to excel at a project with 600 openings.  That same project would likely cause a nervous breakdown to a small distributor where the salesperson wears each of those hats at every moment.   Another reason to really spend time making sure a project is the right fit, don’t over extend!  Financially 600 openings = 600 frames and doors, 1800 hinges and so much more, that is a lot of monetary output with payment running at 45-60 days. 

Personally I like to keep my customer service level high so I always get a phone call for the re-order.  You know the next job the boss is always asking about.  My own rule of 100 and under works best for me.  I typically don’t bid a project with over 100 openings unless it is for a very good customer and the count is close.

I just closed a 105 opening project which makes me excited and terrified all at the same time.  With my existing work load plus the new project I won’t bid a lot of work to make sure I meet the material and time requirements of the jobs.  In the meantime I will balance a lot of hats and be counting a lot of hinges!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Meet you in 10

I admit it I like a good meeting.  If a meeting has a goal, schedule and precise ending I think it can be very useful in keeping everyone informed.  When I started at my current job meetings were rare.  I was a little surprised so I suggested weekly production meetings again and again and again.  Finally everyone was on board and we have held a weekly team meeting since.  We discuss accounts receivables, quote requests, jobs in progress, lead times, marketing ideas and how we can provide better value to our customers.   I keep minutes, type them up and email them to all office/sales staff.   This has helped avoid double quoting on the same project, keeping sales aware of customer’s account status and the production schedule. 

We are all learning how to be more concise when reporting on our current work load.  More importantly to me I feel it helps us all feel part of a team instead of individual players.  We each get a chance to discuss concerns and express opinions on the state of our business. 

My goal this morning before walking into today’s meeting will be: be prepared; be brief; be supportive.

Our meetings aren’t nearly as funny!

What makes a meeting worthwhile for you?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Annual Musings

This time of year brings many things: taxes, spring, allergies, longer days filled with warmth.  What also comes this time of year is my birthday.  

I used to be very goal driven but the last 5 years or so I had gotten away from thinking about tomorrow.  This year though, I have been working toward getting back on track.  I have been listening to self-help books on my drive to work.  I find it starts my day off with a positive vibe and gets me revved up for my day. 

Another change this year was buying index cards and writing goals on one side and on the flip side a treat when I achieve that goal.  I would be overwhelmed if posted them all up on my board at the same time, so two go up.  One is typically a more challenged goal and one is a bit easier.   Right now the challenged goal is to pay off a credit card that got away from me.  My treat, when I succeed, will be to start saving for a new walkway between my driveway and front steps.  The easier goal is to eat 4 good dinners a week.  That may not sound like a big deal but as a single person I have been known to have popcorn for dinner. 

I think what I want to work on most this year is to simply be in the moment.  Whatever moment that may be: work, giving the dogs a bath or tweeting with a friend.  Each moment, trial or treat, is a gift that I need to embrace and I am very grateful to all my friends and family for filling my life.

If you have any suggestions on good self-help or sales books to listen/read please let me know!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lock It Up

Wood Lock
I had no idea locks had been around for so long.  Records show locks were found in Egypt as far back as 4,000 years ago.  Mounted on the door post the lock was a long wooded bolt with a slot that had several holes.  These holes were filled with wooded pegs that dropped into place with gravity and thus “locked”.

The Romans introduced the use of fixed obstructions in a lock, or wards, to prevent entry. You know the term “to ward off” well this is how it came to be.  In 1784 Bramah  locks were created and the use of sliders in a circular pattern were found to provide excellent security.  Bramah is the oldest lock company in the world and continues to manufacture over 200 years later.

Of course with the invention of the lock came the ingenuity of the lock picker.  Locksmiths rose to the challenge and invented keys with changeable bits along with alarm bells that went off when the bolt was turned. 

In Colonial America the key hung outside of the door it was a simple length of string.  Doors were latched on the inside with a pivoted wooded bar or bolt, one end dropping into a slot in the jamb. Attached was a piece of string that was threaded through a small hole to the outside. Pulling on the string  raised the bolt and opened the door.

Yale Key & Cylinder

As America grew in prosperity so did a demand for sturdier locks.  This is where Mr. Linus Yale Sr. began his lock business in Newport, New York in 1840.  He designed and manufactured high security locks that banks used.  Mr. Yale’s son joined his father’s business 10 years later and patented his father’s pin tumbler cylinder lock. 

 Mr. Walter Schlage advanced the cylindrical pin-tumbler lock in the 1920’s by placing a push button locking mechanism between the two knobs.  He also focused on the design of the lock treating it as an intricate part of the look of the door, paying attention to the knob design and finish.

Many locks companies have come and gone since and the advancement of locks continues.  Now we have electronic cylinders, biometric locks, card readers and more.  Still I think it is amazing that the Bramah, Schlage and Yale lock companies are not only still in business but continue to grow and produce quality locks.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

We Make Sure You Are Protected.

I joined a-fabco, inc. about a year and a half ago and  it has been an interesting fit.  I supply doors, frames and hardware and afab manufacturers and sells leaded doors, frames and hardware and much more.  I was brought on to offer the whole package, lead and non lead, to the customers.  I also brought loyal customers with me who consist of end users and general contractors.

I have been very busy with the non lead side of the biz but have managed to learn a few things about radiation shielding protection.  When you sit in the dentist chair and get those uncomfortable bite wing x-rays you wear a lead shield apron right?  The dental technician steps behind a barrier / glass / wall.  Those items along with the drywall are all lead to protect the other people nearby.  APhysicist determines the thickness of the lead protection based on a machines radiation output. Other areas where lead is required are CT Scans, Mobile Labs, Nuclear Medicine, Non Destructive Testing Rooms and Isotope Work Stations to name a few. 

1/4" Lead Mobile Barrier
  What the guys build in the shop is amazing! 

Vault Door

This is a mobile barrier with 1/4" lead that we are getting ready to ship to a customer. 

Here is a vault door that is 18" thick!  The hinges on these doors are crazy and I will be writing about those in the future.  We also offer design assistance. 

So the next time you are walking down a corridor in a hospital or any type of facility that has x-ray equipment you are protected, against radiation anyway.  If you would like to learn more please visit

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Let’s Blog Off - Stop the World

Every two weeks Bloggers unite for a day to write about a communal topic.  This week the title is If you could stop the world for a day what would you take the time to do?

Hands down, no thought needed, I would spend the day with my two nephews.  It sounds corny but they are both getting older – heck one is old enough to drink – and have busy lives.  I do not spend enough time with them.

My older nephew is incredibly gifted as an artist.  My younger nephew is so smart he aced his math FCAT’s a few years ago.  I would fly them to a small town in the west that had tons of snow on the ground.  Having grown up in South Florida they love what little winter they have experienced. 

We would hike and ski.  I don’t ski so hopefully there is a hospital nearby but hey since this is my made up day I just decided I can ski!  Have meals filled with old favorites and new delights.  We would talk.  Really talk so I could get to know them as the new men they are right now because it will change as they find their way through their life.  We have had some seriously silly moments so I know we would laugh.
I would make them take the time to watch a sunset to share a moment of breathless beauty.                                                                          

I am pretty sure both nephews would insist on watching movies.  I thought for a while my older nephew would major in film he watched so many movies.   One of their favorites!  

I would have my younger nephew show me the skills he has learned this past year as a Boy Scout.  The kid can throw a tomahawk!  Seriously!! 

And when the day was done I would pick up the phone and call my brother and sister-in-law and thank them for being dedicated, loving, and involved parents.

It would be a perfect day.

Monday, April 11, 2011

It’s all in the details

I met Angi through mutual friends.  I first saw her house at a party she threw for one such friend and was amazed at the design and details.  I couldn’t get enough of the kitchen floor as it was so unique.  What I didn’t know at the time was that she designed and built it herself.

Angi Brittain has loved creating and building things all her life but she initially planned on being a doctor and has a bachelors in pre-medical sciences.  She graduated with a Masters Degree in Public Health with a specialty in Epidemiology and Biostatistics.  Angi was a manager of an environmental department with an environmental, architectural and construction firm.  In her spare time she continued to build things.  Over time Angi became intrigued with what was going on over in the construction department so she cross-trained.  Eventually she decided to go for her GC license and passed on the first sitting!  

Realizing the scope of her passion for her hobby Angi decided to start her own design-build general contracting company called The Eva Claire Corporation.  Her daughters were her inspiration as she wanted to teach them with hard work, integrity and determination you can build anything, literally!

Part of her core value: Integrity is the foundation on which we build.  Our Company is in the business of general contracting for one reason; because we love what we do.  We love to take a dream and build it into a tangible, livable, workable space.”

Angi has created many dreams spaces for her clients.  Her eye for detail and respecting her client’s budget is, to me, what makes her stand out in this business.   She even designed a bar for a client that displays over 500 beer bottles.  Check it out on her website at to see pictures.  The Eva Claire Corp. was also just featured in Angie’s List Magazine and is both a Registered Small Business Enterprise and a Certified Woman Owned Minority Women Owed Business.

I am hoping someday to use her services to add onto my house but until then I will enjoy hearing about her latest project.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Night and Day

The Breakers

I have always been a night person.  When I worked for The Breakers Hotel, way back when, I worked the 3:00 pm – 11:00 pm shift and loved it.  I could get errands and chores done in the morning and party after work (I did mention it was a long time ago). 

I left The Breakers to follow my heart all the way to New Hampshire.  In NH staying out till 10:00 pm was apparently late!  I changed my ways and started getting up early, working the normal 8-5, and being in bed by 11.  I wasn’t thrilled but it was what my life demanded.

My heart broke and I moved back to Florida but to the opposite coast.  Again my job requirements were such that I had to be at work at 7:30 and to do that I needed to be in bed at 10:00.  This went on for 13 years so I thought it was my “normal” body schedule.

The company was sold several times and changed to the point it wasn’t the same company any more so I had come to a crossroads.  I decided to work from home for a company a few hours away.  I loved it for the first two years!  I was able to get up at 7 am and be at “work” by 7:30.  If business allowed I took a siesta in the afternoon which allowed me to sit back down at my desk at 10:00 pm at night and really hit my stride.  Yep still was a night owl. 

I stayed at that job for 4 years but realized after 2 that I really like having people around me and an office to go too.

Duncan having a siesta

What I have learned is that my body and mind works best if I could have a job where I could go to an office around 8:00 am and stay till say 2.  Home for lunch, a siesta, chores, and errands; then hit my home office around 9:00 for another 3-4 hours. 

Of course my best time isn’t what is normal for the construction industry so I will bide my time and dream of a day when it will.  When does your creativity flow?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Not just C'est la vie

The past four years have been very tough on the construction industry here in Florida and everywhere else too.  Companies who have been in business for years have closed their doors.  Others made tough decisions and made drastic cuts in personal.

I received a phone call last week from one of my team members, Danny.  He actually works for a manufacturer that I purchase from on occasion.  I call all the vendor, manufacturers, wholesalers who I use consistently team members because though we don’t work at the same company they definitely help me maintain and service the great customer base that I have.

Anyway, Danny called to share sad news, Jeld-Wen is closing their Tampa location.  I was so dismayed because my thoughts immediately turned to him, his family and all the employees at that branch. Trying to find another job in this industry is next to impossible these days.

Turns out Jeld-Wen is a class act.  After delivering the news they asked which employees would be willing to relocate to another branch.  Then they set up interviews for those employees with the manager at those branches.  If all went well the employee was “reabsorbed” into the other branch.  If an employee did not want to relocate they are being given a severance package AND a headhunter to help with resumes, thank you letters, and interview skills.  Not just a one time meeting but for a few months. 

Honestly that surprised me.  I haven’t heard of too many companies, recently, helping their soon to be former employees move on to their next opportunity. 

Will life be difficult for these employees?  Yes, but thanks to a caring company who values their employees it won’t be devastating.  My friend said upon first hearing the news he was very concerned but once Jeld-Wen started laying out their plan he didn’t hesitate, he will be working out the Kissimmee branch staring April 11.  Jeld-Wen has an employee that is going to work even harder because he believes and respects the company even more.
Now that is a company I am happy to purchase from.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Set me straight…

My neighborhood’s Home Tour was this past weekend and I volunteered to be a docent at a house and afterwards took the tour.  I admire the homeowners who chose to have hundreds of strangers walk through their homes.  There were 9 bungalows built in the 1920’s and 1 four square home.  All the homes had recently been remodeled and there is my dilemma.

The kitchens were beautifully remodeled.  Granite countertops, stainless steel appliances the latest in lighting, all straight out of HGTV.  It is just, that in my opinion, it doesn’t fit the house, at all.  I personally think a bungalow kitchen is timeless and I don’t understand why homeowners, who purchased a bungalow, get seduced by these DIY shows all showing the same materials show after show after show.  A classic kitchen saves money in that it is always in style and you won’t be taking the sledge hammer too it in three years.  Can we say avocado green refrigerators anyone?
My favorite house on the tour belongs to an architect and it, by far, melded classic design with some more modern counterparts.  It was gorgeous but not over the top ie. subway tile in the kitchen and bathrooms.  I loved each room and tried to nonchalantly settle into the library but they did eventually notice and said it was time for me to move on.  Even the garden potting area was beautiful.

My house was built in 1948 so no classic bungalow kitchen for me but I will take some hints.  The first has been when an appliance died the replacement was white NOT stainless steel, though each salesperson tried their best. Friends that got the latest stainless steel appliances have mentioned the “R” word.  As in rust, which in Florida is not unusual.   I haven’t decided on a countertop material but I will keep reading Paul Anater’s blog  and Nick’s at Cupboards and I know eventually I will find the right material.

My year of house had linoleum flooring.  I know this because when my new white refrigerator leaked I ended up with two holes in the very cheap square tiles through which I can see the green (at least it isn’t avocado green) original flooring.  I love Marmoleum because it offers tons of designs.  I am a basic person so a two color square pattern works for me but you could get really creative.  I am sure there is other flooring that is also appropriate so speak up in the comments section. 

There isn’t a good segue but I just have to show you the picture of the three different wall coverings that I found when I took some heavy vinyl off a wall in the kitchen. 

Of course a new kitchen for me is quite a ways on the horizon and by then who knows what new materials will be available. I am sure with a good designer and architect one could use these materials effectively in an old classic home.  So designers and architects set me straight!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Estimating Quality

I have been listening to a lot of Social Media Sales experts and they say “establish a relationship”,  “People don’t like to be sold, they like to buy” Jeffrey Gitomer, and be a go-giver not a go-getter”.  I agree with all that, truly I do.  I must because I am on Twitter, LinkedIn and now this new blog.

I believe wholeheartedly that relationships matter and I have been very lucky to have a loyal customer base, both end users and general contractors, some for over 15 years.  Of course I am always looking to add to that customer base because the more the merrier, right?

              Building addition in Rincon Ga.

The construction industry has changed vastly over the past few years and buildings are being built faster than ever before and for less money.  That concerns me.  How do I keep relationships when my competitor may be willing to undermine all that hard work by bidding so ridiculously low I can’t come close?  I have learned to not fight for those projects because I feel ultimately the general contractor is going to have quite the challenge with the doors/frames and hardware scope and will come back to me for the next job. For the most part that theory has been proven correct.

It seems to me establishing relationships is even harder for General Contractors as they are dealing with the Owner and the Owner typically changes on every job.  On top of that construction companies are now traveling further and further for projects so a local small GC may be bidding against a large construction firm from another state. 

Concrete Pipes - Rincon Facility
Case in point is Dale Davison and he is the owner of D.A. Davison Contracting, Inc.  I met Dale years ago when he called the company I worked for at the time asking for a bid on a project.  Thankfully he was awarded the project and in turn I was awarded the D/F/H scope and thus a business relationship was born.  I have been lucky enough to be part of many buildings Dale has built and have learned not only is the quality of his work is exceptional but he is an honorable person. 

The current business atmosphere where the all mighty dollar is king devastates a business like Dales' where workmanship, service and relationships matter.  You can say, well he needs to upgrade the business to the current market.  He has.  Dale branched out and received his GC License in a nearby state.  He has expanded his construction business to include residential.  Still he hurts because he refuses to compromise his standards of quality, he doesn’t cut corners and I am sure he isn’t the only general contractor to do so. 

I am not sure where we will all be when the building industry stabilizes but I hope the honorable businesses, like Dale’s, can hang on because eventually people are going to want quality and service again.

If you are looking for a General Contractor is the State’s of Florida and Mississippi please call my friend Dale Davison at Office 813-689-8358; Fax 813-689-8753; Cell 813-505-7545.  Or you can connect on LinkedIn