February 2016 Newsletter
What we’re talking about in February:
- February is a weird month, symbolically speaking.
- Recovery+ challenges. The Sage / AGA “2016 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook” Report
- Who knew? The Office and the Field might date!
- Even small businesses need HR policies in place – protect your company with some “Sage Advice”
- Tips and Tricks for Sage 100 & 300CRE, CON, Estimating and Accounting
Happy Leap Year and a Whole Lot More
February is a busy month this year: Groundhogs Day, Mardi Gras, Presidents’ Day, Valentines’ Day, the Phoenix Open, the Superbowl – AND Leap Day.
So let’s see, you have rodents predicting weather, partying N’Awlins style, historical figures and furniture sales, hearts + flowers + jewelry, golf craziness and football mania, plus an extra day of work this year!
Perhaps “Punxsutawney Phil” should have rolled over for six more weeks of sleep!
2016 = Recovery and Challenges
The Challenges Facing a Growing Industry: The 2016 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook
Jumping straight to the conclusion:
Contractors are expecting 2016 to be a mostly positive year. Most firms expect key market segments to expand or remain stable, they plan to expand their headcount and they are prepared to invest in new technologies.
The 13-page Outlook report reflects the ‘wobbly’ mindset of the construction industry – contractors are slightly less optimistic about 2016 (due to 2015’s performance) but are willing to spend more in IT; they are very worried about the workforce shortage; however they’re bullish about the retail, warehouse and lodging segment.
Most firms plan to add headcount, and have been forced to up their compensation and benefit packages to be competitive. At the same time one respondent declared, “Obamacare is killing us. Nothing left for pay increases.” Seventy-nine percent of respondents reported increased health/benefit costs in 2015. And 81% expect them to keep rising.
Thusly, it’s a bit of a Catch-22 for contractors. Credit conditions are improving, increasing construction growth opportunities – yet 47% of survey respondents report unskilled labor and worker shortages as their major challenges.
Fast Forward to Sunny Weather
In the good news department, the “cloud” is no longer a nebulous term in construction. Four years ago, 45% of the survey respondents weren’t familiar with the cloud – but in 2015, 59% currently use or plan to use cloud-based software.
Back at the Beginning
The opening summary of the Outlook seems to understand that with recovery, come challenges.
Most participants in this year’s Outlook expect the industry’s recovery to continue, but appreciate that with growth will come challenges. While significant, these challenges can all be overcome. The 2016 Outlook makes clear that firms will succeed when the industry and public officials find effective ways to recruit and prepare future workers, make sure they are safe, manage health care costs and encourage smart investments in technology. In other words, 2016 won’t be easy, but should definitely be a good year for construction firms.
The Field vs. the Office – Can’t We All Just Get Along?
It’s no secret that when it comes to construction project management that the field and the office have never really been on the same page. Field project managers can’t access info they need to keep projects on budget and on schedule without interrupting the office. And office staff are obliged to help manage project costs in addition to their everyday duties. It’s a potential ‘no win’ for General Contracting companies using Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate software, if the entities aren’t in full cooperation.
Actually, Yes – With a Cradle to Grave Solution
Sage Construction Project Center (SCPC) is a web-based project management solution (from bid to close out), that is going to reconcile the relationship between company adversaries. Developed specifically for the GC audience, SCPC has some features that Ledgerwood’s Director of Sales, Tony Merry, is very excited about. The following are what Tony considers the Best of the Best.
Best End Game. Ever.
Tony explains that every company expends an enormous amount of time and resources producing the Close Out package at the end of a project.
If you run your entire project within Sage Construction Project Center (SCPC), you can create the entire Close Out package IN ONE CLICK. This saves days, if not weeks – of collecting files, drawing, and documents and accounting data to hand to the client.
What’s even better, is that this historical data is archived to an html file, which you can open as a web page from wherever you have internet access!
The Quick List
- Bid management is linked directly from email to SCPC
- Multiple CSI codes
- Bidders network (free with software) – 50k+ users and 5K+ unique companies of subs, architects, etc.
- Dashboards – no more cost management for PMs
- “Extras”(sub-jobs or phases) as a separate line item
Want a demo on SCPC? Email us to set up a one-on-one appointment with Tony Merry.
From the Sage Advice Newsletter for HR Management
No matter how small your company is, it needs a personnel policy in place. Many people have a different sense of decorum, but having a protocol in writing will let your employees know what you require of them and what they can expect of you.
Handbooks also provide guidance on how to conduct yourself in the office. Plus, they keep everybody in your business on the same page, informed about how many vacation or sick days are available and how to behave when representing the company in public. You might even put guidelines in place letting your staff know what company information is OK to discuss and what is verboten on their personal social media accounts.
With that said, it can be a daunting prospect as an entrepreneur with a small business to know every single detail you should cover in your policy. Let’s take a look at the most important ones you’ll need when hiring on new employees:
Develop a schedule for your staff members that describes how many hours a week you expect them to work and the office hours they should keep. While establishing a schedule policy, let them know the procedure for reporting absences and sick days. Your policy also needs to detail any flexibility you can offer your employees. Can they work from home or telecommute some days? Will you allow them to work a half day and make up for it at a later date?
Having a good work schedule in place will provide your office environment the structure it needs.
You must address employee compensation in your handbook or policy. Inform your staff regarding the necessary state and federal deductions you must make to their paychecks and how voluntary benefits will affect their pay. Tell your workers how and when they will be paid, whether it’s every two weeks or monthly, and how you will address overtime. In your policy, detail your guidelines for performance reviews, bonuses, promotions and raises.
Ensure that your personnel handbook includes information about anti-discrimination policies that you must abide by.
Even if you work in front of a computer in a carpeted office all day, you still need workplace safety policies and requirements in place to keep you and your employees safe from mishaps. These policies can also save your business from hefty fines if an employee has an accident that results in injury.
While you already set rules in place regarding work hours, your staff members also need to know what steps you will take if you find their work, progress or behavior lacking. Having a detailed disciplinary policy in place means your employees know what you want from them. It should also describe the approaches you will take to improve their development or terminate them if it comes to that.
You’re not obligated to create more disciplinary practice codes, but many businesses see the benefits of adding extra ones to ensure they aren’t held liable for employee actions. Consider putting a substance abuse plan in place along with guidelines on using company devices. If staff members use your office computers or phones to commit a crime, you could be on the line if you don’t have a clear policy in place forbidding it.
Interested in an HR management solution? LAI is a Business Partner for Sage HRMS software. Call us at 480-423-8300 to discuss your company’s growth needs.
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Upcoming LAI Online Training and Networking Events:
The construction season is fast approaching!
Join us for this informative presentation and learn how you can gain greater control over your projects, better communication between the field and office and higher confidence from your Surety by creating integrated project cost forecasting that backs up your Work in Progress reporting using Sage Office Connector.
How Do You Know What You Don’t Know?
Submitted by Walt Mathieson, Certified Sage 100 Consultant
One of my favorite clients sent me an email this morning that asked for my assistance with the following:
One of my goals is to find out from you what is in [Sage 100 Contractor] that we can use for more effective results for this next year. I don’t know what I don’t know. I am familiar with what I use all the time but I believe there is more available that I am not aware of. We will experience great growth this year. We will be hiring additional staff but I want to make sure we are effective and efficient with the tools we have in hand to maximize our results.”
This client has used the program for decades and might be described as a “power user,” but she has a nagging suspicion that there may be more functionality in the program than what they are currently using. This is a pervasive problem with many of the users that I come across. This is often understandable since initial implementations are often geared toward getting a new user up and running with the basic accounting capabilities they had with their previous accounting package. Too little time and attention is devoted to identifying and learning new functions that can benefit their organization.
How did I respond to my client’s request for assistance? My reply included the following:
There are a couple of ways to assess the “not knowing what you don’t know” problem. I could spend a day nosing around your office, observing and asking questions to try to identify areas that can be improved. Or you and your staff (accounting and project management) can make lists of things that annoy them, things that they spend valuable time doing in Excel or Word, things they wish they had, things they suspect the program should do but they just don’t know how to do, etc. The lists can be compiled and sorted and a [training] plan can be developed.
Many clients have purchased modules of the program and then left those modules unused for years! I often see Estimating, Document Control, Equipment Management, Scheduling, Change Orders (!), Insurance Certificates (!), Credit Card Management, ACH/Direct Deposit Payroll and Vendor Payments, and similar modules forgotten and unused, or perhaps just underused. Wise clients will take a little time to scan through the program menus just to remind themselves in general sense of what the program can do, and then call their Certified Consultant to ask if it might be of use to them.
Clients are always calling with requests for a report that shows certain information that they need to run their business. Often the report already exists in the program and a Certified Consultant can point them in the right direction and give them pointers on how to use report selection criteria to hone in on their specific need. If a report doesn’t already exist, a Certified Consultant can usually create a custom report to meet their need.
If you wonder what you don’t know, take the time to jot down notes about those things that annoy you about how you use the program, what tasks or reports you spend too much time preparing with Excel or Word, what things you wish the program could do for you, or what data you want from the system that you currently aren’t receiving. Then give your Certified Consultant a call and talk it over with them. It may cost you some consulting fees, but the end result is usually well worth the investment.
Current Version Information
Sage released the first 2016 Payroll Tax Table update on December 17, 2015. Version 19.7.28 contains all federal and state payroll tax table data available as of that date that are effective in 2016. It also contains a few enhancements and fixes related to payroll processing.
On January 21, 2016, Sage released the January 2016 payroll tax update, Version 19.7.43. It contains revised payroll tax tables for states that were late in publishing their 2016 tax tables, including Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and the District of Columbia. It also includes a few more enhancements and fixes related to payroll processing. However, Sage has since advised that this update has caused a problem with the Reconcile Credit Card Statement process. If you have payroll in the affected states, you should consider installing Version 19.7.43 so that your payroll tax withholding is correct, knowing that you may have challenges with your credit card reconciliations. Otherwise, defer installing this latest version until Sage published a revision or later update.
More about Sage 100 Contractor here. Call Ledgerwood Associates at 877-918-8301 today and we’ll match your needs to the best solution.
Email Walt at email@example.com.
Submitted by Kyle Zeigler, Sage Senior Certified Consultant
Don’t you wish there were shortcuts to fame and fortune? Well, we can’t help you with that, but we can help you save time and keystrokes with some handy shortcuts in Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate (Timberline):
Sage 300 CRE Shortcuts and Function Keys (in most applications):
- [TAB/ENTER] Go to the next field.
- [SHIFT + TAB] Go to a previous field.
- [CTRL + TAB] Within a record – go to the next tab.
- [F1] Displays a Help window.
- [F2] Accept entered information (Save and Exit).
- [F3] Exits a window or command.
- [F4] Displays a list of choices.
- [F5] Displays selection criteria/conditions for an operation.*
- [F6] Select a range of records.*
- [F7] Go to the previous record or window.
- [F8] Go to the next record or window.
- [F9] Add a note or link a file to a record.
*In Purchasing and Inventory:
- [F5] Displays an item tree search when in the item code field.
- [F6] Brings up Additional Information detail, where available.
- [F11] Creates a new requisition, order, change order, return authority, receipt or invoice.
- On any date field requiring input, when using the calendar, you can click on the year or month to select a different date.
- PO Shortcut: From the Inquiry menu, select Order. On the Orders tab, you can double-click in any field on the grid that appears in the right pane to bring up Purchase Order Detail information for viewing.
- IV Shortcut: From the Tasks menu, select Enter Stock Receipts, Enter Stock Issues, or Enter Stock Transfers, right-click anywhere in the window and select Edit Batch Header. Change the Header information for the Batch Date, Accounting Date, or Description fields. In Enter Stock Transfers, the Operator, Batch Value, or Number of Entries Header information can also be changed.
- Windows Key + E
- Opens a new Explorer Window. Probably one of the hottest Windows keyboard shortcuts. This one gets a lot of hoorahs!
- Windows Key
- Displays the Start Menu.
- Windows Key + D
- Minimizes all windows and shows the Desktop.
- Windows Key + D
- Opens all windows and takes you right back to where you were.
- Windows Key + F
- Displays the Find all files dialog box.
- Windows Key + L
- Lock your Windows computer.
- Windows Key + M
- Minimizes all open windows.
- Windows Key + Shift + M
- Restores all previously open windows to how they were before you Minimized them.
- Windows Key + R
- Displays the Run command.
- Windows Key + F1
- Displays the Windows Help menu.
- Windows Key + Pause/Break
- Displays the Systems Properties dialog box.
- Windows Key + Tab
- Cycle through the buttons on the Task Bar.
- Windows Key + U
- Displays the Utility Manager with accessibility options; Magnifier, Narrator and On-Screen Keyboard.
- Alt + Tab
- Toggle (switch) between open windows.
If you need help applying a solution recommended in any of the above articles, or need help accessing the Sage knowledgebase, please contact Ledgerwood Associates at 480.423.8300.
IRS Extends ACA Filing Deadlines
Submitted by Bryan Eto, CPA
The following table provides some important federal tax information for 2016, as compared with 2015. Many of the dollar amounts are unchanged or have changed only slightly due to low inflation. Other amounts are changing due to legislation.
How to Integrate Excel into Sage Estimating
Submitted by Paul Asnicar
You can easily integrate your Excel Files into Sage Timberline Estimating via thru a Model!
Most customers that are aware of “Model Takeoff” think it is only used as a conceptual estimating tool. However, you can use the “GETCELLNUMBER” and “GETCELLTEXT” as a way of pulling key information from an Excel File. This becomes very handy if you have sales people, users only doing quantity takeoff, or any other possibility for those who utilize an Excel File.
The other advantage is to keep users out of the estimating software, yet allow the ability to help the estimating workflow/process via a spreadsheet.