November 2016 Newsletter
- Feeling thankful to Veterans, friends and fam, turkey tryptophan (and that the election is over!!)
- Good news: construction spending is up | Bad News: except for where we need it most – INFRASTRUCTURE!
- New! Mobile for SUBCONTRACTORS (finally!) – FREE WEBINAR.
- Kicking QB’s “CAN’T” — 26 things Sage 100 Contractor CAN do!
- The beginning of the end…of 2016. No worries, we got you covered!
- Timberscan in the house! December ONSITE free event featuring NEW productivity tools.
- Awesome ‘Tips and Tricks’ for Sage 300 CRE | Sage 100 CON | Sage Estimating
Why America’s Infrastructure is Failing
by Joanie Hollabaugh
Our current grade is a D+
Bridges collapsing, roads buckling, water and gas lines causing flooding and explosions – while residential and commercial construction are slowly recovering, what is happening to America’s infrastructure?
According to the article “Inside America’s crumbling infrastructure” published in The Week:
Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) releases a comprehensive assessment of U.S. infrastructure. Its most recent report card, from 2013, had an overall grade of D+. Catastrophic events remain rare, but the nation’s 607,380 bridges have an average age of 42 years, and one in nine is rated structurally deficient.
So, that means we have a report due out next year in 2017, and unfortunately, I can’t imagine the grade will get better. According to the article, most of our network of roads and freeways were built in the 1950’s and weren’t built for the amount of traffic growth or to last longer than 50 years. That means we’re pushing 70 years in service for many of our most traversed roads, bridges, and pipelines!
Who’s responsible for fixing it?
Technically, the government “owns” the upkeep of highways and roads via the Highway Trust Fund, which spends around $40 to $50 billion annually on construction projects. That amount was recently increased to a $91 billion, but the Federal Highway Administration thinks THAT amount needs to be doubled!
The domino effect on the grid
The Week’s article goes on to explain:
…serving the needs of 316 million people is so large and expensive to maintain, and it encompasses so many different services and utilities. It includes roads, bridges, mass transit systems, waste- and drinking-water management, levees, dams, ports, electrical grids, and broadband communication systems. And it is all interwoven into a complex web, so that failure in one area can have a cascading effect across the grid. For example, power outages during Superstorm Sandy shut down several water treatment facilities, which led to the release of roughly 11 billion gallons of raw sewage into East Coast waterways. “What we really need is some innovative thinking about financing,” said Department of Energy senior scientist Tom Wilbanks. “It’s kind of a national crisis.”
The Business Roundtable published a paper titled “Road to Growth: The Case for Investing in America’s Transportation Infrastructure” in September of 2015. They aggregated some convincing statistics:
- America Is No. 16: The United States’ overall infrastructure quality ranks 16th, behind Germany, France and Japan.
- Highways and Bridges: Urban highway congestion cost the economy more than $120 billion in 2011, and nearly one in four bridges in the national highway system is structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
- Waterways and Ports: Lock delays, port congestion and lack of facilities for larger ships added $33 billion to the cost of U.S. products in 2010.
- Aviation: The United States is home to just four of the world’s top 50 airports, and aviation congestion and delays cost the economy $24 billion in 2012.
- Transit Rail: Only 25 percent of transit rail station infrastructure is rated “good” or “excellent.”
Increased investment in public infrastructure leads to significant economic benefits:
- Up to $320 billion in economic output would be generated in 2020 if U.S. infrastructure investment were boosted by 1 percent of GDP per year.
- 1.7 million jobs would be created over the first three years by an $83 billion infrastructure package.
- As much as $3 in economic activity is created by every $1 invested in infrastructure.
The Business Roundtable paper advised: “The nation’s leaders can change course and rebuild this vital national asset. It’s time to strengthen our economic foundation by reinvesting in transportation infrastructure.” (Download the entire paper here.)
Overall impact on the economy
From a ConstructConnect (CMD Group) article entitled, “Construction Spending Edges Down In September And Is Up Modestly For The First Nine Months Of The Year Amid Private-Sector Growth & Public-Sector Declines,” they quoted the Association of General Contractors, as “urging” Congress and voters to pass water, building, and infrastructure repairs.
As construction starts are generally considered an indicator of economic health, the neglect in infrastructure investment is diluting overall construction spending. ConstructConnect contributor and AGC’s chief economist, Ken Simonson, states:
There is still plenty of oomph in private demand for construction and growing support for school construction, but public infrastructure investment is crumbling just when it is needed most,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “These conflicting trends have left total construction spending nearly flat for the past 15 months.
The AGC notes that a few states have increased spending on infrastructure, but many have NOT. So, they are taking their case to the public, in the hopes that will cause the government to take action:
Public-sector funding cuts for infrastructure aren’t just hurting the construction industry, they are also slowing commutes and undermining quality of life in many communities,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Voters should send a strong message that they want to drive better roads, drink better water and learn in better facilities.
Is a Private-Public Partnership the Answer?
Industry experts clearly are calling for an investment into the public arteries of our country. While cases have been made for individual states to take over the investment in repair and rebuilding, others have suggested a new type of management: the PPP model (private public partnership).
In this scenario, the potential for government overspending and over schedule is less risky. David Besanko, a professor of strategy at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern endorses this innovative partnership (from the Kellogg Insight website):
There are several benefits of funding projects through public-private partnerships. One is that it provides access to large amounts of up-front capital. “Many states have constraints on their ability to raise taxes or borrow money, and PPP projects can relax those constraints,” Besanko says. For example, a company might offset the price of a given highway in exchange for a license to run the rest stops along a particular corridor.
These partnerships might also lead to faster construction and better maintenance. Evidence from the World Bank suggests that PPP projects are more often completed on time than projects funded entirely by governments. And when private companies are responsible for not just the design and construction of a project but also its operation and maintenance, results tend to be more positive.
“You’re likely to design the project better if you know you’ll be responsible for maintaining that project for 30 years,” Besanko says. “This is in contrast to the traditional public model where you have a design firm and a construction firm responsible for engineering up front, and then there is a government agency responsible for maintenance.”
Sage Specials Ending Really, Really SOON!
For Sage 300 CRE Users
Until TOMORROW – Attend a MyAssistant webinar and receive 10% off!! You can register here.
Until November 15th – Existing PlanSwift and Onscreen users: “Trade up” to eTakeoff Dimension and Bridge and get 33% off ! Call Tony at 480.423.8300.
The Only Mobile/Cloud SW for Subs!
LAST CHANCE for eSUB Free Webinar — November 10th, at 11 am PST
Join LAI and eSUB Co-Founder, Benny Baltrotsky for an introduction to eSUB.
eSUB is the industry leader in mobile and cloud project management software for subcontractors. Built on 30-plus years of consulting expertise, eSUB’s easy to use, mobile and cloud software helps self-performing contractors increase productivity, communications, accountability, and profits.
What you’ll learn:
- Mobile is here! How to empower field and office teams to work efficiently together with field data collection. Empower your field crew.
- How eSUB’s modular platform helps Project Managers, Field Workers, Accountants, and Executives, across the entire construction company.
- How eSUB Users can easily enter and track all project information including Daily Reports/Time Cards, RFI, Submittals, Change Orders, Meeting minutes and more.
- How eSUB and Sage 300 CRE or 100 Contractor can reduce hours of manual data entry and increase accuracy of financial reporting.
Sage 100 Contractor CAN but Quickbooks CAN’T
Let’s face it, QuickBooks Contractor is great for a small startup company; it shows the expected financials and has an easy learning curve. However, it was NOT designed with job-specific financial information that contractors, specialty contractors, subcontractors, GCs and commercial or residential builders need most. The focus of Sage 100 (formerly MasterBuilder) is based around THE JOB.
The Sage 100 CON dashboard shows all of the same financials that QB does. However, it takes functionality to the next level with critical information of the JOB: cash flow by job, under/over billings by job, job contract budget and cost to date, job uncommitted billing, etc.
For example, the Job Contract, Budget and Cost to Date Status report in Sage 100 CON shows the contract, change orders to the budget, percent complete, and estimated profit on a job. Another exclusive feature in Sage 100 CON is the Committed Costs snapshot that lists standard Cost Codes separate from the parts list. QB combines those codes and locks them into one item category.
Unique also to Sage 100 CON, is the ability to enter “Committed Costs” to the job to show how much of the budget remains after you pay those commitments out; with QB you won’t see the money until you spend it.
From a comparison analysis by Sage, here are multiple (not all!) capabilities where Sage 100 Contractor absolutely CAN and QB can’t – AT ALL!
- Integration into accounting and operational processes
- Auto generate individual proposals orders, change orders, subcontracts, and more
- Auto maintain parts and pricing from multiple vendors in a database
- Handle multiple levels of detail, including parts, assemblies, costs codes, cost types, phases and bid items
- Gantt chart—CPM tracking and on-screen editing
- Project notices and conflicting resource reports
- Auto generate Gantt chart schedule tasks from takeoff
- Multiple purchase order types and variance tracking
- Subcontracts and subcontract change orders
- Change orders—creating individual documents for customer signature
- RFIs, RFPs, submittals, transmittals, drawings tracking
- Access to key project reports on mobile devices*
- Track multiple jobs on balance sheet and/or P&L
- Post job costs to balance sheet as WIP (work in progress) or Income Statement as COGS (cost of goods)
- Show or hide markup, profit, overhead, or combination on T&M invoice
- AR auto calculate and ability to track retention
- Auto generate letter to remind vendors of insurance expiration
- Track workers’ compensation code job task performed
- Labor reports reflecting budget vs. actual hours and budget vs. actual costs
- Multi state payroll in one paycheck
- Monitor equipment locations
Analysis and Reporting
- Personalized security settings ensure project managers can only have access to their assigned jobs
- Cost to complete including unbilled subcontracts and POs
- Over- and underbilling filtered by job status
- Workers’ compensation audit reports
- Scheduled report generation with delivery by email, print, or fax
Originally intended for prospective clients, we had so many people sign up for this webinar that we changed the agenda to a deeper dive of Sage 100 CON features for current clients!
Learn more about your current software and find out about a few new products too (hint: mobile project management). Join us on November 17th for a live, interactive event!
Don’t own Sage 100 CON but want to know more? Join us for a webinar on December 8th and see if it’s time for you to use a system built for construction accounting!
The Beginning of the End!
Four LAI resources to help you at 2016 Year End
This year, we are going to ‘segment’ our Year End training by priority and by calendar order (for getting it done)! We’ll start off with a free half hour ‘cheatsheet’ session, if all you need are helpful resources to close the year.
Buy Two, Get One Free
If you need more comprehensive help for YE, we are offering 6 more hours of training, from which you may pick and choose. If you want to attend all three paid sessions – we’ll give you the Archiving class FOR FREE! You’ll save $149 on top of the free Cheatsheet session.
Yup, we are that nice. And we want you to have a stress-free, happy Year End.
The ‘Cheatsheet’ Session – December 1
FREE! Join Senior Enterprise Certified Consultant, Kyle Zeigler, as she hosts a live, online event that reviews what you need to know to prepare for Year End. You’ll get links to resources (Sage resources and ACA docs), plus a downloadable checklist (cheatsheet) to help you prepare for year end. She’ll also give you a sneak preview of the exciting changes in the Version 16.1 upgrade!
FEE – $149. In this 2-hour online training, Kyle will instruct you how to use Aatrix forms for W2s and HR forms plus tips for reconciling data in PR and more.
FEE – $149. In this 2-hour online training, Kyle will address the sequence and processes for closing applications, how to verify vendor totals, and step-by-step process for preparing 1099s in Aatrix.
Archiving – February 2
FEE – $149. This 2-hour online class will give you all the tips you need for proper archiving. You will learn practices that will help reduce processing time for reports and Sage 300 CRE tasks, as well as protect your data against risk of loss.
New Productivity Tools for Timberscan
FREE Lunch + Learn at LAI Training Center,
Tuesday December 6th from noon to 1 pm
It’s been a while since we had a group of Sage 300 CRE users in the house – and Timberscan has been a longtime favorite topic for users as well as consultants! While you’ve been gone, Timberscan has been busy, adding new features to benefit your productivity.
Here’s a list of what you may be missing:
- Mobile App — mobile invoice approvals
- eForms — automated forms creation and mobile CC app with automated reconciliation
- Capture — autocode your invoices
- AIM — integrated Document Management for Sage 300 CRE
Follow LAI on Social Media for immediate construction and technology news!
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn LAI Page | LAI Sage 300 CRE Users Group
Upcoming LAI Online Training and Networking Events:
Archiving Best Practices
This 2-hour presentation will provide Sage 300 CRE users with step-by-step instructions and live demonstration of procedures used to archive data in all modules, including the creation of separate archive folders for GL and JC.
Getting Real About Version 20 – Part 2
by Pam Schulz, Sage Certified Consultant
A few months ago, I discussed the issue of “Private Reports” vs “Shared Reports.” Before upgrading to Sage 100 Contractor 2016 (v20), you MUST review your reports and know what will happen when you upgrade. You can fix some issues NOW so that you are ready to print smoothly when it is time to upgrade.
What happens to my SAGE reports when I upgrade?
- “Canned” reports are loaded when you install the software. You do not need to worry about these.
- “Custom” Reports that are SHARED (these are stored on the “network”) are loaded in the appropriate locations on the network when you “migrate” the reports through the Sage utility. You WILL want to test these and “fix” if needed.
- “Custom” Reports that are PRIVATE (These are stored on an individual’s machine) are loaded when Sage 100 Contractor is launched on that computer. (These will continue to “override” a SHARED copy of the same report for the private user.)
- “3rd party” reports need to be loaded, tested and adjusted separately – there is no utility in the upgrade to deal with these.
So, what are the potential “issues?”
- Some of your reports may require a “fix”- perhaps a calculation needs to be updated to fit with the new requirements.
- You may not want the PRIVATE report(s) to migrate. Or, you might need to renumber/rename reports so that you are seeing both the private and the shared versions.
- You MAY have “3rd party” reports- these need to be loaded, tested and adjusted separately.
What actions can I take NOW to ensure that I am ready to upgrade?
- CLEAN UP unwanted Private Reports.
- Remember, if you have both a PRIVATE and a SHARED copy of the same report the PRIVATE copy will override the SHARED copy FOR THAT USER. This means that one person could be seeing a different report than “everyone else.” Now is the time to clean this up. Do it BEFORE launching v20 for the first time on a particular computer.
- These reports are stored as follows:
- In “My Computer”, or “Windows Explorer,” locate the following path (make sure you have your settings checked to “See Hidden Files”) C:\users\(your user name)\appdata\local\Sage\Sage 100 Contractor).
- Here you will see the “Custom Reports” and the “Report Forms” folders.
- Open the appropriate folders, find your report or form, and delete or rename it. (Or, instead, you can create a folder called “unused reports” and move it there if you are afraid to delete it.) Once you have deleted the Private report, you will now see the “Shared” version like everyone else.
TEST your Custom Reports
- You can load v20 along-side of your current version 19. Migrate the reports and test them at the same time you are doing the test migration of your company. I have found the best way to test the reports is to log in and try to run them. If there is an issue an error message will be displayed.
- If you would like to have “us” test and fix your reports, contact the office and this can be arranged (call 480-423-8300 and ask for Carolyn).
CONTACT 3rd party report writers
- Your 3rd party reports will not be migrated during the upgrade process. Contact the report vendor for help in migrating reports such as those done in Crystal Reports, etc.
A few hours spent ahead of time will ensure that you are ready to print your reports when you go live on the new version. Understanding what “happens” during the upgrade process will give you the information needed to plan the upgrade and fix issues ahead of time. And issues fixed “now” will remain “fixed,” so you are not spending any extra time being prepared.
Avoid the stress and take care of these details BEFORE you need to print “in a hurry.”
What You Need to Know about CRE Version 16.1
Submitted by Kyle Zeigler, Sage Senior Certified Consultant
Considering Version 16.1? Here’s what you need to know!
Sage Year End support for 15.1 and 16.1 only
Sage has recently announced the release of Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate version 16.1. In related news, Sage confirmed that the year-end update – which includes cumulative software patches and updates of government forms – will only support versions 15.1 and 16.1. If you are presently using any version of Sage 300 CRE other than these two versions, it’s not too early to start planning your upgrade to a supported version. Be aware, though, that there are some important considerations when choosing the version for your upgrade!
Version 16.1 contains some very exciting changes to how users will access the features of the Sage 300 CRE applications. However, what will be enthusiastically welcomed by some users may be distressing to others, particularly those long-time Sage 300 CRE/Timberline users who have stubbornly resisted the switch from TS Main to Desktop (you know who you are!). In version 16.1, TS Main is still available, but it must be launched from Desktop – a likely ploy by Sage to gradually nudge you into the future direction of the software’s development. Those users will need to join us eventually in this bold new world, and version 16.1 might just be the version that helps you comfortably make the transition.
The best of…
What’s exciting about version 16.1 is the ease with which the features of the software can now be accessed in Desktop. Gone is the complex and sometimes confusing display of folders and subfolders! MyTasks are now Favorites, and the Home Page can now accommodate multiple tabs of any combination of web pages or Crystal reports. The newest operating systems are supported (Windows 8 and Windows 10), and issues with Purchasing and Inventory in multiple company folders have been resolved. And with an updated Simba ODBC driver, reports (especially Crystal reports) run faster. (Hold that thought, though, and keep reading for the downside of the new ODBC driver.)
As we have seen with some past version upgrades, when some features are improved, the integration with other third-party products may lag behind. Such is the case with the newer ODBC driver.
For now, companies that use ODBC-dependent applications or solutions such as MyAssistant or Office Connector need to hold off on upgrading to version 16.1 and only upgrade to version 15.1. Integration with these products is not yet supported by version 16.1. It is always recommended that users check with third-party application providers before upgrading to any version of Sage 300 CRE to make sure the version is supported with their products.
Don’t ignore the Release Notes!
If you do make the decision to upgrade to version 16.1, you’ll want to do a little preparation before installing the upgrade. First, read the Release Notes! In particular, if your users have created custom Desktop configurations, be sure to have those users save their configuration as a named *.dsk file (not as Default.dsk). This will help preserve their personal configuration so that it can be easily incorporated into the new Desktop features. If this is not done, those Desktop configurations will be lost during the upgrade process.
Videos about version 16.1 are available on YouTube and through the Sage Knowledgebase, and helpful documents about both versions 15.1 and 16.1 are available through the Knowledgebase.
If you would like more information about upgrading your Sage 300 CRE software, or would like to schedule a Sage certified consultant to assist with your upgrade, please contact Ledgerwood Associates at 480-423-8300.
If you would like more information, or need any assistance with your Sage 300 CRE software, please contact Ledgerwood Associates.
Improve your bid-hit ratio
Reprinted with permission from Sage
Top 5 Essentials of a Winning Strategy
Contractors often think if they bid enough jobs to the same customers, eventually they’ll get their share, but this won’t get you the positive results you want. As with fishing, you must change your estimating and bidding strategies to get the big ones to bite more often. In the end, your goal should be to improve your bid-hit ratio. —George Hedley, owner of Hedley Construction, Hardhat BIZCOACH
1. Know and track your bid-hit ratio
Do you know what your bid-hit ratio is? If not, you’re missing out on an important way to measure the success of your bidding process. Construction firms of all sizes can benefit from making that simple calculation to compare the number of bids sent out to the number of jobs won. And, as a general rule of thumb, lower ratios indicate a higher rate of success.
But it shouldn’t stop there. Why? Because even the elusive 1:1 bid-hit ratio doesn’t guarantee your firm’s profitability or success. Many contractors overlook the importance of following their bid-hit ratios over time and project type. However, if you stick with it, this analysis will provide valuable information that can help you improve your odds. Tracking your bid-hit ratio can reveal where to focus your bidding efforts in the future—and the projects to avoid—so you can optimize your bid strategy.
2. Understand your true job costs
To improve both your bid-hit ratio and profitability, you need to clearly understand your true job costs. Stiff competition means you have to nail the price of your bid so your firm not only wins the work, but also maintains a nice profit margin.
Using job cost accounting software, you can get the information you need about job costs—from labor and materials to overhead and profitability. Get project estimates as close to the final job costs as possible by looking at current data and related details.
3. Add some face time during the bid process
Your estimator has access to all the requirements and numbers needed to prepare the proposal. So what’s missing? Sometimes there’s no substitute for personal interaction when cultivating a business relationship. One way you can improve your bid strategy is to add a meeting—preferably face to face—with the decision maker.
4. Give your bids an extra boost
While price is always important in the bidding process, you might be surprised at what other little extras could make the difference in improving your bid-hit ratio. Once you’ve met with the decision maker, add that
compelling differentiator to your proposal. In addition to offering a competitive price, demonstrate how your firm will go above and beyond expected levels of quality and service. And be sure to describe
what specifically qualifies your firm to be the best for the job.
5. Improve accuracy and speed
To improve your bid-hit ratio and overall bid strategy, you need to build bids quickly, accurately, and confidently. Modern estimating software is built using best-practice standards and can improve the
speed of preparing estimates by 50% or more.