We talk about Management as a “Black Box” of unfamiliar tasks so let’s take a look inside that box.    The table below describes some of the topics that we cover in Construction Business Basics, but first a word of caution.  This can look overwhelming and some of it simply won’t look very interesting to you.   That’s OK though.  The point isn’t to make you an expert.  In fact, the objective is for you to spend less time on most of this in future.

There are two ways you can approach that objective:

  • Pretend something doesn’t exist and forget about it


  • Understand it, prioritize it and organize to get it off your plate

We think option 2 is the way to go.

Before looking at our topics, take the time to list the management tasks that you find most distracting or frustrating.   If you see your hot-buttons on our list of topics you can get a sense of whether Construction Business Basics covers what you want to know.

What if your issue isn’t on here?

Management is a pretty broad subject.  Just because our list doesn’t include things that matter most to you doesn’t mean we won’t cover them.   Sometimes it’s just a difference in language.  For instance, we’ll bet WSIB (or Worker’s Compensation) is on your list, and yes we’ll cover that.

A common theme for us is “your straightforward questions deserve straight answers”.  So let us have your questions.  Call or email us.  We want to hear about what matters to you and chances are we can help you out.

Subjects are color-coded here to indicate how detailed a subject needs to be. As the head of your company, you need to be involved in some things more than others. Some subjects you need to know pretty thoroughly, while for others you just need to know the work is getting done. Here’s how we break it down.

Working Knowledge: As the owner manager you must know the topic well and be capable of performing the full task
Understanding Advice of “Experts”: For these tasks you don’t need to do the work or the analysis but you need to understand how the information provided by others affects your business, and how to act on it.
Direct the Work of Others: These are tasks that others might handle from day-to-day but you need to understand what they do, why they do it, and how those duties integrate with the overall business.
Nice to Know: Not tasks as much as overviews of the business environment. Knowing these things provides a baseline for how to position your business and how to use what you learn through the general business community.




What it takes to run a business

Big or small, any business needs to perform key functions in order to maintain operations, meet government /regulatory demands, track finances, organize employees, and keep track of information. What are those standard business functions and how do they affect the way you run your business.

Survival Statistics

  • The bad news: Statistics are pretty grim.
  • The good news: You can avoid many of the causes of business failure if you know how to prepare. Do that and your odds of success improve significantly.

The Accountants Role

Accountants speak their own language, and much of what you pay them to do may not have any meaning to you. Everything an accountant does should benefit you and it would if you understood what they were talking about.

  • Understand financial statements
  • Understand cost structure, how it affects your decisions
  • Understand key financial indicators, what they tell you, and others about your business
Understanding Cash Lots of profitable businesses have no money in the bank. Understand why that is stay out of the cash-squeeze.

  • Reasons and risks when cash going out gets ahead of cash coming in
  • Why growth can hurt your business & how to avoid the harm.
  • Tools for tracking/anticipating cash demands
Pricing Stop getting beat up in negotiations. When you use consistent, rational methods to set your price, you make better selling decisions.

  • Understanding job-costs
  • Understanding relationship of gross profit / overhead costs / net profit
  • Calculating your price with appropriate mark-up
Budgeting -Why budgeting works.

-It’s not that hard. Most of it’s already done.

Taxation Guess what: Taxes aren’t killing you. Not understanding them might be.

  • Rates of taxation
  • Calculation of taxes and application of small business concessions
  • Impact of taxes on job costs & financial results
  • How do things compare in Canada to other countries
Licensing -Levels of regulation (federal, provincial, municipal)

-Licensing requirements of each

-Steps to secure those licenses

Banking -Why you need a banking relationship

-What bankers look for in clients

-What to look for in a banker

-How to remain in good standing with your banker

Legal -Types of business structure & what works for you

-How lawyers work with you

-Role of contracts

-Your legal obligations, as a vendor, as an employer

Insurance -Types of insurance (Vehicle, business/liability, WSIB, Extended Health….)

-Why it’s necessary

-Critical coverage to maintain & who provides it

Health & Safety -The demands on employers

-Legal requirements

-Practical/ethical requirements

-Structure of a Health & Safety program

Documentation -Why it’s critical

-Categories to maintain (eg. Financial, project, HR etc..)

-Importance of structure and searchability

Business Development In order to sell more, start by understanding what you’re selling

-Understanding differentiation, developing a value proposition

-Understanding the buyer’s decision making process

-How your communication/promotion should fit into the buying process

-Making the most of sales/marketing resources

Management IT Tools -Introduction to project management software

-Introduction to on-line workflow programs

-Social networking for building trades

Professionalism -The importance of a good impression

-Understand the full scope of your obligations

-Recognize that you set the tone for ongoing relationship

Vocabulary An unstructured information session to put definition to many terms and phrases. Many of these can cause confusion and stress simply because people don’t understand their meaning. A lot of complicated things become pretty simple when you understand the language.
People / Organizational Development -Production staff, administrative staff

-Baseline HR policies

-Establishing rules, consistency, fairness

-Focus on the boundaries between departments/functions

Facilities/Asset Management -Establishing routines for inspection/maintenance

-Establish accountabilities for inspection, monitoring & repair

-Reasons / methods for chain of custody

-Legal obligations

Purchasing/Vendor Management -Know what you buy, from whom and how much

-Supply chain / Inventory management

-Tracking consumption

Help For Small Business -Government programs

-Your business community (Chamber of Commerce etc…)

-Business networks

Growth – Getting Beyond Owner Operator -Identifying / understanding which variables affect growth

-Strategies for scaling up

-Understand risks of growth

-When & how to add assets

-When & how to add management capacity

Business Plan -Define what your business will be

-Define what you want from your business

-Understand what your business will need

-Identify where it all comes from

-Tie it all together in a plan

Establishing Value in Your Business -What will your business be without you

-Strategies for transitioning to new owners

-Ways that third parties will value a business

-Your business as a retirement plan?