Owners of construction companies are stereotyped as being hands-on, dirt-covered, hardhat-wearing hardasses who bark orders at their crews and conduct business on top of a sheet of plywood set up on two sawhorses, or out of a dusty, cluttered trailer whose air conditioner either doesn’t work, or works so loudly that it drowns out normal conversation. So far, so good. This is perfectly acceptable for working in the field. But what does your bricks-and-mortar office say about you, your business values, and your clientele—especially the ones you’re trying to attract?
Certain businesses cater to wealthy clients in posh areas that require impressive offices. Your office is a direct reflection of your values and aesthetics, but you don’t have to operate beyond your profit margin to make a good impression. Consider having an upscale office space to help you maintain a professional image that will attract high-end projects, as well as give you a home base to trumpet your achievements.
Whether your business is expanding or you have an established office that’s in need of a makeover, consider the following factors as you create your business storefront.
Rent or Buy?
Perhaps the first question to consider is whether it’s time for you to stop paying rent on your commercial office and simply buy the property, or buy or rent a different office space. Here are some questions to help you determine whether owning commercial property is right for your business.
- Will the building help or hinder your growth? Take a look at how fast your company has grown since you started it and try to predict how much space you will require in the future. You don’t want to be limited to the small storefront you’re in now if you’re growing fast. On the other hand, if your building has adjacent spaces occupied by other tenants, you might be able to gradually grow in place by taking over neighboring leases.
- Can you pay the mortgage? Calculate whether your monthly costs would rise if you took on a mortgage. Is it much higher than the rent you’re paying? If your business can’t afford an increased expense, it could create cash-flow problems.
- Can you make the down payment? A commercial building purchase may require a large down payment, usually around 20%. If this payment puts your business in a cash crunch, it might be safer to hold off on property ownership for now.
- How much control do you need? You may eventually need to drastically alter your space as your company grows and discovers its own identity. For instance, you may want to paint all the walls blue, knock down walls, or install heavy machinery that would be difficult or expensive to remove. Most landlords will not allow these sorts of alterations, especially if they are prohibited in your lease agreement. Purchasing a building will give you far more control over your own business and remove obstacles that would prevent its growth.
- Will write-offs be possible? If your business is profitable, property ownership can lessen your tax burden. You may be able to write off a portion of the building’s cost each year in the form of depreciation. Another possibility is to buy the building personally and then rent it to your company, which is an ownership structure that has some tax advantages.
- Is a good building available? Research the market to see whether it’s a better idea to buy your existing building or find a more desirable location nearby. Keep in mind that moving and altering a new location will add to your short-term business costs and require advertising to let customers know where you’ve gone. An experienced commercial real estate agent should be able to help you with this research.
- Are you cut out to be a landlord? Maybe you’re fed up with dealing with a landlord, but are you ready to become one? If your building has other tenants, you’ll need to deal with all sorts of problems that arise and make difficult decisions, ranging from building improvements to rent increases. Do you have the time to accommodate these additional responsibilities? If you don’t have the patience or time and you still want the property, consider hiring an experienced property manager.
- What is the building’s potential as an investment? Distance yourself from your business for a moment and remember that property ownership is itself an investment. You might need to sell the building in the future, which can make you money even if the business fails. For instance, you may want to purchase a building that you know won’t attract much foot traffic if you think the building’s value will increase enough to make up for the lack of revenue. Is the building in a thriving commercial district that’s popular and full of tenants, or is it mostly empty? Investigate the price trends. Will you be in the location long enough for it to increase in value?
The decision to switch from being a renter to a buyer of commercial real estate requires time for research in order to develop the most feasible plan for your finances and your long-term business goals. A commercial real estate professional can help with the financial questions, and a commercial property inspector can help with the physical and structural questions in your decision-making process.When you’re ready to upgrade your business to a new space, here are some factors you should consider before making an appointment to look at any properties.
Find a commercial property that is centrally located. Travel expenses may be deductible, but time is still money, so don’t spend too much on commuting. You also don’t want to spend more time away from your family than you already do.
Convenience is important both for productivity and professionalism. Be sure you’re close to other businesses that provide your own business with necessary supplies and materials. In addition to lumber and other items for projects, you’ll need printer cartridges, copier paper, and other miscellaneous office supplies. Imagine running out of printer paper and not having convenient access to supplies while you have a client waiting for a copy of his contract. Even if such things happen to everyone from time to time, your client is sure to remember this lack of preparation, which translates to a lack of professionalism.
In addition to stores and other businesses that you must rely on for your daily operation, consider nearby amenities, such as restaurants in different price ranges, where you and your staff can grab a quick lunch, and others where you can entertain business clients.
Do you want a shop adjacent to or attached to your office? Most contractors find this addition vital to their productivity. Find out what kind of zoning is required to accommodate the activities you want to conduct, and look for a location that will provide both an inviting office for clients and a shop that’s out of sight for projects. If you find a rental space that’s large enough that’s not already set up as a shop, you can negotiate with your landlord on outfitting it to your needs. (There are tips to follow on how to make this happen for your business.)
Expenses & Lease Terms
With the addition of increased rent, utilities and insurance, perhaps upgraded equipment and furniture, and the cost of revised letterhead and marketing materials, your operating expenses willspike. Can you afford them, based on the revenue you’re generating? If you use an accountant (or even if you don’t), find out what business expenses and capital assets are deductible from your income tax. You may be able to afford more for your upgraded office than you thought you could.
Is the commercial property owner amenable to negotiating lease items, such as build-outs, rent deductions, early release from the agreement, or a break on utilities? As many small business owners are shutting their doors or moving their enterprises into their homes, exploit this aspect of the current economic downturn and negotiate with your prospective landlord on any details you can.
Can you share a rental space with a complementary business? What factors of compatibility are important to you for maintaining productivity and professionalism? Also, find out what areas of the premises are defined under your lease agreement, in addition to your responsibility for shared spaces.
Once you’ve found an upgraded commercial space to move into, you’ll need to make to-do and to-buy lists in order to make your new office functional, while minimizing lost time for productivity. It can take up to a month of packing and planning before you’re ready to move into your new space and be running at optimal speed again. To help ease that transition, consider the following checklists.
Make sure the power is turned on before you move in. Commercial accounts may take more lead time for service providers to get you up and running.
Some considerations include:
- Electrical Receptacles: A commercial space has less wiggle room on local electrical codes than a residence. Arrange your work area to accommodate the necessary electrical equipment and appliances such that you’re not stringing extension cords across high-traffic footpaths or stairs, or overloading individual outlets. Make sure your receptacles and power strips provide the proper grounding. Commercial spaces are subject to municipal and county fire marshal inspections, and infractions can lead to serious fines and disruption of your workday.
- Heating & Cooling: If your space isn’t equipped with HVAC, make provisions to have these added. If renting, negotiate with your landlord about these upgrades. You want your workspace to be as comfortable as possible year-round.
We all have different abilities and tolerances for learning and using high-tech devices. Learning to use various types of electronic hardware and software can improve job efficiency and communications. Increased efficiency reduces costs, and these savings can then be passed along to your clients, which is something you can mention (to your advantage) in your marketing materials. If you want your employees to learn to incorporate high-tech tools into their jobs, keep their stress levels low by supplying them with trouble-free devices and good instruction.
Among the basics are:
- Phones: Many small businesses are transitioning from landlines to exclusively cell phones for their obvious portability, but you may want to maintain a no-frills landline to make local calls in order to keep your main business line free, to ensure that you have reliable connectivity and clear audio quality, and to make emergency calls. Don’t forget to add a professional-sounding outgoing message, and to check for messages regularly. To improve your conversion rate (the percentage of initial calls that are converted into work), a live person answering the phone is always better than a recorded greeting and voicemail. Consider retaining an answering service if you can’t afford office staff. Call-forwarding to a dedicated cell phone or landline can allow you to have a family member answer phones with the name of your company. Be sure to list any appropriate new phone numbers on your company’s website.
- Internet Access: If you’re opting for a landline, adding Internet access can lower your monthly costs by taking advantage of bundled service discounts. If going all-cellular, you’ll want to arrange for password-protected wireless service. Consider the fastest connection offered in your area so that you can make the most of your business day. Some service providers also offer VOIP (voice-over-Internet protocol), which allows you to make phone calls online and listen to voicemail messages via email.
- Laptops & Tablets: Carrying a laptop in the field, especially one that is Internet-enabled, will facilitate communication with your office staff, clients, suppliers, subcontractors, and everyone else you deal with. The advantage of online communication is not only the great variety of information that can be transferred instantly, but that everyone with whom you communicate is only one click away from your website and other online marketing devices. Skype™ is a free communications application that allows you to see the person with whom you’re speaking, along with anything they want to show you, using a remote camera or the camera installed on their computer.
Space & Use
- Work Areas:While a cramped home or starter office may have been sufficient for doing quick work online and then dashing off to an appointment, think long-term for making your upgraded office functional for yourself and hospitable to clients. That means investing in office furniture that is solid and aesthetically neutral. Beyond desks, chairs and furniture for larger meeting areas, bookcases can house reference manuals, industry publications and code books. For marketing purposes, your technical library should be visible to prospective clients who visit. Filing cabinets dedicated to your business can store hard-copy reports, photos and contracts. There’s no need to spend big bucks at office furniture and supply stores; try shopping for second-hand items online (Craigslist is a good local resource) and at thrift stores. (More guidelines for buying used furniture follow.) If buying new, always negotiate with the salesperson for a corporate account that provides built-in discounts; today’s economic climate favors the buyer for retail items, especially if you’re in the market for more than a single desk or chair. Spread out in your new space as much as you can. Organization is key to productivity.
- Non-Work Areas: For meeting clients and hosting the occasional business function at your office, you want your new or upgraded office space to be comfortable but professional-looking. Again, there’s no need to go into debt to meet this goal. As other businesses close or downsize, it’s possible to find second-hand items in classic styles with plenty of life left. Look for simple but sturdy desks, tables, chairs and lamps, and avoid styles, colors and patterns that look dated, especially if they’re priced to move. They should be clean and devoid of blemishes that can’t be easily repaired. Keep reception and meeting areas uncluttered.
- Privacy & Confidentiality: If you’ve been on a particularly dirty project and you need to change into clean clothes, make sure you have a private area. If you’re having a conversation over the phone or in person, the details of which should not be broadcast to employees, clients or neighboring tenants, make sure you have a separate area in which to conduct such confidential business. Partitions and noise barriers can help with this. Likewise, you may wish to have a locking file cabinet or safe in which to store expensive equipment, and irreplaceable and confidential hard-copy records and downloaded computer files.
- Shop Area: If you have the space to have a shop adjacent to your office, it will also go a long way to enhancing your professional image with clients. Most contractors find this setup ideal, as it will be a huge time-saver for making minor adjustments and repairs to office-related and job-related materials and machinery, as well as project-related models, prototypes and fabrications. Make sure that your location and your lease provide for storing and using equipment that can be noisy while in operation during business hours (and off-hours, if you’re located near a residential area), as well as any hazardous materials, including paints, finishes, bonding materials and cleaners.
Potential clients may be impressed by a professional-looking, efficiently-run office, but an attached shop can also be a sales tool. If you have the ability to do custom milling, welding, or other work that can’t be done efficiently at a jobsite, demonstrate that ability to your clients. Walk them past the materials, tools and jigs. If you have someone working in the shop when a prospect visits, so much the better. That gives the impression that your services are in demand! Have your workman explain a little about what he’s doing.
Bear in mind that if you use your shop as a sales tool, it should be safe and clean, including visible personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as dust-removal equipment for saws, sanders, etc.
TIP: Install a glass window where potential clients can view your shop area from your office or waiting area.
Provisions for the Office & Shop
- Office Supplies: Copier paper, toner, printer ink cartridges, paper clips and pens can deplete your budget in a hurry, so buy only what you estimate you’ll need for the first three months. This will help you budget long-term more precisely. Remember, too, that if you have employees in your new space, you’re responsible for providing them with the tools they’ll need to perform their jobs properly, so don’t make them scrounge for the basics in order to get their daily work done. Failing to account for simple provisions like these can be morale-killers, along with a lack of secondary supplies.
- Secondary Supplies: If you’re sharing kitchen and/or restroom facilities with a neighboring business, find out who is responsible for supplies, and maintain an appropriate budget. If responsible only for your own, consider buying in bulk at shopping clubs, or work out a deal with a local vendor who supplies neighboring businesses. Remember to make scheduled stops for essentials, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, snacks, condiments and restroom supplies, so that you can avoid last-minute impulse purchases, which tend to be more expensive.
- Kitchen: Even the most basic hotel room now provides a mini-fridge, coffee maker and microwave oven, so think of your own fundamental comforts and that of your clients (and your employees, if you have any), and outfit an area dedicated to these needs. Eating lunch in the office a few days a week will also save you petty cash and increase productivity.
- Emergency Supplies: Whether you have other employees or not, the responsibility of using a commercial business space dictates that you have a fully stocked first-aid kit on hand. Additionally, local fire codes will probably also require you to have several of these, depending on the size of your commercial space and/or number of employees, along with a fire extinguisher and flashlight, as well as signs for all exits. Depending on your comfort level, work schedule, and the climate of your geographical region, you may want to stock a personal emergency kit that contains extra batteries, canned goods, blankets and a sleeping cot, bottled water, spare toiletries, and extra footwear and clothing.
- Office Equipment:If your business has expanded to the point that you’re considering investing in capital equipment, such as a computer system and/or copier, investigate whether leasing is a better deal than an outright purchase. Be wary of purchasing these items second-hand. Manufacturers tend to upgrade their models every couple of years, and finding knowledgeable service technicians and replacement parts can make what appeared to be a good deal at the outset an expensive and obsolete heap of plastic and metal that you’ll have to pay a fee to dump. Always negotiate on long-term service contracts. Demand an upgrade if the machine you’ve contracted for develops chronic problems, which can lead to aggravation and downtime. Conversely, if the machine you’re leasing is problem-free, negotiate for a less expensive service contract, since there are few or no service calls.
- Shop Equipment & Supplies: As mentioned earlier, organization is key to productivity, and the same rule applies to shops. Remember that more than one person may be using the shop, which is why it should always be clean, orderly, and have a home for every tool, bucket, bottle, can, nut and bolt. You may find occasion to conduct some of your business with a client in the shop area, so it should always be presentable, even if there’s a project in progress.
- Proper ventilation and drainage should be provided for fumes, vapors and liquids. It should also be appropriately soundproofed from the rest of the office area and nearby tenants. If possible, a mop sink should be installed for extra-dirty wash-ups so that the restroom in the office area is not used and unnecessarily soiled between regular cleanups.
- Locking tool chests will ensure that expensive and specialized tools remain on the premises. If the shop has a back door, it should be locked and integrated with the office site’s security system.
- Maintaining a separate supply inventory for the shop will also be useful to combine shopping trips, requiring less time to stock up on office essentials.
Your office requires regular maintenance just like your home and vehicle. If your staff is enlisted to take care of cleaning the reception area, meeting room, kitchen, bathroom and/or shop, make sure you devise a regular schedule and that they understand that they should clean any messes that happen during the interim. If you or your staff won’t be taking care of this, hire only a licensed and bonded janitorial service that will contract with you to clean your premises during regularly scheduled times. Make sure it is bonded to protect your business against theft or loss due to their acts or negligence. If you are required to provide brooms, mops, trash bags and cleaning supplies, make sure these are on your weekly shopping list. Also, be sure to notify the cleaning crew and their supervisors of any areas on site that are off limits, and that this information is also specified in your contract with the service.
Comfort & Convenience
- Décor: Carefully consider your clientele when choosing personal items and artwork to decorate your office. Your personal touches help establish the corporate culture of your business, even if it’s a corporation of just one. Any fine art and prints, and even hunting and fishing trophies, should be subtle and not the central focus of the office. Remember: Your office is not your man-cave away from home, so leave the joke-themed and off-color items at home where they belong. Items should be framed and mounted using tasteful and low-key frames and plaques. A hobby store’s framing department can choose these for you, which is an affordable option for most.Be sure to display items that speak to your professional achievements. Frame and display certificates for Continuing Education course completions and professional association memberships. Portfolio pictures from jobs are essential for your walls, especially those showing you shaking hands with happy clients (which is a good reason to always have a camera available out in the field), as well as positive reference letters thanking you for your good work. Keep a photo album in your meeting room. You can also display industry-related awards, as well as scale models of projects; these are, in themselves, works of art worth showing off, and they also speak to your professional accomplishments.Another way to give the impression of personal stability and your investment in the community is to display family photos. If you put them on your desk rather than on the wall, be sure they’re facing so that your visitors can see them. Or you can place them on a bookshelf or credenza behind your desk and chair so that they’ll also naturally face outward.Additionally, if you’ve received any awards from local newspapers or certificates from organizations not directly related to your business activities, hang these proudly alongside your professional accolades. Your identity as a builder includes not just what you do with your hands, but also what you do as a member of the community, including volunteer work. Even local sports trophies count!Along with personal artwork and trophies, you can display industry-related conversation-starters. These are great for breaking the ice when meeting new clients and for relieving tension if the conversation may involve some stressful topics. For example, if you specialize in roofs, you might have a mold of one of the largest hailstones to ever hit the area, or evidence of some other natural disaster or on-the-job oddity. Again, don’t clutter your office, but appoint it tastefully with items that speak to your commitment to both your industry and your community. As always, keep these items (as well as the rest of your office) tidy and dust-free.Also, if your office has a waiting area, be sure to subscribe to some trade magazines and keep them on the table. This leaves clients with the perception that you stay abreast of the latest industry-related news and trends. Remember to always keep the reception and waiting areas tidy. Your clients expect a quiet, clean and orderly place to meet with you and conduct their business with you.
TIP: Hang a framed copy of the International Association of Professional Contractor’s Code of Ethics on the wall. (Copies available at www.ContractorsAssociation.org)
Lighting: Natural daylight isn’t always available in office spaces, but don’t underestimate the effect of lighting for reasons other than just to see what you’re doing. It can affect mood and productivity in direct and indirect ways. Some offices and warehouses provide basic overhead fluorescent-tube lighting, which can be adequate but garish (and even noisy), so consider augmenting those sources with low spot lighting using desk lamps and wall sconces. Energy-efficient bulbs come in colors of the visible spectrum that are easier on the eyes and reflect a glow that “warms up” the area to appear more inviting. Of course, they’re better for the environment, as well as your budget, in the long run.
Plants: Live plants can add an important touch that exudes relaxation, comfort, and a green consciousness. If you don’t have the time to take care of office plants yourself, a plant or floral service is a good investment. For a business-friendly monthly rate, it will first deliver and then monitor the weekly health and watering of your foliage. This is a simple way to advertise that you understand the aesthetic importance of live greenery. It emits the message that you have taste and value quality. Quality means comfort. If you don’t think this is true, think back and rate your own comfort level in offices and waiting rooms that you visited that had no foliage, some foliage, dying foliage, lush foliage, and fake silk plants. Healthy greenery has an instantly calming effect, and the more stressful and/or high-end the business, the nicer the plants you’ll find in the lobby. These plants don’t have to overtake the office environment, and they should never show signs of neglect, which is much worse than not having any live plants at all. Avoid silk plants; no silk plant actually looks real, and the message it transmits is that you either a) don’t pay attention to the finer details of the indoor environment or b) that cheapness is an acceptable substitute for quality.
- Provisions for securing your business premises should be clearly spelled out in your lease. Follow a ritual at the end of the day to make sure that all doors and windows are properly closed and locked, and if you have shades or drapes, make sure they’re closed at night, too. A security system is a sound investment. Adequate lighting for the immediate exterior, as well as the parking area, is a safety as well as liability concern. Additionally, get acquainted with local law enforcement, and find out whether their regular patrols include the location of your workplace, especially if it’s in a more industrial area, rather than in an office building in the middle of town.
- Other physical safety concerns include locking filing cabinets and safes. If many people have access to the same work documents, they may get easily misplaced if they aren’t treated as documents that need to be secured. This can delay work and frustrate clients. Additionally, if you have firearms on the premises, they should be kept unloaded in a lockable case and safely stowed. The local police department will have information to help you stay within the law, especially if you have employees on the premises and clients who visit. Again, it’s not just a question of safety—it’s also one of liability.
- Security includes backing up your computer data. You can easily do this using a thumb drive, writable CDs, or an external hard drive. If you’re a larger company, you may have a central server that backs up all networked data. You can also pay a monthly fee to have your data backed up and stored off-site, which is a lifesaver in case of a catastrophic power outage.
- Children & Pets: One of the benefits of owning your own business is that you can take your children and pets to work with you. Children require constant attention, so make sure your attention isn’t divided, leading to a potential accident, or creating an unprofessional atmosphere. Also, don’t expect your employees to double as your babysitter. In terms of pets, some of them don’t adjust well to strangers or unfamiliar surroundings, and some clients and employees may have allergies and even phobias. What’s okay around the house or even out in the field won’t necessarily work in the workplace, even if you’re the boss, so think like a businessperson and make decisions based on what’s best for your business.
- Music: Your choice of music in the office, if you have any, can make as big an impression as your office décor, so make it low-key, quiet enough to conduct conversations both in person and on the phone, and neutral in terms of content.
- Recreational & After-Hours Activities: If you have alcohol on the work premises, it’s important that such beverages be kept in an appropriate and lockable location that cannot be accessed by uninvited (or underage) personnel or visitors. Its presence should not be advertised. Your lease or a local ordinance may prohibit alcohol consumption on site during regular business hours. Other non-work activities, such as smoking, watching TV or playing video games, may be allowed during certain times, but make sure they’re confined to specific areas so that the professional atmosphere of your workplace is maintained. Not every client will appreciate a loose or laid-back contractor. If you engage in any recreational activities on site after hours, be sure your offices are locked to outside visitors, requiring them to knock or ring a bell for permission to enter.
Running a Green Office
Most small business owners have their hands full just trying to stay on top of their current workload, as well as marketing themselves, and contractors are no exception. But whether you lease an office or are a new commercial property owner, everyone can make some simple and painless improvements to their workplace and work habits that will minimize their carbon footprint and save money. As an added bonus, demonstrating to visiting clients that you run a green business is a great marketing tool for anyone in the construction industry, since saving on home energy is such a solid trend now. If you practice what you preach, you’ll have that much more credibility in the industry.
Here are some tactics that you can start using today:
- Use recycled paper for your contracts, reports, updates and marketing materials, and make sure you use a logo that tells your customers so. “Printed on 90% post-consumer waste” (or whatever applies) can provide your prospective clients with a positive heads-up that you’re environmentally conscious. Recycled paper and cardstock are also generally cheaper, which can lower your costs for office supplies. Also, if you must print out something and it’s for internal use only, use the reverse side of paper that you would otherwise throw away. Also, while it may be difficult or impossible for contractors to develop an entirely paperless office, you can drastically reduce the amount of paper you use and store by using and storing plans and documents electronically. Hard-copy documents can be scanned using one of several types of devices. Plans are typically created electronically, so they can be easily stored electronically. A large-format printer can print out plans as needed, such as partial sets for subcontractors.
- Recycle your printer cartridges. Most printer services and retail outlets will accept used ones and reward you with a discount on your next purchase.
- Get organized. Maximize your time by minimizing your driving trips around town. Shop online, when possible. You’ll save wear and tear on your vehicle, and you’ll spare the air of your emissions.
- Pay your bills online. This decreases what you spend on postage, and cuts down on the mail you receive, much of which winds up in the trash anyway, such as promotional inserts and window envelopes.
- Buy e-books, such as the ones published by the International Association of Professional Contractors.
- If it’s cold in your office, add a layer of clothing, rather than turn up the heat. Likewise, if it’s warm, open a window instead of turning on the A/C. If ventilation to the outdoors is not practical, consider running the A/C intermittently rather than continuously throughout the day. Be sure to use fans to assist with air movement, as well as shades to block the sunlight through windows.
- If you don’t already have a low-flow toilet at your office, place a brick in the tank of your toilet to save on water used for flushes. If you need to install a new toilet, consider buying a dual-flush type.
- Find ways to let natural light into your workspace to cut down on the use of electric lights. Where practical, change your incandescent bulbs to energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and T8 fluorescent bulbs, which can reduce your lighting energy costs by up to 75%.
- Use cups, plates and silverware in your office kitchen, rather than paper products. If you buy disposable products, consider purchasing the newer biodegradable plastics made of corn. Also, purchase paper supplies in bulk, which will reduce your shopping trips, as well as your expenses.
- When upgrading tools and equipment, donate what you no longer use, if selling is impractical. Many thrift stores, including outlets run by Habitat for Humanity, will gladly accept a worn tape measure, flashlight, and even work boots. Just make sure that items such as ladders are safe before passing them along.
- Many office supply stores that sell office technology, such as Staples, OfficeMax® and Kinko’s, will accept your outmoded cell phones, computers and printers to dispose of at bulk savings to them, or they will refurbish them for resale or donation. Tech hardware disposed of in landfills is among the most toxic sources of soil and groundwater contamination today because of the chemicals contained in their components and the results of the biochemical breakdown of their materials. If you don’t want to pay a fee to dispose of these items responsibly, take them to a recycling center or retail outlet that will gladly take them off your hands.
- Before hauling something out to the Dumpster, consider re-purposing it. An oak door can be converted into a work table in the shop area, and foamboard can be used as a bulletin board. Old t-shirts make handy rags for the office and work truck.
- Make sure your computers, printers and copiers are set to energy-saving or sleep mode when not in use for extended periods. Also, consider routinely unplugging electrical items at the end of the day, since coffee makers, lamps and power strips that are turned off but remain plugged in continue to draw current.
- Before making a purchase, look online at websites such as Craigslist and Freecycle to see if you can find what you need for less than new, or even free. Several different categories on such sites offer building supplies and materials, tools, and office equipment and products at second-hand prices for sometimes brand new items, which can save you money that you can put toward more meaningful purchases.
- If you want to buy new office furniture, consider buying chairs, desks, tables and bookcases made from wood that has been reclaimed or that originates from sustainably-harvested forests. Look for certifications on wood products from the Forestry Stewardship Council and the Rainforest Alliance. In addition to sparing living trees, reclaimed and sustainably-harvested wood has the advantage of being free of formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which is better for your health, as well as the planet’s.
- Make your construction business website robust. Take advantage of the marketing tips and tools included in this book so that your prospective clients can find the information they need about you and your services online. This will save them time (and aggravation), and will impress them with your technological savvy. For many people, using technology to its fullest potential is equivalent to being green, and this method of marketing yourself can set you apart from your competition. Give your prospective customers a genuine sense of yourself and your (green) business ethic by creating a specific and indelible Web presence. Hiring a pro to do this may be the best investment you’ll ever make in your business and your future.
Moving into a new commercial space is an exciting step forward for your business. Make your move stress-free with careful planning before you pack up the first box.
And remember: Your goal is to create an impression for your clients that says that you value quality first, both at the jobsite and in your own work environment.
TIP: Your truck is a mobile office. Much of the advice in this article can be applied to your work vehicle. Read: The Right Truck.
Join our discussion about using a trophy office/shop to promote your contracting business.