Construction University eases transition from jobsite to the office

Marcia Doyle Headshot
Updated Jun 3, 2013

Construction University LogoIt’s a common story: After working in construction awhile—sometimes with family, sometimes not—a guy or gal wants to strike out on their own. And so they buy, or rent, that first machine. The weekend jobs turn into steady work, either gradually or right off. Instead of one beater machine, the newly-minted contractor starts to gain a small fleet.

A couple of years later, when that contractor stops to take a breath, he’s got a going concern—a business—on his hands. He’s right in his comfort zone when he’s on the job, meeting clients, working with vendors, estimating, even getting behind a machine’s controls now and then.

Things aren’t so comfortable, however, when he sits down in front of his office computer. Banking, cash flow, insurance, bonding, human resources, marketing, making sense of the financial statements … they all add up to a whole lot of “not fun.”

“My father took care of all of that,” one contractor recently told me, “and when he became ill and had to retire, we suffered for years.”

More than one contractor has told me about sleeping in their trucks on a jobsite to make sure a project stayed on schedule. When there is so much concentration on field operations, accounts payable can get short shrift. It’s not an excuse, but it is a reason.

We know the business of business can get you down. And so in the coming months, our new “Construction University,” series and website will explore both the hot issues and the mechanics of running a good business.

First up, we tackle the topic many contractors think they’re immune to: embezzlement. But as one of our experts told us, “It’s tempting to think you’ll hire this perfect person to run the office and you won’t have to worry about it. Contractors have to get interested in their company’s bookkeeping. Show as much interest in accounting as you do in the field.”

Construction University will be much more than what you see in print. This month, our companion website,, will offer a downloadable “Top 10 signs you are being embezzled” infographic, one contractor’s tale of embezzlement and a list of actions you can take now to counter embezzlement schemes.

We welcome your comments and especially your experiences. If the school of hard knocks has given you some valuable lessons in a certain area, we’d love to help you share them with the rest of the construction community. We appreciate the generosity of Case Construction Equipment and the participation of the Association of Equipment Management Professionals in bringing this series to you.

Our hope is that you’ll view Construction University as a go-to resource when you’re in a quandary about a troubling business issue … or just want to see how other contractors are dealing with the same concerns.