30%, that’s the figure that keeps coming back to me, business is down 30% and competitive bids are 30% less than what they used to be. I even had firms we do business with in India essentially say, “I am not going down the rathole.” You have got to be creative to deal with it. It reminds of a an accounting professor in business school who extolled, “all costs are variable,” not really but you get the point. Renegotiate rents, bargain with your workforce, create partnerships to fill holes, man it stretches the imagination which is good, however there is no reality like payroll, and rent, and insurance, etc. There was a recent article in the Las Vegas Business Press, “From Boom to Bust,” that echoes these themes. One GC stated that, ‘Our revenue in 2010 will be slightly less than half of what it was in 2008.” Bidders on projects have multiplied by 3, and successful bids seemed to be 40% below 2008 highs.
“Cash flow is the king during a recession,” Perini Building Co. Vice Chairman Dick Rizzo said. “As the economy shrinks, prompt payment is important. In some cases, it’s the only source of income to subcontractors and vendors.” This statement brings me to my next point, when did we ever, and architecture firms I am looking at you, get to a point where this statement is the norm, ‘you get paid when we get paid.’ Holy $$$$. This is patently ridiculous. There was a good article in the Boston Business Journal that said free lancers and sub contractors are spending as much time tracking down payments and getting paid as they did on the actual project. So looking at that vice of lower winning bids and taking forever to get paid what’s a small business to do? You can whine about it, not much help, or try and figure it out. I don’t even say make lemonade from lemons, this is strictly survive than thrive. To the ‘you get paid when we get paid’ again who ever agreed to that, but if your on the short end of that scenario consider starting a relationship with a factor, otherwise known a receivable financing, different companies specialize for different industries and even by size of receivables but there is one out there for you. They will take 1-3 points monthly but nothing like cash flow. As for some of the advice you get such as put penalties in your contract, talk directly to payroll, etc. most them will stay with the partly line, and a lot replace contracts you may have put together with their own which certainly does not have any late payment penalties.
As for multiple bidders and reduced winning bids, know your costs, use BIM, be ready for hard bids. It’s telling that GCs are the early adopters to BIM, Revit and the like and embracing their 4D and 5D aspects.
Partner up, can you still offer the same level or service as you could in 2008? Can you offer more today? More companies may be more willing to work together. Like I tell my kids, ‘the answer is always no unless you ask.’