Tips for Staying Hydrated in the Summer Heat

A study found that 75 percent of people suffer from some degree of dehydration. Add the hot sun, high humidity, and sweltering temperatures into the mix and you get a recipe for disaster.

How can you know if you are dehydrated? Early warning signs include:

  • Thirst 
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness

More serious symptoms such as no longer sweating, rapid heart rate, confusion, and difficulty walking can occur as dehydration worsens.

How can you stay hydrated? 

Keep plenty of water (and other beverages with water) on the job site and drink them gradually throughout the day. Also, pack fluid-rich foods (such as fruits, vegetables, salad, and applesauce) for snacks and lunch.

The amount of water people need varies from person to person, but according to the Mayo Clinic, the general rule is eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Keep in mind that heavy sweating will increase your body’s need for fluids, so you may have to drink more in the heat of summer.


Three Reasons to Consider More Than Price When Choosing Vendors

In the last Homestead Post, we shared three productivity- and quality-boosting principles from management consultant W. Edwards Deming. In this issue, we’ll talk about another important Deming concept: End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag alone.

When choosing vendors, price means little without considering the measure of quality and efficiency that you get. Securing value when purchasing tools, equipment, materials, or services requires long-term thinking beyond the dollars and cents on a price sticker.

Buying goods or services from whoever gives the lowest price may seem to be a cost-effective way to do business. However, it can backfire.

  • Jumping from one vendor to the next based on prices requires a good deal of administrative time and may result in getting inferior materials.
  • In comparison, having a single, trusted source for a product or category of products helps ensure consistency in quality and availability of materials to meet your needs and deadlines.
  • Dealing with one vendor simplifies accounting, minimizes paperwork, and streamlines ordering.

In today’s competitive business environment, you can find a lower price on almost anything that you want to buy—but that doesn’t ensure value. Value comes from forming a long-standing relationship with a vendor that is dependable, trustworthy, and dedicated to satisfying your needs.

To learn more about Deming’s principles, visit The Deming Institute website at www.deming.org.



Fencing Tools: What You Need to Get the Job Done

When you’re in the business of building decks and doing other exterior work for homeowners, requests to do fencing work are inevitable. Installing vinyl fencing—one of the most popular options—isn’t difficult, but you do need a few specialized tools to tackle the project.    

  • Tool for digging holes: Either an auger attachment or a dedicated hole-drilling unit will do the trick. (You can rent them at an equipment rental company.)
  • Fence rail notching tool: Although it’s not an absolute must-have, it comes in handy when cutting sections to size. (You can borrow one from Homestead Outdoor Products.)
  • Concrete: The type will depend on the size of the job and might require anything from hand-mixing to bringing a metered concrete truck to the site. For the typical backyard, a portable sack concrete mixer and a wheelbarrow offer a middle-of-the-road solution that’s cost-effective and fast. (You can purchase QUIKRETE® from us.)
  • Fencing material: Homestead Outdoor Products has a wide selection to suit your customers’ needs: vinyl fencing, chain-link fencing, aluminum fencing, and wood-tone fencing—all made by the best brands in the business.

Not overly familiar with fencing installation? No problem! In our next newsletter, we’ll step you through the basic process of installing vinyl fencing.



The Most Important Question to Ask Before Creating a Customer’s Outdoor Living Space

A customer’s reasons for wanting additions or renovations often have multiple layers. Peeling back those layers is critical for proposing a design that will truly meet and fulfill your customer’s unique vision. How? 

ASK, “WHY?”— MULTIPLE TIMES 
For example, let’s say Customer A and Customer B both approach you with “I want a deck.” But why do they want a deck?

When you first ask “Why?” both Customer A and Customer B answer, “I want to spend more time outdoors.” But that doesn’t mean the same deck design will serve both customers equally well.

When you drill down further by asking, “Why do you want to spend more time outdoors?” Customer A answers, “Because I want a quiet, peaceful place in nature where I can read and meditate”; while Customer B says, “Because I love inviting friends over for cookouts and parties.”

Aha! Now you have the information you need. So, for Customer A, you might include a secluded nook for reading and a relaxing water feature; and for Customer B, you might include a built-in bar area, fire pit, and space for a big-screen TV. 

The moral of the story: Ask “Why?” repeatedly to get to the root of a customer’s wants and needs.


Two Tips for Running an All-Around Efficient Business

House owners greeting building contractor.

The job site isn’t the only place where efficiency is important. When contractors also have their administrative tasks in good order, they can boost productivity and profitability. Here are two tips for making your back-office run like a well-oiled machine.   

PLAN YOUR DAYS
In addition to scheduling your work for customers, also make a note of other tasks you need to take care of. Block out time for preparing estimates, creating invoices, returning phone calls to prospective customers, and other business must-dos. Whether you use a written calendar or the one on your smartphone, reserving time to tend to administrative tasks will help ensure they don’t pile up and become overwhelming or slip through the cracks. 

BUILD IN SOME “WIGGLE ROOM”
There’s a saying that even “the best-laid plans of mice and men” often go awry. Sometimes, projects take more time than expected, customers change their minds about what they want, a traffic jam delays your arrival to a job, or some other unforeseen situation occurs. As you’re planning your schedule, consider building in some buffer time between projects and tasks to give you some breathing room when things don’t go your way.

The more organized and efficient you keep all aspects of your business, the more successfully you can manage everything you have to do and the better you can serve your customers.


Product Spotlight: SCREENEZE® Turns Patios into Paradise

Photo courtesy of SCREENEZE®

With warmer weather here, homeowners want to spend more time in their backyards—without the buzzing and biting of annoying insects. Homestead Outdoor Products has the perfect solution in stock: SCREENEZE®, a fixed-screen system that allows you to transform your customers’ patios and porches into bug-free outdoor living spaces. Call us for more information!

Simple to install • Cost-effective •
Versatile: It can be used with openings that
have 90-degree angles or arched openings
(by using SCREENEZE FLATBAR).


Three Deming Principles to Improve Productivity and Work Quality

In our last newsletter, we talked about the renowned management consultant W. Edwards Deming and his Plan-Do-Study-Act process to improve productivity. Now, let’s explore three more Deming principles that can help you manage your business.  

Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service.
Think ahead to the future. If you’re considering expanding your services or making other changes, start laying the groundwork now. Also, always seek new ways to improve operations by:

  • keeping up with industry trends;
  • investing in training for employees; and
  • communicating with your employees (such as a ten-minute huddle at the end of each day) to discover what’s working and what is not.

Adopt the new philosophy.
Having a “rolling with the punches” mindset can hurt business efficiency as you find yourself constantly putting out fires. Instead, look critically at how your company has been doing things and be open to new approaches that will prevent circumstances from going ablaze in the first place. For example, rather than just assuming your crew will know exactly what to do, ask your employees or sub-contractors to repeat verbally what they are tasked with doing. Doing so will allow you to confirm understanding and help prevent mistakes. 

Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality.
Inspecting jobs after they’re finished is too late to ensure or improve quality.  Instead, consider doing random check-ups on-site to assess if in-progress jobs are meeting your company’s standards. This will enable you to identify if crew members need additional training and figure out what process improvements will help eliminate quality failures. 

To learn more about all 14 of Deming’s principles, visit The Deming Institute website at deming.org.


Buy and Save! Up to 10% Rebate on Fiberon® Decking 

Photo courtesy of Fiberon® Decking

Fiberon® is offering rebates on purchases made in 2019.* With a minimum purchase of $500, first-time buyers will get a 10 percent rebate.

Second- and third-time buyers will save, too! After receiving the first-time buyer rebate, users are eligible for 5 percent rebates on their second and third purchases of $500 or more.

When you buy Fiberon decking through us, we will give you the rebate form, or you can complete it online at fiberondecking.com/FTU.

*All completed rebate forms and supporting documentation must be submitted or postmarked no later than December 31, 2019.