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Optimizing Cash Flow: Strategies for Minimizing Payment Delays in Construction for Plumbers

Micke Paqvalén
04 December, 2023

If you want to succeed as a plumber, there’s one thing that matters just as much as client relations, finding new projects, and even the quality of your work: cash flow management. 

With good cash flow management, your business can soar, but managing it poorly could lead to your business growth clogging up, much like a plumbing system.

Plumbers, along with most of the construction industry, often grapple with challenges related to payment delays. Whether it’s organizing resources efficiently or managing time wisely, there are a lot of elements that go into effective construction cash flow management.

One way to make the process simpler is through the use of digital tools and apps. This helps you manage both your overall plumbing task management and finances with less stress and more accuracy.

 

The Importance of Cash Flow and Task Management in Construction

Construction financial management involves overseeing the inflow and outflow of funds within a business. Cash flow management interlinks with almost all aspects of a plumber’s job management.

Good cash management in plumbing projects is crucial for several reasons:

  • Project continuity: Construction projects are multifaceted, and payment delays can disrupt the seamless progression of work. Efficient cash flow management ensures you have enough funds to sustain and complete projects without interruptions.

  • Resource allocation: Plumbers must allocate resources effectively, including materials, labor, and equipment. A combination of cash flow and task management enables you to plan and allocate resources efficiently by keeping your project organized, preventing shortages or overcommitting to projects.

  • Financial stability: Timely payments contribute significantly to the financial stability of a plumbing business. A steady cash flow allows plumbers to cover operational costs, invest in growth opportunities, and establish a robust financial foundation for their company.

  • Task and time management: Effective cost management in construction is vital to ensure plumbers can have good task and time management. If resources don’t arrive when needed, or contractor payments are slow to go through, the timing of other payments can be affected. Plumbers must manage their tasks and time efficiently to adhere to project timelines and facilitate a smoother cash flow.


The Best Ways to Manage Your Plumbing Cash Flow

Economic geographer and researcher Flyvbjerg revealed that in the last 100 years, less than 1% of construction projects were finished both on time and within budget. 

But that doesn’t have to be the case for your projects - here are 8 tips on how to manage your plumbing cash flow:

  1. Choose profitable projects: This may seem obvious, but there can be a lot going on during the construction bidding process, so performing a cost/benefit analysis is a good idea. Keep an eye out for big possible risks, geographical restraints, or new regulations if undertaking something new. 
  2. Connect cost and time efficiently: Utilize schedule and cost data to visualize real-time updates, facilitating better planning, accurate forecasting, and comparison of forecasts to actuals.
  3. Negotiate favorable contract terms: Take time to negotiate terms that prioritize timely payments, viewing contracts as tools for mutual benefit rather than hastily signed documents. Here you’ll find everything you need to know about construction contracts.
  4. Avoid over- and underbilling: When you complete your construction cost estimate, keep billing aligned with project costs to prevent overbilling issues that may impede invoicing remaining costs or underbilling leading to negative cash flow.
  5. Manage change orders efficiently: Promptly address potential changes by streamlining the change order process, utilizing technology for accurate tracking, automated approvals, and efficient document generation.
  6. Integrate accounting and operations: Synchronize financial data by integrating accounting and operations systems, reducing manual entry, minimizing liability risks, and empowering informed decision-making.
  7. Collect payments promptly: Only 9% of construction professionals are paid on time. One of the best ways to fix this is to standardize payment application formats, including necessary supporting documentation for quicker review and approval, reducing delays and payment application mistakes.
  8. Accelerate project closeout: Prioritize a successful closeout using tools like Pype Closeout to streamline the process. These tools automatically collect, track, and organize documents into a digital turnover package for quicker final payments and retainage release.

How to reduce payment delays

Organization is a two-way street, and you can only be so organized before delays outside of your control start to affect your plumbing cash flow. Despite this, there are some useful tips to reduce payment delays:

  • Clear and detailed contracts: Establishing clear, detailed construction contracts before starting any project is paramount. Clearly outline payment terms, milestones, and penalties for late payments. This lays a solid foundation for managing expectations and reduces the likelihood of disputes.

  • Invoice promptly and accurately: Timely and accurate invoicing is critical for prompt payment. Invoices should be sent promptly upon completion of work or as per the agreed-upon schedule. Ensure all relevant details, such as the scope of work and payment terms, are included.

  • Follow-up on invoices: Are you following up on your invoices? Make sure not to assume that once an invoice is sent, payment is immediately guaranteed without any follow-ups. Implement a systematic follow-up process for overdue invoices. Regular, clear two-way communication is vital to any construction project and can help identify and resolve any issues causing payment delays.

  • Build strong relationships with clients: Customer satisfaction in construction is key to establishing strong relationships with clients and improving your reputation. The key to this is open communication. Building strong relationships is one of the best payment delay solutions in construction. A transparent and collaborative approach fosters trust and cooperation. Increase customer satisfaction by setting the right expectations and guiding them through all project phases. This will also keep them informed before receiving the invoice, avoiding any surprises.

Importance of Task and Time Management in Cash Flow

There’s no doubt that managing your time and tasks effectively is one of the hardest and most tedious parts of running a plumbing business. It’s also one of the most important.

If you want to get your cash flow in order, managing your time and tasks efficiently is key. Here’s why:

  1. Optimize project timelines: Efficient task and time management enable plumbers to adhere to project timelines, ensuring that milestones are met on schedule. This, in turn, influences the timing of payments, contributing to a smoother and more predictable cash flow.
  2. Resource optimization: Task management helps in optimizing resource allocation, ensuring that labor, materials, and equipment are utilized effectively. This prevents unnecessary delays and ensures that the project progresses as planned, positively impacting cash flow.
  3. Early issue identification: A well-organized task management system allows plumbers to identify and address issues early in the project timeline. By resolving challenges promptly, they can prevent potential disruptions that may lead to payment delays.

Inaccurate time estimations in construction projects are a fundamental source of revenue leakage, causing financial strains due to increased labor costs and budget overruns. 

Project delays serve no one well and can often be the result of flawed time estimations. This not only impacts revenue but can also harm a business's reputation. Recognizing the importance of precise time estimates, conducting post-project analyses, and leveraging historical data are fundamental for learning and optimization. Additionally, it cultivates continuous improvements which enables businesses to minimize revenue leakage and ensure project success.

Top 3 apps for plumbers that will enhance cash flow management

Any type of job management software is a great tool for saving time and minimizing errors, and when it comes to managing cash flow, here are some tools that will help you along the way:

  1. Buildbite: A comprehensive task management app, Buildbite offers excellent improvements to your cash flow, allowing you to track your time easily, involve clients in the day-to-day progress of your projects, and keep all your important documents from contracts to invoices in one place. Working with many different clients can be challenging. Buildbite gives your clients full transparency and establishes the groundwork that comes with getting paid on time. 
  2. Jobber: Jobber is an all-in-one field service management app designed for small businesses, including plumbing contractors. It streamlines scheduling, invoicing, and payment processes. With features like job tracking and quoting, Jobber helps plumbers manage tasks efficiently, contributing to timely project completion and cash flow.
  3. FreshBooks: FreshBooks is a user-friendly accounting app that simplifies invoicing, expense tracking, and time management. Plumbers can create professional invoices, monitor expenses, and even accept online payments. 

The construction industry, especially plumbing, is not for the faint-hearted, and managing your cash flow can be just another frustrating task piled on the rest. But it doesn’t have to be.

By using a comprehensive task management app like Buildbite, you can unblock your cash flow and simplify your finance management without stress.

Try out our free 30-day trial to see how our effective time and task management tools can help you smooth out your cash flow management.