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December 2016
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We want the best As-Built Surveyors. Here’s how we find them.

How To Find The Best As-Built Surveyors

At Precision Property Measurements, our Multi-Site survey programs depend on our ability to get a qualified As-Built surveyor onsite, at every location that our client needs As-Built plans.  We have done surveys in all 50 states, in just about every nook and cranny of the United States.  If you threw a dart at a U.S. map (which you should NOT try at home, kids) the odds are that PPM has completed As-Built drawings for a building within 50 miles of the spot you hit – provided that you didn’t hit an ocean, of course.

This means that we need a LOT of professional As-Built surveyors on our team in order to service these big national programs. The cost and time of travel, particularly to smaller towns, is prohibitive for the types of site surveys that our clients need, and the speed with which they need them. So our goal is to have a qualifiedcapable, and available surveyor within 100 miles of all the large/medium size population centers in America. In areas where demand is particularly high we need two or more surveyors.  We aren’t all the way there, but we are close – we currently have over 500 surveyors in our network, of which about 100 that we are actively working with.  This map shows the locations of our current survey coverage.

How does an As-Built surveyor become a part of the PPM team?

The first step is finding each other!  We have numerous ways to do this including website job ads, referrals from other surveyors, internet searches, and more.  We also get inquiries all the time from prospective surveyors that have heard about us, or find us through an internet search.  However that connection is made, the first thing we ask them to do is fill out this application on our website.  The application asks them some basic questions about their experience, As-Built tools and methods, availability, and more.  We take this information and we give the surveyor a rating of “High, Mid, or Declined”, based on our assessment as to whether or not this person is someone that we think could meet the high standards our client’s expect, and therefore is someone we could potentially work with on our As-Built projects.  Only about 15% of all applicants receive a “High” score at this phase.  But there are still several more hurdles to clear before someone can officially become a “PPM Surveyor”.  Here’s what happens next in our onboarding process:

  1. We schedule a phone call with the prospective surveyor. They speak with either our Director of Field Services, or our Field Manager, and we further assess their ability level and fit with our standards of communication, quality, customer service, etc…
  2. If they pass, we flag them for a test project. But before we do any tests we do another call to go over any other questions, the specifics of working with us, wrap up the legal stuff, what we expect of our surveyors…etc.  At this point they begin their “probationary” period.
  3. Then comes the first test survey project. We either have them survey a building we have already completed (so that we can compare the results), or if this is not possible due to location we give them a very simple new live As-Built project.
  4. When they turn in the project, we do a full review of the As-Built plans, comparing them against previous plans, client-provided plans, photos, etc… We then schedule another call with the surveyor so that we can talk about the results, provide feedback, and understand the reasons for any issues they may have had with accuracy, detail, or anything else. They may not have completely understood our expectations, so we want to make sure there isn’t any miscommunication about what we expect on any future projects.
  5. Depending on the results and discussion of this first test project, both parties make the decision whether to pursue more projects together. Our relationship continues with about 50% of the surveyors that make it to this point.
  6. If there is mutual agreement to proceed, then the surveyor continues their probationary period for 2 additional projects, which receive more feedback in the same manner. Again, alignment of expectations and culture are the primary focus.
  7. Assuming everything goes well with the last 2 test projects, the probationary period ends and we move them to our normal roster of “PPM Surveyors”. At this point our Project Managers are free to work with them as needed.

A PPM Surveyor in action

Add it all up and only about 1 out of every 25 applicants will become a PPM Surveyor. This Onboarding process is definitely time consuming for us, and it can be frustrating when we think we have a great new surveyor but things just don’t work out, and we have to start all over with someone new. But we feel (and we have learned from experience) that a gauntlet such as this is necessary if we want to uphold the high standards of quality and professionalism that we are known for.  The performance of our As-Built surveyors is a critical component in our ability to fulfill our promise to our clients – so we want to make sure we are working with the Best!

Thanks for reading!  Please share any comments or questions you have below.

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It’s mid-December – Do you know your Small Business Goals for 2017?

Our Small Business Goals

About a month ago I wrote about the Importance of Winning by setting, tracking, and celebrating accomplishments in your small business.  Then earlier this month, my article dealt with a very important (and hopefully fun!) seasonal obligation for small business owners – a Holiday To-Do List.  At PPM, our nationwide As-Built surveying company, we just had our Christmas party last Friday, and all Christmas cards and client gifts will be going out this week.  So with that part of December taken care of, we are shifting back into planning mode for the rest of this month, and setting some goals for 2017.

We started this annual process in 2008, our 6th year as a business.  Prior to that, we just kept working right through the new year, without giving any thought to what improvements we should make as a company, what opportunities we might be missing, or what specific goals or plans we have going forward.  I just figured that as long as we did a good job on our As-Built projects and kept our clients happy, the business would just keep on growing forever.

I was wrong. Very wrong. The recession hit us hard in 2008. I was caught totally off guard, and had no plans in place to right the ship, or even any clue how to.  hat it really did was expose our weaknesses as a business. Had there been no recession, we would have run into the same problems eventually – probably soon. In hindsight I think the recession was a blessing for PPM, as it forced us to take a hard look at ourselves and admit that the way we were operating the business was not a sustainable model for growth.

We got help. We signed up for small business consulting from a company called The E-Myth. Our coach worked with us as a team, and me as the Leader, to put systems in place to finally help us define what we wanted to be as a Company, and what steps it would take to get there.  Our Annual Strategy Planning process was born. We have refined it almost every year since, but there is no denying the results: PPM’s revenues are now over 10 times bigger than they were in 2008, with average annual growth of 47% since 2010. Earlier this year we were honored to be named as an Inc. 5000 company in 2016.


Here’s a few of the basic parts of our annual strategy planning process:

Vision

  • It all starts here. You have to paint a picture for yourself and your employees that shows what your company is all about, and where you want to go.  This creates the CLARITY that is needed to align everyone behind the same goal.
  • Specifically, Vision includes foundational statements such as your Purpose, Mission, and Core Values
  • These don’t need to be updated every year, just reviewed and updated as needed.

Timing

  • We usually need about 4-5 weeks for our Annual Planning, including the entire process. We want to be done by mid-January so we start in early December.
  • We also do a smaller Quarterly Planning process every 3 months. For those we take about 2-3 weeks at the very end of the quarter.

People

  • In some way or another, we want to get everyone involved with our strategy planning. Great ideas and feedback can come from anywhere, so the more you involve your team the more likely you are to get not only the best result, but also a plan that everyone is committed to follow.
  • This gets a little tougher the more employees you have. With our 20 people, we have a process to allow information to flow up and down the organization and keep everyone in the loop.

Process

There is quite a bit to this now and I would be happy to share more with anyone that contacts me directly, but here are the basic steps that we follow:

  • TEAM INPUT: We ask each department/team to provide their input on PPM’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, etc…
  • LEADERSHIP OFFSITE: Our leadership team (which currently consists of 4 members) spends 2 days away from the office meeting for the sole purpose of discussing and planning the direction of PPM.  This includes things like:
    • What are the Strategic Issues facing the company right now?
    • What strengths can we leverage to capitalize on our opportunities?
    • What are our specific priorities and goals over the course of the next year?
  • OPERATING PLAN: We break down our goals into specific tasks/benchmarks that need to be completed in order to achieve that goal. There is a deadline and an owner for each task.
  • COMPANY MEETING: We hold a company-wide meeting each quarter to discuss the plan and get fired up as a team about what we are trying to accomplish.

Strategy Planning like this is definitely a lot of work, and takes discipline to devote your time to with everything else you have going on. But it is absolutely necessary if you have aspirations to grow your business into something great – which we do at PPM. And once it is done, you can feel a lot better knowing that the plan is in place and all you have to now is the easy part – EXECUTE!

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An Overview of The Most Commonly Requested As-Built Drawings By Architects

The Five Most Common As-Built Drawings for Architects

From the architect’s viewpoint (and certainly from the building owner’s), every remodel project is unique. Both the inputs (existing building conditions, local codes, budget) as well as the outputs (new design/materials) are different every time – and when these 2 factors are combined into a complete project, the possibilities for architects are truly endless.  Honestly I don’t know how they do it!

For the As-Built surveyor, however, we typically only have to deal with variances on 1 of these 2 factors: the inputs. It is our job to survey the existing building, and so we certainly have to be prepared to handle the wide variety of types, sizes, and other factors that make each building unique. But the other factor, the outputs, are fairly standardized for us. Our client, the architect, wants us to create a standard set of As-Built drawings that accurately depict the existing layout of the building. Of course these drawings can be customized with styles or details if the client desires, but for the most part we are producing the same output on all of our projects.

With over 12,000 As-Built surveys completed in the last 15 years, we have acquired a pretty good sense of what our architecture clients are looking for with their As-Built plans. Here’s a brief list of the five most common drawings that we get asked for on remodel projects:

FLOOR PLAN

It all starts here.  You need to get an accurate Floor Plan before you can get most other drawings, because they need to tie back to the floor plan.  A good As-Built Floor Plan shows all exterior and interior walls, windows and doors, as well as other visible structural elements such as columns and stairs.  Any other required details can be added as needed, or shown on a separate plan.

ROOF PLAN

This is a required As-Built Plan on most of our projects, particularly residential remodels.  The Roof Plan should show the outline of the roof overlaid on top of the building perimeter walls, and include roof structural details including valleys, hips, ridges, and pitch.  Equipment can also be added, particularly for flat commercial roofs.

EXTERIOR ELEVATIONS

As opposed to a “plan view” drawing where the perspective is looking down on the building, an elevation shows what the building looks like from the side.  Exterior Elevations are As-Built drawings that show the exterior sides of the building, from ground level up to the top of the structure.  Together with the Floor Plan and Roof Plan, the Exterior Elevations round out the typical set of As-Built plans that most of our architecture clients ask for on their projects.

REFLECTED CEILING PLAN

The Reflected Ceiling Plan, or “RCP”, is an As-Built drawing that shows both the structure of the ceiling (soffits, trays, coffers, exposed beams) as well as the elements attached to it (lights, vents, sprinklers).  The RCP helps the architect understand how the ceiling is constructed, as well as what existing electrical and HVAC components are there for consideration with the remodel.

ELECTRICAL PLAN

The Electrical Plan shows all of the visible electrical equipment, components and fixtures in the structure.  This includes things like meters, panels, transformers, outlets, data jacks, lights, etc…  We get asked to include an As-Built Electrical Plan on about 25% of our projects.

Taken together, these As-Built Plans show the architect a pretty comprehensive view of what the existing building looks like, and how it is constructed.  In addition to these 5, there are many more useful As-Built drawings that we provide at PPM.  For a full list of the As-Built drawings and As-Built services that we offer at PPM, check out our services page.

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A Holiday “To Do List” for Small Business Owners

How To Show Your Client Appreciation

We’ll all feel better if we just get it out there, so I’m going to go ahead and say it – Today is December 1st (Dramatic pause).  You might be trying to ignore it – but if you turn on the radio, visit a store, look out the window, or basically do anything human – you can’t anymore.  The Holiday season is coming, and will be here before you know it.  Some might even say it is already here. Personally, I LOVE Christmas, but it sure can STRESS ME OUT!  On top of everything else that I have to do as a small business owner in December to close out the year (accounting/tax prep, employee reviews, planning for next year, etc…), Christmas throws a whole other heap of things onto my To-Do List.  And as a small business owner, I am one of the lucky few that gets to do all of these holiday tasks TWICE!  Once at home and another time at work.  Don’t get me wrong I know I don’t have to do these things, I take them on willingly.  It’s one of my many sicknesses.

Whatever you are celebrating this holiday season, I know you have a A LOT to do at home in these next 4 weeks, in addition to running your business.  But I’m going to ignore that part and instead focus on some things you can do in your business to make the most of this time of year.  Trust me, you don’t want my advice on managing your home priorities anyways.  There are lots of fun and meaningful things you can do for the holidays at your small business – at PPM, my As-Built Surveying company, we like to focus on these “CHRISTMAS BIG 3”:

1. The Christmas Card

Why should I do this?

The Christmas Card (or Holiday Card) is a wonderful way to connect with everyone that means something to your business, to thank them for supporting you, and to wish them well in the year to come. Plus it’s a great way to update your addresses when 10% of them come back undeliverable. We send them to clients, vendors, partners, even competitors!  If you have received a Christmas Card from us, you know that we take them VERY SERIOUSLY at PPM.  Over the years our themes have ranged from the Peanuts Gang, to Photos with Santa, to Home Alone, to Where’s Waldo (coming soon…)  But I don’t know if we’ll ever top my personal favorite…

2012 PPM Christmas Card.  “Turtlenecks on the Beach”.  Yes we did.

Prep Needed:

 

  • Take the photo. (For extra credit, have a themed design made up with it)
  • Make a recipient list. Determine quantity needed.
  • Have cards printed.
  • Sign/write note, stuff, print labels, stamp, mail

2. Client Appreciation Gifts

Why should I do this?

Your clients give you so much – You literally wouldn’t be in business without them. Take the opportunity to send them a little extra holiday cheer for all they have done for you.

Prep Needed:

  • Establish your Budget. (I set aside a % of revenues each month)
  • Make a recipient list. (I don’t do all clients – I narrow it down based on business history. Based on quantity, you can set a budget per person)
  • Choose gifts (we like gift baskets filled with a variety of treats. And wine)
  • Deliver to clients (Double extra credit if you can drop off personally)

Client Gift Basket idea.  Wouldn’t you love to get one of these?  We use a vendor to prepare and ship.

3. Christmas Party

Why should I do this?

Seriously? Please don’t ever ask me that question again.  OK just in case you aren’t immediately convinced…  As small business owners, we have a tendency to constantly be looking forward.  It’s important to remember to take a break and celebrate all that you have achieved.  Plus, some of the best company stories will come from this event:  “Remember that time Mike fell in the koi pond?”

Prep Needed:

  • Establish a Budget. (I set aside a % of revenues each month)
  • Choose a Date. (more important to set this EARLY the more people you have)
  • Choose a Venue. (we have done restaurants, my home, the office, a boat)
  • Create Invite List. (just employees? Include spouses/significant others? Vendors/Partners?)
  • Event Details (this totally varies based on what you are doing. If it’s at your house you’ll have a lot to prepare, if at a restaurant then not so much.  One thing I like to do no matter where is to prepare gifts and hand them out publicly at the event to each employee, along with some kind words on how much I value them and their contribution to PPM)

2014 PPM Christmas Party.  Not pictured – somebody saying something really funny

Same party.  Cameron couldn’t make it so we brought a cardboard version instead. We liked this one better.

Hope this article helps you with some ideas for your own Holiday planning for your small business.  You still have time!  But if not… don’t worry Holiday season 2017 is just around the corner….