Small Business
1080 565 Andy McFarland

4 Ways 3D Laser Scanning Is Changing Your As-Built Customer Experience

3D Laser As-Built Surveying in the Information Age

At PPM, we work closely with architects throughout the country and know the demands of the job. We get it. You’re busy, you’re under a deadline, you need the most accurate As-Built survey possible, and you want it to be completely “Worry Free.” Believe us. We’ve been in the business for over 18 years now, and we understand what you need in an As-Built survey whether you’re starting a home remodel, moving your business to a new location, or renovating the guest rooms at a large hotel.

It’s this understanding of our customers’ needs that has been one of the primary catalysts for the adoption of 3D laser scanning into our As-Built surveying process. For the first 14 years in business, we did everything manually with tape measures, laser distance meters, sketching boards, and good old-fashioned problem solving. But within the last couple of years, as this technology has developed, we decided that laser scanning is the best way to enhance your As-Built surveying customer experience. How are these handy 3D laser scanning gadgets helping us help you? Let’s dive into it.

1. Decreased Time On Site, So You Can Get Back To Your Day

3D laser scanners have dramatically reduced the amount of time that our surveyors need at the job site to capture all the necessary As-Built information. Take the example of a typical 2,500 square foot single family home – the type of project we survey just about every day at PPM. It used to take one of our surveyors around 5-7 hours to gather all the measurements and information we needed for this type of project. That’s an entire day of us at you or your client’s residence, measuring every inch of the building. If you’ve ever had workers inside your house for an entire day, you know that this can be somewhat obtrusive and often requires you to plan your entire day around the worker’s schedule.
Now, with 3D laser scanning, we’ve cut our time in the field dramatically. A project that used to take us about 7 hours in the field only a couple of years ago, today takes maybe 1 to 2 hours (for a typical residence or small commercial building) using a laser scanner. This means that we can get in, get what we need, and get out before you or your client even figures out what they are having for lunch. You can get on with your busy schedule, or just relax in your house without a stranger hanging out all day. Although, I do think we make pretty decent house guests.



On location with one of our 3D scanning specialists. Our laser scanners work well in both small and large spaces.

2. Millions of Data Points = We Can Accommodate Any Request

Another big advantage of using a 3D laser scanner for As-Built surveying is the amount of information that is gathered. Before laser scanners, we had to pick and choose the measurements we would take and the information we could capture based on the scope of work requested by our client. If our client wanted an As-Built floor plan and reflected ceiling plan (RCP), we would only gather enough data to complete these 2 plan types. Now with the laser scanner we can digitally capture everything visible in your house or building with incredible precision. This means we know where every wall, window, door, ceiling beam, light fixture, cabinet, and piece of furniture is located in the building.

This information gathered from your property by the 3D laser scanner contains millions of data points that we use to create your finished As-Built deliverables. The big advantage for our customers in capturing all this data is the flexibility that it provides if more information is needed. For example, what if our customer decided after the field visit that in addition to the floor plan and RCP, they need some interior elevations and a section drawing? Previously we would have had to return to the building to take additional measurements – requiring additional time to schedule a second field visit, and an additional inconvenience to the property owner. With laser scanners, we already have all of the data we need to create these additional As-Built plans, so we are able to accommodate these change order requests quickly and keep the project moving. It’s what we do best!


Roof Top View By 3D Scanner

Our 3D Laser Scanning team can produce As-Built surveys of a variety of different building types.

3. Complicated Structures are Now a Breeze

It’s hard to overstate how much more precise our AutoCAD and Revit deliverables are now that we use 3D laser scanners. We have always been extremely accurate, recording individual measurements to the fraction of an inch and employing multiple redundancies and other As-Built best practices to ensure a quality product. But, to be honest with you, there’s just no equating what can be done with tape measures and simple electronic measuring tools compared to what we can do with 3D laser scanners.

No matter how many measurements we took back in the good old days, we simply couldn’t have collected as much information about your building as a laser scanner can. For a simple building with basic geometry, it might not make too much of a difference. But for larger structures and more complex architecture such as curved walls, vaulted or arched ceilings, and non-standard angles, laser scanners provide a whole new level of precision and detail. This increase in total accuracy becomes even more critical when we are creating a comprehensive 3D BIM model from the data captured in the field. This benefit to our customer is yet another reason why we’ve decided to adopt this technology with so much passion.


At PPM, we take great pride in making sure that our customers are comfortable and satisfied with all phases of our service. With the faster location time afforded by 3D Laser scans, our customers are even happier.

4. You Tell Us What You Want And We’ll Deliver

If I haven’t made it abundantly clear already, 3D laser scanning allows us more flexibility to tailor our deliverable to your needs. Because we have so much data gathered for your As-Built survey and because this information is accurate, complete, digital, and portable – we have a wide variety of options for our clients when it comes to the As-Built information we provide.
The 3D “point clouds” generated by a laser scanner can be worked with either in 2D or 3D. Our 2D AutoCAD drawings and 3D Revit models can be created exactly to your specifications and are always designed with your project’s best interest in mind. This means that our customer service and project management outreach is more important than ever. We have a dedicated staff whose primary purpose is to find out exactly what you require, and then create a deliverable that will make your job infinitely easier. Another new option is to deliver the raw data (the point cloud) directly. For those that know how to work with it, the point cloud is an extremely detailed “digital twin” of the building and can be delivered as soon as the day after the field work.

3D Laser Scanners – Good for Us and Great for You!

So, as you can see, 3D laser scanning has really improved the As-Built customer experience in many different ways here at PPM. We are beyond excited to see how this technology will continue to revolutionize our business and provide you with the best As-Built service possible.

Now that you know how 3D laser scanning can improve your customer experience for your remodel projects, I hope you’re as excited about these new developments as we are. Reach out to our team with any questions you may have. We’re here to support your next remodel project!

About PPM

At PPM, our goal is to help set you and your project up for success from the start. While we are dedicated to tried-and-true process and deliver consistently accurate plans, success is not just in the numbers – it’s a feeling of trust, confidence, ownership and teamwork. Our team is committed to Core Values that drive our business and our clients’ success. We’re here to support you every step of the way.

Do you have an upcoming remodel, addition, or historic preservation project we can assist with?

Interested in learning more about our As-Built Survey process?

Street Perspective Of Home 3D Laser As-Built Scanner
576 308 Andy McFarland

How I Finally Learned to Drop the Tape Measure and Embrace the 3D Laser Scanner

How 3D Laser Scanning is Changing The Financials Of As-Built Surveying

For the first 14 years of Precision Property Measurements, it was just a few trusty surveyors and me waking up at 5 AM, Monday through Friday, hopping on the freeway to beat the LA morning traffic, and breaking out our handy measuring tapes, pencils, and paper to collect our clients’ As-Built property measurements. Our “high-tech” equipment was a laser distance meter, but even that high-precision tool can only take 1 measurement at a time. In some ways, I remember those days fondly. It was much more of a physically demanding process back then, and there was something gratifying about coming home each day having put in a number of hours dangling from ladders or scraping through crawl spaces.

If I had the choice, would I go back to those early days?

Probably not, but there’s nothing wrong with reminiscing. Though we do hand measure our clients’ properties from time to time depending on size and scope, over the last 2 years 3D laser scanners have revolutionized the way we do business, both in the field, in the office, and financially.

With that being said, over a series of posts, I’d like to explain how different PPM is today now that we have made a big push into this amazing, revolutionary technology. This first post will be about how 3D laser scanners have transformed the financial dynamics of what we do best: delivering accurate, high-quality As-Built surveys to our clients.

So, if you’d like a behind-the-scenes peak into how one of the top As-Built surveying companies in the country is changing due to this innovation, then please read on.

3D Laser As-Built Survey Showing Hi Angle View

A 3D laser scan can present unique perspectives for architects.

First Things First—What the Heck is 3D Laser Scanning?

MacBooks are to parchment and quill as 3D laser scanners are to tape measures. What I mean is they’re almost not even in the same universe.

To keep it simple, 3D laser scanners shoot… well, lasers in all directions, and whatever the lasers hit gets recorded as a 3-dimensional point for us to decipher later. The laser scanners we use shoot tens of thousands of points per second! So even a small building will generate many millions of data points in very little time. The resulting file containing all of these 3D points is called a Point Cloud file. The next step for us then is to take that point cloud, and through a series of different processes and software applications, create a usable deliverable for our client: Typically, a 2D AutoCAD drawing or a 3D Revit model.

These days, working with point clouds is what we spend quite a bit of our time doing here at PPM. Whereas a couple of years ago, we were creating accurate As-Built plans based on our hand-draw sketches containing individual measurements, now we are working with this incredibly accurate digital point cloud data. The challenge for us is that the point cloud contains everything that the lasers hit – wall decorations, furniture, coffee cups, pets… just look around you right now and you’ll get an idea for everything that can be contained in a point cloud. Our job is to focus on providing only what’s important for our client.

As you can imagine, this dramatic change in our process has been quite an adjustment in how we deal with dollars and cents here at PPM, so, next, I’d like to tell you about the 2 major ways that 3D laser scanning has changed the financials of our company.

Roof Top View By 3D Scanner

3D As-Built scans can provide extremely useful views that previously were difficult to obtain.

“Looks like we’re going to need a bigger equipment budget.”

When I started with PPM back in 2002, it cost about $5,000 to outfit my workers or myself with all of the tools we needed to start on a client’s project. This provided us with the field equipment, which was pretty minimal back then, plus the computer and software we needed in the office to create the finished CAD product.

Now, since the 3D laser scanner came around, we’ve seen quite an uptick in how much overhead we need for our field and office operations.

First, the 3D laser scanners—there are many different units on the market so the price will vary, but the 3D laser scanners that we use cost about $50,000 a piece. That’s right, this single tool is 10x more expensive than our entire kit cost only a couple of years ago.

Second, we need a much more sophisticated and high-powered computer and networking system than what we used back in the good old days, in order to handle all that point cloud data. So, over the past couple of years, we’ve replaced all of our production computers with high-end models, bought new servers and networking equipment, dramatically increased our local and cloud data storage capacity, and we are about to significant upgrade our internet speeds so that we can quickly transfer data to and from our regional offices, field survey crews, and clients.

You might be wondering how we can afford to make these investments without any increases in the rates we charge our clients. Good question. Well, there are more than a few cost advantages of using 3D laser scanners for As-Built surveying, as you’ll see in the next section of this post.


Architects are enthusiastic about the exterior configurations of homes that are scanned and surveyed with the highest accuracy by 3D laser scanners.

Less Time on Site = Less Time in LA Traffic!

With the adoption and integration of 3D laser scanning into our processes, our productivity has increased dramatically. First off, we save a ton of time in the field. A couple of years ago, to survey a typical Single-Family house, we would have needed 5-7 hours at the site – a full day’s worth of work including travel. Our day in the field used to consist of sketching, measuring, maybe using a laptop to draw on site, and although we were great at it, the process was pretty tedious. Also, because we’re located here in Southern California, we would start at the crack of dawn so we could be done by early afternoon and not have to suffer through endless gridlock.

Now, using a 3D laser scanner, that same house would take maybe 1 to 2 hours in the field – making our time in the field about a quarter of what it used to be. For larger projects which used to take multiple days, this reduction in field time can also save a lot money in travel, as we now only need one trip to the project instead of 2 or 3. It also makes out-of-state projects more financially feasible, since we can save money on hotels, rental cars, and per diem due to our much quicker surveying process.

The other part of the As-Built process, the office work, has not yet seen any significant gains in efficiency, but things are trending in that direction. Currently, it still takes us about the same amount of time as it used to, to take the field data and draft it into AutoCAD or Revit. But we think that over time, as we get better and better at working with point clouds, and new software comes along that help automate different parts of the process, we will see similar gains in our productivity on the backend.

Because of this shift in the process, PPM is working to revamp our labor force. Everyone is learning new skills, and our hiring plan has changed dramatically. Whereas previously the general ratio was one office worker for each field surveyor, now the field work is so efficient that we need 4 to 5 drafters for every surveyor. Just another change like so many others that is brought about by the transformation of our business with 3D laser scanners.

Now, you may be asking yourself…

Point Cloud 3D Laser Scan

The beauty of the point cloud scan rendering is in the details, as well as the colors.

Why Do We Love 3D Laser Scanners So Much?

The answer is simple: We want to deliver the best and most accurate products as we can to our clients, and 3D laser scanners are the perfect way to accomplish this for the foreseeable future. Though overhead costs have increased, and we have to remake our labor force, there have been just as many positive aspects of switching to 3D laser scanning.

For instance, in order to accommodate all of the additional drafters we need to work with point clouds, we’re opening a new office in Salt Lake City, which we are calling our “CAD Command Center”. This move has upped our profile on a national level and will set us up to achieve our Mission of opening at least 8 new Regional Offices by 2025. It will also increase my opportunities to go skiing once winter rolls around.

But beyond all of the financial ups and downs that this new technology has caused us, it’s our commitment to our craft and our clients that informed our decision to adopt such a business-exploding piece of equipment.

At PPM, we’re looking forward to the future and all of the technological developments that will bring our business into the forefront of the 21st century. To us, there’s no improvement without innovation, and we’re glad that we’re placed firmly on the cutting edge of what is sure to be a revolution in the As-Built survey business.

Thanks for reading!

The PPM staff at the company picnic.
576 384 Andy McFarland

PPM Loves Super Hero Company Picnics

4 Tips For Making Your Company Picnic A Memorable, Team-Building Experience

On Saturday, July 21, the team here at Precision Property Measurements took to Whaley Park in our hometown of Long Beach, CA to have our fourth annual memorable, team-building company picnic experience. We were lucky enough to get a beautiful Southern California day and our employees, along with their families, were ready to have an afternoon full of teamwork-inspired activities and delicious eats.

At four years strong, our company picnic is one of the highlights of our year and planning it is no small feat. We start months in advance, taking volunteers from the staff, who are given various duties, and we have meetings throughout the spring and summer to see how the event is progressing. The picnic always takes place on the day after our quarterly company staff meeting in July, which is a nice way to celebrate all of the success we’ve had over the year so far, and also makes it easier to invite the staff from PPM’s Bay Area and Salt Lake City offices to come down and attend both events.

Why do we work so hard for a single day? The answer is simple.

Though our company picnics are a blast, they’re so much more than just an excuse to get out of the office. This is a time for our employees and management to get to know each other outside of the workplace and come together as a team in an enjoyable and low-stakes environment. (See our Core Values page for more.) For us, events like this are so important to creating the kind of engaged, professional and fun atmosphere we want at PPM.

So, with almost half a decade of company picnic experience under our belts, we thought we’d share our most successful tips for planning your own company picnic.


Our kickball game at Whaley Park.

Alyson squares up a kick for the Scanvengers at PPM’s kickball game at Whaley Park, Long Beach.

1. Kick Things off with a Competitive Event

Our picnic was superhero themed this year, which we think is a great way to make things more fun for everyone. This meant that some of the employees’ children dressed up as their favorite superheroes, and our kickball teams were named the Bustas League and the Scanvengers – PPM’s twists on the Justice League and the Avengers.

We tried to make the teams as evenly matched as possible based on our employees’ athletic abilities. It seemed like we did a good job because the game was pretty tight until the bottom of the fourth and the final inning when the Scanvengers came from behind with three clutch runs, clinching the title (and the championship medals!) until next year.

If you’re not a kickball fan, try capture the flag, tug of war, whiffle ball, badminton, or whatever you think will help encourage teamwork and a competitive spirit.


Great tacos at the PPM Company Picnic

Delicious tacos with all the fixin’s from Borracho’s Tacos. Yum!

2. Make Sure You Have Some Seriously Delicious Food

At PPM we love to eat, and yes, it is amazing that we’re able to keep our stunning physiques with such insatiable appetites. Our advice is to find a local restaurant or food truck that people in your office love and get them to cater your event. We chose Borracho’s Tacos, a taco truck in the area that pretty much everyone in the office knows and craves on a weekly basis.

The biggest tip we can give you for planning the food is to make sure you find out your guest’s allergies and other food restrictions ahead of time and have a variety of options available. For instance, we had delicious steak and shrimp tacos, but also vegetarian and gluten-free options for members of our team who had dietary restrictions.

Remember, this day is all about teamwork, so you want everyone to feel welcome at your company picnic. Catering to your employees’ gustatory needs is an important part of making everyone feel like they belong.


Wheel barrow race at PPM company picnic

Taylor (in costume) and Colin surge ahead during the wheelbarrow portion of the relay race.

3. Plan Fun Activities Throughout the Day

Kickball wasn’t the end to our fun and games at Whaley Park. After more than a few tacos and refreshments, we organized a relay obstacle course and a trivia game. One interesting idea we had this time around was to make the trivia game centered around the company’s history and office anecdotes. This not only reminds employees about the company’s progress over the years but also lets them know that they’re a part of a culture that has its own particular stories and characters.

The relay obstacle course was maybe the highlight of the whole day and this was because we planned a number of activities that were fun but would also test our employees’ teamwork abilities. They faced a gauntlet of obstacles, including a potato sack, three-legged, and wheelbarrow race, along with a watermelon eating contest for the final station.

Whoever was brave enough to take on the watermelon portion of the relay had to eat a whole one-quarter of a watermelon with no hands. A bit of a scandal broke out this year when the “winning” team was caught using their hands to finish off their hunk of melon, but it was all in good fun and actually brought even more excitement to an already electrifying event.


A little superhero having fun with water balloons.

The Super Hero kids had a great time with the water balloons.

4. Cultivate a Family Atmosphere

Probably the most gratifying aspect of our company picnic is meeting our employees’ families in a relaxed and non-businesslike atmosphere. For our newer employees, we finally get to meet the son or daughter they’ve been talking about all year, and for our long-time personnel, we have the pleasure of seeing how fast their kids have grown since the last time we saw them.

We care so much about making our company picnic a family affair that, this year, we got a piñata, ball pit, and organized a bunch of kids’ games to keep the little ones engaged. We even encouraged a big water balloon fight, which ended, of course, with the parents joining forces against the kids.

In case you were wondering, the parents were sorely beaten.

The Wrap Up

So those are our 4 tips for organizing your company picnic. Remember, this event is one of the best places for you to get to know your employees, and remind them how much their hard work means to you. Believe us, everyone will return to the office on Monday with a new-found sense of teamwork and appreciation for their colleagues.

Get planning!


900 333 Andy McFarland

As-Built Surveys For Restoration Of Architectural Masterpieces

Long Beach Architecture Tour Featuring Mid-Century Pioneer Edward Killingsworth


Killingsworth commercial building used for Architectural Office Space

Kelly Sutherlin McLeod Architecture, Inc.’s new office space in Long Beach, CA built by Architect Edward Killingsworth. Photo by Julius Shulman and Juergen Nogai © JUERGEN NOGAI

It All Started with an As-Built Survey…

Over the course of 16+ years and 17,000 (give or take) As-Built surveys, there are certain projects that stand out.  Sometimes it’s for not-so-great reasons (like in 2005 when I left all my tools on a client’s front porch and had to drive back to Yorba Linda in the middle of Friday afternoon traffic), but much more often it’s because the project is really cool and we are proud to be a part of them. Like working on a restoration of an architectural masterpiece.  A few months ago we were contacted by one of our regular clients, Kelly Sutherlin McLeod Architecture Inc. with just such a project.  KSMA is an award-winning firm right here in Long Beach, specializing in residential, light commercial, cultural and urban planning projects.  They asked us to provide an updated survey of their headquarters in the Bixby Knolls area of Long Beach.

When Passion and Work Combine, Everybody Wins

As we began the process of scheduling the project, one of our surveyors, Daniel Noble, quickly volunteered for the assignment.  What Daniel knew is that the building was designed by the late Edward A. Killingsworth FAIA, a well-remembered prominent local architect who has been recognized as one of Southern California’s most celebrated architects, primarily known for his Mid-century Modern masterpieces.  Daniel grew up in Long Beach, admiring Killingsworth’s work, with an ever growing passion for all types of architecture, interior design and restoration on historical structures.  Daniel did a full interior and exterior survey of the 5,000 SF building on April 27th using one of PPM’s laser scanners. Over the next week, he developed a complete set of As-Built Floor Plans, RCP, Roof Plan, Exterior Elevations, and a Section drawing in AutoCAD.


Surveyor Daniel sitting at desk for drafing work at Precision Property Measurements

Daniel Noble shown at his drafting work station at Precision Property Measurement’s headquarters in Long Beach, CA.


PDF drawing of east view of exterior elevations for KSW Architecture office

Daniel’s sketch of the east Exterior Elevations view of the KSM Architecture Office.


The As-Builts are done – but the story is just beginning.

If this was any other project, PPM’s involvement would have ended at this point.  We hand off the As-Built survey to our client, wish them luck in their restoration project, and then move on to the next one.  But as luck would have it, right after measuring the KSM Office, Kelly shared an invitation with Daniel to experience an upcoming tour of several local buildings that Killingsworth designed. The event was hosted by the Historical Society of Long Beach, and each structure was generously opened to the public by its current owner.  Daniel very excitedly attended the tour on May 19th along with about 100 other attendees.

The first stop on the tour was the Killingsworth family home. This house was a “family project,” and was built by Ed, his wife Laura (who still lives there today), and their two sons. The home was built with Killingsworth’s iconic post and beam construction style, and is still cherished by the family today as the primary place to gather each Christmas.



The next stop on the tour was the Brady Home, which has been recently purchased by the artist Lewy Kallas. With a deep love for Killingsworth’s work and architectural style, Lewy intends to restore the home back to it’s original design, after previous owners have changed the style of the home through a variety of renovations.



The final stop on the tour was a commercial office building located at that is widely viewed as one of Killingsworth’s most impactful works of architecture. This building was originally built to be a law office for Clock, Waestman, Clock, and is now owned by Oren and Lauren Tanzer. Most of the building is occupied by their company, Summerjax, while one unit is rented out to realtor Nate Cole, who operated his business Unique California Property which specializes in the sale and purchase of custom unique homes. Several of his clients have been owners or buyers of Killingsworth-designed homes.  As you can see from the photos, Killingsworth wanted guests to really feel like they had arrived at the structure by creating this special feature at the building entry.



Architects Make Great Partners

The Killingsworth Architecture tour was a great way to connect with the iconic designs of a Long Beach legend.  More broadly, it really put into perspective the amazing work that our architect clients like Kelly Sutherlin McLeod, FAIA are doing every day to create beautiful and functional living and work spaces.  We are honored to be able to partner with these leading-edge firms as they transform our built environment.




Thanks for reading!


1024 932 Andy McFarland

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….

1024 512 Andy McFarland

Why it’s important to Win (or at least try to!)

Teamwork and the Importance of Winning.

I participated in a couple of seemingly different events last week that got me thinking about the topics of teamwork and winning. The connection between the two might not seem obvious, but by the end of the week I could definitely feel the similarities – see if you can relate…

It all started on Monday with a last minute trip to San Francisco. If you know me, you know that I am a HUGE baseball fan, and that the Giants are my favorite team. The Giants were hosting the Chicago Cubs for a playoff game and so my dad and I flew up to watch the game. Playoff sports are always exciting, and I could feel the energy in the city from the moment we stepped off the BART station on Market St.  San Francisco is never short on buzz, but the atmosphere was downright electric as we walked to AT&T park surrounded by other fans. Sitting in the left field bleachers (where the best fans are) throughout the game, we all cheered together or groaned together depending on the circumstances on the field. If you are a sports fan I assume you know this feeling – as if YOU are actually on the team yourself, and a win for the team is a win for “Us”.

Me on the right, my dad on the left, and our friend Lon in the middle.  Go Giants!

Then at the end of the week on Friday, PPM had our Quarterly Staff Meeting.  This has been a ritual of ours since at least 2008, where we all get together to review how things went for us over the previous 3 months, and talk about our goals for the next 3 months.  We eat a catered lunch, review our financial results, talk about any challenges we faced or processes we improved, and if things are well – we make sure to celebrate our success as a team.  It is a feel-good event where everyone can feel proud of themselves and their teammates for what we have accomplished, and motivated about the improvements that we plan to make in the next quarter to become a better As-Built surveying company for our clients, vendors, and employees.

Question:  What do these events have in common?

Answer:  Teamwork and the power of winning!

As weird as it may sound, I got the same feeling at the company meeting that I got at the baseball game.  It was a feeling of comradery and shared purpose – that we all had the same goal, were all in it together, and all wanted to Win. It is why complete strangers at a ballgame will high five or even hug when something great happens for their team, or why 20 people at PPM will start cheering when I announce that we acheived our As-Built program delivery goals for the quarter.

People want to feel like they are playing for something. In sports, the goal is usually simple – to score more points than the other team.  In business it’s not usually that easy – there are no end zones, home plates or finish lines.  So you have to define your own goals so that your team will know what they should be striving for, and if and when they have won.  But the best part about winning in business is that you can ALL win together.  Unlike in sports, you don’t have to also have a losing team.  You can all be cheering together!

Here’s a few things we’ve done to bring the concept of winning into our business:

  • Define the goals.  Every year and every quarter we set goals for things like revenue, client satisfaction, employee engagement, systems to improve, etc…   They should be ambitious, but realistic.
  • Track and announce progress.  Just setting goals isn’t enough.  You have to track them and talk about them regularly.  In sports, there is a scoreboard there at all times so you always know how you are doing.  You need the same thing in your business.
  • CELEBRATE!  Give everyone an extra incentive to want to win – it needs to be fun!  The danger of not celebrating is that your goal starts feeling more like a punishment if you fall short, rather than a reward when you win.

Our tracking sheet for Q3 Goals.  The reward for achieving them all? Employee Racing Event at K1 Speed!

Getting your team aligned behind the company goals is one of the most impactful things you can do as a leader in your company.  So take a lesson from sports and harness the power of teamwork and Winning!

1024 694 Andy McFarland

Starting the day off right – the Bustation Declaration!

How We Get Fired Up To Make A Fantastic As-Built Survey For You


We have always liked to think of ourselves as a fun company.  Whether it’s company parties and events, office jokes and pranks, or just the lively discussions and laughter that you hear on a daily basis, it’s clear that the people at PPM have a good time at work – for the most part.  But as we have grown to 20+ people, we’ve found it hard to keep that same spirit and positive energy – particularly in the mornings.  See for yourself with this “before” photo of Alyson:

Before. Lethargic and low energy. Not ready to Bust.

One of our favorite words here at PPM is “Busting”. When you “Bust”, it means you are giving your full focus and energy towards whatever you are doing, and you’re in a good mood while you do it. A typical conversation with one of our As-Built Surveyors might go something like this:

Me: “How did that project go today?”

Surveyor: “It was great.  Came out perfectly.  I totally busted it.”

Me:  “Awesome.  Nice busting.”

In fact, we like this word so much that we made it our very first Core Value


It’s fairly easy to Bust in the field – you get to the jobsite early, you have a finite amount of work to get done, and besides measuring buildings is FUN! But in the office it’s a little harder to get fired up sometimes.  It was in response to this problem that the Bustation Declaration was invented at PPM.


  • At 8:45AM sharp, each morning, the entire staff at PPM stands up and gathers together (either indoors or outdoors)
  • The Leader will choose a 3-5 minute activity to get people engaged (we’ve had stretching, exercises, dances, word games – “would you rather” is a favorite).  The purpose here is to bring up the energy level and get people smiling.
  • Announcements are made (anything interesting that happened to anyone last night/this morning, any events happening at office today, etc…)
  • 3-5 people will speak up and make their BUSTATION DECLARATION!  This is where you DECLARE how you are going to BUST that day.  What are you going to get done?  What are you excited about?  What is motivating you to BUST today?  (usually something personal like a fun event happening that night or weekend)
  • A high energy closing.  We like the slow clap, wave, sports cheer, high five line, or something along those lines.
  • When the day is over and people are heading home, those that have successfully Busted that day and reached their goals can ring the “Li-BUST-y Bell” on their way out, which is basically just a blue cowbell.  Everyone else stops what they are doing and Cheers!

After.  Look at Alyson now!  High energy Busting!

I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.  Anyone else do something similar at their company?