Undoubtedly, the Sage Construction and Real Estate blog (blog.sagecre.com) is a top contender in the 2013 Best Construction Blog competition. Since the competition started, this blog has topped the popular voting and, unless a competitor has a last minute surge, it will likely be the number one blog for popular vote.
Of course, the judges give less weight to votes when they arise from a single organization than a diverse group of readers, but they also look at the blog’s overall quality. I can’t tell what the judges will decide here, but I like what I see. Several contributors are sharing practical, useful and insightful ideas in a well-written structure.
As an example, consider a couple of recent blog posts.
On Feb. 19, Blake Thompson reported in Tips Tuesday: 5 ways to use social media in your job, some resources and ideas that I certainly did not know about — and I’m not modest in asserting that I am a social media guru in the AEC community. Consider, for example, his evaluation of several social media tools (I know of some of them, but certainly not all):
That got me thinking. How could social media tools make for a more productive work environment? A lot of construction and real estate companies use social media to help them connect with their customers, but I wanted to know how social technology could help any one of us in our day-to-day jobs.
This was actually a lot of fun to research, and I’ve found five must-have tools for you:
- Hootsuite – Really a cool tool. You have the ability to link up to five social media accounts for free. I run a “tab” for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, which means that with a simple click I can check out the latest activity on my timeline or look to see what topics are generating discussion on LinkedIn. Additionally, I can follow specific hashtags on Twitter and the interactions for them. It’s a quick way to keep up with best practices and professional connections.
- Evernote – This slick tool is really beneficial for note taking, so if you’re in a meeting you can capture ideas, web pages, and comments using your mobile device and then review later.
- Pinterest – Did you know that Pinterest isn’t just for sharing recipes or crafts or wedding ideas? You can actually store articles that you enjoyed (and share with others). And if you want to share a fun recipe, too, then have at it!
- Refynr – If you follow a large number of people on Twitter, your timeline can be nearly impossible to keep up with. With Refynr you can create a customized filter based on keywords. It’s much like following a hashtag, but you can actually follow the individual words in a tweet, rather than simply following a hashtag. You can bet I’ll be using this to follow the action at this year’s Sage Summit!
- Springpad – Relatively unknown, but really useful. Think Pinterest and Evernote fused into a single tool. It allows you to categorize information and automatically suggests similar items. Best of all, this productivity tools allow you to sync to calendars and mobile devices. For more information check out this review.
Then, read Deb Carpenter Beck‘s assessment of the Family Business Institute‘s Performance Roundtable Program, which provides a rather powerful peer-review program. Beck reports on her conversation with Georgia-based general contractor Chris Sheridan about the group he joined nearly nine years ago:
Since joining the program in 2004, Chris and seven other members of his peer group have met twice a year. All members are from different parts of the country, so there are no competitive issues and members feel completely comfortable sharing information. According to Chris, the goal is to give everyone full visibility into each other’s business. In fact, prior to each meeting they send in all their financial information, including balance sheets, income statements, employee safety reports and salary details. A Performance Roundtable facilitator then normalizes the data for quick comparisons and benchmarking.
The evaluation doesn’t stop there. Meetings rotate between each member’s company office. The person hosting the meeting is asked what he or she wants the group to dig into while they are on-site. Then the group – minus the hosting executive – interviews the company’s employees, writes up a SWOT analysis, and provides a set of recommendations. The resulting conversation is frank and eye-opening.
For Chris, the biggest value of his peer group is their objectivity. “They’ve been able to see things in my business that I couldn’t see myself,” he told me. Based on their recommendations he has improved his business and has a much better succession strategy. He has moved his best project manager – and right-hand man – into a position overseeing other project managers. He now is less involved in day-to-day management and focused on business direction. And he is considering a “youth movement” to continually bring in young workers that will carry the company forward. He also has a good handle on how his company stacks up with his peers in terms of cash position, profit margins, risk, safety and other key measures.
Chris admits that when he first joined the peer group he thought that it would be a good thing to do, but he didn’t realize how much it would positively impact his business. He firmly believes that if he had kept doing the same thing and not made any of the group’s recommended changes, his business wouldn’t survive after his tenure as president. That’s what I call peer power!
To its credit, Sage doesn’t use the blog for overtly commercial interests. You can read and enjoy and benefit from the blog if you elect not to do business with the company (a real plus for blog value). I needed to go elsewhere on the Sage site to discover the company’s profile/message, which I’ll repeat here:
Sage is a world-leading supplier of accounting and business management software to start-up, small, and midsized businesses. Our purpose is to help our customers run their businesses more effectively—helping them gain greater insight into their business activities and providing them with lasting benefits by automating their business processes. Our applications cover a wide range of business requirements, including accounting, customer relationship management, contact management, human resources, warehouse management, and specialized products for specific industries.