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Arizona Sales Tax Prime Contracting Examples for 2015: How to Receive Automatic Updates December 1, 2014

Posted by carolhagen in construction accounting software.
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Prime Contracting Sales Tax interpretations by the Arizona Department of Revenue at CFMA in Phoenix

Marj Weber, Irontree Construction Inc introduces the AZ sales tax panel (left to right): Craig McPike, Snell & Wilmer; Christie Comanita, Arizona Dept. of Revenue; David James, FNF Construction at the CFMA luncheon

The Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) Valley of the Sun Chapter recently hosted a TPT Changes Panel Discussion of the new hybrid sales tax system going into effect January 1, 2015. So sweeping are these changes to the construction industry that the Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR) posted its official interpretation to address various questions and provides examples involving changes to the prime contracting TPT. This Transaction Privilege Notice 14-1, dated November 18, 2015 can be downloaded from https://www.azdor.gov/Business/TransactionPrivilegeTax/Notices.aspx

During the discussion, panelist Christie Comanita (ADOR) explained that the Transaction Privilege Tax Notice 14-1 is a living document and will have additional contracting examples and frequently asked questions added over time. The TPT Notice was chosen to expedite the dissemination of interpretations and streamlines the publication process. Unfortunately with the budget cuts at the ADOR, there is not an email notification option for changes to just this Tax Notice although changes will be published on the website and eventually distributed with all other TPT updates in the AZTaxes Newsletter.

As a construction technology provider and workflow process junkie, I’m here to empower you with a solution that delivers these updates to your inbox the same day that ADOR updates their website. It’s easy to do, takes less two minutes and is a must have for Construction CFOs, controllers, CPAs, and construction associations with business in Arizona.

View the step by step instructions on how to be automatically notified when the Arizona Transaction Privilege Notice for prime contracting is updated on the ADOR website.

Additional opportunities to learn about TPT:

December 5, 2014 Beach Fleishman – 7:30 – 12:00
(Annual construction conference – multiple topics with approx. 2 hours devoted to the new sales taxes)
Location: Lovitt and Touché, 1050 W. Washington #233, Tempe
Contact: Angel Wible, Beach Fleischman 602-265-7011

December 10, 2014 11:30-1:30pm Arizona Builders Alliance Office (Tucson)
For add’l info and to RSVP http://www.azbuilders.org/events/transaction-privilege-tax-reform/

December 11, 2014, 11:55 AM – 1:30 PM (Tucson) RSVP through the CFMA
Location: Sir Veza’s (Tucson Mall)
Contact: Krista Conway, Beach Fleischman KConway@BeachFleischman.com

December 11, 2014 ASCPA 11:30 registration: 12:00 webinar: ends 1:00
Location: ASCPA office, 4801 E Washington #225-B, Phoenix
Contact: Mary Holt 602-252-4144

Other things to look for in the upcoming months (from ADOR):

Ability to look up taxing jurisdiction and applicable tax rate by January 1, 2015
Bulk filing by jurisdiction by January 1, 2015
New joint tax application (JT-1) with jurisdiction address functionality: July 1, 2015
Enhanced AZTaxes.gov e-file system: October 1, 2015
New TPT form for filing monthly TPT returns which will allow taxpayers to report data by business location: October 1, 2015
Bulk filing capabilities for taxpayers to file by business location: October 1, 2015
An electronic license renewal process for all taxpayers, including non-program city taxpayers between October and December, 2015

Please share this with all your construction contacts doing business in Arizona. They’ll thank you for it!

To learn more about the CFMA and to get connected to more construction financial professionals, visit their website at http://www.cfma.org

If you are looking for technology solutions, we’re here to help. Hagen Business Systems, Inc. is focused on the construction industry moving contractors to digital, mobile and lean software solutions addressing the needs of operations with, mobile timekeeping, document management, equipment management and tracking, customer relationship management, construction project management, estimating and accounting. As a Viewpoint Business Development partner and Bluebeam Gold Partner we look for ways to streamline your processes and increase your productivity in the field and office.

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CFMA 2013 Annual Conference: What’s In It for Me? April 26, 2013

Posted by carolhagen in construction accounting software, Construction Industry, Construction Industry - Software.
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CFMA conference attendees plan their next moveEach year the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) gathers the best speakers, trending topics and resources together at their annual conference and exhibition.  This year is no exception as many will make the trek to San Diego to reconnect with friends, accumulate needed CPE credits and have fun.  For many CFMA members they have yet to experience all the hoopla and it’s because they don’t have a compelling reason to attend.  They ask themselves “What’s in it for me?” and fail to make the case to themselves or their employers.  Let’s change that now.

The 2013 CFMA conference is going to be EPIC.  Much like coffee shops that jumpstart creativity and innovation, the conference offers many of the same benefits.  To quote Fast Company in their article “Why you should work from a coffee shop, even when you have an office“,

A change of environment stimulates creativity. Even in the most awesome of offices we can fall into a routine, and a routine is the enemy of creativity. Changing your environment, even just for a day, brings new types of input and stimulation, which in turn stimulates creativity and inspiration.

Another conference takeaway, also holds true and is taken from Wikipedia’s English coffee houses in the 17th and 18th century,

… with the intellectual and cultural history of the Age of Enlightenment: they were an alternate sphere for intellectual thought, supplementary to the university.

Yes, the CFMA conference will get you thinking differently,  spark new ideas and offer an open exchange or an “alternative sphere” of financial best practices and innovation.  Your CFMA conference experience promises to be much different than going to a stuffy AICPA course or attending your local university symposium.

A favorite place for idea exchanges are in the exhibitor hall where you can visit the technology, business and financial leaders in the construction industry.  You should be scouring the booths for new apps and more uses for the software products you use now or will use in the future.  I’m especially interested in the improvements and new product acquisitions that bring more mobility to the workforce.  FYI – there’s a LinkedIn Group you may be interested in joining “Construction Apps, Software and Technology” where there’s more discussion year round.   It’s not all about GAAP, as this conference delivers value for operations with solutions eliminating silos between project management, preconstruction, estimating and BIM too. Many firms bring their Chief Information Office or IT department looking specifically for answers to mobile device management, cloud computing, and managed services.

There are many opportunities for connecting with your peers, discussing your challenges and learning how others have solved these same problems.  Take advantage of all the social events as this is often where the magic happens.  You make more than LinkedIn connections, you make lifelong friendships while meeting the cream of the crop in construction finance.  Think of it this way, you may pay consultants $250+/hr for expert opinions and guidance.  The CFMA conference lunches, networking and social activities provide time for mini consultations with speakers, exhibitors, CPAs, and Insurance experts from across the country.  It’s also a good place to find possible “good fits” for joint venture projects.

Isn’t it time for your needed enlightenment? Don’t sit home while your competition gets rejuvenated, makes new connections, learns new approaches and sees the most innovative technologies being deployed by the leaders in the construction industry.  As for me I’ll be there networking, learning, teaching (did I mention I’m speaking Wednesday morning? – Taming the Email Monster) and sharing a few of the great moments of the conference live, as it happens on Twitter @carolhagen (with a brief recap inside the CFMA Connection cafe should you not be able to attend).

To encourage more members to attend CFMA’s 2013 Annual Conference and Exhibition I’m calling upon past attendees to share their experiences in the comments either on this blog or inside the CFMA Connection Cafe on the CFMA website (you’ll need to login to post there)  Will I see you there?

Construction Operations: Field and Office Silos February 6, 2013

Posted by carolhagen in BIM, construction accounting software, Construction Industry - Software, Document Imaging.
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Construction Technology has managed to move faster in the last 5 years than in the past 100 with innovation in Operations, communications and collaboration leading the way. This pace will continue as construction project managers find the tools they learned about in college are replaced within 10 years of graduation. There’s something new everyday that makes us work smarter but in this process, silos have crept in. This is particularly noticeable between preconstruction to operations and finance, and from field to office.

Construction Silo Solution
In an article from Construction Business Owner, “Silos: Great for Grain, Not so Great for Business” the solution was stated articulately “…business silos are not simple structures – they are supported by technology and processes. So the way to break down the business silos would seem straightforward – combine the technologies and link the processes that are used in the office and field silos.” So what have you been doing to combine your BIM, project management, collaboration, document management, mobile communications and the construction finance department together?

Construction Technology Challenges
Perhaps your vendors aren’t thinking strategically enough as your contracting firm prepares for the economic surge created by the pent up demand of the recession. Your systems may work well separately but have you found the integrations to be cumbersome or even lacking? Every disconnect causes inefficiencies and added costs. Lack of communications and access to up-to-date information can have a significant impact to your bottom line.

Integration Approach
Third Party integrations seem to have been popular in the 90s as software developers worked diligently to share data. As technology progressed, smart firms offered Software Development Kits (SDK) and introduced Applications Programming Interfeces (API) to help seamlessly share data across systems. The XML standard started gaining traction as the Associated General Contractors of America and COBie made a push for better collaborative solutions. Specializing and doing one thing well is great as you remain focused and innovative. Those that ventured out in developing their own solutions in areas with little or no expertise have paid the price as valuable resources and talent were robbed from their core competencies to create mediocre solutions in the chase to fulfill the needs of field operations, preconstruction and collaboration.

Enterprise Resource Planning
Most ERP solutions today have grown up in a general business environment and added modules to address construction across department and divisions. So what’s a growning innovative construction firm to do when they have a mix of legacy or disconnected systems? I’ll admit I’m biased. As a Business Development Partner for Viewpoint Construction Software I’ve watch strategic acquisitions occur that not only bring teams of focused talent but leverage economies of scale. The approach has been when a critical mass of customers needs a solution that would take years to develop, find the best solution with the best talent and a culture match and either partner or acquire.

Document Management
Last year Viewpoint acquired Construction Imaging (CI) addressing the needs of document control, imaging, capture, workflow, and records retention. CI has integrations with many of the top construction accounting and project management software vendors and it is still providing solutions to contractors wanting to achieve a paperless office while leveraging existing in place systems.

Mobility and Partnerships
Recently Viewpoint acquired ACS Connect to address the needs of the Mobile Field Manager while also welcoming eSub to the Software Development Partners Program. They join a growing community of construction industry focused solutions including: AboutTime, BirdDog, ComData, Cosential, Eathwave Technologies, MJobTime, and SmartBidNet. Integrations are important for specialized solutions but sometime acquisitions can vault a firm into the lead.

Strategic Aquisition
Today, the big announcement at Viewpoint was another acquisition, 4Projects, which brings project controls, procurement, Construction design Management and BIM in a browser all in a SAAS model (cloud computing purity for scalable deployment for one project or many). In time, the integration of Viewpoint V6 and 4Projects will blend. Watch what 4Projects does now and come back to see what Viewpoint will do next.

If your construction system has silos and you’re tired of duplication of effort, Email Me Now!

Construction Accounting Software Selection is Strategic May 2, 2012

Posted by carolhagen in construction accounting software, Construction Industry - Software, Document Imaging.
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Construction Software shouldn't be a 3 card monte decision

Is this Your Construction Accounting Software Selection Process? – Three_Card_Monte, taken in Jaffa, Israel – Author ZioDave

Choosing a Construction Accounting Software Solution can be a daunting task. Whether you’re a general contractor, highway heavy or specialty trade contracting firm it’s not just features or functions that drive your decision. It’s the vision of where you are going, recognizing that today’s construction accounting software impacts more than the finance department.

Construction Accounting systems are key to operations with integrated project management. They offer Business Intelligence and Dashboard insight to owners. These solutions touch every business record with document management becoming a “must have” function. Decisions on accounting software are no longer left up to just the controller or CFO. The entire “C” level management team is heavily involved and asks, “Can this system handle it for our 10 year growth plans?”. No one wants to experience the hassle or expense of changing again and the software provider must share the vision and have the leadership, development and support teams that deliver a continuous improvement value.

The landscape is also changing on how technology is deployed. Cloud computing, mobility, virtualization and big data are challenges for your IT department. Collaborating with internal and external project teams add complexity and security worries. Outsourcing and managed services are becoming common place. Standardization offers advantages and working with an all Microsoft or all Oracle-based system minimizes security holes, reduces software development time and eases support complexities. That alignment converts to long-term relationships and exceptional outcomes.

In the world of software, like construction, the economic downturn has impacted many. Mergers, acquisitions and growth for some, while others remain in survival mode. The commitment to strategic planning and execution makes the difference. Press releases can give you valuable insight into where a construction accounting vendor is positioned. A headquarters visit is also telling. Talking with a handful of existing customers is no longer enough to make an informed decision. Know where the industry leaders are flocking as they’ve done their homework.

Having recently become a Viewpoint Business Development Partner covering Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico, it was a strategic decision for me as well. Serving the construction industry here since 1996 Hagen Business Systems, Inc. has grown  from a construction accounting reseller to the construction solutions “go-to” resource in the Southwest.  We sell construction software for a living (Viewpoint, Bluebeam, Construction Imaging and Corecon) and also speak at industry conferences on mobile apps, tecnology tips and emerging innovation impacting the construction industry.

If you have questions on how to manage electronic documents, need to replace your existing accounting software or want to learn more about construction technology trends, I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter or visit the Hagen Business Systems website.

Here are other articles and news you may be interested in:

Customer Collaboration Contributes to Exceptional 2011 Success for Viewpoint Construction Software

The Construction Office Imperative: Digitize, Go Mobile

Construction Photography Best Practices

The Construction Office Imperative: Digitize, Go Paperless and Mobile February 10, 2012

Posted by carolhagen in construction accounting software, Construction Industry - Software, Document Imaging, Sharepoint.
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construction document storageConstruction companies are bombarded by documents daily and making those documents electronic will reduce paper right? Not so fast. According to this Digital Landfill article “77% of invoices that arrive as PDF attachments get printed. 31% of faxed invoices get printed and scanned back in.” Heck, I know people that print out their email! If this is happening in your construction office it’s time to address the problem.

First let’s address AP invoices and email as everyone has them. If your construction accounting system doesn’t have at minimum a drag n drop feature for documents and emails, it’s time to look for an integrated, comprehensive replacement solution. It’s costing you money staying with software that doesn’t acknowledge how documents are distributed today. Next, give your AP staff Dual Screens keep documents electronic in constructiondual screens so they can process the invoice without printing it out. If you have a process that says match the PO, receiver and invoice together before entering into AP, then you should find a solution that allows you to match the documents by PO number electronically. Making the process fully electronic saves time, eliminates filing and makes document retrieval almost instant.

This also holds true for your construction project management software. Correspondence, contracts and RFIs, change orders, and drawings are frequently emailed. What’s your process to have those emails hit the job jacket? Larger firms share their documents with owners, suppliers and government agencies on Microsoft Sharepoint servers. So now you have two copies of the same document… One in the project software and one on Sharepoint. Let’s also email this out to a few people in the field and you see what happens – copies of copies. At least they’re all electronic. As-builts, Operation and maintenance manuals represent volumes of paper but take little space when electronically rendered. Having an enterprise content management system in place can eliminate the multiple copies, and keep you in synch when it comes to a records retention and destruction policy.

the speed of response to customers, suppliers, citizens or staff by 6-times or more. 70% estimate an improvement of at least 3x, and 29% see an improvement of 10x or more

Many documents in construction also are forms-based. Subcontractor pre-qualifications, timecards, and Human Resource employment records to name a few. While many have turned to Acrobat Professional for forms filling, having the whole workflow process automated is usually not addressed. Some forms spawn more forms (based upon data on the first form). Forms are used to collect data and often that same data needs to be re-keyed into another system. Today’s electronic forms capture can not only capture signatures, each field’s data can be captured and automatically input on another form or shared across software systems. Imagine an equipment usage form updating the equipment usage entry or a timecard form updating the time card entry in your construction accounting system.

The real allure of digital documents in construction is having access to them from anywhere, as many documents get distributed as part of an approval process. Review and approval on a iPad, signature capture on a form and granting access from a mobile device can return big dividends. Access from anywhere, anytime eliminates the interruptions of office staff resulting in better productivity in the office and field. On average, businesses using scanning and capture say that they see “the speed of response to customers, suppliers, citizens or staff by 6-times or more. 70% estimate an improvement of at least 3x, and 29% see an improvement of 10x or more.”

These are compelling statistics. So where can you learn more? The Phoenix Construction Peer Exchange on February 24th. We’re having a guest keynote speaker, Randy Stutzman from FMI Capital Advisors present “Building Value for Your Construction Company Through Your Accounting and IT Groups” and offering two separate educational tracks addressing IT Strategy and Content management. While I am co-hosting the Phoenix Construction Peer Exchange, this event is traveling to other cities throughout the United States. All the event details can be accessed here. You may also want to join The Construction Peer Exchange online in LinkedIn Groups.

Arizona Construction Salary Survey Says… January 3, 2012

Posted by carolhagen in construction accounting software, Construction Industry - Software, linkedin, payroll.
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The Arizona Construction Salary Survey provides you with the employee compensation benchmarks for budgeting and data for best practices during your salary negotiations. The Construction Financial Management Association, Valley of the Sun Chapter is in the process of compiling the results of the December 2011 Arizona Construction Salary Survey. In this sneak peek of the talent employment development section of the survey, the social media recruiting sources while growing, are underutilized, by our survey participants.

My favorite question in the Salary Survey is “What are the primary sources your company uses to recruit new hires (check all that apply)?” While the same question was asked for Field, Office and Executive recruiting, the chart below displays the comparison of office and field recruiting sources:

Arizona Construction Salary Survey Says Social Media Recruiting Sources in Infancy

Source: AZ Construction Salary Survey - CFMA VOS - Dec 2011

The actual reported LinkedIn recruiting usage in the survey were 8.7% for the field workers, 17.4% for office personnel and 12% for management and executives. While Monster, Craigslist and Jobing.com usage were more popular, the Arizona construction industry has begun to embrace some social media. Facebook and Twitter usage were almost non-existent, used by less than 4% of participants. While serving the construction industry, it is still surprising that when it comes to technology that we continue to lag behind other industries. Compare this with statistics from the 2011 Jobvite Survey where

“89% of U.S. companies will use Social Networks for Recruiting”

and you clearly see the disparity.

LinkedIn is the business executives and professional recruitment golden roledex. If your Human Resources Department didn’t realize it, your professional recruiting firm does. As Jobvite has reported, “2/3 of Companies have Hired Successfully using Social Networks”. This is why I blog and teach contractors about LinkedIn, social tools and technology, because there’s a bottom line business value, and it’s not just in recruiting employees.

For those that participated in the Arizona Construction Salary Survey, the full results will be sent to you via email in January 2012. The 2011 Survey is available for purchase for $100 (2009 Survey is available for $50). Request your copy via Email.

If you are looking for ways to better Leverage LinkedIn or have successfully recruited field, office or management positions in the construction industry on social networks, please let us know in the comments. Lastly, please share this with your business connections so they can benefit too.

Construction Software Partly Cloud(y) May 28, 2010

Posted by carolhagen in construction accounting software, Construction Industry - Software, estimating, project management software.
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Cloud ComputingCloud computing at its basic level is accessing applications and data solely via the internet. No extra hardware or software needed, just a web browser and internet connection from your PC, smartphone or iPad. If you don’t need to backup, load updates, have a server or need full-time IT staff to keep it going, why isn’t everything in the cloud already?

Cloud Computing Perceptions: Speed, Security and Trust

Bandwidth is similar to a highway. It’s the infrastructure that connects everyone. If you have two lanes and 100 cars merging from one ramp their’s a traffic jam. It slows everything at that location to a crawl. Get a T1 or T3 line and be there alone…it’s lightening fast and you never wait. Back in my college days it was time-sharing and modem speeds of 1200 baud. Now we want live video streaming and instant access. While the major metro areas have availability, there are challenges where contractors work…the edges of the grid as cities expand. So the rule is as our cell service is so goes our connectivity and speed. Travel to a more rural area and there are still few choices with the only “high” speed option is satellite. Now I live in the Phoenix metro area so for me I’m good with bandwidth.

Another issue with speed is the platform design of the application. There are many mature software systems that did not start on the Internet and their cloud offering is actually a patchwork. This occurs frequently to computer software. Today’s programming language is tomorrows legacy. Try rewriting a million lines of code so it is .NET Framework 3.5 and you’ll understand that longevity of application is not an advantage but a burden. Some firms offer web collaboration but they still sell and maintain their legacy systems installed on their customer’s servers. And every customer is indirectly paying to keep the non-cloud based systems maintained and supported.

Security is what’s the track record and how much have I been influenced by the “disaster” stories the news has reported. With cloud access can’t someone steal my password and access my information? If their servers fail how long has it been since their last backup? With critical systems like email in the cloud can I afford to be down when gmail is attacked and aren’t the cloud systems more open to attacks? My answer is it depends. Who is your cloud service with? Is it a Tier 1 site, SAS 70 compliant and continually providing co-location of your data?

If you are considering cloud computing there are plenty to pick from put choosing wisely may be looking at the specific area of specialty. Here are a few I see the construction industry embracing:

MyAccountingCloud – offering the full slate of all Intuit Quickbooks Solutions including Quickbooks for Contractors, without sacrificing any features. What’s intriguing is that they host Intuit products better that Intuit does and are based here in Phoenix.

HighRise and Salesforce – customer relationship management has been in the cloud extensively and Salesforce has been a marketing engine. HighRise is also a contender from 37Signals as they promote software that’s easy. Both solutions have their advantages, offer many 3rd party add-ons and have smartphone apps to keep you connected at all times.

Corecon – provides estimating and project management for the construction industry. Corecon has lead tracking, estimating, invitation to bid collaboration, buy-out, scheduling, project documentation, detailed job costing, dashboards and tight integration to Quickbooks and SAP Business One, Corecon’s not only something to consider but a solution that my firm offers.

SmartBidNet – for the mid-sized to large general contractor this is a robust bid invitation and bid management system. With a prequalification module, and integration to on-line takeoff and estimating systems, its a great add-on to your existing technology solutions.

After you’ve looked at these solutions we’d like you to comment on your findings so the construction industry can stay informed and we can continue to provide free information. Please bookmark our site so you can post a comment later or if you already have experience with these, post a comment now. I appreciate it!

Contractors in Arizona, the New Sales Tax and Your Bottom Line May 21, 2010

Posted by carolhagen in budgeting, construction accounting software, Construction Industry - Software, Construction Industry Hardware, Document Imaging.
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Arizona Contractors In a Pickle?

Arizona’s economic recover has probably been deferred 6-8 months with the sales tax increase passed earlier this week by voters and sadly will put more strain on the construction industry. Mark Minter of the Arizona Builders Alliance (ABA) shared this with me to clarify when and how the tax will impact existing and future construction contracts, so I’m passing it onto my readers verbatim:

In yesterday’s election the voters of the State of Arizona overwhelmingly approved a temporary 1% increase in the sales tax rate. The higher rate goes into effect June 1st, 2010.

The ABA successfully lobbied a protection from increases such as this into state law several years ago. That statute reads:

ARS 42-5010 H. Any increase in the rate of tax that is imposed by this chapter and that is enacted by the legislature or by a vote of the people does not apply with respect to contracts entered into by prime contractors or pursuant to written bids made by prime contractors on or before the effective date of the legislation or the date of the election enacting the increase. To qualify for the exemption under this subsection, the prime contractor must maintain sufficient documentation, in a manner and form prescribed by the department, to verify the date of the contract or written bid.

Projects that are bid or contracted to prior May 18th are exempt from the sales tax increase.

What Impacts Your Bottom Line?
The sales tax increase ups the owner’s cost of building at a time where many contractors are still struggling to survive. As a construction company you will continue to keep your construction office overhead low. Recently I shared some ideas with ConstrucTech Magazine’s readers on what I’ve seen contractors do…some good ideas and a few things to avoid as it relates to computer systems and technology spending. Here’s a link to the May 2010 article “Technology Budgets in a Pickle”.

I’d love to hear what you’ve successfully implemented (click the comment option at the top of the blog) and feel free to share this with the construction industry as we all can use a little help.

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