Understanding your Burdened Labor Costs (BLC)
Your People Your Profit
There are articles out there on a daily basis about how society has been pushing bachelor’s degrees; leaving the United States with a shortage of tradespeople. A report published by NAHB shows increasing labor shortages over the last 5 years. In those areas showing the greatest growth companies are struggling to find and hire good tradespeople. This causes employers to pay more to find and retain better workers, which in turn drives up costs and cuts into profits.
So how do you deal with this? Well we know that cloning is not an option, so the path becomes clear. We need to become extremely diligent in labor productivity and efficiency. This is not something that has had to be a priority in the past. So where do you begin?
Understanding your Burdened Labor Costs (BLC) is a must. Calculating the hourly cost and responsibility for each direct labor employee creates an intricate labor tool to allow for better labor allocation on jobs. You may be thinking that all of this sounds like a lot of work and why would you bother doing it? To understand the cost differences for direct labor employees as a comparison between them and your subcontractors in regards to hourly rates. Who costs you more per hour? In some cases you might be surprised. Then there is the question “Am I having my top craftsperson doing tasks because they are there; instead of a lesser paid individual and move the higher paid employee to a task that pays more?”
Let’s look at an example:
Employee A has a BLC of $110 an hour. Employee B has a BLC of $61. Employee A has the skillset to deliver more productivity per hour than Employee B. Employee B is a good steady worker and does installs well with some guidance. Do you have them chasing materials or cleaning up? You not only want them but you need them to be as efficient as they can be. In fact it may be worth your time to hire a $35 BLC employee to feed them materials or clean up giving you the ability to move them off the project as soon as possible; saving on job costs.
Let’s put all of that into dollars and cents. At $110 BLC per hour Employee A will cost the company $4400 for 40 hours. Employee B at $61 BLC will cost $2440. That’s $1960 a week difference; multiplied by 4 weeks that’s $7840. Let’s take that one step further, the difference between Employee A and a $35 BLC employee is $3000 a week and $12,000 per month. If that doesn’t seem like much look at how many employees you have. Take a look at your last 6 bid jobs and the costs – ask yourself was the profit margin where I wanted it to be? Could you have been more efficient with your labor costs?
Many of you will say that while you might be more efficient with labor it takes too much time. And how does this have anything to do with hiring and retaining employees? What about setting cost benchmarks for each employee based on their BLC and productivity. If you could increase the profitability of a job by 15 to 20% and share some of that profit as a bonus to direct labor employees? Starting to reward them for profitability instead of them just doing what you hired them to do.
As a subcontractor, how often are you asked by the General Contractor to step up or make exceptions? By knowing your BLC you can truly understand what that will cost you; allowing you to make the right call for your business. Do you step up or will the cost be too great? Right now you make a gut decision based on rough numbers and hope that you can make payroll at the end. You need to know, right down to the penny!
Let’s take a look at what Burdened Labor Costing is and why it is such a great management tool. Most of you are familiar with loaded labor (hourly wages + taxes + benefits). Burdened Labor Costing goes further and applies responsibility for indirect labor (those employees in support positions to your direct labor), a percentage of your overhead costs, and vehicle or equipment costs (if applicable). By assigning portions of overhead and indirect labor costs you create a true responsibility for the portion of revenue generation that you’ve hired this employee to provide. Now you can compare true cost responsibilities to revenue generation to develop profitability benchmarks based on performance instead of tasks.
Other reasons for having an accurate BLC rate is hiring and training, providing you with the ability to create what-if scenarios for cost evaluations. Developing onboarding and training budgets, and creating competitive wage packages with realistic revenue numbers. And the list continues on.
While all this seems like a good idea and certainly worth considering you may still be asking – why waste time to do all this? In my experience I have seen not only the creation of usable profitability benchmarks but increased profit numbers in excess of 24% above current levels. If that isn’t enough, think of accurate job costing or proposals. You can create targeted labor efficiencies with results that can be tracked on a daily basis.
By now you understand the need to develop BLC business metrics. The last piece of advice I can give you is don’t waste your time trying to create an excel spreadsheet or having your CPA do one. The time is better spent applying the results. There are several programs available such as the Apex eSuite Burdened Labor Costing SaaS www.apexesuite.com that give you the reports you need quickly and accurately. Remember to update your numbers on a regular basis to ensure up to date metrics.
About Kelcey Thompson
Kelcey Thompson is a burdened labor costing expert, along with business mentor and trainer with a focus on accounting and customer service. She is the creator of the Apex eSuite (www.apexesuite.com) Burdened Labor Costing SaaS and blogs regularly on management accounting at Applied Management Group (www.appliedmg.com). She has more than two decades of experience in the service industries, where she has held many strategic positions and responsibilities. She has been successful in a diverse set of projects, including economic impact studies, ROI analysis, operation reviews and development of management accounting programs for service oriented businesses. If you have any questions about creating and implementing your BLC numbers Thompson would be happy to help. Feel free to reach out to her at email@example.com .