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Painting a consistency in construction accounting

By Mr. Shannon Hyduk, Controller – Holladay Construction Group (South Bend, IN)

As you grow in life, you only learn from past experiences, whether successes or failures.  As part of the student managers program in 2001, I had the distinct privilege to paint the helmets for the Notre Dame Football team.  An opportunity of a lifetime presented itself that fall and little did I know of the challenges and obstacles that were ahead of me in this incredible endeavor at Notre Dame.  Fast forward 11 years and here I am in the world of Construction Accounting, where I find myself facing similar experiences, challenges and obstacles in their own context and I am able to put what I learned then to use today.

It was September of 2001 and we were preparing for a road battle at Nebraska, so getting the team ready to travel came a day earlier along with painting the helmets. It was hot and humid that week and with that came the issue of the helmets drying in time, before they needed to be packed for the flight to Lincoln, NE.  I, along with three others, painted all night, occasionally moving helmets to different locations to allow for better drying.  Finally, at 5am (just 2 hours prior to departure) we finished.  That experience taught me several valuable lessons that I have been able to apply to my career in accounting.  I have learned to persevere through whatever obstacle presents itself on a daily basis, whether it be cash flow, accounts receivable or simply making sure everyone gets paid so the work flow is not impeded like a traffic jam on I-94.

When wearing the cash management hat, it can become challenging when cash flow becomes tight, because then you must juggle who to pay now and who to pay later, and analyze which customers are paying timely and which ones are past due.  After a while, you start to develop a habit of understanding your customers/sub/vendors trends and their indirect cash flow needs, a sort of creative accounting intuition, which allows me to keep everyone happy each week.  Also, you figure out who’s willing to help you out in certain situations (that help me, help you attitude) so that stretching the dollar becomes less and less stressful.  Once you fully grasp the “Who’s on first, What’s on second and I-don’t-know is on third” mentality, you gain an understanding of the priorities in the cash flow world.  It reminds me of the Notre Dame painting project, when we started figuring out the best way to paint 80+ helmets on a Friday; and how best to prioritize which helmets got painted first and to make sure those important helmets got the freshest coat of gold paint possible so they would shine under the golden dome in front 80,000 screaming fans.

Even as cash can be tight, when you develop a consistency in the processes and procedures in construction accounting, the monthly work load flows very smoothly and becomes more streamlined.  When you’re butter, you’re always on a roll.  From draws to owners, payments to subs and vendors, journal entries to online transactions and interest earning daily on your investment accounts, the flow is simplified when you have all these systems in harmony.  As each week and game passed during the season, our efficiency and effectiveness only improved as well because we fully understood the process in which helmets should be prepped, painted and readied for each game.  With this understanding, we were able to multi-task and meet expectations quicker so we could complete our jobs with ease.

At the end of the day, the ultimate objective is to make your product (whether it be construction accounting or painting helmets or whatever) glisten in the sun even on those days that are outlined by a blue-gray October sky!

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