Member Two Cents: A New Project, a New Client & a New Accounting Process!

As a Specialty Trade Subcontractor, how do you manage the various client project accounting requirements?

With already stretched internal staffing resources, we asked a few of our members how they manage all the different job/contract requirements such as required forms (e.g., lien waivers, sworn statements), billing methods, submission methods, due dates, additional reports, etc. that are requested by the numerous GC’s, CM’s, and owners. How do they organize and handle these job specific requirements so that there is some type of internal corporate process? 


Kevin O’Shea, Shamrock Electric Co., Inc., Elk Grove Village, IL

A commercial, residential, and industrial electrical contractor serving Chicagoland and surrounding areas since 1957.

The information we gather is driven by the three main accounting processes: accounts receivable, accounts payable, and payroll. For example, we have an extensive payroll procedure excel file. That file is shared among three people. They all have their specific processes that they do each week. In that file, certified payroll submission requirements, for example, are one subject documented given the variety of platforms that may be required. The excel file, however, has all the steps required so that if someone gets hit by the proverbial “bus,”someone else can pick up the pieces easily. This is similar for accounts payable and accounts receivable, except those are monthly. For these subjects, the responsibilities are split amongst the team as well, as each person specializes in some aspect of the process. Overall, we manage all our processes in one centrally located spreadsheet. Internally, we do things by process, not by project or customer, and DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT.

Nicole Yonkers, Total Fire & Security, Total Fire Protection, Grand Rapids, MI; Berthoud, CO; Fort Meyers, FL

Total Fire Protection was founded in 1991 and specializes in fire protection services in Michigan, Colorado, Florida and Montana.

To manage the ever-changing and varying requirements from contractors, I keep a billing spreadsheet that lists retention percentage, billing forms required and requirements for submitting. I also maintain sub-folders within our billing folder for each customer that has special requirements. This is where I will save all the forms that will be needed each month when billing. Contracts can often be long and confusing; in these cases, it’s helpful to get in touch with a billing contact right away to build a relationship and get all the required forms saved. This way, I am not scrambling when it becomes time to get the bill submitted. When billing time arrives, I keep the spreadsheet open for reference and review before submitting each bill to the contractor. By aggregating all requirements to the spreadsheet when reviewing the contract, I have found myself spending much less time going back through the contract every month.

Jasmina Miller, Pleune Service Company, Grand Rapids, MI

Pleune Service Company is a 100% employee-owned full service commercial mechanical contractor that has a construction department and small projects division that performs equipment replacement for existing customers.

 Our company has been continuously working hard to perfect our process before even the start of the project to assure all the required documents are handled by the proper person. Before the job is set up in our system, the construction biller and CFO review our “job set up” excel file, which is sent over from sales and estimating, to see whether we need to pull a bond, what the lien waivers requirements are, billing due date, where submittals get sent to, and any required forms that are needed for the project.

Per Michigan Lien Law, there are specific steps that must be followed in order to protect your lien rights. For Pleune, our Accounts Receivable receives an email from our Small Projects team for any project set-up over $20,000 to send out a Notice of Commencement (NOC) and Notice of Furnishings (NOF). For construction projects, if the project is over $10,000 and the project isn’t bonded, a NOC/NOF will be sent out. All jobs both from the small projects or construction that have had NOC/NOF’s issued are added to an excel file to keep track of when the job final bills and when last labor was put on job to track our lien rights.

The project assistant will work directly with the PM on the project to get subcontracts cut, submittals sent/uploaded to portals, and any other documents needed. The construction biller will update their excel file which is sent to the PMs every month to make them aware of the billing due date per project, keep track of the specific lien waiver requirements and whether they pulled a bond. Having all the required information listed out on the “job set up file” assures everyone on the team takes care of their area right away and only touched by that specific team member.

Nicolle Taylor-Sheafor, Controller, Hardman Construction, Ludington, MI

Hardman Construction, Inc. is a Midwest leader in geotechnical, foundation, and bridge construction. They are a union contractor employing operating engineers, carpenters, and laborers. Their specialized work brings them to diverse businesses and municipalities. Universities, manufacturing facilities, power plant, wastewater treatment plants, and bridge work for MDOT are among their regularly performed projects.

I've found that with the type of work we perform we are often the first on a project, which can pose its own difficulties. There are times that a project won't be setup in the required portal or forms will be accepted one month but not the following. We do our best to anticipate the needs of our customers but if we don't work with them very often it can be hard to know what to expect. We are continuing to try to find the best solution to this issue so that people aren't filling out the same forms numerous times. However, there are some projects we still find ourselves spending a disproportionate amount of time working on tailoring the paperwork. Currently we are using a mixture of calendar reminders, referencing previous month’s files to check off all the requirements, and spreadsheets. We haven't been able to find something that could really help us streamline these various requirements.

Shawn Erickson, CFO, CCIFP, C.J. Erickson Plumbing Co., Alsip, IL

C.J. Erickson Plumbing Co. is a full service, plumbing and site utility union contractor that specializes in service, commercial and industrial plumbing projects. Based outside of Chicago, the family-owned business was started in 1906 and currently employees approximately 90 employees.

With more than 200 current contract jobs, working with 50 or so different clients, to help track the contract and billing requirements, we’ve converted a variety of fields in our ERP to help us document. In those fields, we record billing procedures, due dates, contact info and anything else pertinent. To understand what’s required, we can’t always rely on the client contract documents for submission time. Our team, instead, connects with the client contact to confirm the process. We utilize our reporting abilities to pull these fields into an overall contract job report for that team. The team then manages the due dates off this report.

Because we have project teams who each handle all billing and documentation aspects of their project including billing, collections, waivers, and certified payroll, recording the requirements in our ERP allows our teams to cross train. While we have a lot of our billing and payment processes standardized through this documentation method, we are still working on a consistent repository process for those final billing and related documents, again for future access and cross training purposes. In addition, we are working on developing an excel template to systematically better document contract terms, risk, and responsibilities unrelated to billing, waivers, or accounting. It’s too cumbersome throughout the project to continuously refer to the contract given the quantity of projects our small team is dealing with. More to come on that!

This article is brought to you by the National Subspecialty Trade Committee. The Committee looks forward to hosting various sessions at the 2023 CFMA National Conference in July. If you would like more information about this committee, please email We welcome you!

About the Author

Shawn Erickson

Shawn Erickson is CFO of C.J. Erickson Plumbing Co., a commercial plumbing and site utility contractor, in Alsip, IL.

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