Starting a successful construction contracting business is about more than having the right skills for the job. You could be the best at what you do and still be unsuccessful. The truth is that there are thousands of contractors out there, just like you, all competing for the same pool of work. What makes the successful ones stand out is not just their quality of work, it’s that they also devote a lot of their resources – be it time, money, or energy – to nurturing the business side of things as well.
Below are some things to consider when starting your construction contracting business:
Get all of Your Ducks in a Row
Make sure you have everything you need to start working immediately. While having the right tools and equipment (or reliable access to quality rentals) is important, you also need to have your paperwork and administrative tools in order.
Make sure you have contractors insurance to protect you in the event of a mishap. General liability insurance is a must; it can prevent you from losing your shirt if a client files a claim or a lawsuit against you. Having liability insurance in advance also means you don’t have to wait to start a project, or risk starting before the insurance is active and encountering problems. Without insurance, a lawsuit or claim could easily send a business into bankruptcy.
Some states may also require you to be bonded before you can work. Even in states where it is not required, being bonded could give you an advantage over your non-bonded peers, because clients are more likely to trust a bonded contractor.
Be Honest About Your Abilities
If you haven’t had experience with a specific type of work, it’s better to be up-front with the client, even if you think you can handle it. While it is true that you could luck out and do a great job, it’s also possible that you could end up with a very unhappy client.
Contracting relies on word of mouth and all it takes is one bad review to ruin your reputation. Lying to the client could get you a bad review or, worse, a lawsuit if they have the lie documented on paper. Being honest, especially if you can refer the client to another reliable contractor, might not get you the job, but it will foster good will.
Cultivate Relationships with Other Contractors
If you foster strong relationships with other contractors, you won’t need to lose the job at all. Instead of referring the job, you can enter an agreement with another contractor to sub all or part of the work out to them. When they need someone with your expertise, they can throw you a bone in return.
When work starts to slow down, instead of waiting for the next upswing, take charge to create your own upswing.
· Contact previous clients to see if they need any more work done, or know someone looking for a contractor.
· Advertise off-season discounts in the newspaper, on flyers, or in coupon circulars.
· Update your Twitter or Facebook pages with information on specials and discounts.
· Talk to real estate agents – people selling their homes might appreciate some affordable repairs or upgrades to help the sale; people buying homes might also appreciate affordable work to get their homes move-in ready.
Being proactive not only ensures that you have reliable income; it also makes it easier for you to keep your employees. If you have to continually let them go during the off season, you could end up losing good employees to more reliable work.
Respect the Client’s Time and Yours
Someone who works during the day is not going to appreciate having to take the entire day off, and be stuck at home waiting for a contractor to arrive – especially if they have no idea when they will arrive. Also, poor time management makes it harder for you to complete jobs efficiently.
Whenever possible, give the client a timeframe for when you arrive, such as between Noon and 4:00 P.M., and make sure you honor that timeframe. If something happens that you can’t honor your appointment time, contact the client immediately and show up as soon as you can. You should also contact the client when you are a half-hour out so they can be prepared to meet you when you arrive.
Respect the Client’s Space
Clean up after yourself, this includes any trash from the project and personal trash, like coffee cups and food wrappers. If you have to encroach on the neighbor’s property, let the neighbor know before the job starts, and give them an idea of how long it will take. Be respectful of the client’s personal possessions.
Conversely, you should also give the client guidelines that will make the process run more smoothly. For example, if you know you will need to keep doors open, advise the client to keep his pets in a secure place, so they can’t get out.