...working as a contractor looks so easy? You build a house for a client and they love it. It is creative, you get to work with your hands. You employ a happy crew of subcontractors, with whom you share a beer after a productive day.
...this is a business. And you must look at it as a business. You will be responsible for marketing, pricing, job site safety, dealing with regulators, working with demanding clients, and squeaking out a profit for your family.
IMAGINE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE COMMITTING TO!!
...you have the urge to get out there in the marketplace and really see how successful you can become, but the idea of having to commit to so many unknowns scares the hell out of you? It just seems like everything is an emergency?
...that you start the process prepared, knowing what is going to be required, and knowing that you have the right stuff to carry out this monumental task. You know how to make decisions.
You have determined a direction and know where the business is headed.
...you thought running your own construction business meant not having to work for a crazy person every day, and then discovered that to keep your business alive, you had to become that crazy person.
Getting new jobs, taking care of ongoing work, breaking up turf wars between employees, keeping the money flowing... YIKES!!!
...that you have policies, processes and procedures in place that proactively handle most issues. Organization structure is in place, based on what needs to be done, not who is going to do it. You know how you are going to bring in new business and deal with clients. You know where the cash flow is coming from, and it is sufficient.
...you worry that the market you're in is so competitive that the last dollar seems to be wrung out of every deal you make because the only way you can compete is by being the lowest cost builder in your market (and we all know where that ends)? You have no brand identity and are just another "me-too" builder in the market.
...you have identified and own a market segment that values your product and your expertise, so you can close sales, budget accurately and price profitably. Your market opportunities are quantified and you know which new markets you are targeting for the future. You know your company strengths and weaknesses.
...every time you prepare an estimate or proposal, you wonder if this is going to be the one that comes back to bite you? You wonder what is the difference between Mark-Up and Margin? Estimates are based on hope, profits are based on luck?
...that you have put together an up-to-date database that calculates the correct margin on the products and labor you are bidding, that will allow you easily to track budget-to-actual on each job, a program that will let you adjust that margin to maximize your profits on every sale.
...you work like hell to get prospects to contact you, and then when they do, you watch helplessly as the ball is fumbled again and again: qualifying the prospect, specifications, estimating, controlling expectations?
It's a wonder anyone gets to the goal line.
...that you have created a process that anticipates questions that every prospect is going to ask, that everyone in your office understands how to handle a buyer making the biggest purchase of their life, and that your salespeople know where each sales fits on your road to profitability.
...you are ecstatic when you sign the contract and collect the first deposit, but then the fear sets in? There are so many ways for an unreasonable client to hurt your company? You wind up holding your breath until the project is complete?
...your client relationships are a series of pre-planned interactions. All important meetings, phone calls and other communications are documented for your benefit and gathered in one job binder. You are in control of the job and the client is aware that is so.
...subcontractors give you a price and then argue afterward about what is included? Employees don't understand their role in making the company stronger? Vendors are not informed about changes in time? Change Orders grind away at your profits?
... your employees understand exactly what is expected from them and what they are accountable for. Subcontractors know and follow your systems if they expect to get paid. Your vendors keep you on top of new trends in construction to keep earning your business.
...this is the part you like the best, the sticks in the air? You can see exactly what you want? So, why can't they get it right? Why do you have to constantly re-explain? You find yourself wondering, "Why should I pay him when I have to come out and do it myself?"?
...each step in the production process is planned in advance. The subcontractor has a Scope of Work describing how you want the work done and knows his work will be inspected. Scheduling is up-to-date, and the Daily Progress Report for each project is filed and available.
...you avoid talking to your banker because he may ask a question about your financial performance, and you know that your accounting numbers are so out-of-whack that you don't have any answer, let alone the correct one?
...that the accounting system is cleaned-up, that you can trust the numbers that you see. When you ask your bookkeeper a financial question, not only is the answer right, but you understand what she is saying. Your books are set up the way the IRS requires.
...you sometimes get a little short of breath because you have no idea how your business is performing. You know the financial reports are important, because the lender asks about them, but don't understand which reports you need or how to find them?
...that you are making management decisions based on your analysis of the numbers, and tracking performance over time. You can read the financial story of your business and look to the future with clarity because you have a financial early warning system in place.
...you know that the technology you need is out there and waiting to help you
But you don't have the time to go find it?
...that someone has done that treasure hunting for you.
Included here are the low-cost platforms I have been using in my construction business for decades.