What Keeps General Contractors Up at Night?
Often times, you’ll read about different tips and advice for general contractors and builders on the Armstrong Steel Network. One phrase that’s predominantly in my vocabulary: ‘We like to make people’s steel building dreams come true.’ A big part of my job is helping that first time builder get the building of their dreams, and a big part of your job might be erecting it for them. You’re assisting in the dream.
I’d like to keep it that way. I know there are so many forces pulling you in different directions, so many stressful situations in your business that have the potential to keep you awake at night. From money troubles to bidding strategies, you constantly have a lot riding on your daily decisions. Here are some of the top reasons why this job might cause you to lose sleep, and some solutions that might help you finally get some shut-eye.
Employees or subcontractors injured on the job
Every employee in this company, including myself, routinely says that our biggest concern is job safety. That message is plastered across our website, the Armstrong Steel Network, our erection manual, and everywhere in between. Without safety, there is no company, and no industry for that matter. Every contractor worries about the safety of their employees and subcontractors, and must guarantee there a plan in place for the safety of others. There will be accidents and mistakes made, that’s unfortunately just a part of the job. How you handle those mistakes, learn from them, and have a course of action to deal with them is what will set you apart from the rest of the business. It all starts with a well thought-out plan incorporating safe working conditions for every subordinate.
Bad insurance agents
You might have some big problems if you choose the wrong insurance agent. Be sure to choose someone with a good amount of construction insurance knowledge and continues to keep educating him/herself on different industry trends or processes. Your agent must know the difference between certain claims and policies popular with construction companies and general contractors. These policies are in place to protect you, and you need to make sure you’re trusting the right coverage if accidents happen.
Losing the bid
There comes a time in every contractor’s life when you don’t win the bid. You submit a request for proposal, and the client picks a different contractor. The overall welfare of your company depends your ability to convince a client to let you do the work. Knowing how to bid a construction project might be the difference between success and your economic failure. Without the formula to winning a construction bid, you might not ever get your company ‘in the black.’ One method is to use an estimator with computer software and knowledge to evaluate the costs and come up with the best bid for the project. Some contractors can accomplish this task without the assistance of a professional. There is a third option. If you’ve erected steel buildings before or have professional knowledge of the pre-engineered steel building industry, you can convince your clients to build with steel.
Preparing a proposal
Think of a construction proposal as your written plan to your client. Even after you’ve won the bid, you have to work on your presentation. This proposal serves as the way you’ll communicate all your costs to your customer and hopefully it’ll lead to a contract. There are a few different methods you can use. All should have itemized lists of your costs, so your customer can see exactly what they’re paying for. Understand there is a lot of fear in this relationship, and people are afraid of getting overcharged or ‘burned,’ and you want to do everything in your power to ease their minds and explain each fee in the planned proposal. Every so often you’ll come across an angry client that demands the world. The best advice I can give is to document every conversation and try to work over email if you can. That way, you have written proof of your communication. Some contractors worry about not getting paid upfront, or paid period. With subs and employees to pay, you need to make sure you get your money. This is another reason why a proposal and contract is a smart play. You can set forth in the contract the terms and conditions of your labor, and determine a client, subcontractor, and employee payment structure.
This is more of a personal fear that doesn’t affect all general contractors. When you entered in the construction business, did you know that you were entering the people business as well? Do you enjoy working with your hands, and making something out of nothing? What about public speaking? In order to secure those jobs, you have to put an effort into your people skills. I’m talking about the ability to relate to others, strong communication and active listening skills. You must be able to persuade others and form a strong, convincing argument about why your product or services is the very best, or “right” for the job. Practice your negotiation skills with members of your company or your family. It might be a good idea to learn to read body language more efficiently. Body language makes up the majority of the way we communicate with people. If you are mindful of your gestures and appearances, and the gestures and appearances of others, you’ll be able to ascertain what others are thinking easily.
What else keeps you up at night? Tell us in the comments section below! For more tips and advice, check out the Contractors Central Blog!
Photo courtesy: William Brawley