By Lynn Pearcey, MBA, Copywriter, AIA Contract Documents
November 30, 2023
Table of Contents
Contractors come in several different shapes, sizes, and disciplines. Graphic designers, trainers, financial professionals, writers, if you can name a field or discipline, chances are a large contingent of workers fall into the contractor category, including construction. Research shows well over 100,000 construction contractors are currently operating in the United States. This number is fluid, changing annually, with success being the key driver.
The success of some construction contractors and the failure of others begs the question as to why some thrive, and others don’t. What key ingredients do the ones who see year-to-year growth, projects that grow at a rate commensurate with their skill sets and industry trends, with satisfied and long-term employees have that the others don’t? If you’re a construction contractor struggling or looking to make your mark in this immensely rewarding industry, here are four traits you must immediately infuse into your business model.
Without a commitment to customer service, there is no business. This philosophy is true of large corporations but resonates even louder with smaller ones like contractors, and those who live by this edict excel, while those who don’t struggle or often fail. Customer service can be the best marketing tool in your arsenal. It’s cost-effective due to the viral aspects, authentic, and above all else, it’s simply a sound business practice.
If you haven’t already, become familiar with customer service and define what it means for your business. One thing is certain: no matter how an organization is structured, customer service is ongoing, with a clear start but no end. You never know who’s watching or who your current customer is speaking with regarding your performance. With that, go the extra mile and make customer service an integral part of each operating arm.
Successful construction contractors are networkers. They get out in the community, take advantage of every opportunity to share contact information, ask or answer a question, and rest assured every phone call or email gets returned. That’s why they’re successful and, in many cases, why their doors and pipelines of recurring opportunities remain open and vibrant while the doors of their competitors are closing.
Sure, a lot of projects go out for general bids, but networking done right exposes contractors to those hidden opportunities that might never go public. Networking, rubbing elbows, meet and greets, trade shows, and the array of industry functions can be a grind, but the payoffs can be immeasurable. In an industry like construction, where so many deals happen on handshake and reputation, networking can quickly become a critical piece of your business strategy.
One of the traits of a successful construction contractor is sound resource management. From a purely financial perspective, investing in areas that help grow their business is something construction contractors do to stand apart and win. Investing in new technologies, maintenance, and marketing can all be attributed to their success, and all are core tenets of solid resource strategy.
Contrary to popular belief, managing resources isn’t just about dollars and cents; it’s also about people. Managing people, retaining staff, and building an environment that fosters retention is one of the many ways successful construction contractors gain a competitive advantage. Long-term employees know your philosophy, how to apply it, the expectations, and where their respective strengths and weaknesses lie. Understanding these key areas is crucial for a project regarding efficiency, effectiveness, and, ultimately, project delivery.
The construction industry is evolving, and those with a history of embracing this evolution filled with fresh ideas and new concepts survive and thrive. Conversely, those firms that remain stagnant and refuse to move forward and infuse the necessary changes into their operations are falling behind. The industry is changing, and the winners, the successes, have found ways to harness technology, refine their skills, and create learning pathways for their staff to do the same. Bricks, mortar, wood, and cement will always be a part of the construction mix. New technologies such as BIM, AI, and others that require additional learning are becoming more prevalent, and those that continue to align with instead of shunning them are well-positioned to reap the rewards.
Whether you’re an architect or engineer, success in construction contracting isn’t an accident; it’s by design. If you look at the market leaders, you’ll notice they’re intensely focused on customer service. Networking is something they do relentlessly, and because they do, it typically pays huge dividends and will continue to do so for many years to come. Resources are always managed correctly. Bidding on projects with budgets they can support, maintaining equipment, and opting for quality materials are just a few ways they excel. Astute, savvy people management is another, and it pays off royally in the long run. Lastly, they’re always open to learning, remaining humble and hungry, and, in the process, laying a foundation for success. These are but a few traits that successful construction contractors routinely have in the wheelhouse. If you’re looking to harness your skills and build a viable operation, taking the time to do the same is the first step to becoming a success.
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AIA Contract Documents has provided this article for general informational purposes only. The information provided is not legal opinion or legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship of any kind. This article is also not intended to provide guidance as to how project parties should interpret their specific contracts or resolve contract disputes, as those decisions will need to be made in consultation with legal counsel, insurance counsel, and other professionals, and based upon a multitude of factors.