Top 10 Signs of a Successful Contractor

What does it take to be a successful contractor? I get that question thrown at me a lot, especially around “NPE” time. It’s a question that every Pavement Maintenance Contractor should ask of themselves, of their company, several times a year.

In a recent survey sponsored by the Center for Construction Innovation & Development, some interesting indicators surfaced as to what a contractor has to do to be successful. While the list numbered more than 20 “signs,” here are the Top 10.


1. Have a Vision for the Company

No mystery here. The number one answer given was the need to have a vision for the company and the future of that company. It’s critical that the owner have some clarity about what sort of construction company they want to be and where they see their position in the market.


2. Have a Vision for Their Leadership

A close runner-up was the vision contractors must have for their own leadership. Literally, how do they want to lead? How do they want to be respected? What sort of work culture do they want to create?


3. Provide On-going Education & Training

“On-going” suggests a continuous effort to train whenever you can. For the seasonal contractor this might mean bringing workers in a few days to a few weeks earlier than “opening day” and taking them through a series of training topics. Every contractor should be ready for those rainy days when grabbing an extra few hours on some education would benefit the crews.


4. Cross-Train to Build “Bench Strength”

The greater diversity that your workers can handle, the easier time of scheduling you will experience. Having more than one worker who can competently handle a paver, sealcoat machine, roller, backhoe etc., that better chance your productivity will stay strong and profitable.


5. Communicate Daily the Direction & Goals

There is simply no excuse for not holding daily meetings with your crews. Call them “crew huddles” or “tailgate meetings” but do them…daily! And set goals for the project, the day, or the week -- whatever makes the most sense for your company and workers -- but setting targets always inspires and refocuses your workers.


6. Create a Work Culture that Enjoys & Laughs

Sound crazy? Trust me, the most successful contractors, of any size, that I’ve witnessed up close and personal were all firms that enjoyed people, celebrated successes and laughed a lot. The people at these organizations, from the owner to the lowest-paid laborer, were just plain fun to hang out with. You can keep people a long time if they enjoy you, the company culture, and are allowed to laugh a little.


7. Develop Strong and Wise Field Leaders

As contractors grow they realize they can’t be all things to all people or be everywhere they need to be at the same time. Having the best field leaders leading the daily charge is crucial for a successful contractor. The sooner a contractor realizes “it’s not about him anymore” and develops good field leaders the sooner he’ll begin to see greater sales, performance and profits.


8. Create a Sense of Urgency…Not Emergency

Emergency-based contractors wear out and lose employees. Having a sense of urgency in your company actually inspires and energizes workers. Creating a sense of urgency begins with the owner communicating what their expectations are, sharing the highs and lows of the company with their workers, and informing workers as to what their customers want and expect from their performance.


9. Institute a Meaningful Incentive Plan

Money is important and the contractor who can creatively reward performance with good pay and some form of bonus money will keep better workers around longer. There are a multitude of incentive-based compensation approaches and they can be overly simple to more complicated. Whatever path you follow, just be sure that your workers understand what it takes to make that extra dollar. I have always favored performance bonus for “gains” made above what was set as a goal.


10. Encourage Participation in Planning and Execution

This last sign leans a bit to the culture you have. Once employees understand their roles and what is expected from them, and have the technical skills to operate equipment or handle tools, their input to actually fulfilling work can be invaluable. If we have trained and educated our workers on how we want to accomplish work, why wouldn’t we engage them more on how to accomplish future work?

I hope you’ll learn what we did about why many contractors are successful. Obviously not all contractors rated “A+” on all 10 signs but they did see the Top 10 signs presented here as crucial to running a successful construction company.

Brad Humphrey is president of Pinnacle Development Group, a consulting firm specializing in the construction industry. For more information about PDG, go to Also, check out for more information about industry trends.