Tips for Getting Work in Today's Economy

Experts share tips and provide three websites to help every contractor get work.

In the March/April issue of Pavement Maintenance & Reconstruction is Part 1 of Pavement's efforts to help contractors find work in what could be a tough year. We interviewed Brad Humphrey, Pinnacle Development Group; Guy Gruenberg, Grow Consulting; Mike Musto, 1-800-PAVEMENT; Jared Everett, Everett Professional Services; and Pavement Advisory Board members Robert Paradise, Paradise Asphalt Maintenance, and Nick Howell, T&N Asphalt Services, to learn some tactics contractors might try. There's more in the issue (and there will be more in May Pavement) but here's a taste of what you will learn.

Visit googleEarth. A number of folks mentioned this site, and if you haven't visited you certainly should. By typing in an address you get a free bird's-eye view of an area and it's easy to pick out the big patches of asphalt that might need your attention. Once you have identified the location you can start your hunt for property owner and manager.

Gruenberg added another couple of websites he says can be instrumental in helping contractors. First, he suggests to help you reach the right people. Billed as "The World's #1 Commercial Real Estate Information Company," Costar is a little pricey, but then you get what you pay for. "It helps you get to the real owner of a piece of property if, for example, the onsite people are reluctant to provide you with that information," Gruenberg says. "And if it helps you get one nice job it's already paid for itself."

Another Gruenberg tip is to use to obtain information about companies you work for or plan to do work for. The website, which markets itself as "vital info on small businesses (and those that grew)" is similar to Dun & Bradstreet, though Gruenberg says much of the information on the site is self-reported.

Don't forget to target churches. And other niche properties. Many contractors make a good living focusing on golf courses, airports, cemeteries, trailer parks, schools and universities, and even other contractors. But each niche has its own peculiarities. At churches, for example, maintenance works usually must be presented to and approved by a projects committee, then one person on the committee usually oversees the bidding and work from start to finish. Paradise adds that church committees can very high-maintenance customers, "but you can build long-term relationships with them - and you can do the work during the week."

Give employees business cards. You can increase your sales force simply by providing all employees with his or her own business cards. Encourage them to hand out their cards because if nothing else it gets your company name out in front of more people.

Tell the client your secrets. Not always, but sometimes. A situation many contractors find themselves in lately is they have bid very close to their cost in hopes of landing a job - only to discover a competitor has come in way under their low-margin bid. Gruenberg says that's a rare time when you open your books to your client.

"When a bid is below your direct cost it's probably time to reveal to your prospect or client the real cost of the job," he says. "Tell him 'That's a great price but I don't understand how that contractor can charge that because here's my real cost of doing your job.' You're probably doing a service to your client by letting him know the job can't be done right for that cost."

Advertise on every job. Paradise says make sure your company name and phone number are on all job barricades, trucks, equipment, and even employees' uniforms. "We know that 5000 cars a day go by most jobsites and see us working. That's a lot of exposure and it works," he says. He says it is an additional burden to keep up with the barricades - putting them up and taking them down the next day. "But it works," he says.

Look for more ideas in the March/April and May issues of Pavement Maintenance & Reconstruction, and if you would like to share any of your "get work now" tips click on over to the Roundabout blog and add your comments to the "How to Get Work Now" entry by Editor Allan Heydorn.