I think the biggest challenge for the very small contractor is that he has to do everything himself. By definition that means he doesn't have a team. Unfortunately it takes a team to build a business.
A lot of owners open their construction firms because they want to work for themselves and can't stomach working for someone else. I suspect that is sometimes due to their lack of trust in others' decision making. Unfortunately having a lack of trust leads to a problem when they want to grow their own business. An owner doesn't have enough time to do all the work himself.
This pattern is something we noticed over the years. It seemed like every company that had grown past $1.5 million had two or more people pulling on the rope. In companies that couldn't pass $1.5 million the owner was typically working really hard handling both sales and operations. In that situation the business is relying on one person to develop business and to get the work in.
The problem with having one person doing both sales and operations is that it inevitably leads to the peaks and valleys that so many companies suffer from. When the business doesn't have work the owner goes out and gets it. When the owner has work he doesn't have time to go out and get work because he is putting in the work and/or overseeing the putting of the work. Peaks and valleys.
As a company gets bigger more and more hours are needed for business development, operations, interviewing and managing the staff. Each task consumes more and more time. You only have so many hours available each day and week so it's simple math. You can't do it all yourself. It takes multiple people performing these tasks in order for your business to have work to put in and to get the work in. That's why we say it takes a team to build the business.
Let us talk about teams.
Teams are groups of people with diverse skills and personalities coming together to achieve a common goal. If you try to build your team with people who match your skills and personality you are going to have a messed up, dysfunctional, ineffective team. Don't take that personally.
No team should have members with the exact same skills and personality. Much research has gone into teams, and all the research concludes that the team of diverse skills and communication styles will be much more productive than one that is made up of the same type of people. That is a hard concept for most business owners to accept: the fact that you actually need people of diverse skills and diverse personalities in order for a business to grow and thrive.
There exists a constant and long-term conflict between sales oriented people and operations oriented people that inevitably bubbles to the surface. Bringing the two groups together is like mixing oil and water. Unfortunately, both groups and the people that populate them are necessary to the success of your business. Managing one of the two groups is going to be a challenge for you. It is the nature of the beast, and you'd best prepare yourself for it.
The reality is they need each other for job security and career development. The same holds true for your office manager, estimators, project managers and fieldworkers. Every job requires a different set of skills, a different mindset and often a different communication style.
Something else I hope that you realize is that your real objective in building a business is to make money off of the output of your employees. In other words, the more people you employ productively the more money you should make.
It is your job to put in place the right systems, to hire the right people and to assign them tasks they can perform successfully. You job is less obvious than theirs. You have to make tough financial decisions. You have to build a culture of achievement. You have to understand how all the parts of your business fit together. To many workers you have an easy job. If only they knew the truth. The only reason people complain about owners and CEOs making too much money is that they don't understand how hard and stressful the job is.
Spread out the work. Spread out some of the stress. Unburden yourself adequately so that you have the time and energy to make good, sound business decisions. Hire specialists for sales,
bookkeeping, estimating, scheduling and operations management. As fast as you can, get your business and finances to the point you can start hiring people who will successfully take on some of your tasks. That's how you build a business - with a strong team.