Vary Construction Mark-up Per Job to Maximize Profit Potential

A variable mark-up system is the best solution to maximize a construction contractor's bottom-line because small jobs require just as much time and overhead as a bigger job

Smart profitable business owners understand the power of marking up the entire cost of doing work on a project including overhead first. Mark-up your overhead costs first to boost your bottom-line.
Smart profitable business owners understand the power of marking up the entire cost of doing work on a project including overhead first. Mark-up your overhead costs first to boost your bottom-line.

Construction company owners are looking for the magic percentage that’ll guarantee a profit on every job. Smart business owners realize all jobs are not equal and mark-up should vary with every job. When you use the same mark-up for every bid, you are not maximizing your profit potential or helping your company make more money.

Mark-up is a function of what you need to cover your fixed overhead costs plus a profit margin combined with what the market will bear. When it comes to determining mark-up, first determine how much total annual mark-up for overhead you need to cover all of your fixed general and administrative expenses for the year. For example, if your total annual overhead is $500,000 and your total job costs are expected to be $5,000,000, you need an overhead mark-up of 10 percent to recover your overhead costs.

What Should Your Overhead Mark-Up Include?

Next, determine how much total annual profit you want to make for the risk you take. If you want to make $250,000 annual pre-tax net profit, your net profit mark-up must average 5 percent using the above example. Now you have a minimum mark-up of 10 percent for overhead and a total profit mark-up goal of 5 percent for a total of 15 percent overhead and profit.

Know your mark-up value

In the above example, the key is to average 15 percent total overhead and profit mark-up over the year. To maximize your bottom-line, consider using a variable mark-up system. You recognize the fact that smaller jobs often take the same time, energy, overhead and supervision as bigger jobs do. Therefore, you need to charge more on smaller jobs for overhead and profit to cover the added cost of managing them plus a larger profit margin to get a return on your time and energy. I recommend you create a “Variable Mark-Up Chart” similar to the example below for your company to use when marking up jobs of variable sizes. (Do not use these mark-up percentages — they are just examples) Note: OH represents overhead and P represents profit.

Variable Mark-up Chart 

Job Costs OH + P Bid Mark-up Projected # Jobs Total OH + P Mark-up
$0 to $50,000           30% 20 $150,000    
$50,000 to $100,000          20% 15 $225,000
$100,001 to $200,000        15% 10 $225,000
$200,001 to $400,000     10% 5 $150,000    

Total OH & P Bid Mark-up    15% Average    50              $   750,000

By having an annual goal of 15 percent total OH + P mark-up to realize your total goal of $750,000, you can make decisions about the number of jobs and at what rate you need to mark them up to meet your annual goals.

Margins, Mark-Up & Making Money!

Mark-up your mark-up

Another way to improve your mark-up strategy is to breakout your overhead and profit mark-up as separate calculations. When pricing jobs and calculating the cost of change orders most contractors leave money on the table by only using one total mark-up rate. When you blend your overhead and profit into one total OH + P mark-up like 25 percent, you’re not marking up your fixed cost of doing business (your overhead) before you add your profit. See the example below:

Job Costs $100,000
OH + P Mark-up @25% $25,000
Total Bid Price $125,000
Gross Profit Margin 20%

Smart profitable business owners understand the power of marking up the entire cost of doing work on a project including overhead first. So, mark-up your overhead costs first to boost your bottom-line. Using the same total mark-up for overhead and profit of 25 percent, look at the better way to mark-up your jobs:

Job Costs $100,000
Overhead Mark-up @ 15% $15,000
Sub-Total $115,000
Profit Mark-up @ 10% $11,500
Total Bid Price $126,500
Gross Profit Margin 20.94%

In the second example, you made an additional $1,500 or nearly 1 percent more gross profit. For every $1,000,000 of total sales volume for the year where you mark-up your mark-up, your bottom-line would increase by $9,400. Not bad for a little bit of extra math.

George Hedley works with contractors to build profitable growing companies. He is a professional business coach, popular speaker and best-selling author of “Get Your Construction Business To Grow & Profit!” available online at www.HardhatPresentations.com. To sign-up for his free e-newsletter, attend a BIZ-Builder boot camp, be part of a coaching program, or get a discount coupon for online classes at www.HardhatBizSchool.com, e-mail GH@HardhatPresentations.com.

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