Who said business is slow? The tighter economy lowered net profit margins while it increased most construction business owner’s and manager’s workloads. Cutting costs, reducing staff and lowering overhead expenses kept managers busier than ever trying to get everything done for less including job meetings, customer calls, ordering materials, bidding jobs, scheduling crews, and finding time to go out and look for new business. I bet you felt like you were running on a faster and faster treadmill going at an ever-increasing pace. And as more construction work started to come your way, you got even busier and more stressed with not enough people to get all the work done.
The headlines show we are in a long slow upward moving economic recovery which should last for several more years. You waited it out surviving and not spending all your cash with lower sales and margins. Now you’re finding out that more work equals more effort, people, management, systems and time is needed for more projects, people, materials and equipment. And taking on more work at low profit margins doesn’t help your bottom line get better.
Your choices? Do business the same way you’ve always done it, bid the same kind of jobs against too many low priced competitors, and continue to struggle.
Or do what you should have done a few years ago: make healthy strategic adjustments, look for new ways to do business, strengthen your management team, add new project types that have less competition, find better customers who offer ongoing opportunities, and start implementing new ways to grow your business and make higher profits.
Customers want more
These uncertain economic factors have forced you to make difficult decisions and rethink how you do business. There are lots of unbelievable opportunities to provide unique and innovative services that customers value. Most contractors continue to bid the same customers and project types they always have and not go after better customers or new job types requiring a higher level of expertise, experience, technical skills, management or qualifications.
Some potential customers also want more value-added services to reduce their time and involvement to handle their project requirements and management time. It's not business as usual. It's business that's unusual which will add to your bottom line as business continues to stay competitive.
How can you help customers as they face their own challenges, grow and emerge as the economy gets better? How can you help customers do more with less, or produce a higher level of quality? How can you help your clients get more out of limited budgets? How can you enhance your customer's profitability in a growing market? How can you reduce their risk and provide more value-added services?
The more you can offer your customer, the more of a service you provide and the more calls you get. The easier you make it for customers, the easier it is for them to give you more work. The more service you provide, the more your services are valued. Selling the minimum only gets you the job, if you are cheap. It's hard to get rich selling the minimum required at the lowest possible price.
Consider these value-added services to make more money:
General building contractors
- Offer general construction services plus pre-construction project and development management
- Provide design-build or design-assist with selecting and coordinating architect and engineers
- Obtain all project approvals, permit processing and expediting
- Prepare project real estate pro-forma budgets, find sources for project equity and investors, secure project financing, be a guarantor on construction loans
- Provide subdivision bonds
Also think about offering what your customer wants over the next 10 years to own and manage their property and offer those ongoing services including property and asset management services, annual roof inspections and complete ongoing building and site maintenance programs.
Building masonry & concrete contractors
Offer complete building concrete or masonry labor, equipment and materials for foundations, slab and building walls plus insulated concrete panels, rebar, structural imbeds, welding, door frames, slab dowels, caulking, crane, inspection services, layout and surveying, temporary power and water, removal of trash, removal of excess footing dirt, etc.
In addition, offer a 100% guarantee your slabs will not crack and is installed to the flatness specified. Plus consider offering brick and masonry cleaning and repair service, waterproofing, basement wall crack grouting and repair, gypsum concrete floor installation, and deck concrete as part of your services.
Offer grading and paving plus total site management, annual ongoing maintenance for all on-site surfaces including concrete repairs, asphalt patching, site debris cleanup, slurry sealing, parking lot sweeping, landscape maintenance, sprinkler repairs, snow removal, weed abatement, slope stabilization, and emergency on-call 24 hour services.
Offer complete electrical construction services plus engineering and design, phone and computer cabling, sound and communication system wiring, industrial equipment hookup, medical and dental equipment wiring, annual building inspections, annual maintenance services, light bulb service, holiday lighting installation, and energy management audits.
Site concrete contractors
Offer every type of concrete required to complete all site work including the normal curbs, gutters and sidewalks plus drive approaches, stairs, v-drains, culverts, retaining walls and footings, truck wells, catch basins, manholes, light pole bases, monument sign foundations, special finishes, stamped concrete, sandblasting, interlocking pavers, tile pavers, poured in place walls, landscape concrete, etc.
Keep doing what works, and….
What made you successful over the last 10 years still works in a growing economy, but not today. So don’t panic, and stay focused on what you do best. Plus, change your approach and provide additional added-value services that will solve your customer's problems.
Don't just sell the specified nuts and bolts installed, sell nuts and bolts solutions to your customers problems! Get off the treadmill and choose three or four new services to offer customers. Or just try one new idea, one new customer, and one new approach.
Help your customers and they will help you. Seek opportunities that guarantee your profitable growth. Think and do different! Be more than a service provider. Be a resource and a partner in your customer's future. When you offer more than the lowest price and the minimum required, your business will grow and make more money.
George Hedley is a professional construction business coach and professional industry speaker who helps contractors grow, make more profit, and get their companies to work! He is the best-selling author of “Get Your Construction Business To Grow & Profit!” available at his online bookstore at www.HardhatPresentations.com. E-mail GH@HardhatPresentations.com to sign-up for his free e-newsletter, be part of an ongoing BIZCOACH program, or get a discount for online courses at www.HardhatBizSchool.com.