Be Better Than The Other Guy

I recently spent some time down in Chicago talking to concrete contractors in that ultra-competitive market.

Without fail, they told me something I’ve been hearing from a lot of contractors: Business is OK, but margins are tight. The problem? Too many bad businessmen that don’t understand their true costs flooded the market when business was really moving a few years ago. Now, as that pool has shrunk, they find themselves competing for a piece of a smaller pie. And general contractors know it, so they’re putting the squeeze on prices.

So how do you compete against this? You have to stop selling on price and you have to offer something the other guy can’t. Maybe it’s a specialty, like decorative concrete.

Maybe you stick out by offering the best service in your market. Maybe you focus on the larger projects and leave the small ones for the other guy. There has to be something you do better than the competition. As you think about where you want to go next year, think about what that is.

On the plus side, it looks like things should continue to improve next year. Most economists are predicting another good year for the residential construction market, with the commercial sector making slower improvements. While the twin specters of rising cement and oil prices may dampen growth somewhat, it seems pretty clear 2005 will be a good year. It appears you’re pretty optimistic, too. A recent e-mail survey of our readers, found that 83 percent expect business to be up next year. For more information on the economic outlook for 2005, be sure to check out our forecast article in the January issue.

Decorative concrete is one of those things concrete contractors can think about to separate themselves from the pack. That’s why we cover decorative concrete in every issue and are producing a special issue focusing exclusively on decorative. It should arrive in your mailbox in early January and will also be available in our booth (#C4012) at the World of Concrete show in Las Vegas.

As part of that dedication to covering the decorative market, we’re proud to announce an exclusive column from Bob Harris, president of the Decorative Concrete Institute and one of the most respected decorative concrete contractors in the industry.