Every business is different, every situation is different. We’ve compiled a list of the most common questions we hear, with either a brief answer or a link to an article or product that can answer the question.
I need help, where should I start?
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How do I price my jobs?
We recommend calculating the correct markup for your business and applying it to your estimated job costs. That will give you a fixed price you can quote your potential client and give them the security of knowing what the job will cost. (An exception can be made for handyman jobs under $2,500, where you can use an hourly rate and a markup on materials.)
We wrote a book on the topic: Markup & Profit; A Contractor’s Guide Revisited. And there’s a category on our website dedicated to Pricing Jobs. You might want to start with our article titled Markup, Margin and Why You Should Care.
What’s wrong with a short contract?
We receive many calls from contractors who don’t write a detailed contract (or any contract) and have clients who won’t pay their bill. That’s why Michael’s advice is to leave everything out of your contract that you can afford to pay for yourself, twice.
Another mistake many contractors make is not getting a signed Change Work Order (which is a legal extension of your contract if it’s properly written) before making a change. Instead, they present the client with a bill at the end of the job that is much higher than expected and a fight is started.
Our website has a category dealing with contract issues here: Contracts. Start with this article titled The Danger of Short Contracts. Our Fast Track Proposal Writer software makes it easy to quickly generate a detailed contract for every project. At $295, it’s far less expensive than the losses you can take when a client won’t pay.
How do I find more clients?
By marketing. Continually. You need a website. If you don’t have one already, read our article that outlines how to get started.
But a website is just a start. Your website needs to be optimized and marketed locally. That’s where MyOnlineToolbox comes in, showing you the finer points of getting leads from your website without having to pay a lead generation company for the same leads.
How do I turn a lead into a sale?
If you find yourself trying to be the lowest bid on a project in the hope of making the sale, you’re heading down the path of going right out of business. Our book, Profitable Sales, A Contractor’s Guide is focused on residential remodeling and specialty sales.
You can’t just make the sale. The price needs to be high enough to cover all your job costs, pay your overhead expenses, and make a reasonable profit. Without that, you’ll go broke. That’s why sales skills are important. Check out our articles on sales: Sales.
How do I estimate job costs accurately?
Estimating the cost of a job is a skill, and skills can be learned. We discuss the basics in our article Basics in Estimating. We also have a 12-part course that teaches estimating, available on DVD and online. You can read about it here: Profitable Estimating Training.
Do you have advice on hiring or managing employees?
Some of our articles on employees are available here: Employees. Whether you have 1 or 200 employees, you need an employee manual. Our Employee Manual includes policies specific to the construction industry and is an excellent starting point for any construction-related business.
What about working with subcontractors (or general contractors)?
Michael discusses the general/subcontractor relationship often throughout the book Markup & Profit; A Contractor’s Guide Revisited. Articles on the topic are available here: Subcontractor/General Contractor Relationships.
We recommend putting your business relationship down on paper. Check out our Subcontractor Manual.
How do I find the right business coach for my construction-related company?
We list 13 things to consider here: How Do You Select a Coach?
What can I do to manage my business better?
There are a lot of responsibilities that go with owning your own general construction business, whether you specialize in remodeling and renovation, building new homes, or commercial work. To be successful, consider these six guidelines:
- Recognize that nothing happens until someone sells something – for a profit. You have to make the sale.
It begins with marketing and letting potential clients know you’re available to provide the service they need. Marketing and advertising are a 24/7/365 proposition. The most important form of advertising today? A website. It’s also the most cost-effective. (If you don’t have a website, we explain the process here.)
- When the phone rings, make sure you know what to do.
Watch Michael’s 6-hour class on sales and marketing. Michael walks you through the ins and outs of taking a lead and closing a sale. It will pay for itself on your next sales call.
- Price your jobs so you can pay your job costs, cover your overhead expenses and make a profit.
Our 6-hour Markup and Profit class is a primer on business management for any construction-related business owner. Read what one contractor said:
“Michael’s straight-from-the-hip, no nonsense approach was thorough, effective and easy to understand. I saw how to make more money in this one session than I have in all the years I have been involved in the construction business!
Michael has a passion for what he does, helping people in the building industry look at their field from another perspective and finally be able to make a profit for themselves . . . I urge anyone interested in succeeding at their profession, and not just surviving, to take some time out to pick up a book or watch the tape . . . You will be glad you did!”
- Protect yourself and your business; put everything in writing.
If you have employees, make sure you have an employee manual that spells out the workplace rules. If you work with subcontractors, clearly define your relationship and your expectations with a subcontractor agreement. And, of course, every job needs a detailed, written and signed contract before the job begins.
- When the tax man calls, be ready.
The paperwork side of your business can be a royal pain. With The Organized Contractor, discover simple steps to get organized and keep your office running efficiently.
- Don’t wait until it’s too late to get professional help.
We’ve helped many construction business owners get out of debt, some with debts over $800,000. We’ve also watched successful contractors expand their sales and marketing efforts, resolve employee issues and increase their profits. If you’d like to see your business grow, or need to find your way out of a mountain of debt, give us a call.
What resources do you have for subcontractors or specialty contractors?
As a specialty contractor, you might be facing the same issues as remodeling and renovation contractors, marketing and selling to homeowners. Or maybe you work solely as a sub to general contractors, which brings a different set of issues. Most likely you do both, with two very different markets and two very different types of customers. Managing your business is a juggling act.
A few construction-related business specialties we’ve worked with:
Air Duct Cleaning, Apartment Management, Architecture, Designing, Backhoe and Drilling, Cabinet Door Replacement, Cabinetry, Carpet Installation, Ceilings, Chimney Services, Cleaning Services, Closet Systems, Concrete, Countertops, Crown and Mouldings, Demolition, Disaster Cleanup, Dock Building, Drywall, Electrical, Excavation, Fencing, Finish Carpentry, Flooring, Framing, Garage Doors, Glass, Handyman, Hardwood Floors, Heating and A/C, Home Inspection, Iron Working, Steel Fabrication, Land Development, Landscaping, Lock & Key, Low Voltage Wiring, Marble and Granite, Marine Construction, Masonry, Mechanical Systems, Metal Framing, Painting, Paving, Pest Management, Plumbing, Pool Installation, Maint., Power washing, Property Maintenance, Pump Service, Refrigeration, Roofing, Security Systems, Septic Systems, Sheet Metal, Sheetrock, Siding, Signage, Sprinkler Systems, Tile Installation, Trenching, Wallpapering, Water Testing, Welding, Well Drilling, Pump Installation, Window Coverings, Window Tinting, Windows and Doors
As you can see, we’ve worked with a wide variety of specialty and subcontractors but one thing is constant.
You have to price your work so you can pay all job costs, cover your overhead expenses and make a profit, or you won’t stay in business.
Regardless of your specialty, the book Markup & Profit; A Contractor’s Guide Revisited applies to your business. Written specifically for the construction industry, it discusses both general and specialty contractors, showing all construction-related business owners how to price their jobs to make sure there is enough money to pay their job costs and overhead expenses, and still make a profit. For more business management information, view Michael’s online classes. Read what one specialty contractor had to say:
Nothing happens until someone sells something, for a profit.
If you’re working directly with homeowners, you need Profitable Sales, A Contractor’s Guide. Written primarily for sales people in a residential setting, the book addresses the unique issues faced when selling to clients in their own home. The real-life situations presented will give you confidence in your sales ability.
How do I start a construction business?
Many contractors start a construction business with all the skills necessary to do the trade. But when you become a business owner you need more than trade skills. You’re responsible for marketing, estimating, pricing, sales, production, customer relations, employee relations and bookkeeping.
The ideal “Small Business Start-Up” kit for contractors would include:
1. The book, Markup & Profit; A Contractor’s Guide Revisited. Many construction business owners consider this book their business bible.
2. The 6-hour class based on the book. The class covers info in the book, but goes much deeper with many business management issues. You can learn more about the class here.
3. If you will be selling your services in the residential market, we recommend Profitable Sales, A Contractor’s Guide.
4. The Organized Contractor. No one likes dealing with paperwork, but this manual outlines very simply what is required and how to do it efficiently.
I have a copy of the first book, Markup & Profit: A Contractor’s Guide. How is the revised version, Markup & Profit Revisited different?
The revised edition covers much of the same ground, specifically, how to calculate your markup and price your jobs. There’s a lot of new material, including a discussion on why pricing jobs in construction is different than other businesses. It talks about dealing with unhappy clients, getting through tough times and starting a new business. We’ve addressed the differences between remodeling work, specialty contracting and commercial contracting, and how the book applies to each of them.
Another major change is the way the book is organized. Part of the editing process this time was taking the book apart and reordering topics to make it flow more clearly. We’re confident that reading this revised edition will provide more information and be easier to reference than the first edition. It’s also, for the first time, available as an eBook as well.