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Ten Cardinal Rules for Construction Business Owners

by Michael Stone

  1. You shall return all phone calls the same day. This means that you return all phone calls the same day or by 9:00 AM the next morning at the latest. You return the call regardless of who it is from, and you don't make assumptions about what the call may be about. Most importantly, you don't make excuses about how busy you are. You return ALL phone calls.
  2. You shall keep ALL appointments, and on time. This means that you keep all appointments, and keep them on time. You plan your day and leave early enough for the appointment to be sure that you arrive on time. An appointment means you have made a promise to another person that you would be there on time. Research has shown that "contractors" are late or don't bother to show up at all for 30% to 40% of all appointments. Those that are considered to be professional in our business, keep their promises. You don't make excuses about how busy you are or what happened . . . . you get to the appointment on time. If there is a problem, you call on your mobile phone and let your customer know. That is the way the pros conduct business.
  3. You shall present yourself to your customers and the public in a professional manner at all times. This means you are professionally dressed including a coat and tie, shoes shined, hair cut on a regular basis and clean-shaven. You keep your appointments and on time, you always have fresh, clean business cards available to hand out, (with the correct address and phone number on the card), you are articulate in your speech and you conduct yourself in a professional manner with an air of success.
  4. You shall keep your ego in your pocket. Your customers do not care how much you know until they know how much to care. You keep your ego and your opinions in your pocket, find out what the customer wants, and help them to get it. This also means you are a student of this business, not the master. You were born with two ears and one mouth, use them in that order.
  5. You shall interview the customer to see if they qualify to buy from you, not if you qualify to sell to them. Your approach to sales in construction should always be to find out what the customer wants to do, when they want to do it, who will make the buying decision and what they want to invest in that service. That will qualify the customer, eliminate wasting your time and working for nothing, and vastly increase your sales to leads ratio.
  6. You shall get written quotes on all items that exceed $300 on your estimate. Any item on your estimate sheet that exceeds $300 will be backed up by a firm written price quotation from either a sub or a specialty contractor. If you are computing labor or other costs in house, you will have that number checked by at least one other person before the quote to the customer. This procedure will almost guarantee you a profit on each job, assuming that you then price it correctly and get it built on schedule.
  7. You shall determine your correct markup and use it without fail. The pros in our business know exactly what their correct markup is and they use it on each job that they offer a quotation on, and without fail. They never cut their markup on any job regardless the reason.
  8. You shall honor your overhead budget at all times, and spend not otherwise. Between November 15 and December 31 you establish your budget for the following year, then you stick to it like glue. No new toys, no buying of anything unless it is in your budget or you have made the necessary adjustments to your sales projections to cover that expense.
  9. You shall continue your education on a daily basis. The one and only common thread among all successful contractors is education. You must commit to continuing and ongoing education on a daily basis if you wish to move from the ranks of those that work with their hands to those that make money in this business. Read at least one half hour each day, attend a class or seminar at least once a quarter, attend at least one national trade convention a year and become and remain a student of the business.
  10. You shall take a fixed salary from your business each month. You assign yourself (and your spouse if they work in your business) a salary each month and make sure that you take it. You can't run a construction business of any kind if you can't pay your own bills.

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Comments

Jonathan Mitchell replied on 10/01/10:
You can't go wrong with these!

Jason Scheurer replied on 10/07/10:
I used to follow these rules and did great. Now I'm back on track and kicking some A**! Thank you Michael for these rules.

Ann Marie Meno-Pelobello replied on 10/23/11:
Well said. Thank you!

B Mac replied on 04/13/12:
Mike that was outstanding. It all kind of centers around integrity. If you focus on doing these things instead of focusing on and chasing the buck - you will add value - value gets more and better business. Thank you for taking the time to think through things and putting these kind of simple rules down in one place.

William Powell replied on 06/01/12:
I think the Ten Cardinal Rules is the best way to keep good customers,and to get new ones. Be firm and stick with it. And, remember your dressing up.

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