You Can Turn the Slow Down Around
Who said business is slower? The economy slowed profitable sales, but it increased most construction business owners’ workloads. Cutting costs, reducing staff, and lowering overhead expenses kept most managers busier than ever trying to get everything done, including job meetings, customer calls, ordering materials, bidding lots of jobs, scheduling workers, and finding time to go out and look for new business. I’ll bet you felt like you were running on a faster and faster treadmill that kept going at an ever-increasing pace. And, as more construction work came your way, you got even busier and more stressed out, with less people to get all the work done.
The headlines show we are still in a long, slow, upward-moving economic recovery that will last for several more years. You have been waiting it out, trying to survive and not spend all your cash with low sales and margins. Now, more work equals needing more cash for more people, materials and equipment. And growing too fast, chasing easier to win low-profit jobs, won’t help your bottom line get much better in the near future.
Your choices? Decide to do business the same way you’ve always done it; do nothing different in the immediate future; bid the same kind of jobs against too many low-priced competitors; and continue to struggle for years to come. Or, do what you should have done several years ago: Make healthy strategic adjustments; look for new ways to do business; add new products and services; find new customers and markets with less competitors; and start implementing new ways to grow your business and make a great profit.
These uncertain economic factors have forced you to make difficult decisions and rethink how you do business. There also are more unbelievable opportunities now to provide unique and innovative services that provide real customer value. Most of your competitors will continue to bid the same customers and projects they always have, and not go after better jobs with a higher required level of expertise or tougher barrier to entry. Some potential customers also will have less resources to manage their businesses and are open to hiring you to provide additional services for them. It’s not business as usual. It’s business that’s unusual, which will add to your bottom line as things continue to stay slow and competitive.
How can you help your customers as they face tight markets or emerge as the economy rebounds? How can you help your 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 customers’ profitability in a slow-growing market? How can you reduce their risk and provide more value-added services?
Turn your slowdown around
General building contractor. Offer general construction services plus pre-construction project and development management; provide design-build or assistance with selecting and coordinating the 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, and be a guarantor on construction loans; and provide subdivision bonds.
Also, think about offering what your customer wants during the next 10 years to own and manage their property and offer those ongoing services. These include property and asset management services, annual roof inspections, and complete ongoing building maintenance programs.
Paving contractor. 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.
Electrical contractor. 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.
Building masonry and concrete contractor. 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 percent guarantee that the slab will not crack and is installed to the flatness specified. Plus, consider starting a basement wall crack repair service, gypsum concrete floor installations, and deck concrete as part of your skills.
Site concrete contractor. 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
The more you can offer your customer, the more of a service you provide. The easier you make it for your customer, the easier it is for him 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. Email GH@HardhatPresentations.com for your copy of “Winning Ways To Win More Work.”
What made you successful during 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 customers’ 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 your 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 differently. 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 won’t slow down.
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 Business To Work!” available online at www.HardhatPresentations.com. To sign-up for his free e-newsletter, join his next webinar, be part of a BIZCOACH program, or get a $100 discount coupon for online classes at www.HardhatBizSchool.com, email GH@HardhatPresentations.com.
George Hedley, HARDHAT Presentations, 800-851-8553