Any contractor would love to have regular, easy-to-work-with, repeat clients. Those relationships usually develop over time as people build trust. Yet, in order to get started, contractors must usually go the extra mile. That extra mile begins with developing these five traits.
1. Advanced skills
Every construction contractor needs to have skills in their chosen work. It’s not enough to just know how to join two pipes together or build a roof. You also need logic and math skills to get estimates right and order the right amounts of materials. You need scheduling skills so the project moves forward at the right pace. You need a few skills that are not directly related to building.
Construction is a people business. To keep customers coming back, you need keen communication skills. Those same listening and expression skills are even more important for your relationships with employees, subcontractors, and other stakeholders in your projects.
The variables that creep into a construction project cause unexpected changes, making people feel uncertain and anxious. People don’t like change, but construction projects are notoriously changeable. Any construction contractor needs leadership abilities that foster a positive outlook and innovative thinking.
If you think you are adaptable, imagine everything you’ve planned for the day going wrong. Any construction contractor faces an amazing array of problems hour by hour. While it might seem counterintuitive, adaptability stems from a healthy dose of planning.
The best-laid plans are the ones that have taken into account all the factors that can derail the plan. Once you’ve gone through that mental exercise, you become immensely more adaptable because you have plan Bs, Cs, and Ds, or more if necessary. Some of those alternative plans include insurance, bonding, and contract administration to cover factors you can’t mitigate with typical management practices.
But adaptability also means you can operate with no plan when necessary. You can think on your feet and quickly assess and reassess alternative plans of action. You can pivot on a dime without losing a beat. That’s when you are truly adaptable. Customers love that because they feel you always have everything under control.
Construction contracts try to balance risk and cost for the parties to the project. So, if you do projects without contracts, you are walking in a minefield of risks and costs. If you consider yourself a professional contractor, then you use contracts because it is unprofessional to do otherwise. By making a contract necessary for any project you do, you show you approach your business professionally. But that also sets up another positive dynamic.
One challenge in contracting is finding the right clients for you and your business. You are trying to find a niche where the client fits with your business plan, skills, experience, and business practices. When you require construction contracts, you signal you want to be clear about expectations and requirements between you and the client.
Another big part of professionalism is appearance. Besides your personal appearance, the appearance of your vehicles, equipment, and employees also sends a message of professionalism or unprofessionalism. How your website looks, the signage you use, the way you keep your shop, and your advertising all add to the picture of professionalism.
4. Marketing savvy
Contracting in construction isn’t as cut and dried as selling a widget or offering a set service. Each project is unique with variable materials and methods. Projects have unique budgets and schedules, and they each begin on land with its own unique history. Except for construction work that’s been made a commodity like you often see in millwork, each project is custom made for a unique market.
When a construction contractor markets their business, they can benefit by marketing what makes them unique. It might be their specialty. Maybe, it’s the way they approach the building process. Or maybe, it’s all about their partners and the unique benefits they bring to the job. Somewhere in your experience, the business you’ve built, or the methods you’ve developed, is your unique advantage.
Maybe, it’s a combination of all your best factors described in a clear, one-sentence slogan that captures your unique essence.
When you find that unique aspect that’s also beneficial to your clients, you are on track to improving your marketing results. You will also start attracting clients that fit best with your business. Because they fit, they will refer you to like-minded clients and call you back when they need more work.
5. Strong ethics
Unfortunately, construction has an image problem. A survey done in Australia found ‘unethical conduct, as unfair conduct (81%), negligence (67%), conflict of interest (48%), collusive tendering (44%), fraud (35%), confidentiality and proprietary breach (32%), bribery (26%) and violation of environmental ethics (20%).”
In the U.S., headlines about bribes, modern slavery, corruption, fraud, procurement schemes, and crime on construction projects signal the industry’s business practices are ripe for unethical behavior.
Ethics are principles most people use to judge whether someone or an organization conducts themselves acceptably and follows accepted rules. Every construction contractor will face attempts at getting them to take part in unethical behavior. Once people view you as unethical, you might get plenty of business. The downside is, however, it likely will come only from those who rely on unethical behavior.
To stay on the right side of ethics, you first have to understand how corruption occurs in construction. Once you know that, you can install safeguards in your company and in your processes that prevent and detect unethical behavior.
These prime traits will help you attract customers that value you for the professional you are. You will enjoy greater trust at each project’s start and more referrals as each project ends.