Construction Business Management


Little Habits with Big Payoffs for Contractors

In another recent article, I talked about the challenges faced by anyone starting his or her own construction firm. Ironically, bad times in the economy often spawn new business ventures. People who may have thought about becoming an entrepreneur while working for someone else in a seemingly secure position may now find themselves out of a job. If you are one of them, look at the bright side, as the doors to unlimited opportunity are now open for you! However, success is never guaranteed. The following are personal habits that reward anyone who adopts them but especially the new entrepreneur.

  • Seek to do business with and employ only people of quality and competence. This includes your customers, employees, outside professional consultants such as your attorney and accountant, and your bankers and vendors.
  • Maintain confidentiality as appropriate. No matter what they tell you to the contrary, very few people can manage sensitive information prudently (i.e., keep a secret).
  • Mind what you say. According to A. P. Sherman, writing in Entrepreneur, Paula Adkins, a senior executive at General Dynamics Corp., once said: "Small people talk about people, medium people talk about events, and big people talk about ideas."
  • Keep your word. This depends on two factors: a) Intent; and b) committing to only what you are certain you can produce.
  • Allow time to think. This refers to two modes of thought: focus on a specific issue or issues; and, unstructured thought in which your mind is set free. It's hard to do this in the rush of the day. Try it in your car, or in your office at home. Your business success will be roughly proportional to the time you spend with unproductive external stimuli turned off and your brain in gear. Everything important begins with a thought.
  • Listen before speaking.
  • Stay close to your people. Know what they do. This will tell you what they are thinking.
  • Be frugal, especially in the early years of any business venture. Order of spending priorities should be paying taxes, building cash reserves, and paying down debt. Forever live beneath your financial means.
  • Be sure your employees know the circumstances under which you are to be notified immediately, including potential legal issues, significant customer disputes, events that may unusually affect profitability, and public relations concerns.
  • Read every day. Completion of formal training is not the end of learning but the beginning of a never ending habit of reading that you must adopt. It is the way we keep up with the rapidly evolving events and processes that influence our businesses and our lives. It is one of the most important ways we learn. Without an effective reading habit, we cannot reach our potential.

The above habits and traits are central to success that will last. Be sure they apply to you.

The author of this article, Nick Ganaway, was a successful general contractor for 25 years. He is a consultant in Atlanta, Georgia for contractors and other small business owners. Nick has described how to set up and manage a construction business that is profitable, enjoyable, and enduring in his book Construction Business Management: What Every Construction Contractor, Builder & Subcontractor Needs to Know.


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