Experience, leadership, resourcefulness, and a fine understanding of the industry are all great qualities for the person at the top of a construction crew to have. However, if you’re looking to build a real business, you need a plan. Growth is driven by consistent results and the single best way to achieve those results is to make the investments that make them more manageable. Here, we’re going to look at investments, of both time and money, that are crucial to getting your construction company off the ground.
A safe site
It should be no surprise to anyone with experience in the industry that crews who make no efforts to curb on-site accidents and injuries rarely last very long. Common sense and a keen eye for risks will only take you so far. You need to take the time to systematize your safety practices, including using site signage, establishing equipment maintenance schedules, and performing regular safety spot checks and ongoing training. To help manage the site safety side of things, hire or appoint and train a safety officer. This means putting an employee in charge of policy and regulation maintenance, safety inspections, accident investigations, and so forth. Beyond preventing on-site accidents, a safety officer is crucial in establishing a better understanding of the accidents that do happen. This helps you prevent them next time.
A real team
Many construction business owners rely a lot on subcontractors. The right use of the right subcontractor can give you temporary access to a skillset you might need to take on a specific job in a cost-effective way. However, if you are relying entirely on subcontractors, you could be putting your business at risk in the long-term. Subcontractors might cost less, but you are continuously spending money on giving experience and skills to people who might not be available to you in a year or more from now. As they become more proficient, competent, and qualified, they are more likely to find a permanent place on another team. Invest in direct hires and ensure you always have access to the skills you need, or you might find your team lacking them entirely.
The right suppliers
Similarly, some construction teams rely entirely on leasing equipment. Again, if it’s a kind of machinery you don’t use as often, that makes sense. The more you rely on specific kinds of construction equipment, however, the less cost-effective it is to lease them instead of buying them. When buying construction equipment, make sure you’re choosing quality suppliers, too. The right suppliers offer plenty of value beyond the equipment alone, including better warranties, cheaper parts replacement sales, and ongoing repairs. A long-term construction business/supplier relationship can even result in better deals down the line so don’t think of it as just investing in your equipment but investing in the equipment you might need in future too.
The right digital tools for the job
The tools you use on-site aren’t the only ones you need at your disposal. Software is playing a bigger and bigger role in construction as time goes on. Estimating software will help you not only win more bids but be better able to see which jobs have more potential of being profitable. Crew scheduling software and site mapping can help you organize a much more efficient project. Accounting tools can help you track human and material costs, helping you be more aware of how on-budget you are. Some packages, known as construction management software, will offer many of these features all-in-one. If you haven’t updated your skills to include the right software yet, now is the time.
Word-of-mouth isn’t passive
What happens beyond your projects matters as well. Most construction crew leaders will agree that most of their business comes from word-of-mouth. What some new business owners might misconstrue this as is “do good work and more will come by itself”. You will get some leads this way, but you have to spend the time and money building on that word-of-mouth and expanding it. For instance, ask for more testimonials and reviews from your existing customers. Or set up a referral scheme that promises reward from some of your most regular clients. Lay the groundwork for positive word-of-mouth, as well as lead-building, by networking in industry events and trade shows. The connections you make outside of your work can lead to future jobs, too.
Building a brand
Word-of-mouth also goes only so far. A referral is useful but being able to close it with a professional look and a strong brand is even better. Nowadays, most of your branding may very well be done online, so investing in a well-designed website with high-quality written content and a strong niche can do the business a lot of good. But exposure is good for brand awareness too. Think about branding the company vehicles and equipment. When a consumer or client has the choice between picking two companies that offer seemingly identical services with similar reputations, the one with the better-known brand will win out in the vast majority of cases.
Quality above all else
You might be thinking that good work trumps any of the points made above, and there might be an argument there. But how do you ensure good work? Through your team. If you want to consistently improve the quality of your projects and to make them more productive and efficient, you have to continue to invest in your team. Ongoing construction training helps them not only improve and internalize their current skill set, but with expand it as time goes on. The more skills you have within the business, the less likely you are to have to rely on specialized subcontractors down the line. The moment that you stop investing in employee development is the moment that your team begins to stagnate.
Industry expertise and firm leadership are key, but investments give you the foundation to build upon. Be willing to turn more of your time and the money your team makes into the fuel that helps you rise above the competition.