New Year, New You: Rethink Business Strategies and Set Resolutions

By Courtney Little

Nothing brightens our expectations like the promise of a new year. We promise to put
bad habits behind us and take up new habits that will improve ourselves, our businesses and the lives of those around us. New Year’s resolutions are a ritual of change. Certainly, the evolving construction industry demands that we periodically rethink our business
strategies. Here are some resolutions that I think we should each consider:

• Develop a well-researched and well thought-out business plan that does more than just set a course for your company. It should communicate that course to the people who execute the plan and to those who provide the resources to proceed.

• Develop a profile of the kind of jobs you should take and the kind you should avoid. What does your company do best? What kind of projects have been disasters for you in the past?

• Evaluate your competition. What makes them more competitive? On what projects do they typically win the contract? Which ones do you win?

• Identify the up-and-coming industries and find ways to bid work to these companies.

• Develop a strategy that exploits your company’s strengths. That’s where you’ll find your profits.

• Conduct a critical assessment of your company’s financial health. If you are the owner, you must know every financial detail of your business.

• Set aside one morning each month for business planning, determining where your company is, where it is headed, and where you want it to go. During this period, take no calls and see no visitors.

• Build a reputation for doing the job better. There always will be a company willing to do the job cheaper. There is more risk in selling cheap than selling quality.

• Evaluate and prequalify your customers. Check out the project financing as well as the other members of the construction team. The prime contractor factor is critical to your
success as well as other subcontractors you work around.

• Before you sign a contract, carefully evaluate the risk you are about to undertake. Remember, it’s not the projects you take that make you; it’s the projects you avoid.

• Insist on strong and unequivocal payment terms in your subcontracts. Review them with the prime contractor. Be vigilant in protecting those rights.

• Demand more from your advisors, including your accountant, attorney and insurance and surety agents. Insist on year-round advice on estate planning, tax strategies and business development.

• Get your key personnel involved in planning. Asking for input helps you
discover what they think is important and it will help you build company-wide support for making tough decisions.

• Build a capable and loyal workforce, and then seek jobs within your capability.

• Offer competitive wages and benefits, and show your appreciation to your employees.

• Set higher goals or strive for zero tolerance of accidents on your jobsites.

• You and your managers must lead by example, modeling the behaviors that exemplify your corporate philosophy.

• Give back to your community. Your management and construction skills are needed for everything from political campaigns to charitable work.

• Give back to your industry. Volunteer to share your experience and knowledge with other subcontractors, recruit a new member, call a legislator on a key subcontractor issue, etc.

• Stop blaming others for your problems. Where would you be without owners to build, architects to design or general contractors to coordinate the projects? Be a team player.

• Stop complaining about your business to your friends and family, particularly your children. Instead, talk about the excitement of the construction industry and the job of producing a tangible product.

• Improve your weakest management skills—the ones you avoid using or pretend are not important. Take a college course in marketing, read a book on business planning, etc.

• Decide how you’re going to measure the success of your company. What’s most important: Annual volume? Profitability? Job performance? Personal satisfaction? Etc.

• Have fun! If your success doesn’t make you happy, redefine your goals.

Courtney Little is president of ACE Glass Construction in Little Rock, Ark., and serves as the 2018-19 president of the American Subcontractors Association (ASA).

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