How To Become A General Contractor
Are you ready to become a General Contractor?
You'll be able to find the information you need on how to take the next step in your contractor career. With state-by-state guidance, you'll find out what's required in your area.
You Don't Need to Know Everything
As a general contractor, you should have some familiarity with all facets of your business — construction, legal, finances, operations, marketing, sales, etc. — but you don't need to be an expert in every area. The most successful people surround themselves with a strong team. Hire, and do your best to retain top talent across the whole spectrum of construction business operations.
It’s Not All Roses
In business, some days will be good, and some will be bad. Realize that ups and downs are a normal part of the entrepreneurial experience, but continue to be smart about your business.
Keep putting your best foot forward, invest in your people, rely on your network, and focus on marketing.
If you are passionate about construction and have been in the business for a while, you might be wondering if becoming a general contractor is right for you. Not only is general contracting a good way to make a living — on average, general contractors earn around $80,000 per year, with larger firm owners making much more — it is also a unique opportunity to be your own boss.
While some might have the construction skills to do good work, they might lack the interpersonal skills needed to manage a team and work with clients as well as the administrative skills required for business operations. Starting a contracting business is not for everyone, but that’s not to say it is impossible. With intention, grit, and perseverance, it is possible. Whether you currently own a business or are trying to start one, here are a few words of advice:
Find Your Niche
While some trades are more lucrative than others, money is not always an adequate source of motivation and can lead to burnout. Do you see yourself remodeling suburban homes? Or do you want to build skyscrapers in cities? Maybe you are interested in building mansions from the ground up?
Figure out what type of projects you want to work on. Ideally it would already be something you are skilled in. Once you have an idea of the types of services you want to offer, you can start marketing to that ideal demographic.
Set a Goal, Achieve It, Repeat.
Without goals a business is without clear direction, and without clear direction, a business can get lost and crumble along the way. Outline what you want from your business and once you get that, find something new.
Construction is unique from other industries in that you usually only see clients once, so, if you are not making a conscious effort to bring in new business, the stream of work will ultimately dry up.
While working as a contractor can be a fulfilling and lucrative career, getting started can be a challenge. One of the most important steps in creating a legitimate contracting business is securing the necessary licensing and registration. Licensing and registration requirements vary by state so select the state(s) in which you operate for accurate information.
While licensing requirements vary greatly from state to state, many require contractors to pass an examination of some sort. Exams for general contractors typically cover questions about the legality of construction work, trade specific information, and business/finance skills.
Whether you are starting a new construction business or looking to grow your existing business, a strong business plan sets you up for success. Ultimately, its purpose is to give your company direction by outlining your goals and the processes by which you will achieve them.
What Makes a Successful General Contractor
There is not one linear path to greatness, but, among those that do well, there are some common qualities. A contracting business does not flourish simply because the owner got lucky, though that does play a small role. It takes time, effort, strong leaders, and an exceptional team. While it is rare that any one contractor possesses all the following traits, good contractors typically have at least a handful.
Traits of a Successful GC
- Resilience: As entrepreneurs, contractors need to find stability amid the never ending cycle of ups and downs. When things don’t go according to plan, a good contractor is able to get things back on track without losing their composure.
- Humility: The smartest people know what they don’t know. Successful contractors are self aware, and confident yet humble. They know their own limitations and realize that others might be better suited for a certain task.
- Integrity: Any truly successful person, contractor or otherwise, has an uncompromising sense of integrity. They do what’s right, even if it’s not easy, all the time. They produce work they are proud of, and they don’t cut corners.
- Vision: Every step of the construction process requires vision. Contractors must be able to imagine how a space might transform and execute on that. If things start to go South, they must also keep the end goal in mind.
- Effective Communication: Dealing with clients, sub contractors, your team, and perhaps even insurance companies, takes a great deal of interpersonal communication skill. Excellent contractors are excellent leaders. They know how to delegate tasks in a way that gets the job done and keeps team members happy.
- Discipline: Contractors wear several hats: accountant, salesperson, project manager, marketing, etc. They are able to carve out time for each of these roles, and they do the jobs well. Furthermore, they don’t fall victim to instant gratification when it comes to budgeting. They invest in their company in a way that prioritizes long term growth rather than momentary personal profit.
- Dissatisfaction: If size is how you measure success, the most successful contractors are perpetually unsatisfied. They are always striving for more, which causes their business to constantly grow and evolve. On a personal level, accomplished people are always trying to better themselves as well. They read, they prioritize balance, they do whatever is needed to become the best version of themselves.
- Open-Mindedness: The business world and construction industry are always changing. Good contractors remain on top of the new industry trends and technology and embrace them with open arms and a hint of skepticism. They don’t shy away from the unknown, but they also don’t let shiny new objects distract them.
- Focus: Successful general contractors know where they want to take their company and they have a clear path to that goal. They don’t veer off course, instead remaining focused, doing what is needed in order to reach the finish line.