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Do You Need Every Job? When to Say No

6 Construction Trends to Look for this Year

Do you need to take every job that comes your way? You know the feeling. The phone rings, and it’s a new client with a new job. You’re happy about the call and eager to set up the appointment. Your company policy has always been to take on anything and everything—from small decks to remodels to complete new homes. It’s all construction work, and it’s all money. In the end, that’s what pays the bills and keeps the lights on. Makes sense, right?

Or does it?

If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ve obviously seen that some jobs are less profitable than others. But have you taken the time to really analyze why that is, or have you just chalked it up to “bad clients”, “weather delays” or some other reason and moved on? The answer to that lower profitability could be that you’re taking on the wrong kinds of jobs for your company.

What Type of Work Do You Do?

When I first got my contractor’s license, all I cared about was getting jobs. At first, I cold-called property managers to pick up handyman work. I loved remodeling, especially kitchens, so I picked up those jobs whenever I could. Like a lot of contractors, however, I dreamed of making “the big time” and getting hired to build a house.

Until it actually happened.

I quickly realized what a different process new home construction was from remodeling. I didn’t find it as challenging or rewarding, and in the end, it wasn’t as profitable for the amount of time expended on the project. So I went back to remodeling—until my first insurance job came along. That’s when I discovered what really challenged me, what was profitable, and what eventually became my focus and my career in construction.

I’ve always felt the first step toward profitability (and enjoyment in construction) is figuring out what type of work you want to do. You can’t be all things to all people and multitasking—which I define as the ability to do several things simultaneously and poorly—is way overrated!

If you can figure out who you are and where you want to be in the construction world, that’s a huge first step.

Do You Need Every Job?

You might be thinking that you already know yourself and your company pretty well, and that within those parameters you’re still comfortable taking on everything that comes through the door.

Still, before you take on a new job—even one that’s inside your normal focus area, but especially if it isn’t—take a moment to consider whether it’s a job you really want. Even during tough economic times, taking on a lot of the wrong kinds of jobs can sink your business as surely as not taking on enough work in the first place. Evaluate the following:

Is This the Type of Work you Normally Do? 

As a new home builder, do you want to take on a bathroom remodel? Or vice versa? If you’ve always been a service-work plumber or a tile setter that does kitchens, is that commercial office building project something you really want to take on?

Do You Want to Move Your Company in This Direction? 

A different type of job may offer you the opportunity to move your company in a new direction, just as my first insurance job did for me. But is it the right direction? Before accepting or declining a project, that’s something worth considering.

Are You Equipped for the Project? 

Taking on something that’s outside what you normally do—or even just larger—can tax your company in a lot of different ways, and you need to consider that. Do you have the cash flow? Is your crew ready—both from a quantity and a training standpoint? Do you have the necessary equipment, or are you in a position to acquire it?

Will a New Job Hurt What’s Currently Going On? 

The big knock on contractors is that we never start or finish on time. So what will the next job do to your current workload? Sometimes it’s better to turn one down rather than negatively impact your current clients and hurt your reputation.

Can You Charge Enough? 

Finally, there’s the money aspect. Small, steady projects where you know your pricing structure may be preferable to one big project where you’re outside your comfort zone, or where you have to really sharpen your pencil in order to beat your competitors.

The Bottom Line Has to Do with Profitability

I’ve always felt that being profitable comes from:

  • Delivering stellar customer service which leads to repeat business;
  • Understanding your overhead and charging a fair price to allow you a fair profit;
  • Having the knowledge, equipment and personnel to do the job right the first time, so you don’t waste money;
  • Enjoying what you do, so you want to get up in the morning!

Remembering what you want your business to be and reminding yourself of your commitment to that and a high standard for quality….you should be able to make every job a profitable, worthwhile venture.

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And as a consumer I have always thought that “Is this the last bid of your life?” Some bids are so outside of what the job looks like it gives me a heart attack.


Here’s what my company (commercial GC) does if we’re swamped. If it’s a repeat customer or one of our regulars we always take it on at a fair price. If it’s new work we’re bidding we mark it up. It isn’t work we need but if we get it, it’s totally worth our while.

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