Why You Should Know Other Contractors
You’ve got your business off the ground and it’s definitely keeping you busy. Things seem to be going well. That might mean your time is limited; so why should you bother interacting with and getting to know other contractors? Actually, there are lots of great reasons.
The connections you have and the knowledge you gain are valuable in helping you remain competitive. That’s valid both in getting customers and getting employees. It also helps keep you sharp and learn new skills or ideas. Finally, it makes you an important resource for your clients and for other contractors, meaning you’ll be more respected all the way around.
So let’s look at some of the business relationships you should be building.
The benefits of knowing and having good relationships with general contractors might seem obvious. This can be your opportunity to get involved in larger and more frequent projects.
Yes, you’ll have plenty of jobs where the client is only looking for concrete work (or work related to your particular trade). But there are also a huge number of projects where your work is a small part of everything that needs to be done.
A general contractor is always in need of subcontractors who are reliable, reasonably priced and easy to communicate with. Those qualities will help keep you at the top of the list when calls go out for new construction projects.
If you’re starting out, you might want to reach out to general contractors in your area. You can even stop by construction sites and introduce yourself and leave your card (when they don’t seem too busy, of course).
The first step is making yourself known, but then you have to show you have what it takes. A project has so many pieces that have to be balanced, so it’s important that you can meet deadlines. At the same time, you also have to be flexible in case there are delays that keep you from starting.
The other part of reliability is in pricing. Most likely, the general contractor has already bid on aproject and needs subcontractors that will fit in with his bid. So if he or she can make an educated guess about your costs, it will be easier to make you part of the project.
Contractors in Other Trades
When you’re on all those jobs with general contractors, you’re going to be running into a lot of folks who work in other trades. You might run into them during other projects as well, or even just stumble across them in the normal course of life. And these can be great opportunities for you, as well.
The first way this helps is that knowing good tradespeople in other trades is a great way to give and get referrals. They may know clients who are in need of your services and will gladly share your contact information with their clients when the opportunity arises. Some will even be observant enough to see when their client might be interested in your work and then drop your name.
And the reverse is true, too. As you’ve probably noticed, clients will ask if you know anyone to handle their plumbing, electrical or other needs. And it’s a great service to them to be able to give a name and number.
Of course in both these cases, no one wants to refer someone who doesn’t do high-quality work. Be sure to be worthy of the vote of confidence from your peer, because it reflects on them as well. Likewise, if you recommend someone, their work will reflect on you. So be confident that they’re going to do a good job.
There’s one other reason to get to know people in others trades: collaboration. Think of the potential when you can call on a carpenter you know and work together to add a great stamped-concrete patio with a pergola. Toss an electrician pal into the mix and you’re all set to team up on an outdoor kitchen. Working with people with other specialties lets you expand what you can offer and think in totally new directions that you couldn’t handle alone.
Your Peers in the Trade
You may be in competition with other people, but hopefully, it’s friendly competition and there’s plenty of work to go around. Knowing other contractors in your field is a great support network. You can commiserate over similar problems, or celebrate growing success.
One big benefit of having connections with others working in your field is the ability to know your market better. While you probably shouldn’t share every trade secret, talking about general information can help you make adjustments in your own strategies.
You can also get a lot of new ideas. Trades shows are great for this, too, but you’re not going to have time to get out and see everything. Reading industry websites or magazines also helps, but again, no one person can keep up with everything. Sometimes a competitor will have noticed some news or new product that you missed, and vice versa.
There may also be times when collaboration is possible. It might not be a full project, but maybe one has tools that the other needs. Or if one of you has a lot of work while the other isn’t so busy, perhaps a short-term arrangement to hire some workers would help.
Another factor is knowing what others are charging their clients and paying their employees. You don’t have to be the cheapest guy around, but if you’re charging significantly more than the competition, you need to be prepared to explain why. And you don’t want to lose employees because they can get paid a lot more with the other business, either!
Of course, there are times that you won’t get along with the competition. However, it’s key to try to take the high road and not stoop to unscrupulous practices. Still, try to be aware of what projects they’re doing and how they’re reaching out to find new customers. By that, we don’t mean that you should be spying. But note what projects they’re doing and what type of advertising you see from them. That, at least, will help you find areas where you can improve.
It’s Not All About Business
We think all these tips are good advice for running your business. But remember not everything is about work. Please don’t interpret anything here to mean that all your relationships have to be for the sake of furthering your business goals.
Real friendships and time to hang out for the sake of hanging out are important, too. Don’t get sucked into seeing others only as means to helping yourself get ahead!
These tips are about helping your business grow. They can work perfectly well in conjunction with friendships. But you might find that your business relationships are only about business. Just don’t confuse the two, and don’t try to mislead anyone else about it either.
You’ve got your own business, sure, and hopefully it’s going well. But making connections within your trade and with people in other trades is an opportunity, not a threat. Get to know who your peers are and other tradespeople as well. These are professional relationships that can go a long way to expanding your business potential.