Question to Sean Lintow, Sr. (construction)
Question: What percentage of your new jobs are based on the word of mouth of your reputation vs. your own marketing? And if you do marketing what have been effective methods? How would someone just starting out in contracting attract new business? Thanks in advance for your answers!
Busted, this is one item that I do not track as well as I should. I can definitely say that the percentage is growing year over year, and is probably around 10% of my calls right now. I can honestly say though, do not keep all your eggs in one basket – many well-established contractors ran into a brick wall because they relied on referrals only when the rug was pulled out last year from under them.
For your next two questions, they are actually tied together – as in what works for me, may not work for you. In my area a small local classified only paper is at the top for calls received, followed by the Yellow Book, my website(s), and then the associations I belong to, NARI, BBB & the Cullman Chamber of Commerce.
For someone starting out, first work on your five-year plan. It should help you identify who your clientele is & how you are going to reach them. A website (even a 1-page site) is necessary in most places – i.e. if you are not on the web, you do not exist. Even if you are in an area like mine, developing your site will help give you a leg up on your competitors later. A real email address based on your website name is also necessary. Who would you really consider contacting; SLS_gz21@your isp.com or Info@SLS-Construction.com? Business Cards are also necessary and should be carried with you at all times. Your website address & phone number should be on all your materials.
Other resources: Just because your phone rings, doesn’t mean you will survive if you don’t understand how to run a business. I would suggest looking into SCORE, the SBA, and your local Chamber of Commerce, along with other trade specific forums that are out there like www.remodelcrazy.com or www.contractortalk.com to help you not only survive but hopefully to flourish.
"Just, Meyer, please."
I would like to add one more piece of advice on finding clients --- do not fall for the Lead Generation companies claims. (i.e. Service Magic, EveryContractor, CalFinder, etc...) While some contractors may do ok using them in specific markets - the bulk of them do not.
Thanks for the answer but you're going to need to explain what a "Lead Company" is for those folks who don't know... okay, me...
"Just, Meyer, please."
Lets say that you are looking for a kitchen remodeler - so you go to Google or Bing & type in your city & kitchen remodeler. Up pops all the sites for you to look at, but at the very top - you see an add for get 3 free estimates for your kitchen remodeling project.
Sounds good right? Congrats you just hit a company that sells your information to supposedly only 3 to 5 "verified contractors" to contact you about doing a free estimate on your kitchen remodel. That is what a Lead Generating Service or Company does. I listed 3 of them in my post above & there are plenty of them out there.
Now what do I mean by supposedly "verified contractors" - well by almost all accounts, contractors that have used these services; never had their license, insurance, or references checked - Oops. I checked on who was listed in my area once for additions - well 2 out of the 5 were licensed at the time. The LGC simply put down that licensing wasn't required for this type of project - wrong, if the project goes above 10K & I haven't seen many that don't.
Now we can get into the fun issues with them only being sold to 3 to 5 contractors. If you pull a search for complaints, you will find that some homeowners were getting up to 17 different calls within a day or two, getting calls 3 months after they made their submission, which generally happens when someone either resubmitted it back through the system in house, or sold it to another company to sell to 3 to 5 more contractors. I hope this answers your question - if not let me know. Thanks
Absolutely answers my question! Thanks.
"Just, Meyer, please."
Submitter Question: What part of Alabama are you in? I work for a custom millwork company in central Al and may have provided material for your jobs.We are high-end custom millwork suppliers.
Answer: We are located in Cullman County and serve most of Northern Alabama including Smith Lake, Huntsville and Decatur areas. Most of our custom millwork is handled locally or made in house. If you interested on getting on our suppliers list, we simply ask that you send us all information to us via email. Thanks
Sean Lintow Sr.
"Just, Meyer, please."
New Question and Great Answer!
Submitter Question: I am an Eagle Scout up here in New York State. I have always wanted to get into your line of work. I believe it is what I am meant for. I just have no idea what so ever how to get started. Could you help me in any way as far as advice and what not?
Answer: First off, congratulations on becoming an Eagle Scout & thanks for the question. While your question seems simple on the surface, in many ways it is hard to answer as I am not sure which line of my work you are referring to. In short let me start with some dry questions & answers first, and then we can get to the good stuff. (No skipping straight to the bottom though…) No matter which arena you pursue, you will find that math is a great equalizer & I wish I had taken a few more of the advanced classes like Trig & Calculus, instead of just simply skating by doing the minimum required.
If you are referring to the General Contractor portion (responsible for overseeing the entire job from start to finish) - I would strongly urge you to take classes on business, time management, sales, & scheduling. While I have met plenty of great builders or remodelers that did top notch work, their business did not survive as they were lacking in these other areas & quite literally, they lost their shirt trying to play boss. I also know plenty that quickly learned what they needed to work on & either learned how to do it themselves or brought in the right people for those areas. What you will generally find in the Residential arena is that there are two types of GC’s; ones that simply “subcontract” all the work out, and those that do a good portion of the work & bring in “sub-contractors” when required. In the commercial arena, well, that is an entirely different animal & I would refer you to a few here that choose that as a specialty.
If you are referring to the remodeling or building portion, I would first ask if there is a specific type of building you would like to work with; new buildings, historical buildings, green buildings, or it doesn’t matter? The next question would be is there any particular item you are interested in; like excavation, framing, plumbing, electrical, drywall, painting, home automation, HVAC, flooring, concrete, landscaping, roofing, or just all of it? If you are interested in all of it, you will have a few issues, as most states require that only someone licensed to do HVAC, Electrical and Plumbing work can. Once you have started narrowing down these questions, we can help point you to resources and places to help you get into those areas a little easier. One good resource, (besides the ones listed on here) is there is a forum for almost everything – a few I like that might be helpful are Contractor Talk (mix Residential Builders, Commercial, Remodelers), Remodel Crazy & Home Energy Pros.
Suggestions for items you can do today: (some of resources are here on mrW)
· Besides the math portion, see if your school offers any shop classes (especially associated with SKILLS USA)
· See if there are any charities around like Habitat or other church groups where you can volunteer your time to either help build or fix up some properties. Most of those are overseen by individuals in the trades, and generally have some of those who have retired from them – which cannot only be a great source of information but maybe even open up a few doors for you.
· There are numerous trade publications out there that can be viewed online free. This is a good way to help you expand your knowledge & possibly give you a leg up on others.
· I know some cities like Boston & others have career fairs & summer job programs – you may see if any of those are applicable.
· Contact organizations like your local NARI, USGBC, NKBA, NAHB chapters & see if they have any suggestions – and if there are any seminars, or other items you can come sit in on
· If you are interested in the working in construction & the military – they actually have a great building program based out of Fort Leonard Wood that might be of interest to you (and as an Eagle Scout – you don’t go in as a Private)
· I guess I would be remiss not to mention this (especially based on your location), but you may also want to check out the apprenticeship programs with your local union – I know in Arizona, they actually had a great program and seeing they had to really compete with non-union shops (right to work state), they not only did great work but had an excellent reputation.
"Just, Meyer, please."
You know one is an expert in his field of work by how well he answers questions like this. Very informative answer Sean. Well done.