Dollars and Cents Are What Make a Construction Project Profitable…or NOT

Having a System for Proposals, Is Better Than Just Guessing

It’s week six of learning the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal system. As time consuming as learning new things is…John is beginning to see the benefits this proposal system will provide.

Just like building a house using a system that repeats routine actions prevents time being spent rethinking and guessing at how to do things. This system will do the same thing when preparing proposals.

As they settle in and begin the meeting, Gene tells John, “Let’s take a quick look back at what we’ve covered so far. We started by asking ourselves some foundational questions. Next, we discussed the common mistakes contractors make when bidding. Then we went over the system and it’s parts. The last couple of weeks we’ve worked on gathering information and turning that info into a Scope of Work. Today we’re going to start working on…

Pricing the Project

In this step we will determine the price for the project. Communicating a clear description of the project took place in the Scope of Work which is important in avoiding misunderstandings. Accurate pricing is equally as important.

Poor communication will cause heartache, poor pricing will cost you money.

Open the Worksheet template. This blank Worksheet is where you will paste the information from the Data Base as it relates to each of the specific tasks of the project.

The Worksheet template has six different options for overhead and profit ranging from 20% overhead and 10% profit to 40% overhead and 20% profit. You can use whichever of the six options works best for you on the specific project you’re working on.

Typically, larger projects, i.e. new construction, large renovations, remodels or large additions will use smaller percentages, while small projects will use bigger ones. You can use whichever works best for you. These percentages can be adjusted after you have finished the pricing if you want them to be increased or decreased. These documents can be modified with custom percentages as well.

Open the Data Base and prepare to copy the appropriate content into the correlating cells of the Worksheet of the project you are working on. Use the previously written Scope of Work, to determine which of the categories, specific to the project need to be used from the Data Base and copied to the Worksheet.

If more than one item for a specific task is needed, for example shingles, synthetic underlayment and metal edging, flashings. These individual items will be entered separately then added together to create one price for roofing.

You can add as many additional rows as you need, just be careful to keep the formulas intact by filling the content of the existing row to the new ones.

How to determine which tasks should be inserted into the Worksheet

Most of the tasks on the Data Base have options; determining which to use, will depend on the specifics of the project. For example, how is the excavation, trenching and landscaping going to be done…with a skid loader, mini excavator or by hand?

Once it’s determined which methods, actions or materials are to be used for a specific project, copy the pertinent cells from the Data Base and paste them to the Worksheet.

After the pertinent information from the Data Base has been placed on the Worksheet it’s time to…

Enter the quantities of the work to be done.

Fill in the quantity needed to do the work for each item on the Worksheet. This may be lineal feet, square feet, square yards, cubic feet, cubic yards or numbers of pieces. Once this is completed for all the categories, you’ll have prices for each task of the Proposal.

This system offers a constant repeatable process for preparing accurate proposals and is the difference between making money or losing money on construction projects.”

Gene looks at John and asks, “Well, what do you think?”

“Well, I thought my head was spinning before today. Now I’m getting dizzy.”, replied John with a grin.

“I know it seems like a lot, but it really isn’t, once you get started using it.” Says Gene reassuringly. “Experiment with it this week. Call if you have any questions. Next week we’ll bring everything you’ve learned together into a proposal ready to be presented to the customer.”

Guessing is not a good way to build a profitable business.

Previous posts in this series –

What is “business clarity” and how do you find it?

Learning How to Get a Construction Project Started Out Right

It’s Time for the First Meeting

Being Aware of the Common Bid Mistakes is the Best Way to Avoid Them

Constructing a Building is Better with a Plan, a Proposal is No Different

A Good Construction Proposal Starts by Asking the Right Questions

What is a Construction Scope of Work and Why Do You Need One?

What is a Construction Scope of Work and Why Do You Need One?

Because It’s Critical to Clear Communication, Whether You’re the Contractor or the Customer.

Last week Gene explained to John what project information needed to be gathered…

  • Project info (customer name, mailing address, project address if different than mailing, phone number, email address, project overview, budget, project deadline, any other relevant information that you need)
  • Measurements and dimensions, existing and new
  • Building materials, existing and new
  • Pictures of pertinent areas and existing construction
  • Customer’s design ideas and finishes

Overlooking or forgetting something is a sure way to lose money when doing a construction project.

This week they’re going to take the information gathered and turn it in to a scope of work. This will be the foundational form of communication between everyone involved in the process, i.e., customer, contractor, sub-contractors, employees, etc.

As they get started this week’s meeting Gene asks John if he had an opportunity to use the Bid Sheet this past week and if so, how it worked.

“Yes.” said John. “It was a little awkward in the beginning. By the time I was finished gathering the project information I was glad I had it, because there were a couple of things that it reminded me to do.”

Gene replied, “That’s great. Do you have any questions?” Not yet.” said John. Gene smiled, “You will before we’re done.”

Okay. Did you bring it with you? Asked Gene. “I did.” said John, “I’ve got it on my laptop.” Gene told him to open it up and follow along. “Today we’re going to work on the most important part of communication between contractor and customer.

The Scope of Work

What is a Scope of Work?

A Scope of Work clearly defines and explains the work to be done. It should describe what is included in each specific task in terminology that both the customer and the contractor understand. A scope of work describes the work to be done on a project, who is responsible for completing the work, how the work must be performed (techniques used), and what materials will be used. It helps in the smooth operation of a project, minimizing situations leading to disputes. It is the first step to building a mutually beneficial relationship between a contractor and customer.

Communication with the customer needs be simple and direct while explaining clearly and thoroughly.

After having gathered the information needed for the project using the Bid Sheet, write out in a few sentences, or less, of what each specific task is going to consist of. Explaining what you’re going to do in a way that a person with little or no construction knowledge can understand. Include as much detail and specifics as is needed to be clear on what is or is not included as a part of the project.

Once this process has been finished for each task included in the project, you have a Scope of Work ready to be transferred to a blank Proposal template.

Here’s an example of a Scope of Work using the information from the Bid Sheet we worked on last week.”

As they’re wrapping up this week’s training Gene tells John. “Next week we’ll get into the pricing of a project.”

The real value of this Proposal System is in the pricing.

Previous posts in this series –

What is “business clarity” and how do you find it?

Learning How to Get a Construction Project Started Out Right

It’s Time for the First Meeting

Being Aware of the Common Bid Mistakes is the Best Way to Avoid Them

Constructing a Building is Better with a Plan, a Proposal is No Different

A Good Construction Proposal Starts by Asking the Right Questions

Constructing a Building is Better with a Plan, a Proposal is No Different

We’ve Discussed the Why, Now Let’s Work on the How

It’s Saturday and today will be John’s third meeting with Gene. Even though there’s been no change in John’s overwhelming workload, today is the first time he’s not considered canceling. He knows the value of this information and is looking forward to opportunity to learn more.

It’s John’s turn to provide lunch and Gene’s in for a treat…John’s bringing chili-cheeseburgers and fries from the Burger Station. On the way to Gene’s office, the smell of those burgers is more than John can bear and he has a few fries on the drive.

As soon as John steps in the office door, Gene yells out from the conference room, “You brought Burger Station”. Over the years when John was working for Gene, the two of them frequented this fine establishment often.

As John gets lunch out, Gene says, “We have a lot to cover today, so we better get started. As we go through this today, consider the similarities of building a proposal with building a construction project. Now let’s review…

First, we started with WHY.

Why do you do what you do? Why do should you do proposals? Both of the questions are similar to the question that should be asked of a customer when they’re considering a construction project. Why do you want to do this project?

Second, we discussed that communication is the contractor’s responsibility.

We are the professionals in the arrangement. We shouldn’t expect the customer to know everything about construction. This is why they are looking to hire someone to do their project. It’s up to us as contractors to communicate clearly.

Third, we discussed bid mistakes.  

The ones that are commonly made and are costly. Being aware of these mistakes helps you know what to avoid and increases the opportunity for happy customers. Not to mention it gives you a big advantage over your competition.  

In our meeting two weeks ago (link to 1st meeting post) I gave you the bid proposal overview to take and review. Today we’re going to go through it. I know it seems like were still not doing proposals. Think about it like a construction project…

The designing and planning take as long as the construction.

Let’s start by looking at the documents included in the system and a brief definition of each.”

Bid sheet – A Word document with the various construction categories and individual tasks listed with space for filling in the scope of the work to be done, dimensions, materials, locations, etc., for each category as needed for clear communication.

Worksheet – An Excel spreadsheet with all the construction categories and individual tasks listed with overhead and profit markup formulas.

Proposal – A word document with space to fill in pertinent information, i.e. customer’s information, what will or will not be supplied by the contractor, the scope of work, the proposed price for each specific element, a total project price, payment arrangements and project duration.

Data Base – An Excel spreadsheet with prices for material and labor for a wide variety of specific construction tasks. This information will be used to fill out a blank worksheet template by copying and pasting.

After reviewing and discussing these documents and definitions they looked at the the process of doing a proposal.

STEP 1 – Gathering Information

Gathering the right information correctly and effectively is critical to preparing an accurate and thorough proposal. Once you’ve been contacted by a potential customer start by scheduling a meeting to discuss their project and find out what they hope to accomplish. At this initial meeting gather –

            Measurements and dimensions, existing and new

            Building materials, existing and new

            Pictures of pertinent areas and existing construction

            Customer’s design ideas and finishes

The information gathered at this meeting can be recorded in whatever way works best for you. The important thing in this step is to gather any and all information needed to prepare an accurate proposal. It can be handwritten on a printed out Bid Sheet template, or it can be entered directly to a Bid Sheet using a tablet, smart phone or laptop. Using the Bid Sheet minimizes overlooking things because the different areas of a construction project are already listed.

STEP 2 – Preparing the Scope of Work

After the preliminary information has been gathered it’s time to clarify the scope of the project by writing out the description of each specific task in terminology that both the customer and the contractor understand. It needs to include enough specifics to be thorough without being too technical. It doesn’t help communication if the terminology is confusing to the customer. This written description on the Bid Sheet will be transferred to the Proposal and serve as a written scope of work to be performed and materials to be provided.

STEP 3 – Pricing the Project

Next is putting prices to the project. This process involves two different Excel spreadsheets, the Worksheet and Data Base. Based on the descriptions written on the Bid Sheet, content from the Data Base will be copied and pasted into the correlating cells on the Worksheet. After the pertinent information from the Data Base has been placed on the Worksheet it’s time to fill in the quantities.

STEP 4 – Quantities

On the Worksheet you will fill in the quantity needed to do the work on that line item. This may be lineal feet, square feet, square yards, cubic feet, cubic yards, numbers of pieces, etc. Once this is completed you will now have prices for each of the different tasks listed on the Proposal.

STEP 5 – Preparing the Proposal

Now you have everything you need to complete the Proposal. You will take the descriptions from the Bid Sheet and the prices from the Worksheet and put them both on the Proposal. After filling out the customer’s information at the top of the page, the scope of work, the price for each task, the total project price, how payments are to be made and the duration of time to do the project, the Proposal is ready to present to the customer.

As they wrapped up the meeting, Gene looked at John and asked him what he thought so far. John said, “I had no idea there was this much to doing proposals.

Gene said, “I know. That’s why most contractors either guess at their bids or just give estimates…and we’ve all seen how that well that works out.

Next week we’ll dig deeper into GATHERING INFORMATION.

Previous posts in this series –

What is “business clarity” and how do you find it?

Learning How to Get a Construction Project Started Out Right

It’s Time for the First Meeting

Being Aware of the Common Bid Mistakes is the Best Way to Avoid Them

Being Aware of the Common Bid Mistakes is the Best Way to Avoid Them

This is the First Step in Building a Better Proposal

Even though John was still overwhelmed and his schedule was packed, he knew the only way to ever get control was to keep his upcoming appointment with Gene.

John had spent a lot of time this past week considering the questions Gene had asked at the first meeting.

Why do you do what you do?

Do you love what you do?

Why do we need to do proposals?

As John was driving to the office of XYZ Construction these questions were still banging around in his head with a wide variety of answers and no real clarity.

Going in John smelled something amazing. He hadn’t realized how hungry he was. Gene was providing lunch this week and the smell made his hunger apparent.

In the conference room Gene was stirring some chili. “Lunch is ready. Grab a bowl and let’s get started.”

As they sat down Gene asked, “Did you come up with answers to the questions?”

John sat there for a minute and said, “I’ve come up with way too many answers. About the time I think I have it figured out; another answer shows up.”

Gene grinned, “That sounds about right.

The important thing is not having every answer to every question, but rather to continually be asking the questions and actively looking for the answers.

I still ask and answer questions every day.”

“A good way to find WHY answers is to figure out things that work and things that don’t. Let’s start with a WHAT question. Gene handed John some papers and said,

“What are the common bid mistakes made by contractors and how can you avoid them?”

#1 Your customers lack clarity – You remember the story I told you last week about that misunderstanding I had with a customer? This is a perfect example of how the lack of customer clarity is a problem. You need to provide a clear detailed description of the work and the materials that you are going to provide. A clear scope of work helps avoid customer confusion. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal will provide you a system for giving clarity to your customer.

#2 Production crews lack clarity – The scope of work not only provides customers with clarity, but it also gives the production crews a clear understanding the work to be done. This prevents subcontractors/employees from doing more or less than the project includes. Too much work done means cost overruns. Too little and the customer is unhappy. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal will give the production crews a clear description of the work to be done.

#3 No production budget – When the production crews don’t know what dollar amounts have been figured to do the project, they often spend more than expected. These cost overruns mean less profit.

If you take care of the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.

Let your production crews know how many pennies they have to spend. This will lead to more dollars of profit. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal will provide you with budget numbers automatically.

#4 Unsatisfied customers – Discontented customers are the worst. Not only can they be a drain on company morale, they can become serious problems that can cost you money and hurt your reputation. They’re paying you to have their dream turned into reality. When they don’t have an accurate dollar amount before the work is done, they will not be happy when it’s finished and costs more than they expected. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal gives the customer a clear expectation of cost before the work starts so that when it’s done for that price, they will be happy.

#5 Unprofitable projects – One of the biggest problems in construction is Guesstimates. Guessing at the amount of time and material it’s going to take to do a project is a big risk. Different size projects require different overhead and profit margins. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal provides predetermined options of overhead and profit when preparing a proposal. Proposals done this way can increase the profitability of your projects.

#6 Trying to do everything yourself – Most small construction companies only have a few people working. The focus is on the physical construction and doesn’t leave time for doing accurate detailed proposals. Most contractors don’t like paperwork. This leads to hasty, inadequate and oversimplified proposals. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal is a system that allows you to focus on doing construction while office staff does paperwork.

#7 Your bidding system isn’t customizable – Most construction projects consist of a variety of different areas of construction. You need a system that can include all or one. Because markets and geographic locations are so different, you need a system that you can adjust to your specific requirements and rates wherever you are. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal allows you to be able to customize proposals in these ways and more.

Gene could see that John’s eyes were glazing over. “I know this was a lot to take in and doesn’t feel like we’re getting any closer to actually doing proposals, but I assure you…

Getting clear on these mistakes will give you a head start to providing better proposals.

And next week we’ll start working on the first step to Building a Better Proposal.

Previous post in this series:

What is Construction Clarity and How Do You Find It?

Learning How to Get a Construction Project Started Out Right

It’s Time for the First Meeting

How to Decide If You Should Do Your Construction Project Yourself

Consider These 4 Points Before You Decide

I met with a customer recently about finishing a project that had been started eight years ago…it’s still not done. They haven’t even been able to live there this entire time. Yes, it was an extensive project…for that matter it still is.

They did most of the work themselves. The question is…

Were the monetary savings worth the cost of time?

As a builder, I’ve never been a big fan of DIY (Do It Yourself). The TV programs have whole projects done in 30-60 minutes. This is misleading, not to mention downright impossible.

Don’t get me wrong, the satisfaction that comes from doing a repair, changing a light switch or faucet, installing a window, building a deck or even remodeling a complete room can be extremely rewarding. The thing is…

You better know what you are getting into before you start.

Here are some things to consider before you decide:

  • Reasons for hiring a professional –

You need to consider what your skill level is and what the parameters of the project are, before tearing into it. Depending on the specific project there are a lot of things to be aware of.

Even something as simple as painting a wall can be more complicated than many people realize. If your project is going to involve things that are structural; for example, cutting an opening in a wall or building a deck, you certainly need to understand what is involved. Not knowing how to do something like this can lead to big problems.

  • Benefits of hiring a professional –

Time is a precious commodity. If you are like me, I am never able to get everything done that I want to. So, when I find someone that I can trust, who I have determined has the desire and skills to do the thing that I need done, it makes sense to pay them to do it? This allows me to be able to do something else that I am better suited for or maybe would just prefer doing.

Growing up on a farm was very “Do It Yourself. I learned how to do a lot of different things. We just didn’t hire much of anything done. Learning like this took years and lots of trial and error. I didn’t just watch a 30-minute TV program or go online to learn it.

I am sure that I could make a car given enough time and money, but doesn’t it make more sense to buy one made by professionals.

  • Reasons for not hiring a professional –

The key here is defining ‘professional’. If you’re considering hiring someone then you need to do some research. There are a lot of people out there that seem to be qualified and aren’t. If you hire someone that isn’t then the outcome might not be much different than doing it yourself.

Maybe you have the time and desire to learn something new. This is a great reason for doing the project yourself. Just be careful to not get in too far over your head. Be clear on what it’s going to take to do this.

You can save money by not paying somebody else. Just be aware that there is a lot to a project beyond the actual constructing. There will, or at least should be, time spent in researching, planning, shopping, buying, exchanging, returning, redoing and cleaning.

It is good to be physically active. Depending on your normal routine construction can be a great way to exercise.

  • Another option – Hiring a consultant.

If you really want to do your own home project, but need some help with knowing how, what, when and where. You might consider finding an experienced professional to guide you through the process. Finding the right person for this can be as tricky as anything. Just realize the value of knowledge and the benefit that it can have.

If you have questions about a construction project or know someone who does, contact us in the chat below.

It comes down to priorities. You can choose where to spend your time and money, what’s the best use of either? Saving money by spending time seems like a good plan… but is it really, if eight years later it still isn’t finished.

With over 35 years of construction experience I have determined that getting help is a good plan. I can’t do everything myself…as much as I would like to. That’s why I share the load with others.

Once you have determined that you have the ability (knowledge, time, money, and physical strength) to do your project, then by all means, go for it.

There’s nothing much more rewarding than stepping back and looking at something you built with your own hands.

Based on and revised from To Hire or Not to Hire, that is the Question, published Aug. 12, 2016

How to Price a Construction Project So That it’s a Win-Win

It Will Require a Change of Mind

When pricing a construction project, the terms most commonly used are – estimate, time and material, cost plus. These processes can work when pricing a construction project but are vague about what the final price is going to be. They are more contractor focused.

An estimate is just that…an estimate. It is an approximate calculation of the value for time needed and material to be used. I don’t think you would by a truck based on an estimate. You would want to know what you were paying and what you were getting.

Time and material, is what it says. It is a price based on the time spent and the material used with a markup added. This process also leaves the final price to be paid by the customer as an unknown until the end.

Cost plus is similar to time and material in that it is a percentage added to the actual cost for the contractor for doing the work.

As common as these ways of pricing construction projects are, too often they leave the customer feeling cheated. They thought they were getting their project done for ‘this price’ and it ended up costing more.

It’s a problem when the final price ends up being more than the customer expected.

I don’t think construction contractors intentionally go out and get projects at a low price and then do more work using more expensive materials with their end goal to be a jacked-up price. Quite often customers add things through out the process, unaware of the affect these changes are having to the price of the project.

There is a better way of giving customers a price for their project than guesstimating, but it’s going to require a paradigm shift.

A paradigm is a pattern, a model, a representation of the mental image you have in your mind. I first became aware of the term “paradigm shift” through a story in Steven Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

“I was on a subway in a very large metropolitan city. It was Sunday morning, quiet, sedate. When a bunch of young kids came running into the subway car and their father followed. He sat near me and the kids went crazy on that subway, running up and down, turning people’s papers aside, just raucous and rude. I’m sitting there thinking, ‘I can’t believe this, their father does nothing!’

After a few minutes…, ‘Sir, do you think you could control your children a little? They are very upsetting to people.’

‘Oh yeah.’ He lifted his head as if to come to an awareness of what was happening. ‘Yeah, I don’t know. I just guess I should. We just left the hospital. Their mother died just about an hour ago and I guess they don’t know how to take it and frankly I don’t either.’”

Can you say paradigm shift?

What if you had a way to give your customers a clear description of the work you were going to do and an accurate price for doing that work while still making a profit? This would be a win for them and a win for you. It might require a change in your way of thinking. It might take a paradigm shift of your own.

There is such a system. It’s called a proposal. A proposal will give your customers an understanding of what their project includes, how it’s going to be done and what it’s going to cost. It gives them the peace of mind they deserve. They are the ones writing the check after all.

A proposal done right is your secret weapon.

Providing proposals to your customers will separate you from the competition. It will increase the number of profitable projects and happy customers.

You might wonder what it takes to do a proposal. You can learn more about proposals in these previous posts.

            The Bulk of the Communication Responsibility Lies on the Contractor

            How to Build a Better Proposal

            An Overview of the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal

            How to Make Sure You Don’t Overlook Something

            How to Prepare A Construction Scope of Work

            How to Price a Construction Project Proposal

            How to Put the Pieces of the Construction Proposal Together

            The Conclusion of the Construction Proposal is the Contract

Get your own Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal.

What Happens When There’s a Change to a Construction Dream?

It Just Gets Better If It’s Done Right

It had been four weeks since Jane had been at Lucy’s for book club. Lucy had said she would have Jane over to discuss her construction project in a few weeks when it was finished. “It’s been a month…that’s more than a few weeks.”, thought Jane

Jane was convinced that Lucy’s project had gone bad like Connie’s.

The next book club meeting was scheduled for later this week. If she hadn’t heard from Lucy before then, she would talk to her at the meeting.

Jane was hosting book club and as she was finishing the preparations the doorbell rang, thirty minutes before the meeting was scheduled to start. When she answered the door, it was Lucy.

Jane prepared to hear about Lucy’s nightmare.

“Sorry I’m early”, Lucy said, “but I wanted to talk with you about my construction project before the rest of the group gets here. I know I told you the project was scheduled to be done before now and that’s part of what I wanted to talk with you about.”

“Let me help you finish getting ready and I’ll bring you up to date on the project.” As the ladies worked to get ready, Lucy began.

“I hadn’t called yet because I wanted the project finished before we talked and they’re not done yet.”

“I knew that your project had been going too well.”, said Jane. “What happened?”

“Nothing bad,” said Lucy. “A few days after you were there, we had an idea to turn the existing small bedroom that was next to the new Master Bedroom into a walk-in closet. So consequently, the project took a little longer.”

“That sounds like handing the contractor a blank check.”, said Jane.

Lucy smiled at Jane, “Not at all. We got a proposed change order from the contractor before any additional work was done. It was similar to the original proposal for the project. It gave us a description of what the additional work consisted of, how much additional time it would take and what the price for the work would be.”

“The contractor made guy’s doing the work aware of the changes and they didn’t miss a beat. If they stay on schedule, like they have so far, they should be finished with everything, week after next.”

After a short pause with a glint in her eye, Lucy said,

“I’m so excited, this project is turning out better than I could have imagined.”

“I can’t wait to see your new bedroom and closet, said Jane, and find out more about XYZ Construction Co.”

“As soon as they’re finished, I’ll have you over and walk you through the whole amazing experience from beginning to end.”, said Lucy.

It’s Really Not That Difficult

Six Ways to Find the Right Builder for You

When we called a customer to give them production schedule plans for their construction project, they were relieved to hear from us. They hadn’t heard from us since we met to sign paperwork and get their first payment, a few days earlier. They were concerned that we had gotten their money and weren’t coming back.

I read a study once years ago that ranked building contractors below used car salesmen. This is not to say that all used car salesmen are bad, but they have, over the years had a stigma of…shall we say…not being the most honest and trustworthy. For builders to have been ranked below them was very confusing and a little disturbing. I then realized that I viewed customers differently than a lot of builders. For me they aren’t just customers, a project or just a way to earn money. They’re friends. When considering the spending of money to have a construction project done, sometimes a lot of money.

Having a friend who is looking out for you and has your back the best plan?

We’ve all heard the stories of the “storm chasers” that came through town after a storm. They get money for material and then never come back to do the work. What about the guy that was laid off from ‘his job’? He has a pickup, a hammer and a skill saw, heck he can build a deck for his buddies’ cousin. Oh, don’t forget the kid that worked for a contractor for a couple of months and got fired because he wouldn’t show up to work. He’s now an experienced contractor.

As a customer you can find a builder that will help you bring your ideas to life and has your best interests at heart.

To do this you need to know what to look for, so you can find the right builder for you. Here are six things I would recommend when considering which builder, you should hire. –

  1. Word of mouth – This is the best form of advertising. Find someone that you know and trust that has had a building project done. Ask them who they used. What their experience was like. This will give you a view from someone independent of the industry with nothing to gain.
  • References – Don’t be afraid to ask builders for references. This is a good way to find a variation of ‘word of mouth’ and in addition to people that you know. A builder should be able to supply you with 3-5 names of past customers that you can follow up with. If not, you should proceed with extreme caution.
  • Professionalism – The level of professionalism will very between contractors. There is no one specific style or level that should be used in every instance. What you want here is to know that this builder takes what they are doing seriously. You should be concerned if you get a hand-written estimate on a napkin.
  • Experience – This comes with time. Not every qualified builder has years and years of experience, but the more years the more experience. You don’t want to hire that ‘experienced contractor’ I referred to earlier that was fired for not showing up to work.
  • Communication – Even small and simple projects require communication. Of course, the bigger and more complex the project the more important it is to communicate. In today’s world there are all sorts of ways to do this. The specifics of how aren’t as important as the doing it is.
  • Compatibility – This is the bottom line when it comes to determining who to use. Depending on what is important to you, what your focus is for your project. Find a builder that shares those core values. Each and every one of us is different. Take the time to get informed and find the best fit for you.

Too many times I’ve become aware of construction projects going badly, leaving customers feeling abused and abandoned. I have heard too many people say the worst experience of their life was a construction project.

A construction project should be one of the best experiences of life, not one of the worst.

It’s Important to Have the Right Tool for the Job

And There’s More to the Right Tool Than Meets the Eye

For those of you that remember the TV sitcom “Home Improvement” you’ll remember Tim ‘the Tool Man’s’ attempts to give everything from cars to household appliances “more power” and the infamous ‘grunts’ that accompanied this.

There’s something primal in finding a new tool and learning to use it.

You’ve heard it said that, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”, which I agree works pretty well. However, I would argue that an even better way is…give him a new power tool.

There is a tool out there for every job and often times more than one. As cool as tools are, they’re worthless if you don’t have them, don’t know how to use them and then actually do so.

The biggest “tool” problem is…the lack of “business system tools”.

Most “construction guys” would prefer to use a circular saw or screw gun rather than a computer. Paperwork usually isn’t what they think of when considering tools.

One of the most important tools in the “construction tool” arsenal is paperwork. Profitability and the success of the company hinges on the accuracy and knowledge of income and expenses. It requires having the right tools, knowing how to use them and then actually doing so. 

One such tool is the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal system. Early on I had no system for doing proposals and like most contractors I guessed. That’s when I decided that I had had enough and developed a system that took the guess work out of proposals. I’ve been using and refining this Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal for more than 25 years. You can use this same tool by purchasing the downloadable system (complete with templates, instructions, and examples). This way you can stop rolling the dice with your profits and take control of your money and your business.

In talking with construction companies about the bidding process they all see the benefits of having a system but can’t see the value for the price. These same people wouldn’t think twice about spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy cordless tool kits or pneumatic nail guns and compressors, not to mention the price of skid loaders.

The real question is value…not price.

When considering tools, you should consider the return on your investment. Those power tools that you purchase are going to wear out over time and need to be replaced. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal won’t. You can purchase the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal for less than the price of a good quality cordless tool kit and the return on that investment is priceless.

Having the right tools, knowing how to use them, and then actually doing so can be the difference of having a successful company or giving up and going out of business.

You’ve never been afraid to get a new power tool and learn how to use it.

Don’t be afraid to get a new “proposal power tool” and learn to use it either.

What is it About Proposals That Construction Companies Don’t Like?

That’s Okay…I Think They Want to Know Too

Last week I wrote about making construction proposals better. I shared some of the problems caused when communication with customers isn’t clear. As a business owner you are the professional and it’s your responsibility to provide clear communication.

A professional is one who is engaged in or suitable for a specific profession; is engaged in a given activity as a source of livelihood or career; having or showing great skill, an expert.

If you’re in the business of construction and aren’t providing your customers with a clear description of the work you are going to do, including an accurate and set price, then you are operating as an amateur. Someone who engages in an occupation on an unpaid basis; someone who is incompetent or inept at a particular activity.

A professional takes their occupation more seriously than an amateur.


If a construction company strives to be professional, why would they not provide their customers with a thorough and accurate proposal? I think there are four main reasons for this.

Don’t have enough time – It takes more time to prepare a detailed written proposal than scratching out a few numbers quickly. People in the construction industry are already so busy they struggle to keep up. Having limited time to get the physical work done, it’s hard to spend any preparing proposals. The problem is, without an accurate proposal that communicates clearly, the chances of losing money increases.

Spending the time in the beginning will pay dividends in the end.

Don’t like doing paperwork – I started doing construction because I loved to build, to see something that I built with my own hands. This is how most people in construction feel. They learned the trade and like it. The problem is that no one ever taught them business operations. Doing paperwork doesn’t feel like construction. They don’t get the same rewarding feeling as they do from building something.

Without accurate paperwork building becomes a hobby.

No one ever taught me – It’s hard to know how to do something if you’ve never been shown how. When you learned your trade, you didn’t start out knowing how. You learned it over time with someone showing you or through trial and error. Either way the learning process took time. The important thing to remember is, the more tips and tricks you were shown the quicker you learned. Aren’t you glad that someone taught you the trade?

It’s never to late to learn something new.

This is the way we’ve always done it – The older we get, the less we like change and contractors are among the worst. You’ve figured out something that works, or at least seems to, why change. Just because what you’re currently doing seems to work…it doesn’t mean that there isn’t something better. If you hadn’t gone through the process of falling down and getting up, falling down and getting up, you would still be crawling.

Aren’t you glad you tried something different?

What if I told you –  

  • The time you spend doing proposals will provide you peace of mind and more consistent revenue.
  • You don’t have to do paperwork if you hate it.
  • I can teach you how to do proposals just like you learned your trade.
  • Change is the only way you will stop crawling.

Doing proposals before you’re ready feels like trying to run a marathon when all you know is how to crawl.

Communicating clearly through proposals is the act of a professional. If you want to learn how to do professional proposals, check out our Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal.

If you have other reasons that you or someone you know doesn’t do proposals, let us know in the comments below.