Construction Business

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What You Can Learn From The Book

Excerpts from the Preface of Construction Business Management: What Every Construction Contractor, Builder & Subcontractor Needs to Know

by Nick B. Ganaway
What You Can Learn From This Book

The business management principles and techniques presented throughout this book apply to light-commercial building contractors, subcontractors, and to owners of almost any small business, regardless of industry.

Here are some of the specific issues discussed in this book:

  • How to know whether you're cut out to own and run your own business
  • What you must know and do as the owner of your construction firm
  • The clear advantages of specializing within general contracting
  • Ways you can target, check-out, land, and retain profitable customers (the life-blood of your company)
  • How to select, hire, and keep golden employees (the heart)
  • Terms and conditions to include in your bids and your contracts with owners to reduce the chance of disputes and misunderstandings
  • Commandments you must follow to best ensure that you will be paid what you're owed, including step-by-step change-order procedures necessary to avoid disputes and non-payment
  • The strict do's and don'ts of mechanics’ liens
  • The What, When, Where, and Why of licensing and registration and the extreme risk you take if you ignore the rules
  • Terms detrimental to contractors that are often present in owner-prepared construction agreements
  • Subcontract terms and conditions most likely to result in best outcomes
  • What must be done administratively before you break ground on a project
  • Proactive selection and use of accountants, lawyers, and insurance agents to steer you through the minefields in their areas of knowledge
  • The common, sometimes fatal judgment errors contractors make, often during their most profitable times
  • The potentially ruinous pitfalls to avoid in insurance coverage
  • Why a strong reading habit is so important to your success
  • The personal philosophy and attitude required for success in construction
  • Corporate organization and administrative methods
  • Links to useful construction, government, and other resources online
  • The supreme importance of the human factor, as seen most clearly in chapters exclusively devoted to describing the contractor's role as owner of his firm, selecting and keeping the right employees, marketing, creating customer loyalty, assessing the required personal characteristics contractors must possess, and selecting the right outside professionals

It's no secret that construction is a risky business. A contractor or someone planning to become one can better his or her chances for success by identifying and managing the elements of risk. This book offers that opportunity. It is based on the things I've learned, used, and refined as a commercial general contractor in the course of starting and operating my own construction firm* for twenty-five years--things you learn only by being in the contractor line-of-fire. The information presented here is a product of missteps as well as best steps, and understanding both is a requirement for building a business that is profitable, enjoyable, and enduring.

My primary goal in writing this book is to make available in one place as much as possible of what a contractor needs to know in order to minimize the pain and risk that rush to fill the knowledge void. Of course, not all risk can be eliminated in construction or in any field, but that risk certainly can be managed if its elements are identified and understood.

Secondly, this book also makes the case for niche contracting, especially chain stores and other light-commercial construction. Niche contracting, or specialization, is a strategy that allows a contractor to become more knowledgeable in a field, be seen as an insider, perhaps sought after, more profitable, and better satisfied with his place in construction. These chain store characteristics practically beg the innovative general contractor to focus on chain store construction. It is my experience that the bid lists are shorter, profit margins higher, negotiated work more common, and owner-contractor working relationships a lot better than are usually found in the open-bid private or public work in which bid error is often the factor that determines the bid-winning contractor.

This book is sprinkled with brief descriptions of my own experiences when they can be used to strengthen a point, and with pertinent quotes by recognized leaders.

Whether you're a contractor or a key employee, a subcontractor, student or even a chain store executive or businessman in an entirely different field, I promise that you will find many "Ah-ha" ideas, techniques, and principles you can transfer immediately to your management and leadership toolbox. Adopting even a single one of them will pay dividends now and for the remainder of your career.

One indicator of the potential effectiveness of Construction Business Management: A Guide to Contracting for Business Success is that many of my former project managers who cut their teeth at my construction firm on the principles described here and in turn helped to refine them, now own and operate their own successful firms—largely patterned after the one they trained under and contributed to for years.

*Ganaway Contracting continues after more than 30 years, now under new ownership, and has also operated as Ganaway Construction.

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