So, before I talk about how easy it is to set up a Specialist Contracting Business. You are probably asking the question,
“what is a Specialist Contracting Business.”
A Specialist Contracting Business is primarily a business focused on one specific area or sector of work. Think roofing specialist, industrial flooring contractors, ground works contractors, dry wall contractors etc. Their business is focused on one sector and often in one region. What are the advantages to a Specialist Contracting Business? Well it’s multiple for a start you get to run a business that is much simpler than a general contracting or even a general consulting business because, it is focused on one thing and where focus goes, energy flows and it allows you to become extremely effective at setting up and organising a business that operates efficiently.
There are multiple benefits to a Specialist Contracting Business
- It is much less expensive to set up a Specialist Contracting Business, typically all you need is seed capital that is less than the amount you would pay for a midsized family car and this is enough to get going.
- The project life cycle is generally much shorter in ensuring you have a steadier supply of cash.
- You typically can get a specialist contracting business up and running within a matter of 2 to 3 months, that is from idea to actually carrying out work on your first contract.
- It is very easy to systemise a Specialist Contracting Business because you are doing the same work each and every day, you can organise your business, your systems, your processes, your people, frankly everything single aspect of the business around that one core activity. Then you relentlessly focus on training your teams, your people, your sub-contractors, your suppliers in becoming the most efficient machine you can become in that specialist sector.
Frankly the benefits are absolutely numerous. But the ironic thing is most ‘construction professionals’ look down their nose at Specialist Contract Business somehow, they see them as being beneath them. Generally when we go through college as construction professionals we always aspire to work for the big and exciting companies and typically we start at the bottom of the rank. In my case I started out as a QS, originally working on projects as an assistant and very quickly graduating to the point where I was running my own project.
At that time I was then responsible for procurement on a specific contract and at the time it was a midsized extension to a Golf Club in Dublin, Ireland. As I was letting out these packages for things like the roof, for the plumbing, for the electrics I noticed a trend they were young sub – contractors tendering for and winning the work who were certainly no older than I was and I was 28 at the time and they turned up to site in their clapped out Peugeot Vans and I had this elevated position of authority as the “construction professional, quantity surveyor on site” and they were almost looking at me with reverence, hoping that I would bequeath the sub – contract onto them.
Over the years as I became a Senior Quantity Surveyor running larger contracts, eventually a Regional Commercial Manager running a region and eventually a Commercial Director of a one billion dollar organisation. I noticed a specific trend, yes, I had progressed in my career and was certainly earning a lot more money and taking a lot more responsibility but more importantly having a lot more stress and; not really enjoying the current thrust of being on site and being in the heart of the business anymore. I was spending most of my day writing reports, travelling between meetings, sitting in endless strat sessions and reviews of projects and really was not enjoying the job and I had reached the pinnacle of the corporate ladder at the time. When I was watching then, these Sub – Contractors turning up in their 730 BMWs many of whom are now multi, multi – millionaires, and I wondered…
What was it that I had done wrong?
The reality is I had followed the proven path of the corporate ladder. I had worked my way up, I had become Commercial Director and these guys had just focused on starting a business, growing the business and ultimately making money. They were living life on their own terms, they were not answerable to anyone, they could make decisions on the fly, they were extremely fast moving, extremely flexible and most of them extremely profitable. It really made me wonder why we as construction professionals do not do it.
The reality is because we are full of fears, full of conditioning to get a job, to get a degree, to get a safe role in a corporate company but most importantly we over complicate things. We look at the notion of setting up a sub – contract business as some impossible feet that can only be done by a tradesperson because they are able to get on the tools and do the work themselves and that we as construction professionals do not have a role to play there.
But the reality is what really stops us is we start thinking about things like:-
- There are so many moving parts to the business, how would I manage them?
- What if I do not get paid?
- Will it work for me?
- How will I have money to get by?
- How will I generate leads?
The reality is we come up with every conceivable reason or frankly, excuses as to why we shouldn’t or couldn’t set up our own business.
I used to work with a guy called Pat and he is a typical example. I used to call him “worst case scenario Pat”. No matter what situation was put in front of him Pat would somehow manage to extrapolate out what was currently happening into the worst possible case scenario and use that for the justification for the fact that the world was about to end. When in reality, it just boils down to over complication. Setting up a Specialist Contacting Business frankly, is easy if you just approach it in the right way and I understand why you might think this because I always thought that starting a Contracting Business was:-
- Super hard.
- Required gazzillions of dollars of start-up capital.
- Was something only trades people could do .
- Was something that required supernatural powers.
And this is completely aside from all the internal doubts I had about myself and my own ability to set up a contracting business.
BUT THEN I SAW HOW IT COULD ACTUALLY BE DONE
About 4 years ago, a friend of mine Steven O’Connor who does specialist web designs was telling me about a sub – contractor who he was dealing with. The guy’s name was Anthony and he had recently to Ireland from the States where he had worked in construction. He decided to set up his own business in Ireland and what was really interesting to me is he picked one thing. He was going to focus on doing driveways in the east coast of Ireland from Wexford to Dublin about 160km regional range. What really amazed me was how simple his approach but, how effective the outcome was about how he went about setting up his business.
He followed 6 simple steps:-
- He picked a specialist area to focus on. So what he didn’t do is complicate things, he didn’t look at the market and think there is no way I can focus on one area I need to be a Jack of all trades, a generalist. He said, I am going to do one thing and that is driveways. Within that sector of driveways, I will do a number of different services. I will do Macadam driveways, I’ll do Ashveld driveways, I’ll do Cobble lot driveways and I will do what ever else anybody asks me to do within that driveway scope of works – drainage, landscaping etc.
- He built a specialist website, he then hired my mate Steve and asked him to build a website that was solely focused on driveways and solely focused on the region from Dublin to Wexford. Now the big ad take from this guy is laser focused, he has picked the one thing that he wants to do, he picked the region he is prepared to operate in and now he has built a website that is solely focused in positioning him as an expert in that area.
- He put marketing material together and he then put sales material together that he could use to submit to clients to establish his credibility in that area. So when a customer asked for a quote, he then put out a little brochure pack which showed his experience in doing specialist driveways and it helped him on his conversions but, more about that in a later article.
- He then ran a google ad words campaigns. This was the biggest epiphany of all to me. As a Construction Professional, I was always limited by the constraint: How would I get leads? How would I get work??
Literally, all Anthony did is ask Steven, who also runs Google Ad Words Campaigns to run him an ad campaign so that he could generate leads for driveways for anyone looking to have their driveways done, you guessed it between Dublin and Wexford on the East Coast of Ireland. Now what is the Google Ad Words Campaign? They are those ads that when you put in a search on Google appear at the top or on the side of the page. People pay to have those ads and when you click it takes you straight to the website and then Dubid driveways for instance it took them to a banner ad with Anthony Dubid’s personal mobile number which he then followed up on.
- Generated Instant Leads – This Google Ad Words Campaign, literally within 30minutes of being set up, started generating instant leads for Anthony, which he then went out met the owners, bid and won.
- Bid and Won Work – That was basically the extent of how he went about setting up this business, he followed the five steps that I outlined above and he simply went out and won the work.
Now the start up capital was almost nothing, it was literally a van, some tools a gang of guys all working on individual price work to start this business and a small ad budget.
Literally within six months I watched this particular business go from one team of guys out on the road to five teams of guys within six months. Davitt driveways was earning more in one month or Anthony Davitt should I say was earning more in one month than a QS, Construction Manager, Site Engineer would earn in 12. Now the big revelation to me was how simple this entire process had been. He didn’t complicate things, he didn’t look for the worst case scenario he just took massive determined massive action.
And I think that is the reality of the difference between a construction professional and how we tend to over complicate the and idea of setting up your own business and trades people who just takes massive action and doesn’t over complicate things and that the frustrating reality is that most of us Construction Professionals end up working for trades people and I have nothing against trades people, my dad was a carpenter I am proud of it and I am proud to have worked for many carpenters but it saddens me to see so many engineers, construction managers, quantity surveyors trapped in jobs they don’t like because they feel that setting up their own specialist business or any business for that matter is outside of their ability.
So, if this has been of interest to you and you would like to learn more about how you could potentially set up your own Specialist Contracting Business, simply click on the link below we have some really cool free training for you.