General contracting can be rewarding and for many construction professionals, starting their own general contracting business is the ultimate goal. Overseeing multiple commercial projects is not only an exciting prospect but can also provide you with lucrative opportunities.
At OnePointe Solutions, we have worked with countless general contractors to design, build, and install custom furniture solutions for a variety of laboratory and scientific facilities. Our experience in the world of construction and design has been invaluable for our work, and now, we’ve created a guide to help you set out on the road to owning your own general contracting business.
Find Your Passion, Find Your Niche
Before you start a business of any kind, it is important to first establish your place in the industry. While you can certainly offer similar services to other general contractors in your area, you should be able to distinguish yourself from the competition either by offering specific services, specializing in a particular type of project, or by providing a unique or scarce service.
Lots of contractors are able to pick their industry niche by starting with what they enjoy most, so if you are feeling at a loss, look to your passion.
The Legal Stuff
Owning your own business doesn’t have to mean a litany of paperwork, but if you don’t set yourself up as a legal entity (like an LLC) equipped to handle the job according to industry standards and regulations, your business won’t make it off the ground. A few key legal steps to making your general contracting business legit include:
Before you’ll be legally allowed to oversee large commercial projects, you will need to acquire a general contracting license. The specifics of your licensure requirements will be determined by your state of residence, though most include an exam and a certain number of proven hours of experience.
Being licensed not only helps to prove your legitimacy to regulatory authorities but will also help you attract bigger ticket clients and their projects.
Apply For An Employer Identification Number
Opening your own business means you’ll be filing taxes for your business, and in order to do that, you’ll need a registered employer identification number or EIN. This may sound like a highly technical subject, but in truth, applying for an EIN is extraordinarily easy, The IRS lets you apply online, and often you’ll be ready to go within a day.
Open a Business Bank Account
Every good business owner knows that mixing personal assets and business assets only ever leads to trouble, so in order to protect both yourself and your business, you will need to open a business account and acquire a debit card. Visiting the local branch of your preferred bank is a good way to find out what your options are as a small business owner.
Once your business account is set up, you will be able to keep all business expenses separate from your personal accounts, which will also help to make the process of filing taxes a whole lot easier.
As a general contracting business, it is important to be certified for the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The certification process introduces you to your responsibilities as an employer, educates you and your team on the importance of proper safety procedures in order to avoid workplace hazards, and helps you to acquire the proper certifications to be able to legally operate.
Without OSHA certification you run the risk of losing contracts, having your operation shut down by the authorities, or losing out on potential rockstar employees.
Like being OSHA certified, properly insuring your company can help you to protect yourself, your employees, and your business. Few things will make potential clients run for the nearest competitor like being uninsured since this screams amateur incompetence.
You will need to purchase insurance to cover all services you offer, your vehicles and specialty equipment, and workers’ compensation before you can begin to operate.
Study Industry Best Practices
A good way to know whether or not you can be successful within the world of construction is to study the competition. Having an understanding of industry standards and best practices not only helps you to build a more competitive business but also helps you to ensure you’ll remain competitive for the long-haul.
Once you have found your niche within the existing market, you’ll be able to start experimenting with new ways to operate that will make your business more efficient and more desirable to customers.
Hire Industry Experts
Do you know the old saying “two heads are better than one”? Well, in the world of construction and general contracting, this sentiment is particularly true.
Once you start your business, you’ll want to hire other experts from the industry that offer your company something you don’t already have. While finding like-minded individuals to join the team is a great way to create harmony, you should also be trying to balance out your team’s skillset by finding people with a variety of experiential backgrounds.
As you hire individuals to join your team, be sure to hire professionals with proven track records, experience, and licensures. By bringing in team members that are already qualified to work within the industry you’ll be able to avoid a whole lot of paperwork and fees.
Once you have assembled a team, take time to provide ongoing education and training to all employees to increase workplace efficiency, and stay on the cutting edge of the industry.
Finding a Mentor
If this is your first foray into owning your own business, you will likely run into a lot of questions in your first few years of operation. While turning to the Internet or consulting your team members can be a good way to work through challenges and problems, finding a mentor to guide you can be invaluable as you get your business off the ground.
If you have had experience working with other general contractors in the past, try consulting your former employers or partners for advice. If you’ve done good work together in the past, many former colleagues will be happy to offer advice when you need it.
If you don’t have someone in mind, there are plenty of local business resources to help you connect with other industry professionals.
Networking and Marketing
Even well-established companies rely on advertising efforts to connect with new clients and stay relevant, so don’t underestimate the importance of marketing yourself even in the beginning phases of your business. Traditional advertising like print ads, radio spots, online advertising, and similar methods of getting the word out is great, but this isn’t the only way to connect to potential clients.
Networking is a super important part of running a successful general contracting business since lots of work done in the construction industry is facilitated by word-of-mouth. Speaking and collaborating with other industry professionals, attending industry events, contributing to industry forums or news sources, and other community-based networking methods are a great way to spread the word about your business.
As you build relationships and gain clients, your new colleagues, partners, and customers will help do the networking for you.
Highlighting Past Projects
One of the most effective ways of catching the attention of potential clients is by highlighting your past projects. The work you have already completed is generally the most interesting thing about your company for those that are looking to hire a general contractor, since they’ll want to see whether you have experience managing a project like theirs.
Having information and images of past projects readily available will help raise your company’s credibility and help you attract more commercial clients.
Outsource Where You Don’t Specialize
You’re a general contractor, not a magician, so don’t over-promise on what you can deliver. While you likely have a specialized area of experience, no one expects you to do all the work without the help of other industry professionals.
In order to ensure you can fulfill all the needs of your customers, work to find companies with whom you can partner to fill the gaps in your expertise. OnePointe Solutions specializes in designing, building, and installing lab furniture, and we frequently partner with general contractors and construction companies to help our clients create fully optimized furniture solutions.
Once basic construction is complete, the element that makes a lab feel like a professional and fully operational facility is the furniture and equipment, which is where we come in. We can help you bring your clients’ vision to life by creating custom furniture solutions that fit the design of the facility perfectly.
Our lab furniture design team has worked with countless professionals and laboratory facilities from virtually every industry, helping us to become one of the most trusted providers of laboratory furniture in the country. Regardless of the scope and scale of your client’s project, our team will be able to provide valuable insight and create a truly personalized solution.
Monitor Your Finances
If you have never run a business before, managing your company’s finances will likely be one of your biggest learning challenges. Staying on budget is not just important for the interests of your clients, but also to ensure you will be able to handle the cost of your overhead.
Prepare to get well acquainted with the process of creating budgets, proposing bids, and compiling estimates, all while ensuring there are adequate funds to cover the project. Neglecting to properly manage a budget will quickly get you blacklisted by future clients and is a good way to tank your company no matter how highly qualified you may otherwise be.
Need Help Designing Your Lab?
Give us a call at (866) 222- 7494 to speak to one of our lab designers to get started.