When business is steady with lots of bidding opportunities coming your way, it’s easy to keep busy working for a limited number of customers doing the same type of projects. This business model works during a good economy. Once you establish a few repeat customers, they continue to feed you work to bid on. You don’t have to go out and find new customers. You don’t have to market or sell. You don’t need an updated brochure or impressive website. And you don’t have to have a customer service or follow-up program. Work is easy to get: wait for the phone to ring, pick up a set of plans, and go bid the job. If you bid enough, you’ll get your share.
The second most popular “Do-Over” I hear from seasoned business owners is they wish they would have built up a broader base of customers, worked on many different type of projects, and developed a solid marketing and referral program that delivered diversified types of profitable work. Today I hear sad stories of underground contractors who kept very busy only doing private housing tracts for a few homebuilders. I also hear similar stories from contractors who didn’t want to mess with government jobs because of all the added paperwork. And I hear stories from companies who didn’t add any extra services like green technology, design-build, post construction services, or maintenance to attract and keep customers. These companies are now left without any customers.If you were to do it over, what additional customers and project types would you target? Perhaps you would go after at least three or four different types of projects and add a broader list of customers. How would you stay in contact with them? Most business owners say they would have setup an ongoing system to build loyal customer relationships via more lunches, ballgames, and simply spending lots of quality time with them. They would have also developed an automated email marketing system tied into an expanded resource website to keep their name in front of potential customers.
Additionally construction business owners say they would have invested in diversification by adding more in-depth capacity such as in-house engineering, green capabilities, and design-build services. This would have expanded their ability to take on more complicated work with higher profit margins. Lastly, they would have added service divisions relying on ongoing maintenance accounts that regularly provide them with steady revenue.
If you were to do it over again, wouldn’t you start diversifying, marketing and serving customers sooner than later?