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What makes a successful general contractor? Their habits! While successes can happen every day, the idea of success is a long-term one. That means consistent progress is the only way toward improving yourself or your business.

Read on to learn about the habits that make a truly successful general contractor and how you can incorporate them into your own business plan.

Set Goals

Judging your success as a general contractor can be hard. Is it enough to be profitable, or should you be growing? If you need to grow your business, how much growth should you expect and over how long?


The best way to gauge your success is to establish clearly defined goals that are achievable and time-restricted so that you know you’re on the right path. Eventually, you’ll develop a habit of completing goals and setting new ones to consistently improve your business and your own skills.

Short-term goals

Short-term goals can be things that you complete daily, weekly, or within the next few months. There are a lot of potential short-term goals you can create for yourself, but it’s important to make them specific to your business. Here are some great examples of short-term goals to build your habits as a successful general contractor:

Acquire More Contracts

This goal is a very clear goal that almost any contractor can agree is worth pursuing. However, it’s important not to set a vague goal like just “increase contracts.” You’ll want to consider how many jobs you’re working on now and where you’d like to be in a few months. Pick a number that’s reasonable but not too easily achieved. Does that mean finding three new long-term clients or more?

Make sure you also choose a deadline date to have your new jobs under contract. Maybe you want two new contracts this month, but a total of 10 over the next three months.

Establish Yourself in a Specific Region

Being a local contractor means you can sometimes be limited to a specific area. But if you have a fully-upfitted van or truck, you can take your work practically anywhere! Expanding your business means reaching clients in new areas.

Promote yourself in these new regions and set a goal to generate at least two or three contracts there within a timespan that makes sense for your business. Repeat this goal across several areas as you grow your business until you feel comfortable in your overall service area.

Building Your Business or Residential Contracts

During your bookkeeping, you may discover that your business is missing out on residential or business clients. Another type of short-term goal is to shift your promotion to focus on the specific type of clientele you want. Residential clients are often easier to find, so make sure to set your goals accordingly!

Long-term goals

Not all your goals can be completed in the course of a few weeks or months. Long-term goals can be considered the “biggest picture” for your business. Here are some examples of long-term goals to help you on your journey towards being a successful general contractor:

Increase Yearly Profits

Year-to-year goals are an excellent opportunity for you to reflect on your business and see where you’re improving or need to improve. Because profiting is an important part of any business, your revenue and net profits are a great place to start with long-term goals. Look at your previous years and think of where you want to be in five years and ten years. Estimate a reasonable growth in profits and mark a date to achieve it.

Hiring More Employees

Even the best contractor with the best truck upfit can only be in one place at a time. Eventually, you’ll need to take on additional employees to complete the work coming to you. New employees cost revenue and time. Establishing set limits of where you need to be with your business before you can take on additional help is a great way to not only set a goal for growth, but to also ensure you don’t take on new employees unless you really need them!

Stay Organized

One habit of successful contractors that helps them complete their goals is staying organized. Great organization is more than knowing where everything is – you also need to streamline your processes!

There are several ways to help improve your efficiency through organization:

Develop a System for Paperwork

You have contracts, invoices and dozens of other forms to keep track of for your business. Misplacing just one can be anything from a minor annoyance to a major business setback. It’s not enough to simply keep your paperwork safe. Develop a system for when and how you take care of paperwork.

  • Set times of day where you work on specific paperwork so nothing falls behind
  • Create a paperwork workflow for how you interact with clients
  • Invest in storage solutions to help organize your paperwork

An Organized Vehicle is Key

Unlike most careers, being a general contractor means traveling to new places almost daily. Because of that, your work van or work truck is your office. You need to keep it organized like one!

While the chaos of a stock van loaded with buckets of tools and equipment just laying around may be familiar to you, it’s hardly efficient. If your clients see inside, it can hurt your reputation too!

A van or truck upfit is the ideal way to lock down your tools and create a mobile workshop that keeps you agile on the job. An upfit means when you need a tool, you know exactly where to find it.

Outline Your Schedule

Falling behind on your work means fewer referrals and less repeat business. Schedules keep you from falling behind. Successful general contractors get in the habit of knowing what to expect from their day. You can’t plan for everything but having a general idea of where you’ll be and when you should be done helps you stay on track.

Track Everything

Owning your own business means managing a lot of moving parts. While it may sound like a lot of work to document everything, it’s more likely to save you time. Keep your eye on your whole business to avoid unnecessary losses in finances or time:

  • Pay attention to every cost, they all add up and you may identify a problem that can be solved with a major step instead of repeated patchwork solutions.
  • Complaints happen, so make sure to document them in case they come up again down the road.
  • Don’t discard old client files if they may be relevant again, you never know when someone might need your help years after you did a job for them.

You Must Be Available

The most successful general contractor will never be hard to reach. Whether it’s a current client, a past one or potential new business, a missed contact is a missed opportunity. Consider multiple forms of contact to help keep you available – phone calls, emails and even social media!

A website is one of the best ways to make yourself available 24 hours a day. It lets people find information about you, your service area and how to contact you. It’s also a great opportunity to promote your services!

Most importantly, don’t delay your responses. If someone reaches out to you, reply to them within the next 24 hours no matter what. If you miss this critical window, they’re likely to move on to another general contractor and possibly write your business off as unresponsive.

Keep Up the Pace

It’s easy to get complacent when business is thriving. Don’t be tempted! Successful general contractors know to take full advantage of a busy season. You never know when demand may temporarily dry up.

Finding new opportunities doesn’t just mean more work, either. Use your momentum to build on fundamentals: investigate additional learning opportunities, use your extra income to outfit your vehicle with newer upfits or tools and look towards expanding your services.

If things start slowing down, work even harder. The fewer jobs out there to be done mean they’ll go to the best contractors available. Keep your reputation pristine and you won’t feel the sting as severely as your competitors.

Market Yourself

Promoting yourself isn’t an option, it’s a necessity! Develop a marketing plan that shows your work quality and introduces your name to as many people as possible.

Speak with your most consistent or satisfied customers and ask for referrals. Send out seasonal promotions to drum up new business. If you incorporate a new service, tell everyone about it!

Remember: marketing yourself is a long-term endeavor. You won’t always see results instantly. Stick to it and keep your name visible. The key part of marketing is to be the first name someone thinks of when they need services you offer.

Network with Other Contractors

Not every contractor in your area is a direct competitor. Those in other fields or who work in specialized conditions make great partnerships. They can recommend you for services they don’t offer and bring you in for work that requires other trades.

Industry associations can also be important, depending on your area. These associations can help you find new employees, new work or educational opportunities.

Ultimately, successful general contractors know that every resource has its purpose. Find the ones that benefit your business and run with them!

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Adrian Steel manufactures contractor-grade products and storage solutions with your needs in mind. Our goal is to improve efficiency and reduce common headaches in your workday! Adrian Steel is always evolving with you. We can help keep you moving forward with the right upfit solution for you and your vehicle.

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