How to Grow Your General Contracting Business
Contractors Nina and Ilya grow their contracting business with Sweeten. Here’s how.
Planning the next stage
New York-based general contractors Nina and Ilya know how to get things done. The duo has been working with Sweeten since April 2018 and has been successful from the start. They now have a track record of completing many large projects on a consistent basis. Below, they share some business practices on how to grow your general contracting business.
The couple started their careers by taking every project they could and hustling. Nina and Ilya decided shortly after they began working with Sweeten to take their business to the next level. According to their Sweeten account manager, they are “one of my most engaged, responsive, and accountable firms I work with.”
Currently, Ilya primarily manages the construction projects, while Nina handles all the back office tasks that come with running a construction company.
Good practices to grow your general contracting business
Question: How has your business structure changed now that your firm is taking on larger scale projects?
“When we started out, it was just us and two or three others doing the work,” said Nina. “When you have more boots on the ground, like we do now, you just have to adjust your perspective. You take a bird’s eye view instead of managing every detail.”
Handling estimates, payments, and communicating
Question: What are your thoughts on estimating, contracts, and payments? How important are the details?
They note that clear estimates offer a layer of transparency. “It’s important to clarify all important details of a project in our contract estimates,” said Nina, “outlining what is included and what isn’t so that there are no surprises for the client.”
For Nina and Ilya, technology makes it possible to maintain a clear and constant communication with the client. “Experience has shown us that communication with the client leads to a great working relationship and a successful project.”
After signing, they typically break the project into stages and receive a monetary draw for each one. They receive a deposit first, the next draw at demo, then at plumbing rough-in, another payment when power is installed, and then the last 10%.
“It is just as important for clients to make prompt progress payments as it is for us to complete work on time,” said Nina. “For us, progress equals payment. Once a client sees the work performed and their questions answered, mutual respect and trust develops. This is critical to long-term success.”
Managing multiple projects at the same time
Their company now routinely completes many large projects which can involve scaling a business beyond its comfort zone.
Question: What changes did you make to grow your business?
Demand increases in the back office but not as much as having an increased number of crewmembers onsite, the duo observes. “When you have more than a few boots on the ground as we do now, you can’t get overwhelmed.”
Their process includes viewing each renovation project like a wristwatch with moving parts. “Each part (like materials and labor) needs to do what it does, right when it needs to do it.” They believe the firm is only as good as its crew. “You learn the importance of hiring good workers who are always willing to learn how to get better,” said Ilya. “The longer you are in business, the more watches you can manage.”
Ilya evaluates each watch and understands what each needs to function. His focus has shifted to ensuring that each project is equipped to move along efficiently while having a dependable crew that can manage their own responsibilities. Allowing a crew to manage small details is key to how to grow your general contracting business.
Learning from honest feedback
These two professionals understand the importance of quality feedback from clients. As Sweeten contractors, their goal is maintaining quality work.
Question: Do you actively request feedback from your clients in an effort to improve?
“We do. Throughout the project we maintain clear, open communication with our clients,” said Ilya. “We develop a working relationship early on because we understand that a good relationship solves problems before they start.” During each walk-through, “we listen to their questions and concerns and make sure to address all of them,” said Nina.
“At the final walk through, we always ask our clients how we could have improved their experience,” she said. “We take those answers to heart each time because this is how we make the next project better than the last one.”
Nina says their business does about 95% interior work, much of it in multi-unit buildings. They serve Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Must-have general contracting tools
Question: Now that you do so much work with Sweeten, what is your “can’t live without” tool?
For Ilya, he couldn’t do without laser levels and transits. That and cell phones. We couldn’t do our work without them.”
Nina was passionate about her favorite tool. “WhatsApp. We literally use it for everything. Well, that and cell phones.”