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I'm A GC. NOW WHAT!?

 
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Old 08-08-2019, 09:07 AM   #1
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I'm A GC. NOW WHAT!?


Hello ya'll, thanks for being such a great group of tradesmen willing to help out. This community is more enjoyable than my own neighborhood!


Anyways, here it is. I'm a GC in Grand Rapids MI. The city is figuratively "on fire". Work everywhere across all trades both Commercial and Residential. I've grown gradually over 4 years and been running a 3 man crew for two years now and am doing ok. We have a reputation for top notch quality with excellent customer experience. Got the website. Got the T-shirts. Honesty and Communication are key.

This year I started lining up projects up to 6 months ahead. Now I'm bumping projects when things get delayed. My best guy is having health issues and the other doesn't have his heart in this long term so I'm concerned for long term health of the company. We're stable today but worrying about next month. Good reputation or not, if I can't figure out how to grow or at least reinforce my labor force, I'll be in real trouble. I've posted some CL adds and most respondents are already burnt, unemployed for a reason, or one foot out the door to retirement. Typical of CL I guess. Other job sites want crazy fees for posting like $16/day. I've read the thread on here with suggestions to talk to the lumber yards, join trade groups, ask my guys, etc. I'm not seeing a lot of hope but I also don't have a huge network cause I'm still a small dog.
This leaves me where I am this morning. I am turning away jobs. Jobs I really want. I am turning inward and focusing efforts on polishing the rough edges of the company as a whole. Upgrading the company van from a rusted out POS to something with a nice wrap on it. I'm trying one thing after another to make the job site run more smoothly for my guys and clients, everything from air scrubbers to better tool organizers. I'm considering marketing materials but really don't seem to need them. My gut is telling me I'm distracting myself from what I should really be doing as owner and GC and missing the big picture...BUT WHAT IS THAT? Just keep selling and Frick the consequences? Should I be head hunting and trying to steal guys? Hold steady course and weather the storm in hopes that the labor market improves (if that is ever going to happen)?. Get super resourceful and find some more guys no matter the cost? Pour through some books for answers? Find a mentor willing to show me the way? I am ready to stop working IN and start working ON the company but that seems impossible. I'm the exasperated youth of the 80's taught to get what I want by busting my butt. Now I'm getting there and I don't know where to put my efforts. I know you guys aren't business coaches and that you could write a novel and not touch all the points here but I really do appreciate any feedback even if it is just to know that I'm not just something I'm doing wrong. I need a new strategy. ...or do I?
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Old 08-08-2019, 10:12 AM   #2
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Re: I'm A GC. NOW WHAT!?


Good quality manpower is the number one complaint from every contractor I know.

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Old 08-08-2019, 10:34 AM   #3
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Re: I'm A GC. NOW WHAT!?


From a pure business perspective, I believe your focus MUST be on resources, specifically YOUR resources. When you’re turning away work, and you’ve anchored your entire business upon 1 crew-member...with health issues, your business is on the path of destruction. You’ve made investments that do not have an immediate impact on your problem...you can’t get the work done (these new jobs you’re turning away.)

It’s clear you know the solution, you need more workers. It’s one of those formulas you see in business classes (more years ago than I’d like to admit) where all the variables are set and the only limitation is production. You can’t produce without the people.

As a former recruiter, I can give you websites for free job posting. I’d like to see you reviewing resumes, but I think in a trade industry where there is ample work, there’s little need for great workers to be SEARCHING for jobs. I don’t think this is the solution.

That brings us back to how to source for humans. I believe you need to “catch” the attention of folks to pique their interest. You need to catch the eye of people that MIGHT consider changing jobs.

You mentioned your vehicle upgrade. Do you have some kind of advertisement on the back for crew members? I don’t know what’d work...maybe, “We’re on the grow! Join us: ***-***-***x” or something positive that doesn’t scream HELP!

WHERE are the folks you want? HD? Shopping for groceries? Getting haircuts? Going to a chiropractor or physician? Taking Spot to the vet? Shopping at pet food stores? You’d be surprised how well “tear-offs” can work. An 8x10 page, bold letters, color helps, attracts attention!

“Need: Interior PAINT, CONSTRUCTION, FINISHERS (...be specific—you want the kids and spouses to spot this!) Great PAY, Great Hours (or Flexible is appropriate), Great FUN! Keep it short, sweet and with key words easy to read from a distance. DON’T make it sound desperate. Have your co. Name above the tear-offs...doesn’t need to be huge, but visible. Colored paper may help. You want everyone AROUND the potential hire to see this. THEY will know if their family member or friend is looking for a change. “LOOKING FOR A CHANGE?” (If the page isn’t too cluttered.) I’d leave off your requirements for experience or whatever.

Then below, create a dashed line, you change the type orientation to sideways and make 10-12 tear-off strips with your co. Name and phone number (and/or your first name.) Make the vertical cut for each tab and post...ANYWHERE there’s a bulletin board!

Check auto parts stores, talk to the owner and ask if you can post the ad if there’s no board. Most grocery stores, pet stores, car washes, vets, etc. have boards. Heck, grab a business card from a realtor, call and ask where they post their cards! Ask if you can post in their office!

The more people you talk to, the more likely you will find who you need. When you get calls, be friendly, let them know if they don’t have the experience you’re looking for...but, DO THEY KNOW SOMEONE WHO MIGHT? (ASK for that referral’s name and number!) ASK, ASK, ASK! (LOL)

Sorry for the length. My point is you need to get in the faces of the people you need, AND the people that KNOW the people you need. Word gets around quick. BE CLASSY!

In home improvement stores, go to the PRO desk and ask WHO (not if!) they know that’s looking for work (and post your ad.) Same with paint distributors.

You will likely have to do some training, but that’s better than depending upon a crew that could fall apart pretty easily. Health issues tend to get worse rather than better...you need to be prepared now.

Hope this helps. There’s lots of people who will help you with your search if you just TELL THEM you have a need. You don’t need to explain anything about your current crew, you just need more!

The answer is always NO, if you never ASK! Be the guy EVERYONE wants to work with and talk to, and you won’t be the little, unknown guy for long!
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Old 08-08-2019, 10:39 AM   #4
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Re: I'm A GC. NOW WHAT!?


BTW, “Your gut” is right. Keep focused on what is periphery to actually working, and you’ll be working less!
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Old 08-08-2019, 11:23 AM   #5
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Re: I'm A GC. NOW WHAT!?


CynLei you're probably right on. Thank you so much for the thorough reply. Now I hired my current guys because like me, they can do it all. It is a reasonable expectation that I will be able to continue to find guys of this caliber or do I need a slower but more sustainable model? If I were to pull in specialists (framer, finisher, floor guys, painter etc.) for each phase of a residential remodel it would take forever and be very cumbersome to manage. However I could see the benefits of specialists from a quality standpoint... but in a market like this I'm likely to not have access to them if I don't keep them steady. Oh and don't know if it matters but I currently have the guys as 1099's until next year when I think we'll be ready to bring in W2's so I can have some control over how the projects get done (or at least this seems like logical evolution). Maybe not... Maybe I should stop thinking how I can chase a little more profit by captaining a tight ship and instead focus on keeping my guys well-fed happy and healthy as 1099's. And if they need help filing their taxes or learning how to save for year end, offer that counseling to them as a perk? I don't know how much more attractive the company would be if it offered W2. Anyways getting off track. Thanks for your reply! I'm going to pull together some flyers right now.
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Old 08-08-2019, 02:25 PM   #6
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Re: I'm A GC. NOW WHAT!?


You’re welcome Vada!

There are “problems” you may face taking your folks from 1099 Independent Contractor status to Employee. It sounds like you are prepared, but get advice from your accountant. Hopefully other GC’s will speak to the costs/benefit trade-offs.

As a caution...you’re thinking “micro” vs. “macro.” Wondering about offering tax help is very considerate, have you asked if your crew needs it? Until you determine that receiving 1099’s and tax help is a issue, put it on a list for your office wall, and clear it from your mind. It could be very minor to them.

I tend to be a “micro” planner. I get lost in details instead of simply working! I totally get it. If you have a reliable accountant or bookkeeper, some of these concerns could be passed along. Let them determine what kind of break-even point you have right now. I often think businesses fail not because they grow “too fast,” but because they focus on peripheral parts instead of what should be central....working, setting up work and making money.

Perhaps a bit off-topic, but what helped me years ago was learning how to use a planner system (like Franklin Planner.) The large datebook is great sitting on your desk for scheduling, but note pages are key. For a single day, I’d write on a note page, numbering my thought or ideas. Then, at the beginning of the month, you have a page where you can put that date and item number with a brief description...”8-7: 1) thoughts on health insurance.” You’re able to skim these notes and find what you need. All in the effort of being able to focus on what is IMMEDIATE.

So you need people that can “do it all?” Great! Makes your flyers much shorter and focused. What would attract YOU to call someone? What would attract your current crew?

And for your current crew, what have you discussed with them? Have you had a coffee shop meeting to pick their brains on the direction you’d like to take them? Have you asked them about recommendations for crew members? Do they know you’re turning away work, and that they’re such a great team that you need to find more like them? By asking for suggestions, you potentially increase their investment and trust in you and the company.

Tell them your putting up flyers (they’ll know you’re not out to replace them!) and ask what they like best about their job (you might get an idea of something to add to your flyer) and what do they like least? Finding out why they’re happy to work might provide surprising answers. When I thought money was a motivator I was surprised to find out that accomplishing something worthwhile was more important to someone!

I’ve digressed, , must need to go do those cabinet doors screaming for me from the garage!

Write down your thoughts and ideas so you can push them aside and push yourself forward!

Oh, do you have an NextDoor account? It’s a free service, for now anyway, and you can post what kind of help you’re seeking there. I got great accountant suggestions this way—people I’d never found on my own. You can place help wanted, but you can also post to ask folks for recommendations. I wouldn’t be surprised, if by reading some of the current posts, if you found willing workers with well-rounded experience for your crew! I’ve hired painters, landscapers and lawn mowing through the site. (And gotten doctor, vet, hair and nail recommendations too! ...LOL!) Bet folks can recommend specific places to place a flyer too!

I like free resources!
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Old 08-08-2019, 02:32 PM   #7
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Re: I'm A GC. NOW WHAT!?


Quote:
Originally Posted by VADA View Post
CynLei you're probably right on. Thank you so much for the thorough reply. Now I hired my current guys because like me, they can do it all. It is a reasonable expectation that I will be able to continue to find guys of this caliber or do I need a slower but more sustainable model? If I were to pull in specialists (framer, finisher, floor guys, painter etc.) for each phase of a residential remodel it would take forever and be very cumbersome to manage. However I could see the benefits of specialists from a quality standpoint... but in a market like this I'm likely to not have access to them if I don't keep them steady. Oh and don't know if it matters but I currently have the guys as 1099's until next year when I think we'll be ready to bring in W2's so I can have some control over how the projects get done (or at least this seems like logical evolution). Maybe not... Maybe I should stop thinking how I can chase a little more profit by captaining a tight ship and instead focus on keeping my guys well-fed happy and healthy as 1099's. And if they need help filing their taxes or learning how to save for year end, offer that counseling to them as a perk? I don't know how much more attractive the company would be if it offered W2. Anyways getting off track. Thanks for your reply! I'm going to pull together some flyers right now.
Health issues you can't control... getting and keeping talent is largely in your control... putting aside the IRS implications if your guys pretty much work for you year round, 1099 is rarely a successful formula for growing a company...

The main reason is why your one guy, who can do it all, is not looking at you long term... there's no home, just a rental...

As 1099's, it's harder to offer them things that will generally keep a W-2 employee long-term and more importantly looking to your company as a place to pitch their tent and help it grow... benefits, W/C (well, yes and no), retirement, W-2 status so they can actually file taxes and get returns more easily, production bonuses (although you could structure that in a 1099 situation), PTO, etc.

If you're going to grow, YOU can only be in so many places at once... you're going to need leads to run projects... that comes at a price...

If you're turning AWAY business, it's a good time to up your prices to encompass not only your equipment needs, but more importantly getting ready to be able to put yourself in a position to actually employ people as W-2's (which means the items listed above among other things and that's going to take more money)... you've apparently got a good reputation, now imagine what that would look like if you became THE guy to work with because you offer 5-10% more than market rate (which, once calculated is very little to be made up hourly and passed along to the customer)... Unless there is a growth opportunity for someone at another company, or they want to start their own gig, or you are royally screwing things up, most guys with stick with the guy they know rather than take a job at a lower pay rate...

Plan and structure your company going forward as being THE guy to work with... have at LEAST 90 days pay banked before offering a new guy a position as a W-2 employee so they can begin making your company money before any transition period expires...

Last edited by KAP; 08-08-2019 at 03:02 PM.
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Old 08-08-2019, 02:56 PM   #8
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Re: I'm A GC. NOW WHAT!?


KAP—very well said! I was thinking too on how to best facilitate growth and how to be sure he has the crew to keep the work going smoothly.

Reputation is SO important in this business. I mentioned the NextDoor site. If you read the one for my area, you’d actually see posts for people asking for help with, “but NOT ______” in the subject line. There’s a guy with so bad a reputation that it may be impossible for him to ever overcome!

I like the idea of being THE guy to work for. Get past your current mini-crisis of having enough workers available and work toward giving your crew what they value. I’ve fought hard in the past to go from contractor to employee status...and for the feeling that my job was more secure.

Meet with your current crew and let them know your plan so they understand it’s your goal to make them employees. Maybe they will be your first team leads as well!

I also like the 90 days payroll banked. While I have no experience in this area, that seems like an excellent plan!
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Old 08-09-2019, 07:18 AM   #9
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Re: I'm A GC. NOW WHAT!?


CynLei and CAP thanks for your guidance! These are great replies and I'm already feeling "unstuck". I did take advantage of some free trial periods on some job sites and they have already produced more qualified staffing leads in 24hrs than I have ever had on CR. So that's awesome. I have some resumes to go through. (Now I just need to lean on my guys to help me vet the good ones and weed out the fakers.)
I'm good with big picture planning but as I get stressed when things "seem stagnant" (I'm waiting for a job to get finished to move in to the next one.) I tend to go micro and get wrapped up in the details trying to catch flaws that could eventually take me down. Sometimes I end up on site just busting it out with the guys just to clear my head and do something I'm confident about, lol. But I know my role is to bring in business and keep everything moving in a orderly manner.
I think meeting with my guys to go over things I'd a great idea and a way that I can get better at what I do. Perhaps they can guide me on good interview questions etc. I usually print up resumes and we go through them together to decide who would be the best fit. (But alass nobody has lasted long).
I do use Google tasks, and calendar to do scheduling and have also tried to get the guys to use Keep to track scope of work, task completion, and supply needs. They aren't great at it but I'm not pushing too hard. It's a thin line between 1099 and employee and I'm very careful not to cross it by telling them 'how' to do the job.
I know of NextDoor, I'll check that out. Gotta get out there. Long one today. Cheers gang. Thanks again.
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Old 08-09-2019, 07:27 AM   #10
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Re: I'm A GC. NOW WHAT!?


Oh and as far as compensation I'm not positive I'm paying more than the next guy. I'm paying them double what I was making when I was running the show for a GC in the past (turned out to be a con man but that's another story). I have the guys both at $30/hr. Plus job bonuses of a few hundred dollars a month. This works to maintain a margin of 40%+ most of the time with my pricing. If I added a lead (neither of them are interested in more responsibility) I'm sure saving up 90days+ in the labor budget would be essential since it would take some time to see the return on the investment. Is it unrealistic for me to expect a lead to both manage the job site and work at the same time? That's basically what I do. Plus training, plus supply inventory and ordering. Well there's my flyer, "Join our team. Lead by example."
K, chat soon. Thx again.
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Old 08-09-2019, 07:40 AM   #11
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Re: I'm A GC. NOW WHAT!?


Quote:
Originally Posted by VADA View Post
CynLei and CAP thanks for your guidance! These are great replies and I'm already feeling "unstuck". I did take advantage of some free trial periods on some job sites and they have already produced more qualified staffing leads in 24hrs than I have ever had on CR. So that's awesome. I have some resumes to go through. (Now I just need to lean on my guys to help me vet the good ones and weed out the fakers.)
I'm good with big picture planning but as I get stressed when things "seem stagnant" (I'm waiting for a job to get finished to move in to the next one.) I tend to go micro and get wrapped up in the details trying to catch flaws that could eventually take me down. Sometimes I end up on site just busting it out with the guys just to clear my head and do something I'm confident about, lol. But I know my role is to bring in business and keep everything moving in a orderly manner.
I think meeting with my guys to go over things I'd a great idea and a way that I can get better at what I do. Perhaps they can guide me on good interview questions etc. I usually print up resumes and we go through them together to decide who would be the best fit. (But alass nobody has lasted long).
I do use Google tasks, and calendar to do scheduling and have also tried to get the guys to use Keep to track scope of work, task completion, and supply needs. They aren't great at it but I'm not pushing too hard. It's a thin line between 1099 and employee and I'm very careful not to cross it by telling them 'how' to do the job.
I know of NextDoor, I'll check that out. Gotta get out there. Long one today. Cheers gang. Thanks again.
It's really not a thin line between 1099 and employee at all.

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Old 08-09-2019, 11:38 AM   #12
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Re: I'm A GC. NOW WHAT!?


We don't compete for employees with each other as much as we compete against other industries. Why be a 1099er when you could get on an auto plant line with excellent pay, benefits, insurance, and retirement?

People aren't lazy or stupid. We're getting exactly what we're paying for.

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