Contractor Talk - Professional Construction and Remodeling Forum banner
1 - 20 of 23 Posts

·
Working
Joined
·
4,127 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys what do you guys think is it better to specialize in one aspect of construction or be the guys that do everything?

The reason I ask is I have been on my own for a bout 2 years now. Most of my work is old homes windows and doors. Either replacing them with new or making the old stuff work like it should. We even reglaze windows on a regular basis. This year alone we had 12 houses on the national historic society that we did work on. Not to mention all the other house that are just old. Is this something I should market towards and promote? or should I do the everything guy even though I sub some other stuff out. Our number two thing is plaster repair on the same old buildings/houses.

Just a young company looking for some insite.:jester:

Cole
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
154 Posts
In my opinion its better to specialize if you can. I'm not able to right now and I feel beat to hell from hopping from one trade to another. One of these days I'll be able to stick to a clipboard. Cant wait for that day.
 

·
Grand Rapids Remodeling
Joined
·
3,115 Posts
I've seen both methods and I still don't know exactly what to say, like everything else I think it's a trade off. If you specialize you get a system, get fast at your specialty and build a rep. in your specialty.... but if nobody wants (lets say a bathroom done) in the month of Dec. then you get to catch up on Oprah. :no: My strategy is to be a general in the beginning years, get the part business down, grow, build a rep., and slowly specialize in a profitable area. Nowadays just to work is a blessing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
16,403 Posts
I used to be an electrcian for 5 years then a plumber for over 5 years and then i started on my own doing a bit of both and used what i had taught my self to start a buisness. I couldnt stick to the one trade anymore. Like the saying goes "variety is the spice of life" I used to get bored with getting up and it feeling like groundhog day and having to do the same old S**t day in day out, but now i love getting up and doing my job as im excited about trying something different that i have never tried before. Tiling does get super boring though :yawn:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
497 Posts
Specialize?

Cole,
You've asked a great question. Some of the reasons to specialize have already been mentioned like tools, speed, systems, repetition, and more. As you dig a little deeper there's even a bigger reason.. marketing.

Fifteen years ago I hired a new advertising agency. At the first meeting the guru told me he can make us #1 in top of mind awareness if I just tell him what product we wanted to specialize in.

At the time, we did siding, windows, gutters, shutters, and all the normal home improvement lines. But one thing we excelled at was sunrooms. We had a great supplier (still do), experienced installers, and we love the business. Naturally I picked sun rooms. It was a good choice because today 95% of our business is related to rooms.

The point is, you can't be number one in everything.

If you want top of mind awareness... specialize. (If you want more information, there are lots of studies about TOMA as a marketing tool.)

Looks like you've already started down a path of specializing in historic windows. That may be a narrow field, but with your plaster repair too, you could just specialize in Historic Renovation. If there's a receptive market, you can make money, and you love the business, go for it.

Good Luck!
 

·
Average Joe
Joined
·
1,209 Posts
"Blue ocean" specialize VS "Red ocean" specialize

That's what I think it comes down to.

For example:

-You specialize as a framer, plumber, electrician, etc. and you're still in the red.

-You specialize in a unique product or service, you're in the blue.

Your market demographic shrinks (gross), but so does your competition.

I.E.= 1 framing company competing with 500 other equally qualified competitors in a market that represents 10, 000 demographic members. You're very roughly looking at a demographic of 20.

VS

1 company specializing in Cupolas, competing with 2 other equally qualified competitors in a demographic market of 300 members. Very roughly= 100.

That's 5x the demographic output. 5x the # of jobs. So even if scenario 1 profits the owner by 4k and scenario 2 profits the owner by 1k, you're still ahead (overhead being the same).

From a strictly business/financial perspective, you have to evaluate the numbers. If you do find a "blue ocean" specialization that works, then you're GOLDEN in every sense. Just think about advertising savings, recognition.

Pay per click on "General Contractor" might run you $8/click (in my area). "Cupola" might be 25 cents. Add the fact that your competition is almost non-existent in such a rare specialization. (I'm just using an example).

There are other perks (like the ones mentioned above) that jump out more prominently, but consider a rare/unique service for the extra "tweak".

Just some thoughts :thumbsup:
 

·
Scooter
Joined
·
304 Posts
"Blue ocean" specialize VS "Red ocean" specialize

That's what I think it comes down to.

For example:

-You specialize as a framer, plumber, electrician, etc. and you're still in the red.

-You specialize in a unique product or service, you're in the blue.

Your market demographic shrinks (gross), but so does your competition.

I.E.= 1 framing company competing with 500 other equally qualified competitors in a market that represents 10, 000 demographic members. You're very roughly looking at a demographic of 20.

VS

1 company specializing in Cupolas, competing with 2 other equally qualified competitors in a demographic market of 300 members. Very roughly= 100.

That's 5x the demographic output. 5x the # of jobs. So even if scenario 1 profits the owner by 4k and scenario 2 profits the owner by 1k, you're still ahead (overhead being the same).

From a strictly business/financial perspective, you have to evaluate the numbers. If you do find a "blue ocean" specialization that works, then you're GOLDEN in every sense. Just think about advertising savings, recognition.

Pay per click on "General Contractor" might run you $8/click (in my area). "Cupola" might be 25 cents. Add the fact that your competition is almost non-existent in such a rare specialization. (I'm just using an example).

There are other perks (like the ones mentioned above) that jump out more prominently, but consider a rare/unique service for the extra "tweak".

Just some thoughts :thumbsup:

Right on the money Heritage!

We went "specialized" this year and enjoyed tremendous growth.

All of our advertising is targeted to what our specialty is, however we have "established customers" and "reffered customers" that we will still step out of our specialty for. After all, it is kinda hard to say no when someone is wanting to hand you money.

Eventually I would like to think that we will stay within our specialty, but for now I'm not closing those doors yet.
 

·
General Contractor
Joined
·
3,444 Posts
One thing to keep in mind if you specialize in a unique enough offering is that you will probably be targeting a high end market. Something often over looked in high end work is that "price" is not the same budget consideration it is in lower income households. To people with money, "price" is simply just a number.
 

·
Sawdust Sweeper
Joined
·
690 Posts
I have been wondering the same thing... so thanks for the thread Cole. I have been in business for about a year now, doing everything from tile to finish carpentry to siding. More recently I have been doing alot of decks, window and door installs, primarily exterior carpentry. I am starting to think about specializing in exterior carpentry... At this point though "beggars can't be choosers" so I bid on what comes down the pike.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
967 Posts
One thing to keep in mind if you specialize in a unique enough offering is that you will probably be targeting a high end market. Something often over looked in high end work is that "price" is not the same budget consideration it is in lower income households. To people with money, "price" is simply just a number.
It is important not to think about money in the context of your world, because it can and will mean something totally different to your clients.
Specialize in contracting, running the projects.
I like to think that in design/build, the design part is putting together all the pieces of the puzzle, customer,architect, designer, subcontractors, schedule and customer experience.
If you specialize in putting the specialists together you will be able to tackle any opportunity that may come your way.
 

·
DavidC
Joined
·
2,550 Posts
Good topic with a lot of good responses. We do general remodeling which covers nearly all of the trades. My thought is more of an echo but, if you work alone or with a small crew the variety keeps it interesting. The trouble is you have to tool up for everything and you won't be as proficient on a given task as the guy that specializes.

Heritage summed up the marketing aspect pretty well. If you specialize you need to become the go to guy, or expert in your area to stay busy. If you can accomplish that I don't think you will have too much trouble keeping in work any more than the rest of the market. It may actually be a plus in slower times.

Our current plan is to put most of our marketing into a specific task offering to develop a specialty. We have the advantage of a long history with a good reputation and will not turn down any referrals or repeats as they develop. Most of our work continues to be very general but I am hoping to capture that spot as the go to guy in one product.

Good Luck
Dave
 

·
General Contractor
Joined
·
3,444 Posts
HERE is an interesting semi-speciality line. (ChrWright originally posted this)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,181 Posts
I have a question. We do roofing, siding, gutters, windows, soffit, fascia - you know pretty much all the stuff on the outside of your home. The reason we do this is because we want people to have to work with as few contractors as they have to. A lot of people dont want a different guy doing the roof, then have to find one to put in windows then redo the siding. Our trucks have Roofing, Siding, Windows and Gutters written on the side of them. Do you think it would be smart to just say We do roofing and if it gets brought up to inform the homeowner we can also take care of those others things? I mean roofing already is 3/4th of the business pretty much.

We have been sort of tossing this idea around this past year. Just wondering what you guys think?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
38 Posts
Advertising that you speacialize in something can always turns into doing everything else if you want it to. But if you advertise that you do everything, then it is hard to then say OH and I speacialize in such and such. It all boils down to personal opinions on what you want to do. I really can't see which one is better. Good luck on which ever you choose (I'm a everything kinda person).
 

·
Registered
Design/Build Remodeling
Joined
·
6,590 Posts
I'm stunned!:eek: I would think GC's would be in here fighting it out. :boxing: As a GC that does Kitchens, baths, additions, decks, cabinets, basements, whole house... I'll start it off.

While I see some of the benefits of specializing, and at times I wish we had - there are also benefits to doing it all.

Using Heritage's example:

How many Kitchens, baths, basements, additions... (sum total) are there compared to cupolas?

An $80,000 kitchen that cost me $8 for the PPC isn't too bad. Two years later the same customer wants a $75,000 master suite done. The return on my $8 PPC is looking pretty good! Three years later... :clap:

That customer only has one cupola! Your return isn't getting any better.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,102 Posts
Here's another approach -

Pretty much all my work is referal. Why? Because I provide my clients with quality work, whatever it is. I will bring in quality, licensed trades to do whatever they need done.

I typically work time and materials, I show them all the costs, including my P&O, which is a fair amount.

In 40yrs, I have never been out of work, and in these harsh times, I am currenty booked until next September.

My point is this - be fair, not greedy, look after your clients best interests, you will make a decent living, and never have to advertise or compete with the masses. And with T&M you will never loose money.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
11,969 Posts
Some are not cut out to do a variety of things. So only the OP is aware of his capabilities.

It all comes down to the business skills of each individual contractor when making a decision like this. Although my trade focus is residential electric, I slowly branched out to smaller GC jobs but ONLY after I spent several years interacting with other tradespeople on the jobs. In time you can sort out the good guys from the bad.

IMHO, you need to develop relationships with guys in other trades (including your own) in order confidently use them on a job you are ultimately responsible for. Just "subbing it out" doesnt work. You need to know the quality of their work, their background and insurance details, and be able to work things out with them if something comes up. You can really only tell that if you have dealt with them for awhile.

If the OP has the skills to realistically schedule a job, can solve problems on the fly, knows the order of trades, can multitask, can trust the skills and integrity of any subs he has in mind (and uses them), has basic accounting skills, people skills, etc. then I think he has the makings of a GC.

Only he really knows the answer to this.

Edit-sorry I did have a point-just forgot to summarize it. What worked for me was to specialize first, and take a good look around.
 

·
Working
Joined
·
4,127 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
Some are not cut out to do a variety of things. So only the OP is aware of his capabilities.

It all comes down to the business skills of each individual contractor when making a decision like this. Although my trade focus is residential electric, I slowly branched out to smaller GC jobs but ONLY after I spent several years interacting with other tradespeople on the jobs. In time you can sort out the good guys from the bad.

IMHO, you need to develop relationships with guys in other trades (including your own) in order confidently use them on a job you are ultimately responsible for. Just "subbing it out" doesnt work. You need to know the quality of their work, their background and insurance details, and be able to work things out with them if something comes up. You can really only tell that if you have dealt with them for awhile.

If the OP has the skills to realistically schedule a job, can solve problems on the fly, knows the order of trades, can multitask, can trust the skills and integrity of any subs he has in mind (and uses them), has basic accounting skills, people skills, etc. then I think he has the makings of a GC.

Only he really knows the answer to this.

Edit-sorry I did have a point-just forgot to summarize it. What worked for me was to specialize first, and take a good look around.
:thumbsup: I have been using the same subs for 10 years. I was in the family GC biz so I know most of the people in the area that are in the trades.

I bid and ran a crew for my Dad's biz for the last 4 years the only thing that really changed in now I am an acountant and owner that has to make choices for the betterment of the company.
 
1 - 20 of 23 Posts
Top