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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

I am currently in the Army and am close to discharge. I have decided to enter the residential construction field but am conflicted about which path to choose. My overall goal is to become my own boss and run a residential home building company. I am planning on building a wide variety of homes, with an emphasis on energy efficient homes. (I don't like the term "GREEN" because it tends to be a misnomer) I have listed my strengths and weakness (IMO)

Strengths:

VERY QUICK LEARNER and "SMART"-I don't mean to brag, just posting scores to reinforced my opinion: 98 ASVAB with 136 GT and all other line scores above 140 (Army testing), 29 ACT with 32 in Math portion.

POSESS COMMON SENSE - A lot of "smart" people I know have no common sense, I have been known by peers and leaders to posess this virtue.

I am a "What can I do for you" person - I think it's a stength, because I think that working as a contractor involves pleasing your customers.

EFFICIENT WORKER - I am a hard worker who always tries to figure out ways to do things better and faster, thus efficient and not just hard.

LEADER/MANAGER - I have no problem telling people what to do and am very straightfoward as demonstrated by my being placed in charge of other soldiers for roughly 3 years.

BIG PICTURE GUY: I have the ability to look beyond the current situation and handle multiple tasks without losing sight of the end state

Weaknesses:

INEXPERIENCED: Although I have done some remodeling ie demo, drywall, framing, painting, siding, I consider myself a novice DIYer.

Not a DETAIL person: I am a jack of all trades guy, I can do everything yet I preferto leave all the intricate work requiring fine motor skills (I am far from clumsy, but sometimes my fingers are not able to do what my mind wants them to do) to the experts in their trade.

I am planning on creating my business immediately after completing school. With no kids and a spouse making decent money and helpful parents, finances will not be a big factor in starting up my business. I am not planning on working for anybody, and with the market the way it is, I probably wouldn't find a residential construction firm willing to hire a GC with no experience anyways.

Now the Question: Should I get my 4 yr Degree in CM or complete a trade apprenticeship (carpentry, electrical, plumbing)? If suggesting the Apprenticeship route, which trade will be most helpful?

Arguments for the 4 year program:

I already have college credits. It will only take me 2.5 years to complete the degree, whereas the apprenticeship will take at least 4 years.

The 4 year CM program DOES have students building a home (to include all planning phases) every year as part of the curriculum, so I will at least get some hands on work. I am also going to get as much part time work as I can get.

I will be able to advertise my 4 year degree to attract higher end customers. That piece of paper seems to mean a lot to professional type customers. It gives them the impression that you are "educated" like them.

Arguments for Apprenticeship:

I get real world experience by going to work everyday. I know experience is the most important thing most people look for.

I get to network. It is not what you know, but who you know.

I learn a trade which I can use. I can do part of the actual build myself, thus saving money by not having to hire a sub.

Please provide me with your comments
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Sounds like you pretty much already covered the pros and cons of both approaches. :whistling
Thanks. I guess what I would really like is input and opinions on which route I should take from actual contractors who do this for a living and deal with customers.
 

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Well, I got a degree in psychology and started working construction when I was going to college.

Guess which one taught me more about construction. :laughing:

Don't get me wrong, a well rounded education is important no matter what you do. You have to have good communication and people skills cause you always have to deal with people, unless you want to be a monk or something.
 

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My suggestion is to work for the best contractor you can for awhile, I have known a few people that thought they could just pick up a rape and hammer and call themselves a contractor, they bomb within the first year. There is much to learn and on hands experience is best. A buddy of mine chose to attend a school for construction, he got a piece of paper stating he knew what he was doing and went our on his own, he charged what the good contractors charged because he had a piece of paper that said he knew what he was doing. He is now out of business and feels he wasted all that money. Take your time and do it right, learn all you can from someone that know the rights from wrongs and the ins and ours
 

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I did both. Construction Management and Apprenticeship. In the end, the apprenticeship taught me what I really needed to know.

The college part of it can teach you different systems to run a project more efficiently and professionally. However, your day to day experience in the field will dictate how fast you advance.

If you want to get into the management part of things sooner (superintendent, project leader or project manager), the college experience will most likely help with that.

You really cant go wrong either way. It's good to see someone like your self wanting to get into the trades. Good luck, keep us posted and thank you for your service to our country!
 

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The devil is in the details your weakness. Become detail minded about every thing. Start time, Fit and finish, Job site cleanliness, Take a leaf from your current employer.
 

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While there is some pride in being your own boss, it may not bring all the glory you'd expect.


You need knowledge and ability, not a piece of paper. While school may teach you many things, you dont need school to learn them... there are other avenues. Use any resource that can help you.


I have education in business management, construction management, and estimating. I can say that i learned a lot and most of the classes were beneficial, but most of that official education cant replace what i learned in the field.


My advice: both, but focus on the field.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
thanks all, us younger guys tend to think we know it all, but I know the perspective and knowledge you have provided me is worth more than any "awesome" idea i have. I don't plan to make tons of money doing this, I just want a stimulating career which challenges me everyday.

@sunkist, I have learned a great deal about attention to detail in the Army, i meant to say i do not have the greatest dexterity to do detail work (my hands shake wicked sometimes). I do want to thank you for emphasizing the importance of paying attention to detail, I feel it is what seperates the good GC's from the great ones, the latter of which I plan to be.
 

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I would suggest the degree program at a school with a good CM program, and work for a custom home builder part time. Find a good builder who is willing to share, teach, and mentor to you. If available, join a local home builders association and use their resources as well as NAHB. Desire, smarts, and hard work go a long way. When I started my building company in 1974 (age 23) I was determined to become a home builder, nothing was going to stop me. As soon as you can, find someone who will let you build their house or work as project manager. If you have to cut them a deal so you can get the experience.

Where are you or where will you be located?

Allan
 

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In high school I took the 2 year carpentry program. I then got associates in residential contruction. After completion I went on to get a degree in architecual design. Then I went out into the real world with my tool belt snugged tight ready to concour all. Learned more first year out then I did in all 6 years of school training. Dont get me wrong I dont regret all that schooling, looks very good on paper. But if your ultimate goal is to be self employed then I would sugest working for a great contractor for 5 years or so. maybe while taking a few business management courses at night.
Good luck to you!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I would suggest the degree program at a school with a good CM program, and work for a custom home builder part time. Find a good builder who is willing to share, teach, and mentor to you. If available, join a local home builders association and use their resources as well as NAHB. Desire, smarts, and hard work go a long way. When I started my building company in 1974 (age 23) I was determined to become a home builder, nothing was going to stop me. As soon as you can, find someone who will let you build their house or work as project manager. If you have to cut them a deal so you can get the experience.

Where are you or where will you be located?

Allan
I currently am stationed in Oklahoma. It's a toss up between Texas and Wisconsin as to where I will end up. Being that I don't really much about Texas, I am leaning towards residing in SW WI/Madison WI area. I am going to attend UW-Platteville for their CM program, mostly because the program incorporates a hands on project every year where students are involved in every aspect of a home build, from design to completion. My older brother (M.D.) has agreed to let me build a home for him when I complete my studies and am confident in my abilities. I know it will be a headache at times building for family, but he is willing to put my name out to his network.
I can see how working under an experienced builder can benefit me, and am probably going to go that route. Being as I have little experience, how would I best advertise myself to a established home builder? What would best persuade someone to take me on as an "apprentice" GC?
 

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Being as I have little experience, how would I best advertise myself to a established home builder? What would best persuade someone to take me on as an "apprentice" GC?
There are some really good new home markets in Texas, all the large cities are doing well. And for a CM Texas A&M is one of the best. As far as advertising to a builder, I think it might be as simple as just asking several builders and telling them your story. I suspect many would be willing to help someone wanting to break into the business.

Allan
 

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If you want to work for a builder---the best way is face to face----show up on the job site early in the morning----with work boots on and a tool belt in the truck---

Ask for a few minutes time-------the foreman will introduce you to the builder if it's a big outfit---
 
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