I have been designing and building for 24 years. Integrated Design & Build firms are a different animal to the traditional Client + Architect + Builder scenario. They are more profitable, but they usually have a larger staff ratio, which can be a bit of a handful and a trap for ‘inexperienced’ players. Essentially the responsibility of a project, from start to finish, resides solely with one company alone – and the blame game does not come into play for clients. This is why reputable design build firms are much sought after.
Not everyone can design, yet most of us can, and the longer you have been in the industry, the better you get at it. There is real job satisfaction to be gained when you build your own designs. I recommend it highly.
It took me some time to get used to the in-house design and in-house build workflow, and there were many things that I needed to do to flourish and become profitable. When I look back and ask myself what the key ingredient to success was, I always come to the same conclusion: Communication.
Here are 10 steps that I took to make my design & build company more successful. After implementing these simple rules and improvements, I reduced waste by over 20% I am not just talking about leftover materials, I am talking about time by becoming efficiency. The end result was clearly displayed in profit margins.
The 10 Steps to success:
- Employ youth straight out of School as apprentices. Once they become qualified pay them what they are worth, and reward them when they do the right thing. Young brains can be trained to do things the way you like them, so spend the time needed to train them correctly. Start small, as the biggest killer for new companies is too much work. However, most think it is not enough work.
- Concentrate on communication with the client. We all know that out of every 10 people you meet, you are inevitably going to clash with one. That is life. Try and ‘pick and choose’ customers. If it feels bad, gracefully decline the job. Life is too short! It is easy to keep clients onboard when you explain what you are doing, and in a way they understand. Clients do not understand 2D drawings, but they do understand 3D. We were all born seeing the world in 3D, and we only learned 2D because that was the best way to communicate before the advent of modern technology (like 3d CAD software & iphones).
- Get with the times! Technology can be a distraction, so take my advice and delete LinkedIn, Facebook and twitter from your phone. These are social apps that the marketing people in your business should use. I am not saying that you shouldn’t use them, just use them at the right time and place, as they can be very distracting. You need to get the technology that works for your business, not the other way around. Checkout www.plusspec.com. PlusSpec was made for what we do – nothing else!
- Never employ friends or relatives, and try not to do their work either. Christmas will be so much more enjoyable. Believe me.
- Insist on quality. Good enough is not considered good in my book! If you would not have it in your house, do not put it in one of your clients. You will find that your clients will tell their friends when they are happy. I found that for every 1 happy client, they told 5 friends. Recommendation is the best way to get more work. It cuts down on marketing expenses, and more often than not, the client will not bother seeking another quote. People trust their friends, and what they can see firsthand.
- Make sure your office is close to home. An hour each way in traffic is 2 hours out of each day that you could be doing something productive (or dare I say relaxing?).
- Buy Cheap, buy twice! We have all been guilty of going to the local hardware and buying the $40 drill. If you will use it more than twice, then you should buy quality gear that is reliable. This is the same for every facet of your business, including computers, chairs and desks. If you only need it once, then rent it.
- Do not rent equipment. Buy everything that you need, as soon as you can afford it. If you are buying specialised machinery, you should charge it out to your clients at the same rate that you would pay to rent it.
- If it looks and sounds too good to be true it is! 95% of the time unbelievable deals are unbelievable. Trust your instinct, not the sales person. Their only job is to get your hard earned cash by selling you their goods. Unfortunately, integrity is becoming a thing of the past for many salespeople, which I find disappointing. Get used to negotiating better buy prices from the people that are trying hard to sell to you.
- The biggest advantage I gained was by using 3D modeling and PlusSpec. It sounds difficult yet it is not. I created PlusSpec, and as I developed it, I improved it with the profits I gained from the results. At first, I never told a soul; it was my secret, my advantage, and I kept it to myself. Now PlusSpec is in over 80 countries around the world. Yep word of mouth did the trick. These days, I really only design and build 1 or 2 homes per year, and the prerequisite for doing the job is that the project must be with 15 minutes from my home.
Take the time to work on your business, and not in it. Do this as soon as you can. Learn better things that will actually help you grow. Technology will boost your sales through communication, decrease your errors via clear plan interpretation, lower your design time, increase accuracy of your quotes for design, and quotes for build.
If you want to know more about PlusSpec, you can check it out here. I am very proud of the achievement, and the improvement it is making to businesses small and large. It is the pinnacle of design and construction technology to date. Yes, it is subscription based, yet the truth is you stay up to date with the latest technology, every minute of the day. And for less than $20 per week you will never look back! I guarantee it.
That is it from me, I look forward to hearing your stories of success.
Andrew is the founder and creator of RubySketch, BIMBits 3D model library, and PlusSpec. He has over 26 years experience as a Builder and has an Advanced Diploma in Architectural Technology.