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The Business of Building a ‘Building Business’ — Part 1

Sometimes, it pays to hire experts to help with bookkeeping, contracts, selling, marketing, and even estimating

Posted on Nov 22 2011 by Michael Strong, LEED Associate, CGP

On residential job sites, the polymath is virtually extinct. A variety of factors have conspired to make the jack-of-all-trades an endangered species, including greater competition, higher consumer expectations, increased technological sophistication in virtually every product category, tougher warranties, third-party inspections, more stringent codes and regulations, greater liability, and manufacturers’ requirements for training.

We go through great pains explaining to our clients the craftsmanship we offer with our in-house cabinetmakers or specialty trade contractor. We explain that we only use licensed electricians, plumbers, and HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Collectively, the mechanical systems that heat, ventilate, and cool a building. contractors who understand the green elements of their craft. We show them the level of precision our drywall and painting teams use in properly preparing a surface before the finish coat. We explain the different skill sets of the architect, engineer, and interior designer and make sure they understand we know when to partner with the right design professional.

In short, we explain that we hire and utilize only experts in their field.

Good is no longer good enough

I learned how to set forms and pour concrete, frame walls and cut roofs, install sheathingMaterial, usually plywood or oriented strand board (OSB), but sometimes wooden boards, installed on the exterior of wall studs, rafters, or roof trusses; siding or roofing installed on the sheathing—sometimes over strapping to create a rainscreen. , decking, felt paper and siding, lay shingles, pull wire, install insulation, kick carpet, lay tile, hang rock, build cabinets, paint and stain, lay sod, and punch out a house. Yet the skill level I attained in any one of these areas was “good” at best. And in today’s market, “good” ain’t good enough!

So we hire or train the very best expert craftsmen and women we can afford, either as employees or trade contractors. With their expertise we build a home better, faster, and ultimately less expensively. With green building and remodeling, these benefits are only magnified.

Meanwhile, back at the office...

So now that we have assembled our dream green team to design and build the home, why don’t we take that same level of appreciation for skilled specialization back to the office to build our business? Why do so may of us insist on our doing our own bookkeeping, web design, contract writing, selling, marketing and estimating all by ourselves? And how can we break the fear of bringing these experts in to give us a hand?

Well, we do it ourselves because some of us believe it is really not that hard to do anyway, or we think a given service is too expensive for the return we would get, or we simply can’t afford it. Of course there are a few that want the help, recognize the value, and can afford to make the hire — we just don’t know where to start!

Giving you those resources will be the topic of my next blog, so stay tuned.


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