Want to Start a General Contracting Business? 7 Essential Questions to Ask

“Starting a business” checklists are virtually everywhere if you’re opening a biz, like general contracting. But it takes more than the basics, like a license or insurance, to launch and grow a profitable company. Ask yourself these 7 essential questions:

1. Do I have a system to provide accurate estimates?

You may already understand your sales presentation needs to be polished, but it’s just as important to learn proper estimation. Bad estimates increase costs and lead to more callbacks, which can result in negative online reviews and ratings.

Develop a system, like a checklist, that includes all the must-haves for giving accurate estimates, including measurements, materials, timelines, and site-specific considerations.

2. Do I have a good accountant?

Even if you’re using software to manage books or file taxes, it’s often worth the money to invest in an experienced business accountant. The right pro will help you keep as much of your earnings in your pocket as possible while staying compliant with federal, state, and local codes.  

Look for an accountant able to share guidance on issues specific to new contracting businesses, like startup costs or the potential tax advantage of equipment purchases, like the RB2000 portable dumpster or the CR8000 mobile crane.

3. Do I fully understand my tax obligations?

From estimated quarterly to payroll taxes, misunderstanding your obligations can lead to a “surprise” bill come tax time. Plus, mistakes serve as red flags that can spark an audit.

Find out how much gross profit you should set aside for your specific obligations--this is a situation where an experienced accountant can give you very valuable advice!

4. Do I understand how to manage cash flow?

Cash is king AND queen for small businesses. One of the biggest triggers for small biz failure is lack of cash flow, so it’s a must to get a handle on what you have on hand--don’t wait until you’re struggling. Learn more in SCORE’s Most Common Causes of Cash Flow Challenges (and what to do about them).

5. Do I have a plan for the slow season?

Will you supplement your contracting business with additional services that aren’t bound to a particular season? Or will you change marketing tactics to generate more of your core business? Or will you have enough cash to see you through a seasonal slump?

They’re not always easy questions to answer, but knowing the options and developing a plan will help you weather any season.

6. Do I have a plan to create an exceptional client experience?

Sure, the homeowner wants to renovate a kitchen or install a custom gazebo. But, more than that, they want the end result without the mess, stress, and hassle projects often bring.

Ultimately, solving your customers’ problems translates into providing quality work AND superior service. It’s a magical combination that helps you generate positive online reviews as well as word-of-mouth momentum.

7. Do I have a system for getting client reviews?

About 97% of consumers scope out reviews before using a local business, according to BrightLocal. What’s more, the study revealed that consumers are hesitant to purchase from businesses with no reviews. That means it’s worth your time to make earning reviews an early focus for your new business.

Here’s another reason to make this a priority: good reviews, particularly on Google, also contribute to higher search engine rankings.

Create a system that makes asking for reviews seamless, whether you print the request on final project checklists provided to homeowners or send an automated email after the job’s completed.