Barry Kavanagh, of Camberford Construction shares his experiences of starting a business
The extension and loft conversion job I’ve been working on for the past couple of months has thrown up a fair number of new challenges.
In order to even get started on the extension, we’ve had to deal with some awkwardly placed manholes and drainage pipes. We’ve had to replace these manholes with new ones and then redirect the connecting drainage pipes.
This was made all the more difficult as we had to ensure that we didn’t cut off the neighbours’ pipes either side either side of the property!
It also meant obtaining a ‘build over’ agreement from Thames Water, which was unsurprisingly a bit of a nightmare.
This is definitely the biggest job I’ve done so far and getting it right could open up all kinds of new opportunities for my firm.
Like most Professional Builder readers, I’m always thinking about the next job. I feel like, a year and a half in, I’ve completed my imaginary ‘business owner apprenticeship’.
By all accounts, my experience of what it’s like starting your own firm is pretty typical in our industry – win a job here and there from people I already know;
Do a few projects at little more than cost to build up a good reputation; and eventually start taking things to the next step.
I’m now asking myself how I can win bigger jobs? How can I go about running multiple projects at once? How can I get an edge over the competition?
I’ve written before about how social media and internet listings can help and I was recently inspired to have a fresh look at my current website.
I’m now in the process of learning about how search engine optimisation (SEO) is vital for ranking well on Google.
But there are touches that you can learn either through experience or from those who’ve been there and done it before you.
The FMB has been offering a heavily discounted series of webinars to its members covering how effective marketing can make all the difference to your business.
Marketing is something that can get a bad rep in an industry where we all tend to focus on what we do on site. But if you want to grow, you have to do more than just deliver quality projects.
A lot of it is to do with little touches here and there that can win a potential job lead.
I’ve met plenty of builders who think it begins and ends with providing a competitive quote and showing you have the quality to do the job.
Obviously, those things are the building blocks. But, speaking for myself, had I really thought about developing a strategy regarding how to stand out from my competitors?
Was I making the most of the professional touches that can help you get noticed? Such as offering a warranty or written contract without being asked?
Once on site, was I sharing my phasing plans in a good way? Did my client really had a good grasp of what I was doing and when I was doing it? Was my approach to snagging saving as much time and money as possible?
A big thing was asking for clear feedback from the client at the end of a project. Every business has its strengths and weaknesses. The earlier you iron out those kinks, the stronger you’ll be for it.
So being thick skinned has definitely helped. You take on board what you hear from a client, work on it, and do better next time around. Onwards and upwards!
For further information on the Federation of Master Builder (FMB) click here.