Video Project: Rehabbing a Contemporary Landscape
During 35 years as a general contractor I’ve noticed that many of my fellow homebuilders are a bit paranoid. They tend to avoid competitors as if they were diseased. And unlike other professions, contractors can’t seem to resist an opportunity to bad mouth one another. That behavior is sad because being successful in construction is tough enough. A little collaboration could really help. It might help to learn that true professionals share their wisdom.
Why is the contracting world so insecure? Perhaps no one wants to look bad? Or do secretive contractors simply lack confidence?
In today’s world, the required knowledge base for competent general contractors is truly enormous. And it is evolving every day. Most of us, if we are honest, know there is no way we can keep up with all the information and the changes. We are all truly ignorant to some extent or another.
My advice to aspiring contractors out there: accept the fact that you don’t know everything and embrace it. Talk to others, share what you do know, and ask questions. You may be surprised to learn how open your fellow contractors become when you drop the shield for a bit and show some interest in their work. They are just like you. Some open dialog mixed with humility will often reveal a common love for our profession and a common struggle to succeed. Every one of us carries around tons of valuable (if incomplete) information, and a fortune in unique experiences we could share, and others could learn from. Thankfully for me there were other true professionals who were willing to share their wisdom.
Becoming a professional in anything is not solely about attaining some high knowledge level. It is also about understanding that learning is a continuous process… and loving that fact.
If you plan to be professional at general contracting, it will take time and be hard. Merely having a license does not mean you are a professional. The qualifications of the State are minimal. All you have to do is pass a test and prove you have the few years of experience. Being a real professional contractor takes a lot more than a license.
Becoming a professional contractor means going way beyond the requirements for a license. Real professionals in any field only achieve their status through a commitment to their work. The commitment comes from a fascination with what they do, and an unending desire to do it better. That means years and years of asking questions, of taking instruction, of hands-on practice and experience, and of many mistakes and bruises to the ego along the way.
Books and training courses can’t begin to reveal everything that’s needed either. Only talking to others who have been there and who are likewise infected with similar passions and desires can help you get to where you want to be. Other professionals can remind you that you are not alone or crazy and that yes, you can do it.
Both giving and receiving. Unfortunately, mentorship is not a part of the General Contractor License requirements. We have to get mentors on our own. If you don’t have one, get one. Seek out a real pro that you admire and ask him or her if you can learn from them. If you are a pro, offer to talk and share with others.
All the pros I hang with freely share their experiences, techniques and business practices. I have an informal group that I have breakfast with every Tuesday and it helps all of us get better at everything. Mentoring and sharing information is one reason I do this website? True professionals share their wisdom in order to advance the profession.
It is silly to worry that competitors might threaten if you share your wisdom. Knowing someone else’s gifts and techniques won’t reproduce their results. If I gave you Louis Armstrong’s coronet, would you be able to reproduce his sound? The fact is that success is not about what you do, it is about how you do it.
We all benefit by sharing. Trying to keep secrets is off-putting to friends and cheats you out of learning even more. Secrets in the contracting world won’t give you any significant competitive advantage, and you’re not likely to be competing against your friends anyway. I am at a point with my friends that we refer jobs back and forth and even share employees if one of us is busy or needs help.
Here’s the reality. There are 62,000 small contractors (less than 19 employees) active in the state of California. That sounds like a lot till you realize there are 13.5 million homes to serve. That means there are about 198 homes available for every contractor in the state. That’s plenty of work for everyone.
Be a pro, start sharing! And begin enjoying what you do more too!