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Why I share what I know

True professionals share their wisdom

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.

So why is the contracting world so insecure? Could it be no one wants to look bad? Or are contractors who are secretive and who refuse to collaborate or share techniques simply lacking confidence?

In today’s world, the required knowledge base for competent general contractors is truly enormous. Most of us, if we are honest, know there is no way we can keep up with all the changes… so we are ignorant to some extent or another. I suspect that for some it’s better to be silent than be found out that they don’t know everything. If so, aloof contractors could be some of the least skilled and experienced of the lot.

I say to all contractors out there, accept the fact that you don’t know everything and embrace it. There is no ultimate knowledge level in this business. We are all ignorant to some extent or another because there are always new things to learn. Becoming a professional is not attaining some high knowledge level, it is understanding that learning is a continuous process… and accepting that fact.

If you plan to be pro at general contracting, it will take time and be hard. Anyone can get a contractor’s license. The qualifications are minimal. All you have to do is pass a test and prove you have the few years of experience required by the State. But 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. 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 you can do it.

Professionalism requires mentorship. 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?

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, and there are 13.5 million homes. 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!


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