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Whatever your role in the construction process, ensuring customer satisfaction during the weeks and months required to complete a typical project is a tall order. It helps to go over the warranty standards before you do the work, instead of after you get claim.
There’s only a handful of books aimed at the business of building. Of those, only three talk turkey to remodelers and small homebuilders, and none were written recently. So it’s about time for an update, and 'The Elements of Building: A Business Handbook for Residential Builders and Tradesmen' fills the void.
If the “Not So Big House,” “Pocket Neighborhoods,” “Katrina Cottages,” or “Live-Work Units,” have become part of your lexicon, you can thank Irina Woelfle for bringing these ideas to your attention. We discuss emerging trends with our industries most successful promoter.
Have you and your business gotten out of sync with a slowly evolving business environment? You may not even notice it, but your once sound business strategy may breakdown if you don’t adopt to social and technological changes.
Don’t sweat success, find your sweet spot and coast through the next recession without so much stress. A builder explains why he found happiness in a no-growth business model.
Tracking your trucks, tools and job site has becomes a lot easier and less expensive. Here’s a primer on the technology available for monitoring what matters without wasting your money.
I spoke with Steve Mouzon, author of The Original Green, and now, New Media for Designers and Builders to ask him, “What’s different about the new builder’s business plan from the building business as usual?” His answer will surprise you.
Like it or not, vinyl siding is an environmental option.
You may not want to jump straight into a partnership any more than you would jump into a marriage without a period of engagement. A Letter of Intent can function as a kind of business “engagement” before a formal marriage.
How a Memorandum of Understanding can provide a useful tool when you need to bridge the distance between good intentions and formal legal relationships.
An update from the author of the anonymous blog, “How I Wrecked My Business, Screwed My Friends, and Almost Destroyed My Marriage.” Hint: He’s a green-building entrepreneur again, and successful.
To become a competent general contractor, it helps to know a little about a lot.
Mike Roberts lost a fortune, and almost took his own life. But he made it back, and his experience provides useful business and life lessons for us all.
The confidence to start or expand a business comes from the hope for success, but if you’re smart, a thorough knowledge of the anatomy of failure is indispensable.
The martial art of learning from and leveraging customer complaints for constant improvement.
To induce my employees and subcontractors to remain on the lookout for cost savings, I offer to split the money.
Keeping accurate job site field logs can become a fulltime job, but technology makes it easy.
Beyond three hats, I have always separated my workspace into three administrative centers, each with its own files and a separate desk.
Here are a few key things to know about the new world or mortgage lending.
Developing methods to collect accurate data on your company’s construction costs will improve your bids as well as your operations.
An ingenious app that makes it easy to share plans, markups, photos, and reports electronically with the entire project team on tablets and smartphones.
Job-site communication styles don’t readily translate to the office environment. I almost lost my job learning this important fact of life.
Here are the top ten things you can do to build on a budget.
By putting installation information at your fingertips, the new app by Construction Instruction helps you get the job done right the first time.
A briefcase is nothing more than a leather toolbox for your business gear. Here’s my take on the top five tools that belong in that bag.
Find an uncontested area of the market to ply your business and you’ll have smooth sailing toward success.
For home security, the low-hanging fruit may be in your smartphone.
Exploiting social media for marketing, while adapting best home-building practices to the digital world, the next generation’s business strategies may teach us old dogs a few new tricks.
Strategic thinking is essential to success in any highly competitive activity, and the building business qualifies as one. This, the second in our three-part series on strategy, focuses on learning the contours of the real-estate marketplace, the builder's battlefield.
Profiles of building enterprises that provide valuable insights. Unique business strategies that work for them, and may work for you.
What makes the move from tradesman to entrepreneur so difficult? To start, the tradesman focuses almost entirely on tactics—the means and methods of good craft and honest work—while the entrepreneur focuses on a strategy, an ambitious vision to fulfill in the future. Which one are you?
Nowadays, builder software offers far more than estimating and accounting. We take a close look at what’s available and discuss how you can determine what office automation products provide the best fit for you.
Project management is the skill set at the heart of any contracting business, and technology brings powerful tools to help you to do it better. As we continue looking into computing power tools for job-site management, we'll focus this time on InLoox for Outlook.
We asked homebuilders about their New Year’s resolutions. Here's a sampling of what we got. Please add yours in the comments!
Xactimate and XactRemodel are perhaps the most accurate and speedy estimating systems available—but they come at a price.
We all give them, but you can get them, too. This series is a response to one reader’s search for more-affordable estimating systems. I'll start with as affordable as it gets: free
To lead a diverse team, learn the silent language of culture. And then mine the riches discovered in the differences for a more productive and personally enriching day at work.
It’s the hardest thing you'll ever do as an employer--so hard, in fact, that some firms hire it out. But you can't, and shouldn't, so from time to time you'll have to say those two devastating words: “You're fired.” Still, you can break off with kindness and with a touch of class.
Every position in your company, including yours, should come with a written job description. What basic elements should a job description contain? Here, you'll find a quick guide to help you create clear, concise descriptions for your employees.
Faced with a shortage of qualified workers, contractors suddenly have to confront hiring decisions. In case you've forgot how, here’s a primer on handling the good hire.
Anyone making weekly payroll knows the meaning of stress. Avoiding white-knuckle Fridays while still motivating your employees requires creative, nonmonetary incentives. Here are a few tricks for keeping the troops happy without a raise.
Building or remodeling a home can stress couples to the breaking point. On a scale of 1 to 10, with the highest number equating to the death of a child, psychologists place remodeling at about 6 in terms of relationship stress.
The most basic element in good customer service involves frequent and fluent communication. But this simple chore eludes many in the construction industry and represents the number-one customer complaint. How do you handle communication?
You're a good customer, using the same subs job after job, yet your costs keep skyrocketing and you can barely keep up. Just hiring the same guys time and again isn’t enough. Building mutually beneficial alliances requires the most difficult but ultimately most rewarding type of negotiation: the collaborative approach.
I recently attended my first American Institute of Architects Conference, held this year in my home port of Denver, Colorado. It was a pleasure to see things I’d never seen before.
In real estate and construction, you will engage in every sort of negotiation, from win-win to the most disheartening losses. By learning the techniques and tactics of professional negotiators, you will see through the fog of war, understand the gambits being played to focus on achieving desirable results.
The negotiator's playbook includes a handful of tactics and a few dirty tricks.
Living in Tornado Alley without a storm shelter is a bit like barreling down the freeway without fastening your seat belt. Never mind the house--what about you and your family?
In the end, the hard-won soft skills are more solid assets than the technical skills that got you started in business
Meek’s Lumber & Hardware does not have some of the advantages of a national chain, but it competes by providing what a megaenterprise cannot: heart, and lower prices. This small lumberyard chain has set up a responsive, contractor-focused alliance with its customers to build up sales through the success of their contractors.
Builder and business owner Sergio Grado recommends his go-to desktop, tablet, and smart-phone apps for finance, construction, and more
The market view from The Home Depot’s national perspective and how the chain has changed to serve its contractor clients better. Plus, an introduction to The Home Depot’s free online estimating program and aerial job-site maps—you’ll never get up on a roof to measure it again.
Tedd Benson, one of the most celebrated homebuilders in America, has been a leader in reintroducing the art of timber framing, and has continued to develop it using modern technology to create structures of lasting beauty and high efficiency. He also built a successful business, stalwart enough to sail through the Great Recession and expand. I recently had the opportunity talk with Tedd Benson and learn about his background, his business, and his plans for the future.
Building information modeling (BIM) is the next evolution of CAD, involving the five-dimensional generation and management of digital plans. This post, written by my colleague Kristin Dispenza, introduces a new product specifically for small firms.
In this second half of a two-part social-media primer, I'll discuss using LinkedIn, a professional’s platform that can help you stay abreast of industry trends, build credibility, and engage in business-to-business dialog with prospective clients.
Get started with social media even if you’re not interested. It’s free and easy to learn, and it offers the best guerrilla-marketing opportunity in history. Here’s a builders' primer, the first of two installments.
New contributor Sergio Grado provides accessible and practical advice on how to keep growing your knowledge base even when you have no time to spend on furthering your education.
Mike Walker lived the rise and fall of the real-estate market as a broker and developer, but really learned his trade on the way down. Nowadays, Walker teaches effective negotiation strategies and skills in 14 cities, and almost as many states. He talks about how he learned so much about negotiating and what he believes are the negotiator’s top three strategies.
Building a business by empowering homeowners, ArmchairBuilder.com provides DIY support online, internationally and for free. How does entrepreneur Michael Luckado make money?
The manager focuses on doing things right; the executive focuses on the right thing to do. The manager asks how and when; the executive asks what and why.
Head for the equator: Continuing to explore promising building business niches, here’s the last profile illustrating how good fortune sometimes comes through relocating. In this case, it’s the story of a southbound immigration: A successful Midwestern developer dodged the recession and found continued growth and prosperity in Ecuador.
Continuing to explore promising building business strategies, here’s a third profile illustrating how good fortune sometimes comes through relocating. In this case, it’s a story that has played out millions of times in the United States, and one at the core our democracy, since most of us are or descend from someone who came to America for a better life.
Continuing with our exploration of construction-business niches, here’s the second of two profiles illustrating how some builders find good fortune by relocating. Determined to survive the downturn, this Montana developer discovered black gold in a mobile-home park.
We have talked about strategies to develop a business niche that works in today’s challenging environment. But there’s another strategy, and that’s to go the business climate is sunny.
The transition from single family to small multifamily builder presents fewer challenges than from homebuilder to remodeler. You use the same designers, the same subs, and even the same mindset. Now that the multifamily market is booming, perhaps there's an opportunity for you.
With the reshuffling of the construction industry, some contractors have become subs, some bosses have cinched on the tool belt, others moved into other industries, but some builders have found productive niches and stuck with them though think and thin. The next few posts will explore alternatives to the, we’ll do anything that requires a hammer approach and “no job too big or small.”
With a practice focused on real-estate, business, and bankruptcy law, attorney Nancy Loftis has counseled clients big and small through boom and bust cycles since 1982. She has seen success and failure firsthand, and observed what works and does not. Part 2 of our conversation: Consulting services, road hazards, and the definition of success during times of famine.
With a practice focused on real-estate, business, and bankruptcy law, attorney Nancy Loftis has counseled clients big and small through boom and bust cycles since 1982. She has seen success and failure firsthand, and observed what works and does not. Her honest, disinterested take on what it takes to make it in construction and real-estate might provide us a refreshingly realistic look at the ingredients of success.
You can build name recognition, credibility and a customer following using your local paper, television and radio to tell your story effectively and for free.
To create an effective marketing scheme and know it’s working, you have to aim for specific results, the specific number of leads required to keep your business running without down time. This is how to figure it out: the sales conversion factor.
I prefer a somewhat different approach. The kind of business planning Benshoof he favors seems to me a bit too tidy for the turbulent realities of the construction world.
“So you want to know, if you have a real business? Ask yourself if you can take off for a month or more and the operation runs just fine without you. If not, you don’t have a business—you have a job. I can fix that…” says Mike Benshoof.
Here's how to embark on a strategic planning session, run a business, and make it home in time for dinner.
It's more critical than ever to have a plan of how you will deal with this tough economy. Strategic planning focuses on redefining high-level priorities and setting a course for the year ahead.
You may not have started your business with a formal plan, but writing one now may help you achieve your goals--now that you're old enough to think ahead!
A new book from researchers at Harvard University shows that American home builders were immensely profitable during the housing boom, but did little to improve the efficiency of their operations.
You Don’t Have to Run Your Business by the Seat of your Pants
Helpful business books categorized by the eight divisions of business management.
Businesses do not have a tangible structure, like the frame of a house, but every business has a framework nonetheless. The purpose of management is to keep that framework functioning effectively.
About 30 years ago, I read a Fine Homebuilding article that changed my career. I came upon it while building my second house. By then, I owned a sturdy Ford truck and a garage full of tools, and I...
Do you remember your first issue of Fine Homebuilding Magazine?
Sitting at the airport bar, having just left the International Builders Show, waiting for a delayed flight, it's time to muse on the International Builder’s Bash in Orlando.
For green building to survive it has to become bilingual.
The Suddenly it's Here and Now Future of Energy Remodeling
Short movie shows how these homes go together.
Considering advances in product quality, energy efficiency, and improved manufacturing, it pays to take a second (or third) look at vinyl siding.
New building technology firm, InnoVida™, donates 1,000 homes to Haiti using Fiber Composite Structural Insulated panels introduced at IBS.
A veteran's take on this year's International Builders' Show: Things can't get any worse