Monthly Archives: October 2023

What To Expect From Clients As A General Contractor

As a general contractor, you have a billion things you need to be thinking about every day – but what’s more important than growing your business?

The reality for general contractors is that most – if not all – of your jobs come via word of mouth, and the only way to conjure up some word-of-mouth traction within your community is by delivering on the expectations clients have for you.

At the end of the day, people just want their expectations fulfilled, but for construction clients, what are those expectations? And how do you go about making sure you deliver on them?

In this article, we’ll take a look at customer expectations for contractors – and how you can improve your reputation in your area with a few simple tips.

What Do Clients Expect From General Contractors?

The best way to understand what to expect from clients is what do clients expect from you? Getting in your customers’ heads is the easiest and most direct way to meet their needs – which is ultimately what’s going to leave them happy and satisfied with your service.

Here’s what clients expect from you and your team:

Detailed Planning and Execution: In news that will surprise absolutely no one, clients first and foremost expect their general contractors to have a comprehensive plan for their project. In a survey conducted by Construction Business Owner, 85% of clients stated that a well-defined project plan was a key factor in their selection of a general contractor. You’re the expert – and every expert needs a plan.

High-Quality Craftsmanship: Every project is a client’s baby, so they always expect the best possible craftsmanship delivered. According to a report by Builder Online, craftsmanship ranks as one of the top three considerations for homeowners when selecting a builder or contractor, solidifying this notion. Especially as you take on bigger jobs, the more the client will demand perfection on your builds.

Regular and Transparent Communication: As we said above, the project is the client’s baby – and they will be monitoring that baby 24/7. A study by eSUB revealed that 96% of clients consider regular and transparent communication as a critical factor in their overall satisfaction with a construction project. In the always-online world we live in, expect clients to be demanding constant updates. Sadly, we have no choice but to oblige.

Professionalism and Integrity: In the construction world, professionalism is often overlooked – but the client always notices. Customers expect you to maintain a clean and safe worksite, be organized and efficient, and always be honest and upfront about any issues that arise in the process. Honestly, if you’re not professional, you probably won’t become professional any time soon – so if you need this advice, all of these other pieces of wisdom are useless.

Problem-Solving Skills: Problem-solving skills aren’t just expected, they’re essential to surviving as a general contractor in any place in the world. After all, what is construction but a series of problems in need of solution? The data confirms clients care about your ability to roll with the punches – according to a report by ConstructConnect, 78% of clients value a contractor’s ability to provide innovative solutions to construction challenges.

How To Make Your Clients Love You As A Contractor

Now that we know what the client expects – how can we meet these expectations? And how can we go above and beyond to make them love our work (and therefore, recommend your services to others)?

Here are some ways you can immediately win customers over just with soft skills.

Embrace The Client’s Dreams

Clients often approach general contractors with a clear vision of what they want. This vision can range from detailed architectural plans to a simple sketch on a napkin. As a general contractor, it’s essential to understand and respect this vision, as it forms the foundation of the client’s expectations.

Even if you think it’s the dumbest or most infeasible idea in the world (to a limit, of course) – it’s up to you to not only understand this vision but to earnestly try to make it a reality, to the best of your abilities. You don’t have to agree with the vision or goals of the project. No, your job is to make it a reality.

Furthermore, it’s critical that you are emotionally conscious of the homeowners’ feelings in this process. As we’ve said before, construction projects are the baby of your client – they care about them more than most things in their lives, so they are emotionally attached to their success. If you care for it the way they do, they notice – and will hire you again because of it.

For instance, a client might approach you with a vision of a sustainable home, complete with solar panels, a rainwater harvesting system, and a green roof. This vision is not just about the physical structure they want to build. It’s also about their commitment to environmental sustainability and their dream of living in harmony with nature.

As a general contractor, you are not just building a structure; you are helping to bring a dream to life. This understanding can add a deeper layer of meaning to your work and can help you connect more deeply with your clients – which means more money in your pocket.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Then Communicate Some More!

As you can probably tell from the things clients expect, the one thing clients really value is good communication.

Clients have varying levels of knowledge about construction, and it’s always your job as a general contractor to bridge this gap. Regular updates, clear explanations, and open dialogues are all part of this communication process. In general, if you think it’s something your client would find important, share it. The best way to make a client feel comfortable is to not surprise them with any information.

Dealing With Challenges

In the world of construction, change is the only constant, and challenges are the only companion on this strange journey of floodplains and exhaust manifolds. The reality is there will always be some problem facing the project – and with that comes tension.

It’s crucial that when you face challenges, you maintain a calm, professional, and confident presence when dealing with problems with your client. Remember, they’re trusting you with the entirety of their project, so any energy you put out there radiates through the whole thing.

Stay calm and work with the client on solving the problems you are facing. There may be times when the client seems unreasonable, but at the end of the day, as long as the checks are clearing and you’re not doing anything unethical or dangerous, it’s not your place to make the final calls.

Trust: The Name Of The Game

What’s the one thing that every client looks for in a contractor? Trust.

They want someone who they believe in and think can execute on the vision they have for this project in their heads. They want someone that they know will respect their ideas, has the ability to get the job done, and can execute the idea on time and on budget. They want someone they can leave alone with their baby.

That’s what trust is – your client knows that when they hire you, they’ve got someone who can do the job, at a fair price.

If you’re a good contractor who can do the job properly and isn’t taking advantage of the client – congratulations! Your client probably trusts you.

If you don’t satisfy all of those criteria, well…there’s a reason the phone isn’t ringing. And it starts with you.

What Are Contractor General Conditions?

If you’re in the construction industry, at some point, you’ve heard the phrase “contractor general conditions”, and probably not really understood what it meant.

When we first heard it 200 million years ago (it feels like that now), we had no idea either. We thought maybe we should call our doctor, put the phone down, and decided to find out for ourselves.

Now that we’ve been in the industry for a long time, we’ve come to know and understand general conditions on a deep level. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about contractor general conditions – and how to make the best use of them for your business’ success.

So, What Are Contractor General Conditions?

“General conditions” is one of those fancy industry jargon terms that people use to sound smart – and to exclude normal, everyday workers from the conversation.

In reality, “general conditions” is simply a term that describes the cost of managing a construction project – excluding labor and materials. In other words, construction general conditions refers to the costs of everything that isn’t involved in the physical construction of the building.

These costs are your administrative teams, the cost of your job site trailers, the fees for equipment rentals, the city, county, municipal, and federal permits you must acquire – all of this falls under contractor general conditions.

Categories of General Conditions for Contractors

As we’ve just established, general conditions are the costs of everything that’s not the actual building of the building. As you might imagine, that means that there are almost a million different things that could fall under general conditions.

Here are the main categories of general conditions for contractors:

  • Site Management: This involves the cost of managing the construction site, including site security, temporary utilities, and, um, port-a-potties. Site management can (and should) account for a significant portion of the projects. According to a report by the California Building Industry Association, site work costs can account for as much as 11.8% of the total construction cost for a single-family home.
  • Project Management: This covers the cost of the project manager and other administrative staff, along with any office expenses. This is where significant efficiencies can be created with clever work. The Project Management Institute estimates that poor project management can lead to a 9.9% waste in every dollar, highlighting the importance of investing in effective project management.
  • Insurance and Bonds: These are unavoidable costs as every contractor in California must have insurance and bonds to become licensed. On top of the essentials like Workers’ Comp and surety bonds, almost every project requires additional insurance and bonding to do specialty work or to meet county and city standards.
  • Permits and Fees: These are the costs associated with obtaining necessary permits and paying the required fees for the project. Again, these are completely unavoidable and vary based on the project. According to a report by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the average cost of a building permit in California can range wildly – from $406 to $2,222.
  • Equipment Rental: This includes the cost of renting equipment that isn’t owned by the contractor, but is necessary for the project. The California Rental Association reports that equipment rental revenue in California beat an eye-watering $59 BILLION in their last report in 2021, reflecting the significant costs associated with equipment rental.

Why General Conditions Matter

Understanding contractor general conditions is vital for both clients and contractors. For clients, these costs form a significant part of the project’s budget. They need to be factored in from the outset to prevent unexpected expenses later on.

For contractors, accurately estimating these costs is key to bidding successfully on projects – but more importantly than winning business, successfully managing your general conditions means building a reputation as a contractor who can be trusted.

Balancing your general conditions is key. Underestimating these costs can lead to big financial losses (and worse – unhappy clients), while overestimating your general conditions can mean you’ll not even be able to get your foot in the door.

In either case, the key is finding the sweet spot. A study by the Construction Management Association of America found that accurate cost estimating can improve project success rates by up to 20%. It’s easier now more than ever to estimate correctly with the incredible wealth of data and digital tools available, so there’s no excuse for going over- or under-budgeting these days.

Moreover, a deep understanding of these costs can help contractors identify areas where they can save money without compromising the quality of the project. For example, efficient site management can reduce waste and improve productivity, leading to cost savings. Similarly, effective project management can prevent costly delays and rework that will just add more weight to the project’s budget.

Considering how expensive materials and labor have gotten in the 2023 cost of living crisis, there’s no question effective general conditions management is one way that contractors can find BIG savings – just by streamlining their operations.
No Size Fits All

On the flip side, there really is almost no advice that anyone can give you when it comes to your own personal general conditions.

While we can generally categorize the general conditions into a general condition of general categorization, the reality is that every single project, every single contractor, and every single nail is different. A contractor working in LA on skyscrapers is going to have drastically different general conditions than a handyman in Bakersfield.

That said, it’s all relative. Whether you’re a multinational conglomerate or a brother-sister pair of carpenters, there’s always a way to streamline your general conditions. Look for places where you can save a buck or two – without hampering things down the line.

Maybe you have subscriptions to a piece of software you needed for a project months ago – but you don’t use it anymore. Or maybe you bought a piece of equipment but no longer need it. Selling it would not only drive down your general conditions, but also get you a little bit of cash.

While contractor general conditions may seem straightforward on the surface, they’re a complex web of interconnected contracting data points.

For any contractor, big or small, it’s well worth your time to investigate your own general conditions, understand them, and use data and computing to find opportunities where you can streamline. With all the tools available, there’s really no excuse anymore!

How To Get A Contractors License In California

Let’s skip all the usual stuff and get right to the point: you’re a contractor in California, and you need a Contractors State License Board contractors license.

Here’s how you do it.

The Journey to Obtaining a Contractor’s License in California

Meet The Requirements

Before you can even apply for a CSLB license, you must meet the requirements laid out by the CSLB. They are as follows:

  1. You must be at least 18 years old and provide valid proof of identity.
  2. You need a minimum of 4 years of journey-level experience within the past ten years in the trade you’re seeking a license for. This experience can be as a worker or a supervisor.
  3. You need to pass a fingerprint-based background check. (This test will check for any past criminal behavior as well as any other contractor-related issues).

Take The Exam

Once you’ve met the initial requirements, it’s time to prepare and pass the exams. Both exams California requires you to pass two written tests:

  1. Contractor’s Law and Business Examination: This exam covers California’s contracting laws, business management, and safety regulations. This test is designed to ensure that you understand the legal and administrative aspects of running a contracting business. Brutal stuff if you’re not familiar with these laws.
  2. Trade Examination: This test is specific to your trade, i.e., a plumber’s trade exam will cover plumbing. This part of the test assesses your technical knowledge and skills, ensuring that you’re ready to provide top-notch services to your clients.

Get Insured and Get Your License!

After you’ve passed your exams, there are just a few more steps to complete:

  1. Fee Payment: You’ll need to pay an initial licensing fee, as well as other potential fees based on your classification.
  2. Contractor’s Bond: You’re required to secure a contractor’s license bond. This bond, set at $25,000, is a form of protection for your clients, ensuring that you’ll fulfill your contractual obligations.
  3. Insurance: If you have employees, you’ll need to provide proof of workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance protects your workers in case they get injured on the job. You’ll also need to provide general liability insurance as well.
  4. Get Your License! Once all these steps are complete, the state will issue your contractor’s license.

That’s it!

While the process to get your license is fairly straightforward, it can be really difficult to understand for first-timers.

If you’re struggling to make heads or tails of all the paperwork – or if you need help passing the CSLB exam – contact us today and we can help you make sense of anything that you don’t understand.

Additional Reading

Contractors State License Board (CSLB)
CSLB Applicant Resources
The Top Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for a Contractor License in California
CSLB Contractor License Exams and Study Guides en Español
How Long Does it Take to Get a Contractor’s License in California?
Do I Need a Class C Contractor’s License?