Construction Business Advice & Managing Client Retention

Good Advice Sourced From Our Twitter Chats

It started as so many good ideas do – with a simple hallway chat. “Ken,” I said, “We have to get involved in #ConstChat!”

Ken Y. is our Training and Development Manager, and full of the best advice you’ve ever heard. Ken embodies the kind of passion that we all have for the construction industry.

He patiently allowed me to explain that #ConstChat is a weekly Twitter chat hosted by Riggins Construction’s own Bridget Willard with some guest hosts along the way. Each Thursday at noon ET, I’d watch as folks from across the construction industry had a fun, friendly chat about important topics. And I wanted us to join.

Ken was in. So we chose a session and sat down together at my desk. He was hooked. A mere two weeks later we were at it again.  Each time, Ken had some great advice for general contractors, subcontractors, and manufacturers, and today I’m going to share it with you. Hopefully you’ll find Ken’s brand of down-to-earth, real, and sometimes humorous advice helpful.

#ConstChat Number 1: What Construction Business Advice Would You Give Yourself?

Q1: What would you tell yourself about going out on your own?

Establishing new contacts is what is critical to building a new business. Building trust to get your numbers considered in the bidding process is the most difficult part of the process.

Q2: What would you tell yourself about cash flow?

Cash flow will be a problem because of the pay system in commercial construction. Prepare to be paid Net 90 or more.

Q3: What would you tell yourself about marketing?

Marketing is up close and personal in starting a business. We are back to that trust issue.

Q4: What would you tell yourself about hiring people?

Start slow and make sure they are people you can trust and that can work on their own.

Q5: What would you tell yourself about selling?

Be good at it.

Q6: What would you tell yourself about accounting?

If you are not a money person and are starting the business as an entrepreneur, hire a money person.

Q7: What would you tell yourself about getting paid?

Be prepared to skip paychecks so your employees get paid.

[Tweet “Be prepared to skip paychecks so your employees get paid.”]

Q8: What would you tell yourself about dealing with clients and customers?

Try and work with people you have existing relationships with. Check with people you know about new people and how they pay.

Q9: What would you do differently?

Start slower and grow slower.

Q10: Would you do it all again?

In a heartbeat.

Q11: What is the biggest benefit to working for yourself/partners?

Looking at yourself in the mirror and knowing you built something from scratch.

#ConstChat Number 2: Managing Client Retention

Client retention is the most important part of any business because of the investment made in creating a client. We have already learned how the client wants to do business and what is important to them. Some are quality driven and some are price driven and having that intel is extremely important. We have also learned how that client prefers to communicate. Wasted time in trying to figure out which prospects we have the best chance for developing a relationship with  can take an inordinate amount of time and this is eliminated with clients we have already done business with.

I think a step that most companies fail to do is evaluate leads to determine if it is a good lead for them. I speak to so many people that say they are bidding enough work or have enough work but they cannot answer the question if it is the right lead, the right bid, or the right project. Every company excels at different types of projects and makes money in specific ways. Concentrate on those things.

Q1. Do you have a system in place to follow up on clients?

I have a  database of all projects I have pursued along with contact info for all of the players –  from the design teams to the GCs that bid them, to any relevant subcontractors I may have come in contact with. Contact information is critical in construction and knowing who is who is a big part of the challenge. I keep information on individuals and what makes them tick.

Q2. Do you use a database or program to keep track of clients?

Definitely. I simply use a spreadsheet or a CRM to document every person or project that could impact my ability to exploit opportunities. This database can direct me to find additional opportunities I may not have known about and allows me to start identifying alliances and relationships I hope to join. This is what real networking is all about. Know the guy who knows the guy.

Q3. Do you have personnel dedicated to client retention?

That is something I always did personally because it was my way of building the relationship with those particular clients. I still believe construction is a relationship business and every contact can represent a value add opportunity in building that relationship. Relationships are KING!

[Tweet “#Construction is a relationship business. Relationships are KING!”]

Q4. What happens when something goes wrong?

Own up quickly and take responsibility, have solutions for the problems. Excuses and passing the buck can destroy relationships quicker than anything, while addressing and fixing a problem can build a relationship almost better than anything. Everyone is going to have a problem at some point. FIX IT. If you make a guy chase you when there is an issue, that is the kiss of death.

Q5. Do you take clients out to lunch for no reason?      

If time and location allow it, yes. This supports building the relationship. You can’t buy business these days, but you can spend time apart from business to create friendships. Those friendships are what get jobs done when problems arise. Friendships will surpass tight bids and tough times.

Q6. Do you send thank you notes or gifts after a project?

No, I prefer to make contact and review what happened on the project and see what we might do in the future to improve the process. I prefer to send someone a company shirt rather than gifts. While it is self-promoting, construction guys love free shirts. They have to be quality shirts, cheap ones backfire.

What do you think of Ken’s words of wisdom? Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments!

9 replies
    • Megan Smale
      Megan Smale says:

      Thank YOU for hosting such great #ConstChats! The team has a great time participating and Ken has so much great information to share. We couldn’t resist sharing the rest of his advice.

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