Lately, I have had a lot of face time with contractors due to a number of construction site visits, office meetings, and trade shows. It takes a little digging to find out the truth when I ask their opinion on the current status of the construction marketplace, as well as what 2009 may hold for the industry.
The best I can describe their responses would be “tempered enthusiasm.” By this I mean that currently most contractors are very busy with a variety of short- and some long-term projects. However, their concern lies four to five months down the road. Whether the concern may be the economy, residential mortgage crisis, or the results of the upcoming presidential election, contractors are expecting their business to evolve—some for the better, others for the worse.
The majority of Concrete Construction's readers fall into the former category, and they have been prepared for a slowdown for some time. Their ability to read the ebb and flow of the construction industry is critical for their business to survive. Some of the larger contractors currently are preparing for the resurgence of the residential marketplace in specific locations around the country.
However, the smaller contractors may be more vulnerable over the next year due to the unpredictable construction market. What measures should smaller contractors undertake to ensure profitability over the next year?
It starts with high-quality concrete craftsmanship at an affordable, yet competitive, price. You are aware of the vulnerability of the current construction marketplace; therefore every aspect of a job is scrutinized by the client. Their expectations are much higher, therefore it is imperative that you deliver high-quality concrete that exceeds the client's expectations.
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that contractors do low-quality work. However, your clients have become more conscious of the falling value of the greenback. Naturally, they expect more for less, and they will not hesitate to point out a flaw, warranted or not, in a concrete job.
This may sound difficult, but smaller contractors also must be more selective when it comes to the contracts they are bidding. Your gut reaction may be to go out to bid every project out there. Some contracts just may not be right for your business, and could end up costing you in the long run. It is vital that you research all projects. If you know the potential client has a history of issues with the concrete on a job, take a pass. You must be more selective to protect your business.
What types of concrete construction jobs are out there for you? Based on research done by the Concrete Construction's editorial staff over the past three months, tilt-up applications are more popular, as well as projects related to the infrastructure, including road and bridge applications. Government-related jobs, where funding is secure, is one area that is relatively recession proof. You may have to dig a little bit, but the work is out there.
Editor in Chief