A building contractor wears many hats and performs a variety of tasks. As the go-to person for customers, subcontractors, inspectors and suppliers, a building contractor must be flexible and ready to shift gears at a moment’s notice. While this career can be challenging at times, it offers the freedom to make business decisions and the gratification of seeing the results of your planning and hard work in the form of residential housing or commercial development.
People and Management Skills
Good people skills are essential for success. Building contractors meet with potential clients must be able to relate to their dreams and goals, while helping them make good construction decisions. Contractors must deal diplomatically with all kinds of personalities, from the temperamental finish carpenter who won’t work in a jobsite that smells like cigarette smoke to the city inspector who’s determined to find a code error. Keeping everyone on an even keel is an admirable and essential personality trait.
Although most contractors don’t actually swing a hammer, they should understand basic foundation, framing and finishing techniques to ensure quality building. In addition, they should be familiar with building codes and zoning laws and be able to read architectural blueprints. Many contractors are former carpenters who received on-the-job training, but some have degrees in construction, design or architecture.
Organized and Flexible
When the plumber doesn't show up, the homeowner submits a seventh change order and the inspector rejects the wiring layout, a contractor has to make decisions quickly and efficiently. Akin to juggling with fire batons, this requires a high level of organizational skills and strong leadership qualities to keep the project running smoothly.
Most contractors are self-employed, which means they must take care of the business side of the company. Although a talented office manager will alleviate many headaches, the contractor should understand the basics of payroll, tax collection and remittance, liability and insurance and acceptable business practices. A small business course is desirable if the contractor does not have a degree or background in business.
A Calculating Mind
Building contractors deal with numbers and figures all day long. From measuring and analyzing potential jobs during the bidding process to calculating net profit, and projecting expenses, the contractor’s world is a mathematical one. Most states require contractors to be licensed in order to run a contracting business. Contractor tests vary in length, expense and difficulty from region to region, but nearly all of them require mathematical equations suited to the construction industry.
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