A.Les Deal, a remodeler in
Cedar Rapids, Iowa, responds: You've
identified your problem: The word that's killing
you is "competition." I work from the premise that
competition is not relevant.
The reality is, if you want to be a contractor,
you must make a profit. Therefore, the first part
of the answer is simple: Raise your prices to
create a decent company profit. So now you say,
"Thanks a lot -- how do I get work?" I'll offer
another simple answer: Make an active decision to
specialize in the work you love, based on the
skills you love to use. If you don't emphasize
enjoyment of your work as the top priority, you
won't have the drive to continually learn and
The result of doing what you love is that you
will become more creative, more efficient, and a
better contractor. You will be driven by sheer
pleasure to hone your skills and will automatically
feed on your own love for your work.
Isn't that exactly who many customers are
looking for? These developed skills will make your
higher prices seem like a bargain to the customer.
Plus, a contractor working in his niche exudes
excitement and confidence, which will help you win
My own niche has been challenging remodeling
jobs, jobs that look like a quagmire of problems
and that call for unique, cost-effective solutions.
Thirty years of that mindset has created a path of
great diversity in the kinds of work that come my
way, and I still love it.
It doesn't matter what part of contracting you
enjoy. Decide what it is and focus on that kind of
work. Think back to the projects you really
enjoyed, and try to figure out why. That should
lead you in the right direction.