4 Steps to Success: Business Development for General Contractors (Part 3)

4 Steps to Success: Business Development for General Contractors (Part 3)

The final part of our 3 part series on business development strategies for general contractors

December 7, 2021

5 min read


Edward Gonzalez

Edward Gonzalez

Founder at Buildr

Welcome to the final part of our 3-part series on the 4 steps of construction business development. Four steps over three parts, and this fourth step has six components—not confusing at all!

In Part 1, we looked at focusing on systems to achieve goals rather than honing in on the goals themselves. In Part 2, we looked at tool adoption as a necessary weapon a BD professional must wield. Today, we finally arrive at the last step:

Step 4: Take pages from other playbooks

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is a common internal evaluation for continuing to do what’s working. For external purposes, ie., identifying what’s working for others, let’s amend the colloquialism to “If it ain’t broke, let’s steal it.”

An aside: Of course, “steal” is a morally-loaded term, but consider Steve Jobs (likely) misquoting Pablo Picasso: “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” Led Zeppelin openly stole. Every head coach in the NFL steals strategies from Bill Belichick. If “stealing” is too jagged an edge, “paying homage” is a euphemism we can all get behind.

In all seriousness, it would behoove general contractors interested in leveling up their business development to study the best practices of two separate sources:

a) Their direct competition, and

b) Successful companies in other industries.

The direct competition piece will lean more circumstantial. How have other, more successful general contractors made a dent in your target market? The answers will vary, though a familiar one we won’t be able to change is that they’ve been around longer than you. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll be primarily identifying successful strategies and mindsets from industries separate from construction. Construction could learn a thing or two (or in this blog’s case, six things) from the successful business development of other industries.

Business development is a marathon, not a sprint.

The construction business development professional should prioritize daily habit-building to lay the foundation for continued success. This part is much more psychological than business-savvy, but one should strive to make new habits obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying or they simply won’t stick.

Large scale business development initiatives aren’t carried out in one fell swoop; they’re the result of completion of daily, occasionally monotonous tasks, and agilely circumventing—or quickly climbing out of—miscalculations. Keeping in mind that business development is a long game helps instill a microscopic momentum forward. It’s impossible to see tangible results from a single gym session, but year-over-year consistency? Now we’re talking.

Business development is internal as it is external.

As a general contractor grows, it will inevitably increase employee volume. On a long enough timeline, entirely new business units will also spring up out of necessity. This makes a universal business development ethos for the organization much more complicated, especially if acquiring internal buy-in isn’t made a priority.

One of our partners ANDRES Construction follows an internal empowerment strategy that is frequently seen in other industries but rarely in construction. Jonathan Haywood runs point on business development at ANDRES, and he also considers himself an ambassador and a steward to engage and instruct his team. He’s helping design a class for team members: Business Etiquette and Communication Training.

“We’re just shy of 200 employees," said Haywood, "so we hit on how we interact in a business setting, how we interact on Zoom, what etiquette is, how we portray ourselves in public. Some things will be rudimentary, but post-COVID it’s more apparent we’ll be doing this moving forward.”

Business development is a team sport.

Piggybacking off of the community-acknowledgement of the previous step, it’s important to treat business development like the collaborative effort it is. A well-oiled machine of an organization is when every member dons the sales hat, job title be damned.

Too often, business development efforts become siloed for various reasons: ego, a lack of a team buying into the mission, a failure on management’s part to encourage and empower. Siloed business development handicaps the ceiling of a company’s success. More times than not, more than one team member is going to have touches on a single business relationship. We specifically made our CRM feature unlimited seats for general contractors looking to destroy silos. Because what’s the logic in only one person at a general contractor using their CRM? What happens when that person leaves?

What isn’t measured can’t be improved.

In every industry, analytics is king and this trend will only continue to be the norm in construction. Which types of jobs do you usually lose on? What percentage of repeat business could fall away and you could still hit your growth goals? With general contractor profit pools tighter than ever—and more general contractors springing up everyday influenced by analytics-focused minds of other industries—every GC should be making it an imperative to not only gather data but dissect and grow from it.

Prioritize your digital self.

When’s the last time you looked in the digital mirror? The quality and scope of a general contractor’s completed jobs and word-of-mouth reputation matter, yes. But as we learned from Covid, in-person relationships are only a fraction of business development moving forward.

Is your company’s personal website sleek, easy-to-navigate, and aesthetically modern, or does it look like a library’s home dashboard from 1997? Is your personal LinkedIn an advertisement for you and your brand or is it the Sparknotes of a half-abandoned resume with a few tumbleweeds rolling by? Is your company’s social media and external marketing efforts operating on a singular cohesive mission with daily effort?

Our partner DeAngelis Diamond is one GC that makes it a priority to grow their digital footprint, with a dedicated marketing team that constantly promotes their brand. Just a quick perusal of their website and team member LinkedIns gives you a good feeling. What prospective client wouldn’t want them to build for them?

Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate.

One side of the coin is the past, the other is the future. Business development in every industry keeps its present informed by the future for an obvious reason: we have to work today to get to the place we want to be tomorrow. Forecasting and astute awareness of construction cash flow are staples of sound business development, which is why we made it such an integral aspect of Buildr CRM. Will you have gaps next quarter? Do you need to start the hiring process because of all the projects you signed onto next year?

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