Working as a tradie in the building and construction industry provides you with a wide range of opportunities, experience and jobs. Whether it’s doing a bathroom renovation or helping to build the Metro Tunnel, Victoria is certainly the place to be when it comes to construction. You are also able to add to these opportunities by demanding a great wage, time off and lots of additional perks like having the skills, knowledge and networks to do your own home renovation with a distinct advantage over the average person. To be a young tradie is to live a great outdoor life, be physically active and be surrounded by like-minded men and women.
That said, there will likely come a time when being on the tools has taken its toll, and your body will start to recover from physical effort less readily. This may be the trigger to start your own business, thereby giving you more control over the projects you run, the people you work with, the jobs you take on as well as more income and freedom.
The reality is that shifting from life as a tradie to running your own business, becoming a licensed builder and running your own company is a massive transition.
These are the seven areas to consider when looking to make this move:
1. Ensure you have the technical skills
Learning while being paid by a company is a great foundation. Knowing the tips and traps involved in all aspects of construction and having a supervisor mentor you as you rectify defects and build houses or apartments can be very rewarding.
Before you decide to go out on your own, be an expert in your trade; maybe even take a supervisory role for a period of time to identify the different skills required to get results through the eyes of other people. Only once you have the technical experience and expertise should you consider moving forward with starting your own business and getting your builder’s license. Organisations like Master Builders can assist you with this.
2. Have a plan
Spend a day designing your business. Just as a project needs a program and plan, so too does your business. The plan will be a living document, evolving, changing and adapting to the real environment but it will also keep you focussed on the important things – like the financials!
There are many organisations that can help you with your plan but make sure you use a reputable and experienced one that specialises in the building industry. Don’t forget to develop a ‘unique sales proposition’ – the reason businesses or consumers will choose you over someone else), finance projections, skill requirements and a section on staff. Most important of all is the financial component; having a cash flow forecast is critical to the survival of your business, whereas the profit is as important to its long-term viability.
Having a plan that identifies the types of jobs and clients you are equipped to handle and ones which pay the margins you require is very important. Saying that your marketing strategy relies on ‘word of mouth’ and referrals is unacceptable; it’s a random, uncontrolled and unsustainable way to run a business. You need to have a marketing strategy that generates enquiries when you want them and of the type which are valuable to you.
This also involves having an online presence and a brand which is representative and meaningful to your clients. Once again, seek expert advice to assist you with this area of your business.
4. Know what you do well and focus on it
Stating that you do bathroom and kitchen renovations, new builds, dual occupancies and developments is not an acceptable proposition. You need to know what you are good at, what you are able to comfortably provide without putting excess financial strain on your business and make the profit required. This will also give you a good reputation and leave you with satisfied and happy clients, helping you to build a huge book of testimonials for your website.
5. Become a ‘people person’
Become focussed on your team irrespective of their position as a subcontractor or wage-earner. Focus on recruiting people who add value to your business, have the right outlook on customer service and are focussed on delivering a quality product. Your team will either make you a lot of money or send you broke; knowing how to motivate them and keep them focused on outcomes and deliverables will drive your business forward. Having a good team will allow you to spend time on your business rather than just in your business. The processes, procedures you should have in place will help guide them to do their job and your company’s focus on the culture and values will drive them to do a great job.
6. Know your obligations
Know your obligations to your staff to keep them safe. Know your obligations to your clients, to the industry, to the bank, to the insurance company. Know your obligations to the ATO and, most of all, know your obligations to yourself, your family and to the success of your business. Have a plan in place to be surrounded by experts who can help you achieve these obligations.
7. Get support
If this all sounds a bit daunting, know that help is out there for you. Join an industry-focused organisation like Master Builders and engage the guidance and expertise of a business-coaching firm like Acclaimed Results or the multitude of other reputable, construction-focused coaching companies. Don’t be put off if this sounds too hard; you just need to put in the time to build your business rather than just building people’s homes and get help managing your business.
Harry Pontikis is the Director of Master Builders Financial Services and a Business Advisor for Acclaimed Results.