How to get light commercial building work
Light commercial building projects can help a residential construction firm survive – and even thrive – during difficult economic times thanks to bigger contracts and longer periods of work. Here’s what you need to know to profit from light commercial building work.
Risks and rules of commercial building
Before you bid on a light commercial building project, you need to know how to read more complex design plans. Carefully review every number, note and detail of the plan before bidding on it. Otherwise, you could overestimate your bid, and not get the project, or underestimate the job and lose money.
Light commercial building projects involve more risk than residential work, which leads to more rules and requirements. For example, different types and higher levels of insurance are required, which you need to understand during the bidding process.
Residential contractors like to problem solve, but on light commercial projects only bid on the plan that’s presented. Offering suggestions on how to do a remodel differently could cause you to lose the bid.
Hone your risk management skills, and be sure your company has proven processes and procedures firmly in place so the bigger projects run smoothly.
A design team typically draws the plans. Contractors are part of the bigger construction team, and have less control over of the project.
Working with commercial customers, architects and contractors usually is easier than working with homeowners. Business customers require less handholding, and they typically understand the business side of the project. Form relationships with other commercial construction professionals because they can help you get bigger jobs.
Be tech savvy
You need to be technologically aware because most communication among light commercial construction teams is done electronically. You need to know how to use email effectively and how to use Excel spreadsheets and other Microsoft Office programs skillfully.
Light commercial remodeling projects require more paperwork than residential projects. Cell phones, tablets and computers are used to share information, so all correspondence and paperwork must be well documented. Take notes at every meeting (hand-written notes will have to be turned into electronic ones) and follow up with all emails.
Know the trades
All trades are needed for light commercial remodeling; however, if you work on residential and commercial projects, you may use some subs solely for one type of project. Some subs can handle both types of work, but others are more suited for one or the other.
For federally funded commercial projects, the prevailing wage is usually paid. It’s easier to find workers for these projects because wages are higher than in residential construction, but federal projects also require proper documentation – and more of it.
Although more paperwork and higher skills are required, light commercial construction projects can pay off big for your residential construction company.
−By John Price with Rebecca Torchia
John Price, owner of Artisan Construction & Design, talked about his light commercial building experience during a Pro Construction Guide PROcast, the industry’s only podcast for Pros. To listen to the podcast, click here.