How to Run a Construction Business – 8 Hard-Learned Lessons

Updated Mar 18, 2022
Preferred Paving employees paving an asphalt road
Equipment World

Many new construction business owners know field operations like the back of their hand. Often, the intimidating part of running a business is the operations and management side of the equation.

Keeping the pipeline full and ensuring you have the right resources in place at all times is sure to cause some sleepless nights.

To help ease the pain of scaling your business, we asked some of our 2021 Contractor of the Year finalists to share their best advice for contractors who are just starting out.

Here’s what they said:

Surround yourself with winners

“The biggest thing that I did was surround myself with successful people,” said Chris Meyer, owner of James A. Rogers Excavating. “I picked the brains of people who’ve been in this business for some time. I took advantage of the wisdom that was around me by asking questions, becoming familiar with the new technologies that are out there and doing everything I can to try to stay ahead.”

Take care of your people and your customers

“You need a lot of heart, and you need a lot of experience. You should have enough sense to take care of the people around you,” says Bill Panunzio, owner of Preferred Paving.

“Don’t take anything for granted. You’ve got to work for what you get and do a good job for your customers,” says Josh Burkholder, owner of Oak Hill Contractors. “If you don’t have customers, you don’t have anything else, so you have to make sure they’re taken care of.”

Learn how to delegate

“Teach people,” says Kevin Ennis, owner of Eco Turf. “Somebody has to know how to do what you do, so you’re not always burdened with the load of the business itself and the work getting done.”

Get involved in industry associations

“The best thing you can do is go out and find your local organizations,” says Alicia Jimerson, owner of Jimerson Underground. “I got involved with Houston Contractor’s Association, as well as the local chapter of AGC (Associated General Contractors of America). You get to meet the different suppliers, the owners of those companies and the different general contractors. It means a lot to shake a hand and put a name with a face.”

Prepare yourself for challenge and change

“You’re not going to get rich overnight. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it,” said Russ Delauter, owner of W.F. Delauter & Son. “You’ve got to think about what you have to put into it to make it work, and then do that. The failure in some people’s businesses are they feel it’s a get-rich-quick thing. It’s not that. No business is that – particularly a construction business. The construction business to me is different than almost any other business because you’re dealing with a wide scale of things. It’s never the same thing every day.”

“Take the hardest thing you’ve ever done and multiply it by 10,” said Kirby Delauter, president of W.F. Delauter & Son. “The thing that I’d tell a younger person is there’s very little break time. You’re always on, seven days a week. When your employees go home, you don’t.”

“It’s going to be a long haul,” says Joe Horner, owner of MRTE. “You’re going to have to work lots of hours. You’re going to have to work some jobs you may not like. But don’t sweat the small stuff. There’s going to be a lot of problems. You’ve just got to realize at the end of the day what you’ve accomplished, be happy and enjoy your business.”

Nominations for the 2023 Contractor of the Year awards program will open in the fall of this year. For more information, visit https://www.equipmentworld.com/contractor-of-the-year.