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Forget the ‘If’ and here’s the ‘How’ on Becoming a General Contractor


After one of the biggest slumps in the history of American real estate, the market is beginning to boom once again. The demand for housing has bounced back along with a rise in lending activities, which in turn has stepped up real estate values. The construction of commercial real estate is also seeing significant revival. A report by IBISWorld reveals that due to an increase in profits made by corporates and a decrease in the rate of vacancy in office buildings, the demand for new commercial constructions is high now! If ever there was a great time to take the leap into becoming a general contractor, it’s now. But first, who are the people who want to become general contractors usually? They are people with some kind of experience in the construction industry; but most importantly, they are people who are unhappy with their day jobs and have been thinking about making the move for long now. In short, most of them are wannabe entrepreneurs, who only dream of setting up their own general contracting firm some day down the lane.

Dreamers Vs Doers

These people run the risk of never actually realizing their dreams of becoming general contractors. They are people who will always be wondering if they can do something, instead of how they can do something. They will never be able to see through all the different ideas they have because they quickly run out of steam or they’ve latched onto another idea. In other words, they are people who will never quit that job they’re unhappy about and neither will they stop dreaming of all the things they’d do after they’ve become a general contractor in some other alternative reality.

real-estate-dreamerThose who actually wind up becoming general contractors are those who stopped dreaming and took action. Most people are usually a bit of both – they dream on some days and they do the work required on other days. The ones who lean more towards getting work done rather than building air castles are the ones we label “entrepreneurs”. They are the doers of the world – whether or not it’s general contracting we’re talking about.

So what kind are you? Are you a dreamer or are you a doer? If you’ve long been a dreamer but are finally ready to make the leap into the business of general contracting, then we’ve got a little roadmap for you. These four elements are key to kickstarting your entrepreneurial journey as a general contractor.

Learn the Ropes

It’s something of a prerequisite to gain a few years of industry experience before you start out on your own. Working under a successful general contractor can show you the ropes and help you build a strong contacts base for the future. Ensuring people remember you and your work is easy and tough at the same time – you simply have to do your best work and never miss a deadline.

It sounds simple, but anyone who’s done anything knows it’s tough to consistently deliver great work on time. But once you do that, people are going to remember you when you approach them as an individual general contractor. So, invest your time and effort in getting at least two years of experience in the construction industry. The time will help you build a database of clients through your contacts and a rock-solid reputation.

Degrees and Soft Skills

real-estate-degreeOne surefire way to catch the attention of potential clients, especially those who belong to the millennial generation, is by earning a degree that’s related to construction. A degree can add value to you as a general contractor, whether or not you have sufficient field experience. Today, degrees that focus on green and environmentally sustainable design are extremely popular.

However, traditionally offered degree majors such as construction science, construction management and construction engineering can also amp up your appeal as a general contractor. An associate’s degree could be best suited for you if there are budget constraints. Besides learning about construction, find time to learn business administration basics – it will come in handy once you’re ready to start your own business as a general contractor.

Make sure you also brush up on some soft skills that are essential for success in this business: Time management, clear and concise communication, reliability, organization, strategic planning, initiative, decision making, relationship building and adaptability are some skills worth inculcating.

Licensed to Contract

Once you have some experience and textbook knowledge behind you, you’re almost ready to begin your life as an entrepreneur. But first, you need to apply and take an exam in order to secure your general contracting license. The rules of the process varies slightly between the different states so find licensing information particular to your state here.

The other things that are equally important are the national certification programs like the American Institute of Constructors’ Associate Constructor (AC) designation and their Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) designation; and the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) credential offered by the Construction Management Association of America. These certifications can add a lot more value to your business.

Get Insured and Other Suggestions

real-estate-business-insuranceThe next thing on this to-do list is to get your business insured. It’s a necessity for general contracting companies to carry liability that’s worth several million dollars; secure worker’s compensation and insurance for any business-related vehicles.

Do this before you find any work so that you’re aware of how much these insurance policies cost. Note that in some states, you might be required to show proof that you possess the minimum working capital needed to begin working on projects.

Take sometime to also create a business plan so that red flag areas that need better planning become immediately obvious. Fix them before they go out of control. Simultaneously, set up your tax accounts – both federal and state – along with making necessary arrangements to account for income, sales and compensation for labor.

The roadmap will work only for those people who step up and take charge of their lives. These people asked how they could become a general contractor; they found the right kind of mentors to learn from; they managed their time efficiently and they stuck to the idea of becoming a general contractor until they were sure they’d succeeded or failed at it. They asked themselves if they had the time, the commitment and the boss-man personality required to expertly manage full teams of subcontractors.