Being a small construction business owner: tough, tough, tough

Aug 15, 2018 | News, SJCC

So, you want to start a construction business? Install tile, frame houses, lay pipe, move dirt, paint ceilings, wire fixtures, sweat pipe, hang drywall, tie rebar – one of these, right?

Well, that’s the easy part. So is making money, right? After all, the economy’s healthy and we’re out of the Great Recession!? Right? …right?

I started my construction business in early 2007. I enjoyed a year and a half of a healthy economy. Since then, it’s been a knife fight. And like many of you, my dad was in the business. He still tells me to this day: “I never made less than 15% on any of my jobs.” In today’s economy, that may be my best job of the year – 15 % is far from the norm.

Dealing with labor challenges, permit acquisition, delayed payment, claims, insufficient documents, bad subs, bad owners/clients, embezzlement, federal/state/local taxes – you name it, it’s likely that if you have a small business you have experienced challenges with one or all of these items.

I saw a great little piece today by Seth Godin ( (11/13/15 blog post). Reading it and knowing that your small business leaves something behind for decades may put a little smile on your face:

The initiator

For each person who cares enough to make something, who is bold enough to ship it, who is generous enough to say, “here, I made this,”…

There are ten people who say, “I could have done it better.”

A hundred people who say, “Who are you to do this?”

A thousand people who say, “I was just about to do that,”

and ten thousand people who don’t care at all.

And all of that is okay, because the person we need, the one we cherish, the one we would miss, is the first person, the initiator, the one who cares.

Thanks for shipping your work.

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