View Full Version : Hunting Elephants
03-20-2000, 03:04 PM
This question is for those out there who do a fair amount of commercial work.<p>We do primarily residential work, with a tiny sprinkling of commercial work (but it's usually less than $10K). But I've been thinking about pursuing those larger commercial contracts. And seeing that Paul is doing $1+M in business with 10 guys, I'm getting more interested. My question(s) is this: <p>How do you go about attracting these clients? Is it just a matter of keeping your eyes open and asking for permission to put a bid in on the projects, or is there more involved? From what Paul has said in other posts, it sounds like there is not much design work involved, but instead doing a take-off from an existing design and then crunching numbers.<p>It seems these sorts of projects would provide fewer headaches than the residential ones I'm now doing (or would I be trading one set of headaches for another).
03-20-2000, 09:25 PM
Since you are comfortable working with residential projects, a next step could be to contact property management companies that manage condos, apartments, town house complexes, etc. Put together a brief portfolio of large pictures that show the scope of your work. These can even be color Xerox if nothing else. Include a cover letter, a few glowing letters of recommendation and a few business cards. Get this in front of the primary managers. We do lots of work for management companies in the common areas of these communities. Also contact general contractors and large, retail nurseries in your area. In our area, good stone masons are hard to find and the best ones are too busy. Also some masons will put together a nice album of work and leave it at the stone quarry that provides their stone. People go to the quarry to see what is available and ask for a mason to do the work. These are just a few ways to expand. Subscribing to the Dodge Reports is another way to start bidding commercial projects. You probably want to have a good feel for pricing the larger scale of work required, before venturing too far into that arena.<p>----------<br>Lanelle<br>
03-20-2000, 09:40 PM
I dabbled in commercial contract a few years ago. If they were easy everyone would do it. You should subscibe to bid news or Dodge reports which are very expensive. These will list upcoming constuction in your area and what the scope of the work will be. They also give a list of plan holders. You can order plans do a take off then submit your bid to prime contractors that will be bidding the whole job. I don't feel these type of jobs are for the faint hearted. Some prime contractors will tear you a new one if you don't have your ducks in a row. Also some commercial jobs will require a bond and 1or 2million in liability. Jobs will generally go for more money than residentials but o/h is higher on them to. Consider traveling expenses and etc. Good luck!
03-21-2000, 12:16 AM
Thank you both for your information. I will certainly wade into this ankle-deep before I even think about diving in.
Stone,<br>Reputation and skill are the largest part of doing this type of work. General contractors are always looking at landscape companies reputations. Letters to the cities and park districts are how I got started in this work. We wrote a nice letter outlining our company and the type of work that we do. The Dodge report is another place to start. The Dodge report costs about $1600 per year for the engineering part (public works area) delivered once a week. You can go to their plan room and do the take off or order the plans and send out prices by fax with a cover letter. <br>Headaches-there are some. It seems that more and more LA's don't know how they really want the park or playground to look so they want to have meetings once a week. With 60 parks that we do a year, you can eat up a lot of time. After the LA's know you, as well as the park districts or cities, they will start giving you a free hand and will just be watching you from the sidelines.<br> One thing that helps me is that not many LA's know much about large stone work so they call me up for information. This gives me a leg up on what is happening and a foot hold on new jobs that I might miss otherwise. <br>Also talk to your paver and stone dealers- they can also refer people to you. Halquist Stone turns over about 5 or 6 leads a year to us, because they know what we can do, making the customer happy and use them (and us again).<br> Equipment is going to be a large part of what you do and how well you can perform. If you think that you are going to get by with just one or two pieces, think again. Iron helps make the jobs go faster and the latest equipment will make your job easier. It is different than doing a patio. Even though it might be the same size they might want you to work with grades and elevation changes that you might think won't work, but that is what they want. <br>Job size can very but I treat everyone of them as if its the only park that I'm doing when I meet them, I don't care if its a $1000 job or $200K one. Remember that if you treat them right, they will remember you and ask for you to bid or just give them a price to do other work that they needed done. <br>You should also know that you can't run this type of company as a one man show. You need office help and good foremen to run crews while your away at meetings and such. <br>One last item is bonding. This, as a new contractor is going to cost you in the 7-12% of the contract price. You will also have to put up your house and insurance to cover the bond, (it can be scary), all the tax records and bank letters they need at first along with your first born male child. :)<p>----------<br>paul<br>
03-21-2000, 10:08 AM
Paul,<p>Good information, as usual. Thanks.
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