Periodically I get calls from market researchers asking for industry statistics or for me to explain our industry’s lay of the land. One of them recently asked the question, “What are contractors like?” My initial response was to ask a question in return: “Which type of contractor?” Then I explained that the industry harbors different kinds of work specialists - residential vs. commercial, construction vs. service, plumbing/hydronic heating/HVAC/process pipefitting and so on - each with different characteristics and concerns.
Later, in reflecting back on this conversation, I asked myself whether there might be some unifying characteristics among all of these different market sectors. After all, for the last 23 years I’ve been presiding over a magazine that attempts to appeal to all of them. Instinctively, I know they have things in common but have never bothered to articulate them.
My soliloquy led to the following conclusions:
In visiting contractors over the years, I’ve always been struck by how many of them go out of their way to show off their handiwork in projects large and small. I can recall times I’ve been driven miles out of the way just to view a building housing some interior installation not even visible from the outside. It was enough to know that the contractor or his crew had a hand in creating something special.
It’s been observed only half-jokingly that losing a job means you’ve bid too high, while winning a job means you’ve bid too low. Saving a few bucks on materials and squeezing out a few economies on the labor front often spell the difference between profit and loss.
Because every job intrinsically involves a roll of the dice, they tend to be gambling-averse in those areas for which they exert greater control. When conventions are held in Las Vegas, you don’t see contractors hit the gaming tables as hard as most other business owners. “We gamble every day,” I’ve heard them explain.
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