FMI study: What makes a contractor successful?

January 23, 2009 |

In the face of the current world economic crisis, it seems all headlines point to failure, not success. In the construction industry, most contractors are just wondering how they will survive the coming months.

In good times and bad, there are always those contractors that manage to be successful. When wondering why other people or companies are successful, it is natural to wonder what their secret is. In a study of 356 contractors, FMI has discovered there is no single secret for what makes a contractor successful. 

In fact, FMI found successful contractors fit into five different Contractor Success Profiles:
1. Humanist – build strong relationships with customers, employees and the community.
2. Generalist – balance all six success factors (improving people and their lives, profit and wealth, sense of presence and reputation, survival and sustainability, progress on mission and preparation for the future, project execution)
3. Tactician – project and process success
4. Bottom-liner – measured by financial results
5. Freewheeler – appropriate responses to changing opportunities, times or market situations

Contractors that succeed manage to catch problems before the chain reaction that leads to failure can get started. Successful contractors learn from their mistakes, but they learn more from their successes. In short, they create a culture of success that pervades the company and everything they strive to accomplish.

In a new report, “Profiles in Success: How Contractors Define and Achieve Success,” FMI takes a close look at how contractors describe their own success and build organizations that not only serve their customers well, but also build talent and careers.

Success for contractors is more than just one good job; it involves the long-term succession of the company, building communities and relationships. In a time when the tendency is to see construction as a commodity that can be put out for low bid, successful contractors have learned to differentiate their services to fit the ideals of their leaders, the markets they work in and the people that work to make the company a continuing success.

The study of successful contractors found success is a work in progress, not a singular destination. According to one contractor participating in the study, “we feel like we are a success, but we do not feel like we are perfect nor are we done trying to be even better. We are constantly working on how we can improve.” (President/CEO, General Contractor, $65 Million)

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