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By Duane Craig
November 6, 2017
Every construction business owner can learn a lot from competitors. But merely copying them won't do. You will just always stay one step behind. So, here is how to uncover your competitors' best-kept secrets in seven areas and adapt them for your own business.
Peter Heald, writing in Forbes, explains a novel way to assess your competition by breaking them into three groups. Your main competitors are those you compete with head to head. Second level competitors are the ones who have construction services that are the high or low-end versions of yours, or they offer similar services to a different market than you primary market. Third level competitors are those that you don't compete with yet but potentially could.
See what they are doing, study, analyze, and then apply it to your business. Pay close attention to word of mouth. What do you hear from former customers, from contractors who have worked with them and from suppliers you share? Watch their strategies. Think about what makes them successful in the market. Consider how they position their offerings. Look at their web presence to see what they say their strengths and core competencies are. If you have the chance, listen to their employees and engage with them to understand the company culture.
What you can learn comes in the forms of lessons, ideas, and business tactics.
Secret # 1: Using New Technology
This is a moving target in today's world of rapid development, but it is essential just to keep up. Competitors in the same niche as you don't want you to know they have just adopted new tech that will analyze their projects for areas where they can improve quality. They also don't want you to know they have adopted a project management tool that is constantly evolving to keep up with industry changes and their needs.
No matter the size, your company should have a tech czar. Someone who loves tech, but also isn't blinded by every new flashy tech item that comes along. When you have someone actively assessing new tech, you stand a better chance of being the first adopter, not the last.
Secret # 2: Adopting New Construction Methods
Sure, every carpenter learned how to frame box corners in wood frame construction. But did you know there is an alternate way that allows more room for insulation? You might not have realized it yet, but trusses and laminated beams are just the beginnings of the prefab and modular evolution coming to construction. When you adopt new construction methods, you can often speed things up while improving project outcomes.
Secret # 3: Learning to Use New Products and Materials
Not long ago, the options you had for exterior cladding were pretty limited. Today, this functional part of a building can take on whole new roles in the overall design. The wider the range of materials and products you have a track record with, the wider the range of projects you are qualified for. Plus, the experience of using these new products and materials contributes to the skills of your workforce.
Secret # 4: Formulating New Offerings
What do people say about your competitors? If they like a service or if they dislike something about your competitors, it offers insights for your business. If your competitor offers maintenance services on newly installed exterior features, how can you structure a similar service that goes one step further? If a competitor does a poor job of following through on warranty work, how can you structure your own warranty program so it thrills your customers — and maybe even theirs?
Secret # 5: Formulating New Pricing Strategies
Competing on price is a one way ticket to the bottom of the heap. But that doesn't mean you cannot find opportunities in how you price the deliverables. Pay attention to how your competitor’s price their services, and take the good while leaving the bad. Then, improve on it.
Secret # 6: Improving Employee Policies/Benefits
The true worth of a construction firm lies in its employees. Watch how your competitors structure employee benefits and find aspects that will add value for your employees. Consider how you can adopt policies that help employees at different stages of their careers.
Secret # 7:Improving Customer Service/Engagement
For every failed customer service transaction, there is a solution. For every project outcome that doesn't meet a client's approval, there is a better outcome. Your competitors offer a proving ground of what works and what to avoid. Watch how they promote and market their services, and pay attention to what you hear from their current and former customers. Their failures and their successes are teaching moments for you.
Above all, remember that copying always puts you one step behind. Learn from your competitors and then adapt those lessons so you are always innovating and staying a step ahead.
If you liked this article, here are a few eBooks you may enjoy:
How Construction Technology is Saving Time, Money, and Jobs
Master Your Budget, Protect Your Profit Margins
How to Grow Your Business
Project Management Guide Part 1: Planning
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