October is the last month of fair weather in Michigan. By this time, gone are the long warm summer days of August and September boating on the Great Lakes. The leaves have already changed and fall steadily progresses. As building constructors, building projects naturally stall during this time when fewer clients decide not to build throughout the colder months.
However, wintertime does not have to equate to no work. There are many things you can offer as a construction expert that will be of great value to your clients. It is also a great time to brush up on your skills, improve your competencies, and learn new technologies. A recent McKinsey study said some of these offerings could include either platforms or services, such as energy-saving building fixtures, connected building management systems, and more. By broadening services to include installing and maintaining high-tech building systems, construction firms will be better equipped to weather unpredictable market fluctuations that affect their bottom line.
There is no point in hiding your head in the sand. Technology is here. Learn all about it so you can use it to your advantage. It may not replace all tasks, but it will do wonders for other areas. We have put together five tips to keep you busy during winter. Although our brutally famous blizzards may prevent you from building a house, there are still plenty of opportunities to tide you over until spring breaks.
1. Invest in Lead Generation
Did you know that customers all across Michigan are always looking for a great construction partner with strong references, certifications, and experience? Your job is to connect with them in their moment of need. The best way to do this is through investing in Google AdWords and other forms of lead generation. Every single day, someone wakes up and searches “reputable construction partner,” “great builders near me,” and “certified builders” and someone else’s business pops up, which could be yours.
Wintertime is also a great time to invest in your online presence. From a simple website that collects contact information to a Facebook page where your prospects can view photos of your work, you can debut into spring with dozens of leads interested in working with you. Social media is great because your potential clients can get a feel of how it would be to work with you before they even meet you. One pro tip: build out your channel over winter so that by the time people think of building houses in spring, people think only of you.
2. Create and Sell Winter Maintenance Plans
Let’s face it: houses need maintenance all year round. Prepping for winter is a special endeavor, though, because of the expansion that happens on cracks. Depending on the average age of your population, you could offer a subsidized winter preparation bundle for senior citizens. People need extra layers of comfort during cold winter weather. However, they often don’t realize it until winter is already here. Around that time, people start looking for someone to install fireplaces, repair their stoves, or maintain heating systems. If you are also in the HVAC, plumbing, or electrical trades and you haven’t offered maintenance services, you’re leaving serious opportunities on the table.
General builders who specialize in new construction can find plenty of prospects, too, in maintaining and repairing existing structures. Past and present customers and everyone in your network can become new and repeat customers. There is also a large second-home market requiring maintenance and repairs. Think about all the lodges and tourist resorts in Michigan that may be closed during the brutal winter months of January and February. Consider offering general maintenance to their owners. Take it up a notch by partnering with your local supplier. Get all your tools from their shop, and they can inform their clients who walk in the door about the special promotions you are running. Win-win!
3. Study the Weather Daily and Weekly
Set aside time to watch the weather forecast every day so you can take advantage of good weather when it comes around. This will help you to forecast your tasks towards jobs that match the weather. This is where having a good collection of customers interested in working with you later comes in, as you can propose projects to them when the weather is manageable. If, for example, the weather forecast lets you know a heavy blizzard is setting in, you can help folks with testing their winter equipment.
You can also offer to fix cracks in driveways, because when water gets into cracks it freezes, expands, and can make the crack even bigger. Too many of those small cracks and soon enough the concrete starts to disintegrate. You can also attend to faucets and offer to fertilize lawns. Roots are still active even when the grass isn't growing, so applying fertilizer will prevent winter damage. Doing this will also help your lawn turn green faster in the spring for that beautiful suburban look on the perfect summer day.
4. Focus on indoor projects
Think about all the components you normally buy for the buildings you work on. Then, consider which ones of those you might build and supply yourself. Cabinets, countertops, trim pieces, and custom doors lend themselves to wintertime shop work. You might also get ahead on framing requirements by building your standard opening frames and storing them until needed. Think of all the ways to use your shop in the winter to reduce your workload later. Work your hardest to maintain and repair equipment and tools to avoid buying new ones.
5. Encourage Clients
Offer incentives to clients if they will wait until winter for their interior work. Just be sure to account for your typical extra wintertime costs when giving the estimate. When you have a mature and effective process, for doing the outside portions of projects during winter, offer incentives for clients willing to wait until cold weather to start their projects. Negotiate a two-part contract in places where frost is an issue so you can get the required earthwork done before frost sets in, and then finish the work during the lighter winter. Once you get these contracts signed, decide which projects will require steel and then buy it at a lower price during winter. Steel’s flexibility as a material also makes it great for prefabrication as it can be fabricated to exact specifications off-site and transported to be quickly assembled at the job site. You can make your whole year more profitable by increasing your productivity during winter.
6. Bonus Tip – Stay Educated
Getting ready for fall and winter presents another opportunity to upgrade your education and network with other construction builders in your state. Get your certifications and continuing competencies courses done when you actually have the time, and you aren’t bone tired from working hard all day.
If you are interested in taking your Pre-license or Continuing Competency course with our specialized online courses HERE.