Soft Skills Necessary for Starting
a Construction Business

See also: Developing a Business Idea

If you’ve been in the construction industry for a few years, starting your own construction business seems like the next logical step to grow your career and earn more money. However, it’s crucial to take a minute and consider what soft skills you might still need before jumping into a new venture.

Technical skills are things such as how to use a backhoe, the angles used in framing a house or how to measure and pour concrete. Soft skills can be a bit more complex to acquire because they involve abilities that are more subjective, such as communication style. Excellent math is a hard skill, but the way you think about money can be a soft skill. In addition to knowing how much to charge a job, construction owners must understand the nuances of cash flow and how to prepare for the unexpected. Soft skills include personality traits and the way you think.

1. Sales Skills

IBISWorld estimates there are 3,776,498 construction businesses in the United States. The industry is booming, but there are also plenty of competitors who will outbid you or tick off boxes you missed.

You must know how to sell the benefits of your bid. The price may be slightly higher for you to make a profit as a smaller company, but you can communicate how you offer a more personalized service than the larger company.

Practice closing the sale as many brands lose customers in the final stages of the bid. Find the right mix between selling and letting the customer decide. Join groups of salespeople and watch how they successfully finish sales.

2. Empathy

Things will go wrong when you run a construction company. How you approach the problem will define how satisfied customers are with the solution. Put yourself in the client’s shoes. For example, a young couple saved from the early days of their marriage and are ready to build their dream home. They hire you to build it. Unfortunately, the cost of lumber soars and they either have to come up with more money to cover the expense or downsize.

Imagining their disappointment and concern, you can brainstorm solutions before approaching them with financial concerns. You may already have several options for them, softening the news and showing them you understand how they feel.

You should also practice empathy with workers. People may grow ill, have a sick family member or face physical and mental challenges from the labor of construction. Bosses who show empathy are more likely to keep skilled staff on their payroll.

3. Industry Knowledge

Construction statistics vary depending on your geolocation, so be sure to study the local market as part of your research. Study your competitors in depth so you understand their unique value proposition (UVP) versus your UVP. If you lack in any areas, including customer service, find ways to develop those skills as well.

The more you know about running a construction business, the more likely you’ll avoid mistakes and find success.

4. Agility

An agile company has the ability to make mistakes and learn from them, changing methods along the way. When you're open to changes and listening to input from others, you can deliver the finished product faster and exceed customer expectations.

Use the agile approach to break down big tasks into manageable chunks. Doing so also allows you to better delegate tasks and manage time efficiently.

One example might be a commercial project to build storage units. Separate each phase of the project into categories. Assign a project manager to oversee everything and a foreman for different tasks, such as clearing the site, pouring the foundation and completing framing. Each group must work together for maximum efficiency, but having separate leaders keeps the wheels turning.

5. Leadership Skills

Pick up excellent leadership skills by attending online seminars and reading about what makes an effective leader. Are you good at motivating others? You can motivate anyone if you’re skilled at reaching them where they are and communicating expectations and appreciation.

Leadership is a soft skill that involves many moving parts, including communication style, empathy and putting in the work to understand the industry.

6. Problem Solving

As a construction business owner, you’ll need to understand the steps to solve complex problems. You’ll face everything from underbidding a job to people not showing up to finish a particular phase of the project, which can result in everything running behind schedule.

Problem-solving requires changing the way you think. You also have to be willing to ask for help from those who may be more hands-on during each day than you are. Your site managers often have insight into who is doing the work well and who needs to be replaced. They may even have some connections in the local community they can recommend for bricklayers, concrete experts and finishers.

7. Presentation Skills

Presentation skills come into play when you try to sell a project idea to a client. If you want to get your message across clearly, you must develop some soft skills in this area. Preparing ahead of time ensures you will give a better presentation.

Practice presenting with confidence. Public speaking courses and groups can help you feel more confident in your abilities. Take a Dale Carnegie course or join a group like Toastmasters to gain experience in talking in front of others.

When the big commercial contract comes up and you have to present a bid in front of their board, you’ll be ready.

8. Determination

Running a construction business is much like making any small brand succeed. You must be determined to make it work no matter what comes your way. When things go wrong, brainstorm how to survive. During times of plenty, put aside some for a rainy day. With practice, you’ll learn to pivot when it all goes wrong and make beauty from chaos.

Determination will push you to keep trying when people say no to your bids. It will help you find a solution when your equipment fails and you have a job to complete. How do you learn determination, though? It is a soft skill that is a bit hard to define.

One thing you can do is set a goal for yourself, such as committing yourself to learning a new skill by the end of the year. Refuse to allow the word “quit” into your vocabulary. Reading stories of people who overcame all odds can also help you find ways to cope with adversity. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it certainly wasn’t built by one person — find a mentor to help your growth and build a supportive team around you.

Develop Soft Skills by Focusing on the Little Things

Soft skills develop over a lifetime. If you lack empathy or determination or any other element, you can learn it once you understand how to apply it to your life. Ask others to assess where your strengths and weaknesses are so you are aware. Once you know what needs improvement, you can seek out books, courses and advice to fix those issues.

Starting a new construction company requires some complex thought processes and a good dose of resilience. With time, you’ll learn all the soft skills you need or hire those who have them. Once you have a solid set of hard and soft skills, your business will thrive.

About the Author

Jack Shaw is a freelance writer who has spent the last five years writing about improving oneself through health, education and reworked mindsets. He’s served as senior writer for Modded, and since then has contributed to Tiny Buddha, Small Business Currents and Big Ideas for Small Business among many other publications.