Joel Anderson

Book Review: Starting a Contracting Company? It's All Business

April 29, 2018
Joel Anderson describes business management from the ground up, with insight into a vast number of important details.

Joel Anderson begins “The Nuts and Bolts of Erecting a Contracting Empire” by describing the single greatest truth that has caused many contracting businesses to fail: that it’s extremely difficult for new business owners with many years of field experience to be adept at running their own businesses.

On reading that, I was reminded of the phrase I’ve heard at many trade show seminars: that working “in the business” is not the same as working “on the business.” For an HVACR professional, for example, measuring superheat or performing a load calculation is easy; meeting a payroll is hard.

Anderson has amassed close to 50 years of experience in field operations management in the recycling industry, and welding and fabrication services. He built and sold three companies, and rescued some that were near failure. He says he wrote this book to help give would-be entrepreneurs answers to the problems they encounter when operating a company of any size.

The meat of “The Nuts and Bolts of Erecting a Contracting Empire” starts with the basics of owning a business, whether it’s a family enterprise that’s been handed down, or one that was started out of frustration at working for someone else.

But beware, Anderson writes, because you will find there is much more to running a business than you ever imagined, and good advice is not always right around the corner.

“The Nuts and Bolts of Erecting a Contracting Empire” is an extremely well organized guide. Anderson describes business management from the ground up, with many insights into the vast number of details of which you as an owner must be constantly aware.

Chapters titles include: Business Structure; Company Image; Company Facilities; Company Policy; Legalities; Internal Management Coordination; and The Future of Your Company. Each chapter is written in a conversational style, which should help the pioneering entrepreneur relax while reading, if all the details don’t scare them to death first! It’s clear that Anderson has been there, done that. A companion workbook is also available.

Proper business administration means all office employees must communicate. That sounds simple. It isn’t. Finance has to tell client management that a client has not paid their bill. New employees need to be welcomed and put to work on day one, not left to wander the halls. The owner must be a leader, not a boss, and someone who respects all employees and serves as a role model of integrity.

Successful client management is based on effective communication with customers, how your marketing and advertising works to attract them, and what you must do to keep them. Operations management means the entire staff knows the function of every person on the management team, so that eventually, the company can virtually run without an owner looking over their shoulders.

Financial management as described by Anderson requires the owner and the finance team or individual to know how much it costs to provide products and services in exchange for X number of dollars. Pricing must provide sufficient operating capital to pay the bills, meet payroll, and have enough left to put in the bank.

“I couldn’t stress the importance of knowing this enough if I beat it into the head of everyone who has a business,” Anderson writes. “You have no choice but to understand all the relative and associated costs of the company in its delivering the finished product or performing its services, if you expect to be successful.”

For a first-time author, Joel Anderson has written a marvelous guide to starting and running a business. It shows much thought, and it clearly was not something that was dashed off in a week’s time. It includes simple tables that illustrate monthly expenses, basic accounting, and how to find your company’s financial “operating zone.”

All of the key positions that make a contracting firm function are described in detail: shop manager, shop foreman, crew foreman, technician, technician’s assistant, and machine operator (not as essential in mechanical contracting). Anderson includes the caution that it’s always best to have each of these positions assigned to one person, with no single person having to wear “many hats,” one of the most ill-advised concepts to have ever crept into business management.

"The Nuts and Bolts of Erecting a Construction Empire," by Joel Anderson; self-published. It will become available as a softcover book and Kindle book in June, no later than June 15. Cost is $29.95; $15.95 for workbook. (website is still under development).

About the Author

Terry McIver | Content Director - CB

A career publishing professional, Terence 'Terry' McIver has served three diverse industry publications in varying degrees of responsibility since 1987, and worked in marketing communications for a major U.S. corporation.He joined the staff of Contracting Business magazine in April 2005.

As director of content for Contracting Business, he produces daily content and feature articles for CB's 38,000 print subscribers and many more Internet visitors. He has written hundreds, if not two or three, pieces of news, features and contractor profile articles for CB's audience of quality HVACR contractors. He can also be found covering HVACR industry events or visiting with manufacturers and contractors. He also has significant experience in trade show planning.