6 Quality Contractor Business Practices

The difference between mediocre contractors and successful ones hinges on quality control. Here are six fundamental pillars of maintaining a quality contractor business.

The Small Business Administration notes that most novice contractors who fail are undone by unprofessional work habits. If you have experience, show it by being reliable and courteous. Successful contractors often schedule projects and client consultations well in advance.

If you don't have experience, you can make yourself stand out from the crowd by consistently demonstrating the reliable, timely habits of a seasoned contractor. Dress the part with uniforms and name tags and properly marked service vehicles. Customer service skills in this context go a long way.

Be accessible. Return all calls within a day. Answer all emails promptly. If someone goes to the trouble of finding out information about your business, and you give the impression you're too busy, they might be offended and cross you off their list before you have a chance to pitch your services.

If that happens, it's a quality assurance loss, one that could be prevented if you make yourself accessible. Keep consistent business hours, announce days off well in advance, and always follow up with potential and current customers. Be responsive!

Don't forget about insurance. Today's contractors should be aware of common legal liabilities and take steps to prevent issues that could spark a lawsuit.

What happens if you fall off a ladder? What if you drop a piece of heavy machinery on your client's toe? You're going to need insurance to manage these kinds of situations. All general contractors are responsible for maintaining updated worker's compensation, liability and damage insurance.

Make detailed, open bids that include educated estimates about project, materials and labor costs. Include a schedule and explain how you arrived at it. If you charge extra fees, do not hide these from your clients. Always be up front about financial transactions.

Contractors survive by their reputations, so nurture trust with people at every stage of the game. Don't take cash, always give receipts even if they are only hand-written, and ensure that clients are 100 percent satisfied before you have them sign off on the final payment.

As their name suggests, contractors should always work under the aegis of a thorough and fair contract. While smaller home-improvement gigs don't always need contracts, most professional jobs do. It's often a good idea to put even relatively inexpensive projects on paper. Contracts should be much more detailed than bids.

When you write the contract, think about what could change and describe what the proper course would then be. How will you handle change orders?

Don't be afraid to modify the terms of the agreement before you sign it, as long as what the client wants doesn't conflict with your bottom-line priorities. Most contracts need to be negotiated until they are mutually acceptable to all parties.

Credibility and credentials
When you are dealing with past, present or future customers, be prepared to competently discuss your training and credentials, as well as your state licensure where applicable. Stumbling over this information or not having it on hand is a good way to raise red flags and scare away sales.