Planning and Execution
Construction Roles
Becoming A General Contractor: Timeframe Unveiled

Becoming A General Contractor: Timeframe Unveiled

Picture of the owner of Birkes BuildersDavid Birkes
Owner | General Contractor & Builder
Birkes Builders
Published On:
August 15, 2023
Last updated:
August 15, 2023
a rendering of a house with a garage

Introduction: The Journey to General Contracting Stardom

Unveiling the Mystery: What is a General Contractor?

In the grand theater of construction, if architects are the playwrights, then general contractors are the directors orchestrating the delivery of the final masterpiece. They're not just glorified builders donning a hard hat and swinging a hammer around.

No, their role is much more nuanced, demanding and complex. General contractors are responsible for coordinating all aspects of a construction project - from scheduling subcontractors to ordering materials and ensuring building codes and plans are met with precision.

A general contractor is essentially playing God in their microcosm of construction chaos. They have to have an eye for detail sharper than Aquila chrysaetos' (That's Golden Eagle for those not well-versed in binomial nomenclature), juggle responsibilities like an overzealous circus performer, negotiate deals with the cunning of a seasoned diplomat, all while maintaining sanity amidst cacophony.

The job demands blood - figuratively speaking (mostly), sweat - quite literally and tears - depending on how tough one's disposition is. But let me assure you, this seemingly Herculean task has its rewards proportional to its laborious demand.

The Allure of Becoming a General Contractor: Perks and Pitfalls

Seduced by freedom? Infatuated with entrepreneurship? Then don your armor because becoming a general contractor will give you just that!

You'll hold authority that few in other industries could even dream about -- deciding whom to hire, what projects to undertake, when it's time for coffee breaks (an immeasurable power indeed). The satisfaction derived from orchestrating chaos into architecture cannot be overstated -- like watching your child grow but instead it's bricks and cement that bear testament to your merit.

Also let us not forget moolah! Money!

Bread! Dough!

Call it what you may but financial compensation in this business isn't something one can shrug at dismissively. A successful general contractor can earn rather handsomely once they've established themselves as competent commanders in the battlefield called construction sites.

But here comes my rant folks -- every rose has its thorns. So does becoming a general contractor come equipped with pitfalls aplenty!

This path isn't strewn with roses but rather adorned with hardship disguised as challenges waiting diligently at every corner. Expect weekends spent buried under paperwork instead of under cozy quilts or at jovial gatherings.

Prepare yourself for unexpected delays sending ripple effects through your carefully crafted timeline like an earthquake disrupting tranquility. And let's not forget unwelcome surprises that can make any horror movie seem like child's play!

Chapter One: Laying the Foundation -- Education and Training

The Debatable Blueprint of Knowledge: Educational Requirements

It seems like every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a tool belt thinks they can cut it as a general contractor. But let me set the record straight; this isn't some run-of-the-mill job you can waltz into with a high school diploma and a can-do attitude. No sir! The misconception that being a general contractor requires no formal education is not only misleading but also degrading to the profession.

In my not-so-humble opinion, anyone daring to consider this line of work should at least have an associate's degree in construction science or related field. Let's call it what it is; without the foundation of relevant theoretical knowledge, you're just another wannabe swinging a hammer.

College courses in mathematics, architecture, construction management? They're not luxuries; they are necessities!

Some naysayers argue that real-world experience trumps classroom learning. While I don't completely dismiss this notion, it's high time we acknowledge two truths - one, bookish knowledge is by no means inferior to practical wisdom; two, understanding principles of project management or building codes isn't something you magically learn on-site.

The Undervalued Apprenticeships and Internships

Speaking of on-site learning brings me to my next rant -- apprenticeships and internships. In the world of contracting where physical skills hold as much weight as mental acuity, turning up your nose at apprenticeships is tantamount to career suicide.

You see kids these days thinking they can skip this step altogether and directly jump into the deep end. They think mastering some DIY videos online equates to hands-on training!

Nothing could be more laughably wrong! Apprenticeships offer invaluable mentorship opportunities from seasoned professionals who've been there done that - folks who've made mistakes so you don't have to!

Moreover, internships present trainees with priceless insights into business operations beyond just building stuff. From drafting proposals to managing sub-contractors - all while under expert guidance?

That's not just working towards becoming a general contractor but also getting paid for learning! So scoff at apprenticeships all you want but remember that ignoring them leaves you ill-prepared for what lies ahead in your journey toward becoming an actual general contractor.

Chapter Two: Climbing the Ladder -- Experience in Construction

Hammering Away at Reality: Entry-Level Jobs in Construction

Let's be brutally honest here, the glittering world of construction isn't all about donning a hardhat and diving headfirst into an architect's dream project. It starts way down at the unceremonious base of the pyramid -- yes, those tedious entry-level positions that most romanticize as 'paying your dues'. If you thought that walking into a construction site fresh out of college would see you perched on a throne overseeing masons and carpenters, then it's high time you woke up and smelled the concrete.

Entry-level jobs can be weary, demanding undertakings that test your mettle to its very core. You'd find yourself doing menial tasks that seem far removed from your grandiose dreams of building skyscrapers.

However, amidst this rather harsh initiation into the world of construction lies an undeniable truth - these roles shape you; they etch your character in stone and chisel away any remnants of naivety. They equip you with fundamental skills such as effective blueprint reading, understanding basic construction math or building codes, not to mention teaching you how to operate tools properly and safely.

Building Upwards: Progressing Through the Ranks

Progression in this industry isn't always an elevator ride straight to the top; it often follows what feels like a never-ending spiral staircase. That being said, it is this very gruelling journey upwards that separates wheat from chaff.

Promotion here doesn't come served on a silver platter handed over by doting superiors at annual office parties. No indeed!

You need to prove beyond doubt your capacity for continuous improvements, for learning new skills while perfecting existing ones. You have to demonstrate leadership qualities even when no one's officially handed over any reins to you.

There are countless stories of personnel who started as junior estimators or site clerks only to rise through ranks becoming project managers or even executives within companies! But let me send forth a shard of reality piercing through anyone harbouring illusions about overnight success - such elevation requires tremendous dedication and patience alongside resilience against inevitable setbacks.

So yes, progressing through ranks might feel like dragging a boulder uphill but remember- once atop that hill every arduous step taken will only add to glory waiting at summit. Focus on developing yourself constantly while appreciating value brought by every role played within this dynamic industry because each one shapes indispensable aspects within potential future contractors.

Chapter Three: Mastering the Craft -- Specialized Skills

The Forge of Mastery: Tools of Titans

If you think wielding a hammer and drilling holes will win you the laurels in this field, oh, how deluded you are! There's so much more to being a general contractor than brute strength -- it's a chess game of strategy and skill.

It's not enough to grok the nuts and bolts, you must have an intimate familiarity with construction materials, processes, tools and equipment. You're the conductor of this construction symphony - every nail driven, every brick laid, relies on your expertise.

You know what distinguishes amateurs from professionals? Attention to detail.

A true titan can visualize the end product from mere blueprints and anticipate structural flaws before they become costly disasters. The magic lies in anticipating potential pitfalls and circumventing them with ease.

It's an art forged through experience, observation and intuition. But don't forget about technology!

The modern age demands some digital finesse. Use project management software like Procore or CoConstruct to streamline workflow and keep tabs on your projects.

Embrace Building Information Modeling software; it's no longer optional but mandatory in our technologically advanced industry. We're building for tomorrow after all!

Architects of Commerce: Beyond Bricks & Mortar

Becoming a successful general contractor is not just about mastering physical constructs; there's also an ocean of business complexities that one must navigate proficiently -- welcome to 'Beyond Bricks & Mortar.' Oh yes! This isn't just about rebar and concrete; we're talking balance sheets, profit margins, employee management -- whole nine yards!

You see my friend; this is where many hopeful contractors falter - they underestimate the importance of business acumen. They fail to understand that a general contractor is essentially an entrepreneur leading an enterprise where profit trumps passion.

You need to comprehend financial statements as intimately as architectural drawings because failing here means your beautiful structures might be built on quicksand. And remember contracting is as much about human relationships as it is about construction prowess -- managing employees efficiently, negotiating with suppliers astutely, conversing with clients diplomatically are all crucial aspects that complement your technical skills.

Networking isn't just for computers anymore! Contractors who master these interpersonal intricacies don't merely survive in this business - they thrive!

Chapter Four: Crossing Thresholds -- Licensing and Certification

Unlocking Legitimacy - Navigating Licensing Requirements

I'll tell you this without batting an eye, the regulation surrounding the licensing requirements for general contractors is a labyrinth of inefficiencies and bureaucratic red tape. It's as if some corporate drone somewhere decided to turn this essential process into a Sadistic game of snakes and ladders. One wrong step or overlooked document, boom!

Back to square one! You see, each state has its own set of rules for licensure.

Some require work experience, others academic credentials while some insist on both. It's mindbogglingly inconsistent!

Can we not have some semblance of uniformity? Is it too much to ask that we streamline this process across all states?

I'm not suggesting shortchange in quality here, but surely there must be ways to make this process less convoluted? That being said, navigating these convolutions is no light task and shouldn't be treated lightly either.

You are essentially unlocking your legitimacy here as a contractor. Without proper licensing, you're just another amateur with a hard hat.

Seal of Approval - Importance of Professional Certifications

All right let's get onto professional certifications now--another hoop for you to jump through on your way to becoming a licensed contractor. Do I smell another rant brewing? Oh yes indeed!

The importance given to professional certifications in our industry is quite frankly bordering on ridiculousness! Yes, they serve as proof that we've mastered certain skills or knowledge areas but hear me out: isn't our work supposed to speak for itself?

How about focusing more on improving the quality of education and training instead? Nevertheless, let me backpedal slightly here by acknowledging their necessary presence in today's job market-- however grudgingly so.

They provide an edge when vying for contracts or clientele who are foolish enough to use them as key deciding factors rather than looking at actual past performance or current expertise. Honestly though, can someone explain why there are so many certification bodies across states with different criteria?

It's like being caught up in a whirlwind circus act trying to juggle them all! The powers-that-be need do something about streamlining these requirements too; because at present it's just needlessly complicated!

Chapter Five: Weathering Storms -- Risk Management and Insurance

Safety First: Understanding Risk Management in Construction

The Unvarnished Truth About Safety in Construction

Have you ever thought about the audacious ballet of peril that unfolds on a construction site each day? My dear reader, let me paint you a picture. Skyscraping cranes performing their precarious pirouettes, men and machines entwined in a symphony of chaos, all under the relentless ticking clock of deadlines.

Now imagine orchestrating this spectacle without a solid safety net. Reckless!

Utterly reckless! Far too many greenhorn contractors fall into this cruel trap.

They behave like overzealous acrobats, blithely disregarding the tightrope beneath their feet until they stumble and plunge into the gaping maw of disaster. Risk management is not just about ticking boxes on some bureaucratic checklist!

It is an art form that separates seasoned professionals from irresponsible dabblers. Every potential hazard must be anticipated, every contingency planned for with meticulous precision.

Not for Fools: The Complexity and Necessity of Risk Assessment

Now don't get me wrong, risk assessment isn't some arcane rite only accessible to high priests of safety bureaucracy! Yet it's often relegated to an afterthought by those intoxicated by hubris or ignorant naivety. Pull your head out of the sand and face reality -- operational hazards can chew up your profits faster than you can say "OSHA!" Ignoring them won't make them disappear; it will only make your descent into financial ruin or legal hellfire quicker.

Cushion for Crisis: Importance of Insurance in Contracting Business

The Cash Umbrella: Embracing the Inevitable Rainy Days

Does insurance appear to be another bothersome expense? Perhaps an unnecessary padding infringing upon your budgetary freedom? Get off your high horse, my friend.

The hard truth is that calamities don't discriminate between budgets! When disaster strikes like a spiteful thunderbolt from clear skies - be it thefts, accidents or acts-of-God - insurance transforms from 'bothersome expense' into 'financial savior.'

It's foolhardy to gamble away one's livelihood betting against misfortune's capricious whims. Be wise; consider insurance as non-negotiable as gravity!

The Bare-Knuckled Reality: Why You Can't Afford Not To Be Insured

I can already hear dissenters muttering about costs--that premiums are highway robbery, that self-insuring makes more economic sense. To these misguided souls I retort thus: Do you also spurn fire extinguishers because fires are infrequent? Or do you scorn seat belts because crashes aren't part of daily commutes?

Withstanding unexpected shocks without adequate insurance coverage is a Herculean feat reserved for titans fortified with deep pockets and ironclad luck--not mere mortals who wield hammers instead of thunderbolts! In this capricious world defined by uncertainty at every turn, there exists but one immutable certainty -- those who undervalue risk management and insurance do so at their own peril.

Chapter Six: The Final Brick - Starting Your Own Contracting Business

A. Blueprint to Success - Creating a Solid Business Plan

The Overlooked Foundation of Success

In my opinion, the most underappreciated aspect of this industry is the business plan. It's not enough to just be skilled in construction--without a robust strategy, you're setting yourself up for a quick and bitter downfall.

A comprehensive business plan is your ticket to success, your map in the tumultuous sea of commercial viability. Some may argue that it's possible to get by with an informal, 'learn-as-you-go' approach, but let me tell you this: those people are playing with fire.

Without a solid plan -- your financial projections, market analysis and a clear marketing strategy -- you're essentially attempting to construct a building without blueprints. And we all know how well that turns out!

Business plans aren't glamorous; they're complex and time-consuming, but they determine the trajectory of your enterprise. Just as an architect wouldn't dream of starting construction without detailed designs, so too must an aspiring general contractor craft their business strategy with meticulous care.

B. Building Relationships - Networking and Finding Clients

The Mortar That Holds Everything Together

Another vital aspect many overlook when embarking on their journey towards becoming high-ranked contractors is networking--you can't forget about networking! In this industry -- or any industry for that matter -- who you know can sometimes outweigh what you know.

Now don't get me wrong--I'm not saying school is useless (far from it!), but if you can't shake hands and make connections then all that knowledge goes down the drain faster than poor-quality cement mix in heavy rain! You have to be able to sell yourself effectively because at the end of the day we are our own best advocates.

The tough reality is that being competent won't always cut it; there are plenty other competent contractors out there! You've got stand out from the crowd through networking events and building relationships within your industry circles so clients will remember your name when they need someone reliable!

People tend to do business with individuals they trust. Therefore fostering meaningful relationships early on isn't just smart--it's necessary for survival in this competitive environment!

Remember folks--buildings might be made from bricks and mortar but businesses? They're built on relationships.

From Novice to Master Builder - Timeframe to Become a General Contractor

The Long Road Ahead: No Shortcuts on the Path to Mastery

Now look, there's no sugarcoating this. Becoming a general contractor is a long and arduous process.

You can't just waltz into this career field expecting quick success. Heck, you can't even foxtrot in here with that kind of mentality!

The reality is, it takes blood, sweat, tears...and yes, years! There are those who will sell you pipe dreams of becoming a seasoned general contractor in just a couple of years.

Reject such fallacies outright! It's like expecting to transform from couch potato to marathon runner overnight.

You're looking at a decade at least; and that's if you're diligent and embrace the grind every single day. Some might call this timeframe daunting or disheartening.

I call it necessary. There's no substitute for time when accumulating experience and wisdom in any profession, let alone one as intricate as general contracting.

Fabric of Success: Patience, Persistence and Perseverance

While time is an irreplaceable ingredient in the recipe for success in this field, there are other vital elements that warrant mention- the three P's - patience, perseverance and persistence. Unpopular opinion? Perhaps; but worth its weight in gold nevertheless!

Patience isn't about sitting idly waiting for opportunities; it's about remaining steady during those periods when your efforts seem unrewarded or progress seems slow. This isn't an industry where instant gratification often knocks on your door -- patience is not just recommended, it's demanded!

Persistence is about weathering rejections and setbacks without allowing them to deter your course or dampen your spirit. If I had a nickel for every time someone said 'no' to me in my early days -- well let's just say I'd have quite an impressive pile of nickels!

And then comes perseverance -- the ability to keep going when everything within you screams otherwise because let's face it -- this can be one helluva tough job! It tests your mental strength as much as your physical fortitude.

Conclusion: The Rewarding Summit Awaits!

Surely by now you've grasped that becoming a master builder ain't some walk in the park but rather akin climbing Mount Everest- requiring considerable time investment along with dollops of patience persistence and perseverance.. But don't get disheartened instead let me remind you why all this effort will be worthwhile. General contracting isn't merely about building structures; it's about building dreams...realizing visions.. Leaving tangible imprints on landscapes which stand testament through decades testifying silently yet eloquently about skills honed over years grueling hard work . Therein lies reward which far outweighs trials endured on way up!.

Thus while journey may be hard , destination dear reader is breathtakingly beautiful!. Buckle up for rewarding ride ahead!

Share On:

Related Blogs