The global steel industry is undergoing some major shifts, but with these changes come opportunities. Many ironworkers working for larger companies have the skill and savvy to run a successful steel contracting business of their own. The only thing missing is the understanding of how to actually run a business. This serves as a basic guide for how ironworkers can effectively and efficiently map out a way to become a full-fledged steel contractor.
Planning Out The Path To Becoming A Steel Contractor
To start, just like any other industry, becoming a steel contractor requires a proper business plan. A good business plan lays out the model of your business, the goals you have for it, and serves as a general point of reference for you and potential investors/lenders. A basic rundown of key elements for your business plan includes:
- What services your business will provide. Most contractors in this space offer fabrication of steel products, as well as delivery and installation of products.
- What needs your business fulfills. There are hundreds of different steel contractors a given client could look for. What’s going to set you apart?
- Financial strategy. Lenders and investors won’t take you seriously unless you are clear about what type of startup capital you have, how much you need, and how that’s going to be allotted.
- Leadership team: The steel business is built on reputation. If you are a seasoned veteran in the industry or can get one to work with you, that will count for a lot.
A business plan is a very versatile document, and depending on what clients you plan to serve or who is going to see your business plan, you may need to add additional information. However, the above points are in every business plan.
Next, as we mentioned before, you’re going to have more established competitors. Having a unique strategy or service suite will help you stand apart. If you’re not sure what that entails, do some competitor research. What are their average price points? What are some of the services that they don’t offer? All of this information will give your business a chance to make a foothold.
The next step is making sure that you handle the logistical side of things in terms of licensing and insurance. Depending on what products you are creating and installing, you’re going to need a set of licenses as well as proper insurance to do your work. If you’re not sure about what you need, reach out to professional steelworker organizations or unions to find the resources.
Effectively Managing Your Steel Production Business
So, let’s say that you have the team, the funding, and the legal clearance to start your steel contractor business. You could argue that this is the easy part. There’s still the daily operational challenges that you need to be ready for.
In manufacturing, this is especially important, as one small issue could have a major ripple effect. Picture this: you miss a maintenance check one time on a critical piece of equipment. It fails, and you miss a major order. Not only may you lose money on the single transaction, but you may also have to deal with bad press. So, what are the main things you need to focus on?
Quality: With iron/steel fabrication, poor quality is a matter of safety, not just consumer comfort. As a result, one of your top priorities should be a stringent quality-control process to make sure every product you put out meets the standards that you promise your customers.
Equipment Upkeep: Something that goes hand-in-hand with caring for your product is caring for your equipment. As our earlier example shows, failing to properly care for one piece of machinery can have a massive impact. You should consider putting in a formal preventative maintenance schedule for your entire facility and track it with software as a second line of defense.
Managing Your Capacity/Projects: It’s tempting to get as much work as you can early on. However, if you push yourself too far or stretch yourself too thin, your end product will suffer, which will ultimately do more harm than good. You need effective means to scale your operation, so quality isn’t compromised.
One good asset that you want to get your hands on sooner rather than later here is project management software like eSUB. When your steel contractor business is getting off the ground, you may be able to keep track of your materials and projects through simpler means. However, the more work you get, the more complicated it gets. Handling these issues now makes it easier for you to scale your business later.
Finally, we need to talk about effective marketing. Trade services like steelworking generally don’t understand the attention to marketing that you see from consumer-facing businesses, but they are necessary all the same. In fact, you could make the argument that marketing is more important, as you need to target a far smaller audience than the general consumer public.
Effective marketing for steelworking contractors takes a few different forms, which we will cover below:
Having a proper website:
This will be a major face of your business, so treat it as such. Have all your industry credentials front and center for potential clients, as well as testimonials to provide additional social proof.
Utilize content marketing:
Proving your expertise is essential to convince clients they should go for you. A steady stream of authoritative content accomplishes this better than a barrage of ads.
Building up contacts and relationships within the greater steel industry is important as well. This can be done through industry events or on relevant groups/platforms using social media.
Making the progression from ironworker work to becoming a structural steel contractor can be a long and intensive process, but it’s well worth it. There are plenty of opportunities for ironworker contractors to take their careers to the next level.