General contractors education

8 Replies

Hi everyone,

I need some advice!  I am going to be transitioning into becoming basically a general contractor for my company in about a year. I've done some basic flips, etc up to this point but have no where near the knowledge that a good GC has. Wondering if people know of a good online source to gain a ton of knowledge for this. I have a year to learn as much as I can. I know just experience would be the best way but looking for other ways. Willing to take online classes and courses from anywhere.  Types of projects will be everything from single family house building to building multi family. Thanks in advance!   

I personally like Craftman's Installation Encyclopedia, this will be your first step to understanding how to install things. I know my trade and how it works, but sometimes even experience is wrong, the book has helped some of my foremen correct their methods, I find this book beginner grade and not explained thoroughly and/or not really for beginners that don't handle hammers, but you might be able to understand it or verify a worker's workmanship if need be, hopefully. Next is when doing contracts, look for a contractor school, they go a couple of hundred and maybe a thousand, and don't really teach how to do it, but it covers all your basic anti-lawsuit needs specific to your state (kind of like a RE license course). When you want deeper understanding about contracting, specially paper contracting, types of contract, how to manage a contract, how to read plans, how to compose a scope for subs, how to manage subs, what constitutes a change order, what is a legible CO and what is not, etc, then you are looking for a Construction Management Certificate (this too is a couple of thousand), I would suggest on-site course instead of online since you are new to trade works, this will be your biggest investment, but it will also be your biggest asset, maybe this is a 1-2 year course, be sure to pick everything you need first.  Before you setup your pricing, you will need to attend to some kind of startup business seminar offered by your state, for you to get actual expenses/rates for your employer tax, workers comp insurance, disability and unemployment insurance, costs that will really hurt your business if you don't use the right rates, and these may not occur instantly, sometimes 3 sometimes 6 sometimes more when you do your reporting, you will need to project this correctly as when you sign the dotted line of a contract, there's no saying that you forgot to figure in your worker comp insurance.

The really tricky and optional topic is, estimating, there are a lot of things to factor in, but basically you end up of only one formula, Quantity x Unit = Total, but the encyclopedia will help you determine composition of each item, say a tile composes of 5-8 materials, not only tiles, but they generally have a predetermined amount/quantity for every sq. ft. of tile.

Good Luck.

@Diskin Young , in becoming a GC are you after a technical/practical education about construction methods, materials, etc. or, how to run a GC business, or something else?

If it's the technical/practical side, is this the highest and best use of your time?  Some of the best contractors I know have very little technical knowledge, but they are excellent business persons (and selfishly, my ideal client - I love briefcase builders).  They simply surround themselves with the construction expertise they lack, much like with their CPA or attorney.

That said, your local community college or builder's association may very well offer online construction related courses.

I applaud you for wanting to educate yourself further - good luck to you!

I agree with Michael Paris in asking if you are more interested in the business side of it or the hands on knowledge. If it's the business side you're interested in, studying books and classes will be an adequate resource.  If you are interested in hands on knowledge, I would recommend trying to find someone to work under as an intern or an apprentice. I have learned all my constructions knowledge on the job working hands on with professionals in a mentor type environment. 

Michael Paris I bought paperwork contracting from Craftsman, never got to read it, yet. Why do you say they are your favorite client? As an engineer, I like the success of bringing a piece of drawing to reality, not sure if I will enjoy pushing paper all day or making 200 change orders for a 5M project. Any benefits?

Originally posted by @Manolo D. :

Michael Paris I bought paperwork contracting from Craftsman, never got to read it, yet. Why do you say they are your favorite client? As an engineer, I like the success of bringing a piece of drawing to reality, not sure if I will enjoy pushing paper all day or making 200 change orders for a 5M project. Any benefits?

Manolo, I'm not familiar with that book.

"Briefcase Builders" are favorites of mine as they value what I bring to the table... so this type of builder tends to seek out guys like me (as consultant, PM, CM, etc.) to have on their team.  The relationships are loyal, rewarding, respectful and appreciated.

I too love taking a concept and being a part of making it real and definitely know that I don't like pushing paper all day... years ago, I learned that I was allergic to being in an office all day!  I thrive on the balance of having both office/site days.

@Account Closed I never thought they did, I thought they only wanted to squeeze all the money they could get on a sub or so. It is an avenue I have never explored, we were always self-performing type of company, everything in-house and all that. My bridge building skills might be of value on the CM side. I'll ask around, never thought myself as a consultant type. Thank you.