The best training and the best products mean nothing if we can't find projects to prove our talent, right? I'm not going to sugarcoat our plight - I have been peddling decorative concrete for nearly 20 years and have never seen as many challenges as the ones we face today. Having said that, my goal is to have the best year possible, and I'm going to let you in on a secret as to how this will be done.
There are still folks out there buying our decorative services. They're still looking for quality craftsmen and still willing to pay you for this service. The question is, are you willing to do what it takes to put your company's face out in front of what we all will agree is a narrow market of decorative concrete users? It is by habit and comfort that we try repeating the same old, same old by attempting to bring in new jobs the same way we did yesterday. The old ways need some refreshing.
So let's look at two emerging markets in decorative concrete for 2011.
Emerging market No. 1: New construction has taken a back seat to remodel construction in nearly every city and state. The good news is that decorative concrete is held in high regard because it offers many interior applications at reasonable prices. Even while the size of the construction market has been reduced, the taste for decorative concrete has not. Customers still prefer a durable, affordable and attractive surface for both residential and commercial uses. Now I will be the first to admit I'm not a big "inside" decorative artist, with the proof being that 75 percent of my contracting is exterior projects, but we must go where the gold is.
Interior staining, overlay, counters, polishing, etc., are all part of this emerging market, and it will only grow as owners redirect improvement dollars into existing structures rather than building something new. Interior uses for decorative concrete are limitless, so let the creative juices flow straight into your business's bottom line. If you are not tapping into these markets, let me ask what the heck you are waiting for. The steps to break into interior work are: First, research, second, get educated and train, and third, implement by applying skills to a project.
Emerging market No. 2: The second emerging market is relatively new to most decorative concrete companies but has the potential of creating a lot of new work. Nearly every city, state and federal agency has cut back on repairing or maintaining parks, buildings and anything else internally. These parks and buildings must still be repaired and maintained, so government agencies are outsourcing the work to independent contractors like you. Some repairs or redos are being kicked down the road, but some improvements and maintenance must be done regardless of budget restraints.
I believe many schools, private businesses and large corporations will follow suit, figuring the cost to hire your company will be far less than retaining full-time in-house repair/replace personnel. It seems 2011 is turning into the year of keeping the costs of business as slim is possible and this will only broaden markets for independent contractors like yourself. I will be the first to admit that this is a little off the beaten path for a typical business plan, but remember, the goal is to keep fresh money flowing and live to fight another day.
One more idea: It is easy to forget about existing customers as a source of new work, but the facts show that they are your best source for new work. The reason is that you have proved yourself trustworthy and quality-oriented. If you decide to add a new technique or aspect of decorative concrete to your business, be sure to let existing customers know all about it. In these days of social networking, keeping in contact with existing customers has never been so easy. I have found newsletters - online or paper - and reminder postcards always generate new work, sometimes months after they've been sent. It never hurts to have your company's name in front of past customers to cultivate new work, prospects and referrals.