Before you estimate any job, you should always ask yourself - is this the most efficient use of my time, talents, and skills at this time? Because of limited resources such as energy, time, and money, you can’t estimate all jobs. You must become selective about which jobs you feel will better meet your financial goals. Look for the kind of work you can handle, in competition with companies that cannot outbid you because of their size or field of specialization. To be profitable, you need to be an efficient contractor, not the largest. Treat your employees and customers fairly and honestly. Check your labor budget to ascertain that you’ll have the manpower to do the work on the anticipated schedule.

If you want to be competitive in a market you’re not familiar with, find out how you can gain the needed experience. One way to gain experience is through the school of hard knocks, but maybe you can become more creative and find a way to educate yourself before you take that kind of risk. Talk to other contractors, attend seminars, read trade magazines, and watch training videos. Do whatever you can to reduce any kind of loss you might incur as a result of inexperience.

Is there a right time to refuse a business opportunity? Even if you have to turn down potential customers, you don’t want to close the door on the possibility of working with them in the future. Whatever you decide to do, be honest with your customers. Explain why you can’t take on the project and provide realistic assessments of the alternatives. If you do refer them to another source, make sure that business is as qualified as you are. Your customers will appreciate your good advice, and be more likely to solicit your help again in the future.

If there’s work available that you would like to qualify for, be ready the next time it’s offered. Turning over dollars without expectation of profit is bad planning because you may tie yourself up when the opportunity presents itself to do the kind of work you know, and can make money on. Your only reason for being in business is to make a profit, so guide yourself in that direction. Labor has a very short shelf life; it must be used up each day.

NOTE: For other closely related topics, be sure to review the sections on “No” - The Most Difficult Word (#25), and Sales (#57) in this series of articles on Business and Financial Management.

Mike Holt’s Comment: This newsletter was extracted from my Business Management and Management Skills’ Workbook. Watch for our next newsletter, and as always, we encourage your comments and feedback. Send us your real-life experiences. Please respond to

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