If you've decided to open a fencing business, you may be wondering how to get your venture off to a good start, despite your technical skills. Becoming a fencing contractor takes some planning and initial work. With the right direction, you can be up and running in no time at all.
- Skill level:
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Research your market. By knowing how many residential and commercial prospects are in your area, you will be able to determine which types of fencing you will need to provide. If you know your market, you may already have an idea if there will be enough business out there for you. If you do not, do some basic market research. This can be as simple as driving around town to inspect the market. Contact your city or county government offices for detailed demographic information. Such reports include annual salary averages, number of homeowners in the area, average home values and the number of businesses and farms. Online searches are also effective (see Resources).
Incorporate your company. A corporation such as an LLC will allow you to obtain a separate Tax Identification Number for your company so you may make purchases and other financial decisions in the name of your firm. Contact your Secretary of State's office to find out how to incorporate in your area.
Define your products and services. Make a list of which type of fencing your market will likely buy from you. For example, if you live in a mostly rural community with an abundance of farms and country homes, you will likely specialise in a particular type of fence. If your market consists of mostly new subdivisions filled with moderately priced homes, your focus will differ. Choose your products and services according to what your market calls for.
Find a location. Depending on the size of your operation, you will need a location to store inventory and tools, park vehicles and possibly set up an office and showroom. Choose a building that's secure and affordable, within the scope of your budget. If you are strapped, find a friend or associate with extra storage space, pay him a small amount of rent and use your home as an office until you are able to find your own location.
Determine your cash flow needs. Add up your monthly expenses, including rent, estimated cost of materials and other payments. This total will represent the amount of cash you will need each month in order to keep your business running. Determine the price of your average job, including material costs and labour charged to your customers. If you haven't started and this total is unknown, estimate. For example, based on your market study, you may predict your average job to be a ½-acre chain-link fence bringing in a gross of £1,430. If your expenses equal £7,150, you must complete and get paid on roughly five jobs per month. ($11,000/$2,000). As your business grows, these numbers may change. However, always be aware of your expenses and cash flow. Contact a CPA or experienced book-keeper if you need assistance.
Hire an experienced book-keeper. You will need at least one person on your staff to keep your books straight. This person should understand how to calculate profits based on your cash flow and expenses and handle receivables and payables. Use accounting software. A basic program is easy to use and fairly affordable (see Resources).
Begin promoting your operation. Print advertising in telephone books, trade publications, newspapers and service directories are very effective for fencing companies. Pick up as many of these publications as you can find, and contact their sales representatives. Networking with building contractors is great way to get fencing business in both commercial and residential sectors of the market. Join your local chamber of commerce and trade groups such as the local Home Builders Association. These professionals commonly work together and almost always need subcontractors and associates.
Tips and warnings
- Write a business plan before you start. A solid plan will help you in your upfront research, cash flow needs and marketing plan. (see Resources).
- Hire experienced tradespeople.
- Secure loans only with terms you can safely afford (see Resources).
- Register with your local tax office and obtain a business license if one is required through you local government.
- Keep seasonal factors in mind. The fencing business tends to drastically slow down in areas that experience seasonal cold weather. Always budget wisely in preparation for slow periods.
- Always carry enough liability insurance (see Resources).
- Never begin a job until you've obtained a building permit. Doing so could cost you thousands of dollars in wasted materials and fines, damaging your reputation and denting your pocketbook.
- Always pay your suppliers on time, according their billing terms. Failure to do so could get you blackballed throughout the industry and unable to obtain credit.
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