“Drywall is drywall, so I will shop that hard. But, as far as plumbing and electrical work, I’ve spent years developing relationships with these people, and I know that if the electrician needs help pulling some wire upstairs, my carpenters will drop everything and help him. And the same goes all around. So when they give me a bid, it’s less than what they would give on a bid for a different contractor. I know it’s going to come in at what they say it’ll come in. It takes a while to get homeowners to trust this, but in the end clients often comment that when they’re watching work done on their house, they say it feels like one big company with flooring and electrical divisions rather than separate subs because all the guys work together well,” he says.
Hamilton occasionally becomes frustrated with clients’ requests, including when they want an estimate of what their house will cost. They always want it done in four days, which Hamilton can’t do. “What they don’t understand is the level of finish they want, and they always pick something nicer than what I budgeted. Then, they change their minds, and it always costs more than the original budget. I have to keep explaining this throughout the project.”
A big misconception most potential clients have is, that in a bad economy they can build homes more cheaply than during good times, he explains. “I can’t. Name me one material that’s gone down in price. All material has gone up. The price of labor has gone down, but I abandoned the philosophy of hiring cheap labor years ago. You get what you pay for,” he says.
Hamilton has no marketing plan. He has no website. All his business comes through word-of-mouth. The closest Hamilton comes to doing marketing is, for example, when a child kicks a hole in a wall, and he fixes it for free; a service which carries a lot of marketing value. “Or, I’ll give them a company jacket or hat, and when they wear it they’re my marketing. I need them going to dinner in the community and telling people to hire me. That’s my marketing, and there’s little cost for that. Just this morning I was adjusting doors in a house I built six years ago. I adjusted them at no charge. Owners appreciate it, and they remember, too.”
Starting as a laborer 23 years ago earning $7.50 an hour to support his skiing habit, Hamilton advanced to become a carpenter then a foreman after which he launched his general contracting business in 2005. Essentially, he stumbled into his success, and is loving every minute of it.