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What are you doing these days to build up your backlog?

When it rains as heavily as early as it has, I like to sign up customers starting at three week intervals apart and fill the calendar backwards as bigger or better jobs come along. I leave calendar time for jobs that may take just a little longer. I have been 6 months out without busting my schedule using this method. Customers like a good job, started and completed on time!

—Scott Nordhoff, Owner,

Nordhoff Basement Waterproofing Hydra Stone GL Basement Systems LLC,

Bedford, IN

[Humming theme from “The Godfather”]: I give them an offer they can’t refuse.


San Diego, CA

We are focusing on larger, more complex, a.k.a. higher risk projects that allow a reasonable markup while playing to our strengths of pre-construction collaborative involvement (i.e., Design Assist, Integrated Project Delivery, BIM, etc.) The goal (and hope) of being involved at a different level is to mitigate the increased risk associated with these project opportunities resulting in the realization of the reasonable markup.

—Gregg Brady, Brady Company/Central California, Inc.,

Castroville, CA

We are networking with just a few select contractors. Not bidding everything coming down the pike. Selecting jobs that require more proof of insurance, bonding, past job experience. We are finding retrofitting of buildings to be more profitable and less competitive.

A recent job was listed on a national basis and received 8,000 sub bids. We have taken the position to be patient and realize that we are dealing with a landscape that is going to become the normal way of doing business, the old-fashioned way, where you will need to be a business, pay your vendors, your workers, taxes, have insurance, be able to bond a job, and manage the job for your profit.

—Danny Bonnell,

Commercial Systems Plus Inc.,

Myrtle Beach, SC

Bidding lower and lower and lower.


We are focusing on our core clients to build backlog. We continue to keep our margins up where they belong so the backlog we do get is profitable. A lot of the competition is still taking work too cheap so the market isn’t where it needs to be yet but seems to be improving.

—Jason Gordon, President/CEO,

Heartland Acoustics,

Englewood, CO

Cutting margins.


Waiting for all my competitors that are bidding work at ridiculously low prices with no margins, to go out of business after they realize how stupid they were.

—Mark Owens, Vice President,

Bison Drywall, Inc.,

Reisterstown, MD

Finally work is starting to come through; I am taking all the jobs I can now. Cutting prices and just saying yes is helping. Sometimes it does come back; just today we were rushing to get through a job in a small bathroom and put a drywall screw into a plumbing pipe. Just relax and get it all done.

—Wayne Dickinson,

Dickinson Drywall,

West Bridgewater, MA


—Mike Schultz, Owner,

Drycon, LLC,

Tacoma, WA

Waiting for my competitors to go broke.




I am exiting winter with more jobs than when I started winter. Backlog seems never to be a problem to build up. I first of all give credit to the God of the Bible. He has provided everything for me is the only reasonable answer. I do not promote my business, only provide what the customer wants and not what I want them to want, and give my all to make sure it is the best experience they can have while I am interfering with their normal, everyday life. Relationships go deeper than the next paycheck; money is always second to satisfaction.

—Tracy Ostergard, Owner,

Tracy Ostergard’s Helping Hands,

Rochester, MN

When I’m asked if we’re busy, I always say, “Of course we’re busy. We’re always busy—either being busy or busy trying to get busy.” Rarely is a contractor booked with all that he can do. Some contractors are smart enough to recognize their limitations—funding, manpower, management, territory; these are all considerations regarding whether to take work or not. Others simply keep piling it on—when it’s available—without regard for the consequences if they cannot perform, or meet their bills. Usually we have to buy the materials, rent the scaffold, put men on the job, do work, and a month later bill and hope to get paid in a month. This puts enormous strain on a company’s finances. Without excellent financial planning and suppliers who will work with us on payment, we’d all be in trouble.

As for how we build backlog, there are several important factors. One is building relationships with contractors, owners, developers and third-party inspecting engineers. They are all important in our landing work. But without a reputation for doing good work safely, the means for winning work is to be the cheap price. All too often the cheap price is the one that missed work. Once the contract is signed, you’re stuck with the job for better or worse.

So a reputation for having a complete bid scope and an appropriate price—not necessarily the cheap one—is another means to winning jobs. The better general contractors recognize that all too often the cheap price is not the cheap cost once quality, service, safety and actually completing the job are factored in.

The good news is that we’re seeing an uptick in work coming available to bid and award. Let’s hope that trend continues.

—Robert A. Aird,President,

Robert A. Aird, Inc.,

Frederick, MD

Drop your pants!

—Lee R. Zaretzky, President,

Ronsco, Inc.,

New York, NY

Bidding until I turn blue.


You have to be kidding—backlog? What is a backlog?


Are you crazy? … Not “trying” to build a backlog. Why climb the tree if there are no peaches, only a swarm of angry hornets? I’ll wait for the peaches for my pie.

—Jeff Muller, Vice President,

M&O Exterior Applicators, Inc.,

Frederic, MD

I don’t think I am going to have that problem, unless I want to do it at 2% profit.

—Giles Turgeon,

Green Mountain Drywall Co., Inc.,

Wallingford, VT

Hire and train.
—Cheryl Schoonmaker,

Weedsport, NY

As my father says, “We don’t care about the mule going blind, just keep loading the cart.”

—Jon Chambers,

J&B Acoustical, Inc.,

Mansfield, OH

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