Getting a profitable masonry business off the ground requires both some trade-level expertise as well as some business sense and an entrepreneurial spirit. Being a successful brick and stonemason will require organizational skills, knowledge of masonry best practices and techniques, patience, perseverance, people skills to handle customers of all kinds, match and financial acumen to manage the books and several other skills. Many small business owners fail, and for masonry business owners, in particular, it is not necessarily because they weren’t skilled in masonry work, but more because they did not have the business skills necessary for success.
The Steps to Start a Masonry Business
As with any small business, you need to start by developing your business plan. To do this, it is advised that you start by conducting a market assessment of the area in which you wish to do business. This may require both online research as well as environmental research by making your way through the geography that you are looking to offer your services. Meet with property managers, home builders, and other business owners that would typically hire masons. Ask questions about what they look for in masonry. Leverage this information when building your formal business plan.
Additionally, be sure to consider the following:
- Your short and long-term SMART goals – SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Each goal that you set should be developed in this format so that you can measure your progress. Be sure to set these goals before you begin making any investment in your business.
- Decide what services you will offer – This information will be easily identified when making your way around the community.
- Your niche – Your niche is all about how you will differentiate yourself to a segment within the larger market that you wish to serve. Think about your specialization and make sure that you have something special to offer that your competitors do not.
- Your business name, logo, and visual identity – Make sure that your name aligns well with your business. In the masonry business, something simple like “Joe’s Premium Masonry” will suffice. Then, work with a creative director on your logo and other elements that can be used in your marketing and advertising (color palette, unique imagery, etc.).
- Your rate card – Develop a rate card that accounts for labor, materials, and the square footage of a project. Account for your expenses and make sure you’re your rate card is both palatable to a customer and profitable for you.
- Financing – Determine if you will need any financial backing to get your business off the ground.
Getting your Masonry Business Off the Ground
After your business plan is complete and you have identified where you will conduct your business (office space), you will need to develop an organizational structure to keep your customer communications and masonry-related work in order. With any business, there is bound to be paperwork. Though you won’t necessarily need a full office space when you get started (you may even decide to work out of your home), make sure that you have a filing system in place (online or for paper files) so that you can keep track of orders and contracts. You mustn’t get started so fast that you can’t stay organized as disorganization can easily lead to customer disappointment and wasted or lost revenue.
Make sure that you also have some sort of planning system that you can use for scheduling estimates, projects, work-related appointments, and personal obligations that might get in the way of work obligations. Without a doubt, a sure way to lose customers is to arrive late, forget a scheduled appointment, or perhaps worse, arrive with the wrong materials for the job. A schedule or planning system will help you plan your work and will ensure that you can make the best use of time for both you and your customers.
For your office space, wherever you may get it up, be sure to set up an email address, a website, a business phone number, and social media sites that can be used to promote your business. Also, either work with an attorney or download form templates from the internet that you can use when providing estimates and finalizing contracts with customers. Masonry work can get quite expensive, so don’t do yourself a disservice by inadvertently creating misleading information or loopholes in your contract forms.
Training, Education, and Licensing for Masons
Most new masons receive their education and masonry skills by participating in an apprenticeship. These apprenticeship programs are usually available through technical and community colleges, professional masons, builders associations, and masonry unions. To enter an apprenticeship, you must be at least 18 years old with a high school diploma or GED. In some cases, prospective apprentices will be required to pass an aptitude or skills test.
Though you may have decided to go into the masonry business because you feel you are an expert in the field and have already gone through your apprenticeship program, there is always an opportunity to complete continuing education to refine your craft. This can also help you to stay on top of new trends and techniques and to educate you on new tools and materials that can make your work better.
Customers will appreciate knowing that you (and your employees, if applicable) are properly trained and have taken on the responsibility to learn and improve continuously. Journeyman masons who gain experience over time but take the time to take additional classes both in masonry-related content as well as in business skills can become master tradesmen in the future and will have the ability to train new apprentices. Finally, requirements for the licensing of building contractors and subcontractors will vary by state. A mason who owns a business and contracts directly with clients must have a license, and in most cases, customers will expect to see proof of licensing before they will agree to do business with you. Obtaining a contractor or subcontractor license usually entails passing a licensing exam, submitting various financial records, providing references (business and personal), and proof of insurance. Associations such as the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) provide voluntary certification opportunities for masons who desire to show their potential customers that they are suitably knowledgeable and have the requisite experience in the masonry field.