How to Become a General Contractor: 6 Key Elements of My Journey Becoming a Builder
By Scotti Ogden
Owner of Ogden Contracting LTD
This is My Story of How I Became a General Contractor & Built a Successful Construction Company
If you want to know how to Become a General Contractor in Canada, maybe my story can help guide you. I’ve listed below some key elements of my path to becoming a builder. Including education, work experience, mentorship and business skills. This is how I went from a skateboard ramp builder, to a custom home builder.
6 Key Elements of My journey Becoming a Builder
1. You Need to Have Passion
Since being a kid, I always had a passion for building things, designing and solving puzzles. When I was 11 years old, I decided that I wanted to be a builder. At the time, I built skateboard ramps for all the kids in the neighborhood. I even got an opportunity when I was twenty seven to build a ramp for my mentor at the time, Tony Hawk while he was in Vancouver for a competition.
2. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Education (even in the trades)
In high school, I took numerous carpentry and design courses including woodworking and construction. In my final year of secondary school, I entered the BC high school Trades Challenge at BCIT. I won first place and was awarded a grant to attend BCIT for Carpentry 101. Later on in my career, after owning a successful framing company for seventeen years, I chose to take the builder courses through Canadian Home Builder Association of BC to become a General Contractor and Home Builder. Since the beginning of my career as a General Contractor, I have continued to learn. I attended Breakthrough Academy to learn how to run my business properly and more successfully. I still continue to educate myself through books, Mastermind, Toastmasters, and the Canadian Home Builders Association of the Fraser Valley.
Tip for business owners in the construction industry: Always keep your education moving forward.
If someone wants to Become a General Contractor, there are specific courses that I would recommend taking. The Canadian Home Builders Association has several courses including Construction Law, Service and Warranty, BC Building Code, Business Planning and Management, Financial Management, Project Management and Site Supervision, and lastly, Building Science.
3. Work Experience: Don’t Just Settle for any Job
My first work experience was with A-1 Stairs in Langley, BC. This is where I learnt the importance of keeping my workplace clean and to ensure the environment is safe for all workers. When I was in my early twenties I started framing for the best Framer in the Lower Mainland, John Dewolff. I was taught by the best. When I started my own framing company, I worked for a builder named Kevin Schmidt. I framed over 80 homes for Schmidt Construction as well as several other builders who collaboratively taught me how to run a successful company as a builder.
4. Find the Right Mentors
John Dewolff ended up being a mentor for me, he inspired me to start my own framing company. I was then employed by contractors to do the framing portion of their projects. A few of the contractors I worked for include Kevin Schmidt and Buzz Stobbe, who became my next mentor and influenced me to become a general contractor. My mentor Buzz Stobbe taught me how to put the needs of customers first and build lasting friendships with clients.
Everybody needs a role model to move into the next stages of their life. Buzz allowed me to join in on all his meetings with homeowners and trades. I had an opportunity to observe and I learnt verbal communication skills as well as how to get the job done correctly without sounding too harsh.
5. Take Risks
In 2001 I was given an opportunity to frame my first home independently. I initially started my framing company by writing a proposal to John Dewolff, stating that I would rent his tools and pay him for the nails that he supplied. I would then split the profit fifty-fifty with him. In our agreement I stated that whatever jobs came next from that builder would be entirely mine and jobs did come.
6. A Growth Mindset is Essential
If you’re thinking of starting your own construction company, having a growth mindset alongside other business skills is essential. My advice is to always pay close attention to how your employers run and manage their businesses. What do you agree with? What do you disagree with? I encourage you to read books on how to grow and manage your business, as well as how to grow and manage yourself and wellbeing. See my YouTube video here for some of my top recommendations. Never put limitations on yourself and always be open to improvement and mentorship. You never know just how expansive your company could become. In 2019 I needed more guidance and direction. I took on a visionary coach, Lois Weinblatt, of True North Visionaries, who taught me how to set goals. I highly suggest hiring a visionary or life coach if you’re ever feeling stuck.
How do I Plan on Continuing to Grow and Expand my Company?
My plan for the next couple years is to refine our systems, standard operating procedures and to deliver on our promises to our customers and trades. By building a solid foundation of processes, we can deliver clear communication and our best quality work.
Additionally, I want to give back to the construction industry and become a mentor to the next generation of top quality builders.
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