[SPONSORED] “I want to throw this phone out the window!”
It’s 5:44am on a Monday in August and this is how Terry, a GC in his late 40s, answers my call. I love it—only a general contractor can be this fired-up this early in the morning.
“Seriously,” Terry laughs, “thanks for calling this early, but it’s honestly the only time I’m free to chat. It’s nuts right now—the phone never stops ringing. I’m crazy busy.”
It’s often been said that contractors don’t die of starvation; they die from gluttony. Taking on too much work, too fast—without adequate resources—can cripple a contractor who doesn’t have a solid network of reliable subs and tradesmen. But building those networks manually seems to be getting tougher and tougher.
If you’ve read any recent article on the construction and remodeling industry, it seems like finding tradesmen today is a Herculean task. The shortage of labor sounds alarming—and it appears like it’s only going to get worse. As the current generation of tradesmen edges closer to retirement, there simply aren’t enough millennials entering the trades to fill the gap. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of vacant skilled trade jobs could skyrocket to 1.6 million in the next 5 years. And many small contractors like Terry are trying to grow their networks, so they can safely grow their businesses.
He’s juggling seven reno jobs with a small circle of subs and tradesmen that he trusts—the same guys he has worked with and relied on for years. But more and more, Terry needs to reach outside of his network to find help—and it’s far from easy.
“I swear,” Terry admits, “I can’t find a great trim carpenter—they’re all busy. We post jobs on Craigslist, but you just never know what you’re gonna get. There’s some really awesome Groups on Facebook, with a lot of guys helping each other out, but it can get really noisy there…”
I ask him about getting referrals from other GCs in his area.
“A lot of the guys I know hoard their subs...they’re like my kids with Halloween candy.”
Terry echoes the frustration of hundreds of other small contractors I’ve spoken to over the last few months. Most are swamped with work and unable to find the guys to do it, often feeling like the next job will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
But the tradesmen are out there somewhere—the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) estimates that they are currently over 400,000 specialty trades businesses, with a combined value of $600b (yes, with a ‘b’). It makes you wonder if the immediate problem isn’t that there’s no good tradesmen; it might be that there’s no good place for contractors to find them.
“So”, Terry pauses, “tell me more about The Trade Exchange app.”
I tell Terry that we built The Trade Exchange app (or “T-Rex” for short) to help contractors like him save time finding subs and tradesmen. At its core, T-Rex is a business network that connects construction and remodeling professionals—GCs, subs, tradesmen, designers, builders, property managers.
I assure him the app is fast and easy-to-use, explaining that all he needs to do to find guys is literally press a few buttons. This sends out a job alert to the T-Rex network in his area, instantly notifying all of the available sub-trades that he needs help on a job. Whoever is interested in his job will ping him back.
“So,” Terry asks, “how do I know if these guys are good?”
It’s a great question and one that most T-Rex members ask when they first sign-up for the app—both GCs and tradesmen alike. I tell Terry that every contractor and sub on The Trade Exchange has their own Profile Page, where they list professional information—bios, skills and specialties, work photos, insurance info, licenses and certifications, websites and job preferences.
I also tell Terry about our contractor-to-contractor endorsement system, where pros recommend other pros that they’ve worked with before. Since the T-Rex network is for construction and remodeling professionals only—with no homeowner or customer members—our contractors vouch for each other’s skills and reliability, effectively creating a self-monitoring community. It works both ways of course—subs and tradesmen endorse the best and most reputable GCs, builders and designers.
Many GCs I’ve spoken with are realizing that the most efficient way to operate is to work together, share resources and help other contractors—so nobody is ever stuck. They’re growing their businesses by growing their networks and already using channels like Facebook Groups to do it.
“So,” Terry jokes, “can the app find me a good trim carpenter in the next 5 minutes?”
I laugh and tell him that, yes, technically, it can. It’s still early days and we’ve only recently launched the app and like any network, the more people who use it, the better it is for everyone else. We have already helped close to 500 contractors, builders and sub-trades connect, but our vision is to connect every construction and remodeling business in North America. It will take a while to get there, but one thing is certain—finding the right pros, for the right jobs, at the right time, is a very big problem.
Terry thanks for me the call and says he’ll definitely check out the app and give it a try.
I thank him for not throwing his phone out the window.
A couple days later, I’m on a call with Jesse, a trim carpenter in his 20’s who literally works less than 30 miles from Terry.
Jesse’s work belies his age—his portfolio looks terrific, he’s got some stellar reviews and he carries himself like a true pro. By all accounts, he seems like a guy a GC would love to work with. But he’s just recently gone out on his own and is still growing his network. He’s busy enough, like all good tradesmen, but he’s always looking for more jobs and looking to connect with more contractors.
I explain to him how T-Rex works; that all he needs to do is create a profile on the app and he’ll be instantly notified when contractors in his area are looking for subs. I then tell him he’ll probably find a job alert waiting in his inbox from a GC named Terry. But that he should reply before 6:00am and probably text instead of call.
The Trade Exchange app is available across North America and you can download it from the App Stores or from www.thetradeexchange.com. Josh Hudson is the CEO and Co-Founder and can be reached at email@example.com.