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What We Learned - Women General Contractors

Many of you have asked if we are our own contractor for our home. The answer is yes, I have taken the reins on most of it so far. This is my dream; my husband has his own dreams and I try to respect that. So I decided, with much resistance, that I would general contract our home. What better person than the micro-managing designer / owner (sweating nervous face as I’m writing that).

In the past, it has been difficult being a woman in a male dominated industry trying to make calls and decisions, AKA overseeing them and asking them to do things. For some reason, the past contractors have not perceived that well. I used to be intimidated, not ask for what I need and when I did, it came off aggressive because I had worked myself up so much.

So, I have prayed a lot about this and God has come through on this project. I have to say that it has been a much more pleasant experience and I am grateful for the contractors we have.

How I Choose Contractors:

Each of the men I am working with have been carefully chosen. I have had to make some tough decisions and had uncomfortable conversations to tell some of them we won’t be working with them. But even through those moments, I am so glad that I stuck with my instincts to say no to those that aren’t giving off good vibes and going with those who are respectful, genuine, knowledgeable and communicate with me well.

I make sure to choose those that have lots of experience and don't have a big ego about it. Those are the ones that are normally willing to help and talk through the situations rather than bulldoze you and your opinions. I also make sure that I am able to communicate with them. The moment they ask "when will I be speaking to your husband" they are pretty much out of the running. I often have my husband call them to discuss mechanical things. If they only seem to want to talk to my husband, I move on. If they are not listening to my needs and wants in the home, and often trying to talk me out of those things that are important, I also usually move on and find someone new.

If you have a project coming up where you have to take the reins and oversee it, this will help you.

1. Confidence:

You have to have a bit of confidence in your abilities. I did not have this in the beginning. It has taken me years to find that I am really good at building homes and that I know a lot more than the average joe about it. I’m not talking about the bullshit, phony confidence that you pretend to have. I’m talking about the authentic confidence that you exude without trying.

2. Organized :

I don’t mean having an organized notebook (although that helps too) but staying organized in your thoughts and what step comes next. Also, having everything picked out and on site before they begin or at least ahead of schedule. I have gotten to the point of having most of the design planned before we even begin and then buying the lights and fixtures immediately. Having the material picked out before hand and making decisions at least 3-4 weeks before they need it on site.

3. Decisive:

Learning to be decisive is a good trait in life as a whole. I have decided that there is a time and place to be carefree and indecisive, but a building site is not one of them. You have to know what you want. Did you read that… what YOU want. Otherwise, the contractors will make decisions for you.

4. Authoritative but respectful :

I think this is a good follow up to the decisive bullet point because when you have to enforce your decisions or stay true to what you want, that includes having to be authoritative in those things sometimes. You’re going to wish this issue won’t come up but it will. Trust me when I say, you must be respectful and not demanding. Let them know in a matter of fact way that this is what you want or need done no matter how you have to figure it out. The moment that you become rude; is the moment you lose respect from them. You must remain calm and enforce your boundaries.

5. Let them teach you:

Don’t go in being a know it all if you don’t ( or even if you do because that's annoying in general). That to me comes off as an insecurity. The whole “fake it until you make it” term does not apply here. You can’t afford to make mistakes on home building. So educate yourself, ask questions and let the professionals teach you. This is the best way to learn and the best way to clearly understand what they will be doing so that there is no miscommunication and no mistakes further down the line.

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