How to decide when *not to go for a big job?

DBE Series 2

How do I decide when to not go for a big job?

A big job can be impressive and an excellent way to get in with a new GC you’ve never worked with.  

But, you have to be careful, as you know, because you’re putting yourself, your business, perhaps your home, and your family’s financial wellbeing at risk. 

Here’s how you know how to figure it out.

  1. Comb through that bid package with a fine-tooth comb. And cover all of your bases. Ensure you’re aware of all of the expenses (including overhead) that this big job must contribute to. Work with your bookkeeper to make sure.  
  2. Know that you’re going to likely bid at a lower profit margin just to get the job. This is risky. Can you handle it? What business management systems do you have in place to help balance out that lower profit margin? Are there ways you can squeeze more productivity or efficiency into what you already have? Do you have any excess inventory that can help you save on this job?   
  3. If you’re losing money, then that’s time to walk away. If you have a tight profit margin, it’s better to know all the expense details now so that you’re not surprised later.
  4. Talk to your colleagues who might have worked with them in the past – judge their reputation. Do they pay on time, or do they pay late? How can this affect your cash flow?  

Use your intuition – what kind of vibe are they giving off? 

Read articles about their company, keep talking, look for their upcoming projects and what’s coming down the line. 

  1. Is it possible for you to get in on some of these projects?  

And finally, if you say yes to this big job even though you have a skinny profit margin, make sure that this doesn’t become a habit. You can’t get ahead in your business by doing this. 

At first, it’s OK as long as you cover your bases – your expenses and your overhead. But after some experience, you should be able to be more choosy and aim for the jobs which provide a more significant profit margin.  

Published by Janet Johnson, MBA | Business Advisor

Janet Johnson is a small business advisor and author of My Money Pivot: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Finding & Making More Money and this educational blog. All views expressed belong solely to Ms. Johnson and do not represent the views of her employer. The website,, is currently managed by Luz Marcos, Virtual Assistant.

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