Use manufacturer banners on your job sites to draw attention from people on the street. Every project could be an advertisement for your business and the ICF product. Photo courtesy of Fox Blocks

The start of a new year is a great time to assess your business: where you are and where you want to be. As an experienced or new ICF contractor, one of the main planning functions for your business is to look at improving and growing your business, plus review the possibility to venture or expand into new territories.

Can Clients Find You?
One of the most frequent questions asked on the ICF Builder Group Facebook page is “Where can I find an ICF contractor in my area?” These are customers looking for YOU!. In business, this is called “low hanging fruit.” But why, in your area, do customers have to ask on social media for ICF contractors? Ideally, they would already know you’re there. Naturally, one of the best business models is to have customers calling you because of your skills, quality, and customer service. This means no marketing is required, because business comes by word of mouth, from your reputation, which has taken a few years to develop, and is good for you. However, you must promote the business and not depend on word of mouth because the competition is growing.

The ICF residential and commercial markets are experiencing excellent growth. The new codes complement ICFs for thermal resistance and air tightness versus traditional wall assemblies. The movement toward Net Zero and Net Zero Ready is easily achieved with an ICF building envelope. Climate change events — floods, wildfires, and extreme windstorms — highlight the resiliency and safety of buildings with reinforced concrete. All the value-adds are available and have been gaining the attention of insurance companies and financial institutions. ICF has all the earmarks for developing a successful contracting business. As an ICF contractor with a goal to survive and thrive, you bring two major elements to the table: ICF construction experience and the value-add of a sustainable solution.

Questions To Ask
In benchmarking your business plan, a series of focused questions must be answered to evaluate the plan and methodology for improvement, expansion, and how to strategically address your business operations. This is a short list of leading questions:

  • What are you offering clients apart from your traditional-build competition?
  • Do you have a marketing plan, project showcase, website, social media skills?
  • Are you extending the building session with more projects by using ICFs in cold weather?
  • Do you have the capability to expand into small commercial or multi-
    story buildings?
  • Have you the financial ability and crew size to take on more projects?
  • Are your estimates for materials and labor profitable?
  • What are the key elements required to improve your business?
  • Does the ICF manufacturer and/or dealer support your business?

Every business needs a great team because your team is your business. Evaluate team members and encourage them, in the off season, to expand their expertise with online training. Look at adding entry-level team members by utilizing available ICF training sessions from leading ICF manufacturers. Take the lead by having the full crew complete a new training session, just as a refresher course. Products and installation methods have changed, and everyone needs to be up to date and improve efficiency.

Assess Your Marketing
Assess your marketing. Every ICF project naturally draws attention from people on the street, architects, designers, inspectors, etc. Do you use site signage, banners available from the ICF manufacturer, or product brochures for hand-outs? Every project could be an advertisement for your business and the ICF product. Have the ability and foresight to promote yourself by inviting future clients, designers, journalists from area newspapers or magazines, etc. to tour the site and learn about ICFs.
Trade shows are another excellent means to advertise your business. The smaller home or trade shows provide a great opportunity to showcase your projects and feature the values of ICFs. The investment for a booth is easily offset by the availability of leads that turn into projects. People are interested in sustainability, high-performance, and resiliency, all of which ICFs offer. Sell to your strengths as the best ICF contractor to supply all these value-add entities plus speed of construction and customer satisfaction.
Visiting the larger trade shows offers the opportunity to see and review new products that are compatible with ICFs, plus get your name out there for possible leads to new projects. There are many rewards to walking the trade show floor, seeing new products, and where the markets are going. It gives you the opportunities to understand the advantage your business has using ICFs over the complexity of traditional wall assemblies.

Redefine Yourself
In the benchmark process, the evaluation identifies the pros and cons of your business plan, providing possible steps forward for improvement. One of the key elements for marketing your business plan is the realization that ICF buildings are high-performance envelopes and you are a high-performance, sustainable builder. The addition of quality windows and doors and great roof insulation will easily make all full ICF projects Net Zero Ready. Projects may also be designed and built to meet the criteria for resiliency per FEMA requirements. These two characteristics — high-performance and resiliency — undoubtedly move your business to the top of the list and should be your major marketing push along with experience, quality, and customer satisfaction.

There are many articles on how to grow your business and do a benchmark analysis. Before the start of a new construction season, contractors should do this analysis to develop a solid plan for the next season. In the slow times, investigate ICF training and product knowledge sessions. Build alliances with energy raters, designers, and architects to grow and promote the ICF business. Make yourself known as the go-to ICF builder in your area, stopping clients from fishing on the internet chat pages for an ICF builder.
The ICF Builder awards showcase some of the fantastic, innovative, projects built throughout the year. Understand that your ICF construction business is part of this illustrious team showcasing their talents. Go into 2024 with a solid plan to improve, possibly expand, and be profitable as the lead ICF contractor in your area.

Tom Patton

Tom Patton had a 30-year architectural design background prior to joining the ICF industry in 2001 with the technical support department at ARXX. Over the last
20 years, Tom has worked with major ICF companies developing technical documentation, application details, and training programs, as well as consulting and promoting ICFs with various associations including the ICFMA, NRMCA, and codes and standards committees. Currently, Tom is Corporate Brand Ambassador for Fox Blocks and co-developer of the Fox Blocks Integrated Learning Center.