The allure of being one's own boss and the possibility of unlimited earnings tempt innumerable bricklayers each year to call themselves residential contractors. Ill-prepared to be business owners and managers, many go bankrupt or just scrape together a subsistence income for years. GET EXPERT ADVICE When plunging into business for themselves, many masons don't realize how much they need to learn. New contractors can avail themselves of many free or inexpensive sources of information. When starting out in business, masons should ask for advice from experienced masonry contractors and other professionals. KEEP DETAILED RECORDS Most small masonry contractors are sloppy bookkeepers, so keeping accurate records will give a contractor an edge over competitors. Payroll records demand especially close attention. KNOW YOUR COSTS Another major failing of novice masonry contractors is ignorance of what their expenses will be. Many aren't prepared for the high cost of worker's compensation insurance. Equipment costs can also overwhelm new contractors. ACHIEVE EARLY CASH FLOW New masonry contractors can't afford to wait two or three years before the business starts earning money. They've got to make money while developing the business. Late and unpaid accounts receivable can greatly impede cash flow. HONE A PROFESSIONAL IMAGE Builders distrust unfamiliar masonry contractors. Rather than awarding a job to the lowest bidder, builders usually prefer to hire firms they know are dependable. SELL SERVICE Successful masonry contractors agree that contracting is a service business. This means more than just quality workmanship and on-time performance. Forging strong partnerships with steady customers instead of constantly looking for new accounts is a key step.