Thomas C. Corley

About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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Top 10 Rich Habits in Running a Construction Business

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It is not easy running a construction business. There are many pitfalls and numerous ways to lose money. But, if you follow some basic steps you can not only make a living, you can become very wealthy.

Successful construction contractors have learned there are certain things you absolutely must do right all the time and certain skills you must have or acquire in order to make it in this very competitive industry. In this article I will summarize the top 10 Rich Habits in running a construction contractors, in their order of importance.

Most Important Factor: Hands On Experience

Do not even think about starting a construction contractor business unless you have at least five years of broad (meaning, not specialized) construction experience. The only exception to this is if you intend on specializing in one area and one area only. We call this a niche. Niche’s can be very profitable, but they can also go away, change or be replaced by technology, new products, changes in the industry or societal changes. The best chance for success in the general contractor business is to gain experience doing everything.

This general experience has many benefits. It gives you the ability to identify and hire competent individuals, fire incompetent ones, evaluate good work product and identify poor work product. Probably the most important thing it gives you is the ability to transition from being a technician to being a manager. The best experience comes from small to mid-sized construction companies that require you to be a jack of all trades. Larger companies have a tendency to pigeonhole you into niches. That is fine if your business model is a niche, but if you start a general contractor construction business with skills in only a few niche areas, you will fail unless you hire to your weaknesses.

Second Most Important Factor: Outstanding Accounting System

If you do not have a sound accounting system your construction business will eventually fail. This CPA has witnessed this too many times than I care to recount. Sound accounting systems allow you to evaluate whether or not you make a profit on a job by job basis. Going with gut instinct is dangerous and fraught with risk. A sound accounting system helps you identify those things you do right on each job as well as the mistakes you’ve made. Numbers don’t lie.

Unfortunately, my experience has shown me that most construction contractors pay little attention to their system of accounting. There is a fear that proper accounting will set the business owner up for higher taxes. Thus, cash received on a job and cash disbursed go unreported in an effort to avoid tax.

What a mistake.

I don’t care how great you think your intuition is, if you don’t have an accounting of every penny on each job, you can rest assured you are flying blind and losing money on each job. You will go out of business and your family life will suffer.

If you decide to start your own business, you need to act like a professional business owner and that means creating a sound accounting system. Failed accounting systems lead to litigation, failure and bankruptcy.

Third Most Important Factor: Proven Processes = Success

When you have hands on experience in the industry, forged by many years (at least five years) of working in every facet of the construction business, you are better able to make the transition from technician to manager. Effective management requires that you have sound procedures on many aspects of your business. Well-defined, proven processes, along with task-specific checklists, allows you to drill your workers on every aspect of a task within a job.

You should have a process with accompanying checklists for every major task within a job. This eliminates human error and allows you to make corrections before the task is completed. Processes are a construction company owner’s #1 management tool. You must develop a process for each job and each task. This process must be in writing and stored in a binder for each job, along with the task checklist. The task checklist should be calendarized. Your jobs binder should include the following:

Tab #1 – A copy of the signed contract and any change orders.
Tab #2 – Budget for the job. Budget for each change order.
Tab #3 – Accounting for income and expenses. The income portion would include the contract bid price, monies received either as deposits or as the stages of the project are completed and monies received for change orders.
Tab #4 – Task List Summary.
Tab #5 – Task #1 Process Summary and Checklist.
Tab #6 – Task #2 Process Summary and Checklist.

Last Tab – Customer sign off letter on completed work along with standard testimonial letter signed by customer, listing customer’s name and contact information along with permission to use the testimonial in marketing and as a reference for prospective customers.

Transfer copies of each testimonial letter to a separate “Testimonial Binder” that you will take with you to each prospect. This Testimonial Binder may be the only thing separating you from your competition. It gives assurance to prospects that you take customer satisfaction very seriously and may be the difference maker. It allows prospects an opportunity to reach out to previous customers in order to obtain references. It also shows the prospect your company is very organized and well run. Lastly, have a picture of the before and after on each job in this binder.

Fourth Most Important Factor: Strong Business Partnerships

A stable of competent subcontractors who have many years of experience working together is crucial to the success of a job. Each job is a team effort and having a strong network of competent individuals/businesses available to you for each job, and who understand your businesses processes, will make each job run much more efficiently. Efficiency and competency = profit on each job.

Fifth Most Important Factor: Project Bidding Process

You can be the most skilled, best managed construction company, with a stable of talented subcontractors and still go out of business if you do not have a strong process in place on bidding for each job. You can lose your shirt if you underbid a job.

How does this happen?

The most common cause of underbidding is not doing your homework and relying on your gut or unverified estimates rather than a fail safe process of checking and double checking each cost within each task. The devil in any construction job is in the details.

The bidding process is very much like your business plan for each job. It must identify every task, every cost and each cost must be checked and double checked before bidding on the job.

Where many construction contractors go wrong is in estimating the cost of tasks incorrectly. These incorrect estimates are caused by flawed assumptions on the tasks and the associated costs, which is the result of not accurately verifying and then re-verifying every task and every cost. It is a painstaking process, but you must get the bid right. Your assumptions on each task must be vetted not once but at least twice. You know the rule: measure twice cut once. This adage is particularly true in the bidding process.

Sixth Most Important Factor: Marketing

Everyone in the construction business understands the importance of referrals. Most of your prospective customers come by way of referral. But referrals are not enough. What should be part of your marketing tool belt?

1. You should have an active web site that includes customer testimonials front and center.
2. You should join a local networking group.
3. You should join a local civic or business organization.
4. You should provide valuable assistance to local community non-profit groups (one or two non-profits is enough).
5. You should have a regular process of bidding jobs that are not referral-based.
6. You should have a process for direct mailings and/or social media marketing.
7. You should have business cards, stationary, job site signs.
8. You should advertise online.
9. Customer Testimonial Binder (referenced above).
10. You should have brochures you can hand out at events or give to prospects.

Seventh Most Important Factor: Stay Current With Technology and Replace Old Equipment/Tools

You must upgrade your equipment and tools to stay current with technological changes. This will not only improve efficiency but also the quality of each job. You must also replace old equipment and tools in order to get each job completed efficiently and on time.

You will know when it is time for new equipment and tools when the old equipment and tools begin breaking down at a rate that causes recurring delays. When equipment/tools breakdown it can cause cost overruns and result in late completions. No matter how good the quality of your work is, missing completion dates damages your reputation.

Eighth Most Important Factor: Hire To Your Weaknesses

No matter how much experience you have, and how skilled you may be, there are certain things each one of us does well and certain things we do badly. More often than not, the things we do well are the things we enjoy doing and the things we do badly are the things we hate doing.

A skilled business owner will hire people who have strengths in areas the business owner has weaknesses.

As an example, one of my clients nearly went out of business because he did not like having to make calls to collect receivables. My advise to him? Hire someone who is expert in collections. He took me up on my advise and eventually, his collections expert, became his partner. His business is thriving now.

Hire to your weakness and watch your business boom.

Ninth Most Important Factor: Document Mistakes and Failures

This should be incorporated into your Job Process/Task List Binder. You must learn from your mistakes. Mistakes should not be considered anything other than an experience learned. Document those bad experiences and incorporate them into your job process and task list binder so as to never repeat them again.

Tenth Most Important Factor: Change Orders

Most contracts include language regarding change orders. Change orders are caused by many factors, which is beyond the scope of this article. But let me be clear in saying that you must cost out every change order as if you were costing out the job in the initial bidding process.

You must then process the change order (list each task and assign a date of completion for each task) and attach a task checklist for each new task resulting from the change order.

Lastly, you must get the customer to understand and sign off on the change order or you will not collect your full price for the job. Many construction contractors do a poor job in addressing change orders. They are reluctant to highlight it with the customer and, consequently, gloss over it in an effort to avoid confrontation.

The reason?

The likelihood of change orders occurring are not adequately addressed up front when you are bidding on the job – this means you are not managing the expectations of the customer during the bidding process.

Customers only see the price you gave them in the initial bid and that is what they focus on.

You must address the likelihood of a change order occurring at the outset of the bidding process and before the contract is signed. If a customer understands from the very beginning that change orders do occur often and that a change order will increase the price of the job, you will be less shy about confronting the customer when a change order becomes necessary.

Remember, success is a process. And so too is failure.

[Read more…]

Success Requires Change and Change is a 7 Step Process


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Change is easier said than done.

Success in life is really about change. In order to get from where you are to where you want to be, you must change.

But, change, I learned, is a process.

From my Rich Habits research, specifically my research on how self-made millionaires transformed their lives from ordinary to extraordinary, I’ve identified seven steps that are part of this change process:

  1. Clarity – In order to know what change is required in your life, you must first gain clarity as to what exactly you want to change into. What is your vision of your desired life. More specifically, who do you want to be and when do you want to be who you want to be? Knowing your desired destination, creates clarity.
  2. Awareness – What are you currently doing every day that has created the life you have? Becoming aware means understanding which behaviors are holding you back from realizing success. For the most part, these will be daily habits that need to be changed.
  3. Desire to Change – Will you do what needs to be done? This is a stop sign for most people. The desire to change needs to be strong enough before you are able to move on to the next step.
  4. Taking Action – Action creates motivation. Action stirs the passions deep within. But until you take action, motivation and passion will be hard to find.
  5. Tracking – Change is a trial and error process because the actions you take may not be moving you forward. But you’ll never know if you are making progress unless you track that progress from the very beginning. Tracking helps you identify what works and what does not work. It tees you up for the next step.
  6. Pivoting – Heuristics is the process of experimentation through trial and error. Only by taking action and tracking your progress will you learn what works and what doesn’t work. Once you have an idea what doesn’t work, it’s time to pivot. Pivoting involves experimenting with different activities until you stumble upon an activity that, thanks to tracking, separates what doesn’t work from what does work. You know what works because you will experience little blips of success. Those little blips of success are life’s way of telling you, you are on the right track.
  7. Create Time-Tested Habits – Once you figure out what works by pivoting, the next step is to convert what works into daily habits. These daily habits will then put you on autopilot for success. Depending on the type of habit, it can take as long as eight months for a daily behavior to become a habit. So, stick to what works for eight months and it will become a daily habit.

Finding Your Inner Greatness


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Most of the self-made millionaires in my Rich Habits study never saw themselves as anything but ordinary.

Most weren’t very good students growing up. Only 14% were A students. The remaining 86% were either B, C or D students.

Most came from either poverty (41%) or the middle-class (59%), so their parents had few, if any, rich, influential friends who could open up doors for their children. And, since most of their friends were either poor or middle-class, those friends couldn’t open up any doors for them either.

Only 61% of my self-made millionaires went to college. For the rest, the 39%, college was an expensive luxury they just couldn’t afford.

So, how did they break free from poverty or the middle-class then?

A more targeted, better question would be: What unique traits did they posses that elevated them above their socioeconomic peers?

I discovered that every self-made millionaire had six common traits that were responsible for helping them climb out of poverty or the middle-class.

I cover these in detail in my two most recent books – Change Your Habits Change Your Life and Rich Habits Poor Habits, but I’ll share them with you here, in the order of importance:

  1. Intense Passion
  2. A Desire to Learn
  3. Relentless Practice
  4. Laser-Like Focus
  5. Hard Work Ethic and
  6. Patience and Persistence

The great irony is that my self-made millionaires didn’t even know they possessed these traits until some passion deep inside of them stimulated them to take action.

Once they began pursuing that passion, it’s like all hell broke loose.

Their desire to learn more about the thing they were passionate about became an obsession that morphed into a daily habit.

Their love for what they were doing kept them doing it, practicing it, every day until they become proficient, then good, then virtuosos in what they were doing. even when nothing was going right and everything seemed difficult.

Their intense desire to learn and overcome every obstacle forced them to focus like a laser at different times, so they could figure out what to do and what not to do.

An outsider looking in would see my self-made millionaires tirelessly pursuing their passion and conclude that they possessed some unique, manic work ethic.

Because mastery and success took so long, an average of twelve years or more, they forged two co-traits: patience and persistence.

The #1 thing I took away from my very ordinary self-made millionaires is that everyone is born with these success traits hardwired into their DNA and just waiting to be sprung loose.

Unfortunately, they remain dormant until you unleash them. And you unleash them by pursuing things you are passionate about; activities that make your heart sing.

Passion creates the desire to learn.

Passion provides the emotional energy to practice every day for many years.

Passion allows you to focus like a laser in solving problems and overcoming obstacles.

Passion allows you to work long hours for many years, forging a manic work ethic daily habit.

And Passion enables you to take a long view, as you patiently persist in pushing the ball up the hill.

You have really one thing to do in order to succeed in life:

Find something that makes your heart sing and take action on it!

The rest of what you need to succeed, will follow.

Here’s Why the Rich Have Multiple Streams of Income


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Self-Made Millionaires Build Their Financial Empire One Revenue Stream at a Time

In my study of the daily habits of the rich and poor, I learned that most self-made millionaires generated their income from multiple sources:

  • 65% had three streams of income
  • 45% had four streams of income and
  • 29% had five or more streams of income.

Having multiple income streams makes a lot of sense.

When one stream is negatively affected, for whatever reasons, the other streams can come to the rescue and help you survive the downturn, without dramatically affecting your lifestyle.

Some famous examples of this multiple income stream principle at work include:

  • Ashton Kutcher invested some of his Hollywood cash on Skype in 2009 when it was valued at just $2.75 billion. Microsoft purchased Skype for more than $8 billion, making Ashton enormously wealthy. (Source: Computer Business Review)
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger gets most of his current income from real estate investments he made prior to becoming a famous film star.(Source: Book – Tools of Titans)
  • Warren Buffet – Through Berkshire Hathaway, Buffet is invested in 63 companies. That’s a lot of baskets kicking off a lot of income streams. (Source: Berkshire Hathaway)
  • Sir Richard Branson has over 200 businesses that kick off streams of income for him. (Source: Autobiography – Finding My Virginity)
  • Elon Musk has seven businesses that generate various revenue streams: SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity, The Boring Company, Hyperloop, OpenAI and Neuralink.(Source: Wired)
  • Mark Zuckerberg, through Facebook, owns 69 other businesses that generate various revenue streams.(Source:

Most people have one stream of income – their job. If you do not save and invest your savings in assets that generate additional streams of income, and you lose your job, you could find yourself living with a relative.

Putting all of your eggs in one basket by being dependent on one stream of income is risky. If that basket breaks, what do you do?

Many of the 177 self-made millionaires in my study built their businesses while employed full time. If they can do it, so can you.

How do you create multiple streams of income? In our book, Rich Habits Poor Habits, co-author and self-made millionaire Michael Yardney explains exactly how he helped hundreds of ordinary individuals become self-made millionaires by creating multiple streams of income. Here’s a list of some of Michael’s top tips:

  1. Save, Save, Save – Save 10 – 20% of your net income every year.
  2. Learn, Learn, Learn – Develop new skills that you can eventually turn into a side business. Acquire knowledge that you can use to start up a side business or that can help you intelligently invest your money in assets that generate passive income. Passive investments include: residential rental properties, commercial rental properties, TICS, triple net leases, seasonal rentals (beach areas, ski resort areas, lake front areas), equity investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds), annuities, permanent life insurance, royalty-generating property (timber, oil and gas), boat rentals etc.
  3. Invest, Invest, Invest – Invest part of your savings in a side business that will one day generate an additional stream of income.
  4. Reinvest, Reinvest, Reinvest – Once your side gigs begin generating cash flow, reinvest that cash flow to either grow the business or invest that cash flow in other side businesses or assets that generate passive income.

If you can’t do it on your own, partner with others and keep building your side businesses or passive investments. That’s what self-made millionaires do. Very few do it on their own.

Three streams of income seems to be the magic number for the self-made millionaires in my Rich Habits Study, but the more income streams you can create in life, the more secure your financial house will be and the more wealth you will create.

Never Make a Decision Driven by Fear


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In 1993 I was offered a high paying job as a Principal at one of the largest CPA firms in the world. I was 32 years old at the time, with a wife and three very young children I absolutely adored.

After great deliberation, I decided to turn down the job. I was concerned that the job would take me away from my family too much. Family, I rationalized, was more important than money. I actually felt noble and proud of myself for making the “right” decision.

I did not think much about that decision until more than a decade later, when I began interviewing the 361 rich and poor people who were part of my Rich Habits Study.

I learned from that five-year exercise that rich people do not let fear guide their decision-making.

Don’t get me wrong, rich people do not ignore their fears. But they do deal with fear differently than the poor people in my study did.

The millionaires had a Rich Habit when it came to decision-making that incorporated two elements:

  1. Confront Your Fears – They would make a list of all of the things that could go wrong with any big life decision.
  2. Plan for the Worst – They would create contingency plans to deal with each worst-case scenario.

If one of those worst cases did happen, they were not caught off guard – they had anticipated it far in advance and had a plan to deal with it, already in place.

The poor people in my study, however, had a Poor Habit of focusing on their fears and making decisions that were fear-based.

It was not long after finishing my study that I realized my 1993 big life decision was anything but noble – it had actually been dictated by fear.

So, eleven years later, I did just what the rich people in my study did – I confronted the fears behind my 1993 decision:

  1. I was afraid I would not see my children grow up.
  2. I was afraid I might hate the job.
  3. I was afraid of not meeting my new company’s expectations and that they would fire me.
  4. I was afraid I would not like the people I worked with.

Four fears dictated my decision-making. And it came at a cost – we struggled financially for many years thereafter and I was forced to secure a second part-time job to help bring in more money, which ironically meant I did not see my kids as much as I wanted to.

Never make big life decisions that are driven by fear. When faced with a big decision forge the habit of confronting your fears, create contingency plans for each worst-case scenario, put all of your fears on the bookshelf (ignore your fears) and then make a decision.

Decisions made out of fear, almost always turn out to be the wrong decisions.

I.R.S. Is Raising 401(k) Contribution Limits in 2019

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From the NY Times today.

By Ann Carrns

Annual contribution limits for your workplace retirement plan are increasing by $500 next year. While that may not sound like much, the additional money can grow substantially over time, financial advisers say.

The Internal Revenue Service announced this month that the employee contribution limit for 401(k) and similar workplace retirement plans will be $19,000 next year, up from $18,500.

With 401(k) plans, workers save and invest part of their paycheck before taxes are taken out. The money isn’t taxed until it is withdrawn from the account.

Workers who are 50 or older also can make an extra $6,000 in “catch-up” contributions, an amount that isn’t changing for 2019. That means an older employee can contribute as much as $25,000 next year.

The Easiest Sure-Fire Way to Become Rich


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Everyone has a financial plan – that includes you, whether or not you know it.

As I’ve learned from my extensive research of the rich and poor, some financial plans can make you rich or make you poor.

For Non-Savers, their financial plan is to spend every dollar they make. This financial plan will force you to work well into your retirement years in order to support your standard of living.

For Want Spenders, their financial plan is to spend more than they make and fund that excess with debt. This financial plan eventually forces you to make drastic changes in your life, when your credit runs dry. It can also lead to dependency, relying on the financial support of your children or loved ones.

For Dreamers, their financial plan is to invest all of their time and money, often even debt, in a dream and pursue that dream for many years, hoping it will make them wealthy one day down the road. Pursuing a dream is a very hard thing to do. Dreams typically require an enormous investment in time and money. And dreams are very risky – there is no guarantee that the time, money and debt you invest will result in success. Failure is commonplace among dreamers.

For Virtuosos, their financial plan is to invest all of their time and money, and often debt, in becoming a Virtuoso in some field. Becoming a Virtuoso requires that you develop mad skills or knowledge. Acquiring that skill/knowledge takes many years. Often, it requires formal schooling  – graduate school, medical school, law school, get a PhD, etc. It may even require obtaining hard to get licenses, practice many hours a day for many years, study many hours a day for many years, etc.

Saver-Investors, however, choose a very different financial plan. One I like to think of as the easy way to riches. Their plan is simple – spend 80% or less than they make, no matter what, and invest that excess money prudently over many years. The drawback about pursing wealth as a Saver-Investor is that it demands discipline and sacrifice to live below your means.

In our instant gratification, consumerist society, being a Saver-Investor makes you an outlier – the nonconformist who eschews spending money so they can save and invest.

But, the upside is that becoming rich, or at least financially independent, is virtually guaranteed, so long as you develop the Rich Habit of prudently investing your savings.

No need to spend years developing mad skills in order to become a Virtuoso.

No need to take significant risk in time and money in pursuit of a dream.

Your entire focus is limited to two things – living below your means and investing your savings carefully.


Living to 100


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According to researchers at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, living a healthy lifestyle:

  • Reduces cardiovascular disease by 82%.
  • Reduces the incidence of cancer by 65% and
  • Increases your lifespan ten years or more.

Over a thirty-year period, the researchers studied 78,865 women and 44,354 men, all over the age of 27. In their study, they concluded that there were specific healthy lifestyle habits that produced good health and a long life expectancy:

  1. Eating Healthy Food – Examples include vegetables, tree nuts, high fiber foods, whole grains, fish, seafood, fruits, berries, eggs, lean beef, chicken, lamb, sourdough bread, Ezekiel bread, legumes, yogurt, potatoes and dark chocolate.
  2. Daily Exercise of 30 minutes – Exercise includes aerobic and anaerobic (strength exercises like weight lifting, core exercises, etc.).
  3. Maintain Healthy Body Weight – Maintaining an optimum body weight through healthy eating and a low calorie diet. According to my research, a low calorie diet is between 1,800 – 2,200 calories for men (average) and 1,500 – 1,800 calories for women (average).
  4. Moderate Bad Behavior – Bad includes smoking, alcohol, unhealthy food (i.e. junk food, fast food, soda, coffee, drug use, sugar, salt).
  5. Adequate Sleep – Between 6.5 hours to 8 hours of sleep a night. The key is getting five sleep cycles in every night. Every person is different. Each sleep cycle can range from between 65 minutes to 90 minutes.

Good health is a Rich Habit.

Join Me on Instagram

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Many of my fans and subscribers have been asking me over the past year to start an Instagram account so they can follow me on Instagram.

I listened and obeyed.

My Instagram account name is:


Please follow me on Instagram so I can follow you!

Become a Happiness Farmer


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How many farmers plant weeds?

Most weeds are not a food source and many actually inhibit the growth of crops, destroy crops or spread rapidly. They can also host crop pests such as aphids, fungal rots and viruses.

Any farmer who decides to plant weeds, would, therefore, soon find themselves out of business and financially destitute.

Our lives are a mirror of how we treat others.

When you criticize, condemn or complain – when you treat others poorly – you are planting weeds. And like the weed farmer, you will reap that which you sow – you will be surrounded by toxic, negative relationships.

Success, in large part, depends on forging relationships with other upbeat, optimistic, success-minded individuals. According to my Rich Habits Study, these Rich Relationships spread positivity, happiness, love and joy wherever they go.

As a result, people like associating with upbeat, optimistic, happy people, like doing business with them, like referring business to them, like loaning them money and like investing time and money in their dreams and goals.

Make a habit of planting happiness wherever you go. Complement others every chance you get. Look for reasons to praise your employees and subordinates. Appreciate your spouse for doing their “job” around the house.

Everywhere you go, everyone you see, make it a daily habit to drip a little happiness on them. The better you treat people, the better people will treat you.

Become a Happiness Farmer and you will reap what you sow.