Alot has changed since my first post here at ContractorTalk. Back then it was the contractor chat room. This guy, Nate was his name, sent me an email after reading one of my posts on another forum suggesting this cool new website. How could I resist but take a look? I've been hooked ever since.
I was one of the first to sign up, actually I believe I was the 25th member of Contractor Chat Room. I was a punk kid know it all. I had been working in the construction industry 5 years. I rose to a position of responsibility rather quickly. I worked first as an installer for some hack outfit a friend of mine ran. I left him because of the shady business practices, I did not want to be involved in. I went to work for one of the largest residential roofing companies in Chicago, and after only 2 months as an administrative assistant, got promoted to scheduling manager. I worked there for a year and went to work for one of their subcontractors as a sales rep and after our first winter I began doing all the marketing and office management in addition to most of the sales and customer service. Needless to say my success had gone to my head.
I was still an employee at that time, I was 26 years old then and had ALL the answers. After all in my mind, why not, I had achieved in only a few years what some couldn't figure out in an entire career. Then I decided the logical step was to go out on my own and start my own company, I figured my boss was holding me back. I figured I would be making double, if not triple what I was making working for him making him rich.
So I did it. I went out on my own, registered a domain name, incorporated December 12th 2003. By September 2004, I was full time on my own... And then everything changed!
I write alot of articles or blog posts giving advice. Most of what I write is about my own failures. I wrote about buying your first insurance policy because of the mistakes I made when I bought mine. I wrote about renting office space because of the mistakes I made when I rented my first office. I write ALOT about checks and balances and employee oversight because it damned near broke me to let the monkeys run the zoo.
This is why I say I am a man of many failures. I don't think I have ever met another person as proud of their failures as I am of mine. I would like to think that for the most part I have learned from my failures. I try to do everything in my power to ensure that others can learn from my mistakes as well.
So how bad can it be? Well it WAS bad, very very bad. For awhile I stopped coming to this forum. I thought, who am I to give advice and be answering questions? My first mistake about the insurance, cost me $19,000.00 at audit time. What, what? Audit? Nobody told me about no stinking audit. I was quoted $1,000 a year why did I get a bill for $19,000.00?! Who's got $19,000 laying around? I fired that insurance broker because he didn't give me the information I needed to make an educated buying decision and it cost me $19,000.000 in my mind. I'd still like tp punch him in the face, but really the mistake was my own. I didn't know what I didn't know and it cost me big.
By 2005 I had a revolving door of sales reps that I hired and fired for various reasons. I had a production manager overseeing the production side of things and part of his job was to make sure the sales reps didn't mess up their measurements. Little did I know their tape mesures worked very well, but their calculators did not. Having 2 full times sales reps plus myself, and the ONLY jobs we made money on were the ones I sold? After three years of that, I was in the hole, and BIG time. How Much? I'm proud to say $250,000.00 in debt. Yes a quarter of a million dollars. I went home and cried on my new bride's shoulder that night. Yes I cried, got a problem with it?
So how can I be proud of the fact that I was basically bankrupt, had little to no more credit and stress out the wazoo? Today I have got that $1/4 mil down to a very manageable $40k. I made the decision that I was NOT going to be like everyone else, I was not going to go out of business, I was going to honor my commitments, I was going to do the right thing and pay my bills... and I have done just that.
But what else did I do? I implemented processes and procedures to ensure this kind of monkey business would never happen again. I implemented a series of checks and balances in place to ensure that we were profitable on each and every job we installed. I set my levels of expectations with my employees, subs, and suppliers and I let them know what I expect from them or else. I wrote manuals for every procedure within my company no more reinventing the wheel each and every day.
The failures didn't end there though. In 2009 I had record complaints. I pride myself on doing the job right, but we were no longer doing the job right. Sure we all make mistakes but when the trend is growing there is a problem. I identified why mistakes were being made and ensured to prevent them from happening again. Again going back to checks and balances. The #1 procedure I impemented to ensure customer satisfaction was to set the policy that no customer gets billed until the job gets inspected for completion. I made a list of inspection forms for each type of roofing and gutter system that we installed and now no customer is expected to pay until someone of authority, usually myself, has inspected the job and is satisfied with the results. My thinking is that I would rather find the mistakes before the water does, and I do not want my customer to be the quality control. For what it's worth, had we been doing these inspections in the first place I would have had very little complaints in 2009 because most of the problems were simply oversights that had they been inspected would have never passed.
So yes, I am a man of many failures. Chances are you are a person of many failures as well. I am proud now when I speak, I speak of my failures, not of my successes.
Read more here: http://hangupthebelt.com/2011/a-man-of-many-failures/