The School Of Hard Knocks. What I've Learned While Running My Business

 
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Old 02-10-2016, 04:37 PM   #61
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Old 02-10-2016, 05:30 PM   #62
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Re: The School Of Hard Knocks. What I've Learned While Running My Business


This is incredible. Going to share this with my business partner, and maybe even print it out.

More specifically, I would 100% agree that the customer is not always right. That phrase has it's merit, but most of the time they are wrong. It's our job to either make them feel good about our work or fire them.


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Originally Posted by lawndart View Post
#1. This is not a hobby.

Congratulations! You've decided to start a business doing what you love and you'll be charging customers for this service. Most contractors go into business thinking I'll just charge more than X-------.

Not knowing the difference between fixed and variable expenses and how to pay yourself accordingly while generating a profit for the business can quickly turn your hobby into a nightmare.

What does a successful business look like? It generates enough revenue to pay all of its expenses while providing the business owner with a comfortable living wage (salary) and still has left over money to put in reserves.

#2. You're not an employee.

Many years ago before I went into business, I was an employee. A tradesman, my boss paid me an hourly rate to deliver a service for his company, and I was good at it.

When starting out, I dreamed of opening my own business after learning the trade.

My old boss appeared to live comfortably, while physically working very little. I was jealous and envious. Running a business had to be easy, right?

Wrong! You're going to learn quickly just how simple life was working for someone else. The responsibilities of running a business can be overwhelming.

#3. Understand your finances.

Do you want do be in business 5 or more years after starting? Do you want to provide a good life for yourself and the family? How about retiring comfortably? Unless you have a degree or background in finance, you'll need to speak to a good accountant before starting up.

A good accountant will help you understand how to manage cash flow and finances. They'll teach you, what to charge for your services and so much more.

Look at the statistics. Most construction companies don't survive 5 years. Why do these companies go out of business? Because they don't charge enough money, or collect on receivables to keep the business running.

I'm going to give you a few examples of business failures that I've seen.

Example number #1

Paul was one of the best finish carpenters I'd ever seen. Paul would win awards for his work and was showcased in many magazines. This guy was a true craftsman. He never advertised, but he stayed busy through word of mouth. He was always busy, working 7 days a week.

Guess why he stayed busy? He was cheap. He was happy making $500.00 per day and in the beginning it worked, but as worked picked up so did his expenses. He never accounted for them and went out of business within 3 years riddled with tax burdens and debt.

He works for me.

Example #2

Nick was running a home remodeling business for years. He was the premier deck builder in my market. He had an excellent reputation and made great money.

One day, Nick and his partner decide to get into the commercial business here in NYC. He was now bidding large prevailing wage jobs. Nick knew his expenses and charged accordingly. He was on the path to financial freedom, or so he thought. Big jobs started rolling in. He was delivering the jobs but the cash didn't come in fast enough.

Nick was struggling to get paid for the work he completed in a timely fashion. After a few months went by, he couldn't pay his help. He started borrowing against his house and building but the money still didn't come in fast enough.

Nick went bankrupt. He lost his business, house, building and everything that he had because of cash flow problems.

Don't become a statistic. Understand how money works and reap the rewards.

#4. Bigger isn't always better.

My father owned a construction company here from 1974 until 1998. He'd seen the building booms and swoons. His business expanded and contracted many times over the years due to the economic situations. He'd seen it all and retired comfortably at the age of 57.

He offered one piece of advice before I started out and I regret not listening.

"Stay small and keep it all"

My old man was a high school drop out but he wasn't stupid. He started working in the industry at the age of 17 and by the time he was 23 went into business for himself. The business was different then. The housing market was booming and they were building everywhere.

He knew all the builders and quickly found himself employing over 70 full time mechanics. He made a good living. I remember growing up and never needing anything as a child. We had the big house with the picket fence, cars, nice clothes, vacations etc.. I was truly blessed.

Then came the crash of 1987. His work literally stopped over night. I remember the stress it put on my family. My parents did their best to hide it from me and my sisters but it was evident. My mother started working full time while he stayed home. Spending time with my dad before the crash was rare, he was always working. Seeing dad home was exciting and confusing all at the same time.

After a year or so life started to get back to normal. Mom was working part time and dad was working but I noticed he was coming home early every day. He went back to work and rehired his best employees. Dad now employed 12 full time mechanics.

He turned down work while focusing on profits. This man built a smaller, and leaner company. The money was rolling in and he retired comfortably a few years later. Ask him and he'll tell you that he made all his money after the crash of 1987.

He stayed small and kept it all.

#5. The world doesn't revolve around you.

Simply put, don't be a dick. Treat people with respect. I've seen too many self absorbed assholes in this business go out of business and I smile every time.

We're in the relationship building business. Do you want great customers to refer you? Treat them with respect. Listen to their problems and solve them. Strike up a friendly conversation and get to know them. I promise you it's fun and there's no better feeling than seeing a past customer approach you to strike up a conversation while you're out with family.

Have you ever heard the saying "it's not what you know, it's who you know". Look at any successful person and you'll finally an army of friends and admirers.

Building a business brand is great but what's more important is your personal brand. When people like, know and trust you they will help you, but be genuine. Enjoy the day to day interactions with everyone you come across and you'll not only find yourself successful, but you'll live a life feeling fulfilled and accomplished.

#6. You're not the best.

How many of your competitors advertise they are the best?

I say who gives a ****. Just focus on getting better everyday. It's the only thing that you can control.

How do you become better at different tasks?

Read a book, study the subject. Talk to industry experts, or most importantly hire them.

Let's face it, you're not going to be great at everything you do. As a business owner you'll need to understand, finance, marketing, sales, production and many other tasks. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Be honest with yourself. It can be a humbling experience.

Once you've identified your weaknesses. Hire an expert to run that part of the business for you. This doesn't mean that you should hand they keys over to this person. It's still important that you manage them and learn as you go.

Remember, you're only as good as your weakest employee. If you want to build a successful business. Swallow your pride and hire people that are better than you and treat them with respect.

#7. Company culture is important.

Why so serious? How many of you had a job you couldn't stand in the past?

Let's face it. Work sucks! It's not easy, it can be stressful and physically exhausting at the same time.

Why can't you provide a fun and rewarding environment for your employees?

Besides providing the basics like a salary and full time work. How many of you actually pay a top rate to your employees? How many construction companies provide medical and dental benefits? How about an IRA or profit sharing?

If you want the best employees in your industry, you need to provide all or most of the above. A great employee will not work for less and if you happen to get lucky and hire someone great without providing the above they will most likely leave you for another company very shortly.

With that said, if you decide to provide these benefits your company better have strict hiring guidelines and processes in place to make sure you're only getting the best. Hiring an average employee while providing these benefits can be expensive so be careful.

I recruit great employees from competitors to come work with me all the time but I'm not perfect. Every now and then I'll make a mistake and hire the wrong person. I'm honest and set the expectations up front. We have an employee handbook that lays out everything. If they don't meet our expectations we let them go right away. I'd rather be short staffed than keep someone on that doesn't meet our expectations.

Equally important is the environment which you provide for them. Do you provide them with the best tools and equipment? How about having fun while at work? Do you ask your employees for their feedback? Do you foster and environment that promotes creativity? Do you give bonuses?

Remember, employees are people, not machines. They want to live a fun and rewarding life while providing for their families just like you do.

#8. The customer isn't always right.

Some of them can suck the profits right out of your company. This question has been asked a thousand times and chances are you've heard it before. Who is your ideal client or clients? What do they have in common?

Think back to your best customers and worst customers. Make a list and then write down some characteristics about each one, like where did they hear of you, neighborhood, value of their house, age, gender etc...

The more you write the better. Find the common characteristics between them and you'll create a profile of who you want and don't want to work with.

You might even build a dozen or more profiles.

Once you've identified who your ideal client is, figure out how to advertise to them. Are they on Facebook? Do they belong to a certain group on Facebook? What do they read? What do they watch? Who do they hang out with and where? Etc..

I'll give you an example of one of my ideal clients.

My ideal client is a mom that has a child with asthma and severe allergies. She has carpet in her house that she desperately wants to get rid of to improve her child's quality of life. She can be single or married. She owns her own home. That home is in the 450k plus range and she may even have a pet. Their pet hairs get trapped in the carpeting making it difficult and dangerous for their child.

We created a full page flyer discussing the benefits of changing out carpets for something more Eco friendly like hardwood or laminate floors. I advertise this flyer in pediatricians offices, the parent magazine and in local school PTA flyers.

This ad has generated me we'll over 7 figures in the 4 years I've been running it.

Remember, identify your ideal client, target your ideal client, deliver relevant content to them and test and tweak your message until the leads start coming in. If you do the above correctly you will have more quality leads than you need.

#9. Your systems suck.

Most business owners in the construction industry fly by the seat of their pants. The contractor runs his business in such a way that he/she is the business. For very small companies this can work, but if you want to expand you'll need to start developing systems and processes.

I highly recommend reading the book e-myth contractor for a better understanding how creating systems and processes will help improve your business.

Start out by writing down a flow chart of steps that need to be accomplished to complete a task. Refine and simplify them as best you can.

A successful business will have systems for everything like, marketing, sales, finance, production, hiring etc..

By writing these task you will be creating a training manual for every employee that works with you in the future. The new employee will need minimal training while staying consistent with your companies goals and objectives.

The best part about creating systems for you company is that your business will be self sufficient. It will run on cruise control, allowing you to take time off and enjoy what's really important.

#10. Don't forget what's really important.

One of my most important beliefs in business that I've developed over the years is that we all work to live and don't live to work. It's very easy to let the business overwhelm you with the day to day operations, especially if you're not running your business correctly.

I'm only 37 years old but I've learned that life can pass by quickly when your not paying attention. A few years ago, I was working 12-14 hour days 6-7 days a week. I would leave early and come home late. I rarely saw my kids. Then one day it hit me on my daughters seventh birthday.

It forever changed my life. She was seven, and I swear to you I didn't even realize how old she was getting. Those seven years went by so fast. From that moment I vowed to spend the weekends and evenings with my family. I will not see a customer or answer my phone before 8 a.m. Or after 5 p.m.

I started this business of mine years ago for my family, but somehow lost touch because of it. Not anymore. I'm a father and husband first and a business owner second.

I'm sorry for the long post. I hope you find what I've put here to be helpful. If I help one person improve their business it was well worth my time invested in writing this. Please excuse the typos and please add your experiences to this post.
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Old 02-11-2016, 12:12 AM   #63
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Re: The School Of Hard Knocks. What I've Learned While Running My Business


Thanks for the compliments guys.

Reading the original post that I made almost two months ago, #9 and #10 really stick out today.

I'm with the family in Cancun Mexico in a beautiful five star resort enjoying the warm weather.

I called my secretary earlier to check in and everything is going well, thanks to the systems I've put in place.

How many members here can take a vacation in another country and keep the business running?
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Old 02-11-2016, 12:43 PM   #64
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Re: The School Of Hard Knocks. What I've Learned While Running My Business


In Ireland at the moment and the guys are tippin away, everything is goin good.
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Old 02-11-2016, 01:10 PM   #65
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Re: The School Of Hard Knocks. What I've Learned While Running My Business


I went hunting for a week, and a few 4 day hunting trips and 4 day fishing trips and an 8 day vacation last year and made money the whole time. Even sold a job while i was gone.


I have a partner though.
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Old 02-11-2016, 01:52 PM   #66
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Re: The School Of Hard Knocks. What I've Learned While Running My Business


I'm hoping I'm at that point within the next two years. Right now....no way. Too much of the business relys on my head and whats in it.

I've really made it a priority to start putting systems in place so this isn't an issue down the road. I have zero desire for this company to live and die by my being physically here.
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Old 02-11-2016, 06:00 PM   #67
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Re: The School Of Hard Knocks. What I've Learned While Running My Business


I have taken vacations and time of in the past 6 years but I either shut things down or I had to deal with chit the whole time and could rarely relax.

Last year I hired my first employee and just recently went to Vegas for the KBIS/IBS show.

I was pretty chill the entire time away. Just hired my second and third guy last week. Hopefully signing a lease on a 2000 sq ft shop/office next month. Things are starting to hum around here.
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Old 02-11-2016, 07:47 PM   #68
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Re: The School Of Hard Knocks. What I've Learned While Running My Business


I'm self employed and my work is about 70% subcontract work to the big boys in the UK and about 30% my own leads which I prefer to do because I get far more job satisfaction but I make far more on the subcontract front as I work on a price/piecework basis and being efficient you can clean up on the big housing and civil sites here, I feel its vital to spend as much on the legal side of things as you can both in terms of time and money making sure your solicitor/lawyer specialises in the construction industry as its unlike any other industry around, a totally different set of rules to the rest, I have seen many companies killed overnight by bigger companies simply because the owners of said companies just weren't clued up enough in the way the game works.
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Old 02-11-2016, 07:51 PM   #69
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Re: The School Of Hard Knocks. What I've Learned While Running My Business


#3 / Example 2
To the younger guys.....Yes,Yes and Yes!!
I got hooked into taking on bigger jobs years ago before I was ready. I thought man I have arrived to the big league ! ...
And, yes it will rip you a new one if you don't have the reserves to back it up.
Great post OP!
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Old 02-12-2016, 12:31 AM   #70
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Old 02-12-2016, 06:20 AM   #71
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Old 02-12-2016, 06:07 PM   #72
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Old 02-12-2016, 06:37 PM   #73
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Old 02-13-2016, 09:35 AM   #74
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Re: The School Of Hard Knocks. What I've Learned While Running My Business


Starting up, again, has and is in the middle of a lot of what's pointed out here. I made a classic mistake of pulling the trigger rapid fire to get my doors open with an old BP and no cash flow or CPA in check. It took of quick. Receipts piled up, no P&L tracking, no fixed or variable cost in check, payroll was cash. It was every red flag of certain failure. Fortunately, I knew to put the brakes on and regroup before it all came crashing in. And why not? I had a few weeks of funds saved up to get the books in order, find a CPA, write a list of priorities to accomplish. How's my pricing? Is my insurance right? Get the right licensing. I'm I, my helpers AND the company making money? Are taxes paid? EFTPS, K1, schedule B, 1120 or 1120S. Where are the next clients going to come from? Do I take some "handyman projects" for gas money and keep my time to focus on the big picture? I was in and under my business as a laborer when I wasn't able to be on my business. I did get lucky and was awarded a "holy grail project" that every start up would dream of. I'll admit I'd be done before I started if not for this project. Non-the-less, all of the things that needed to be done in order to survive and have a successful, properly run business need to be in place. I remember a business mentor of mine years ago told me something that I still carry with me today. "You don't have to reinvent the wheel. The process is laid out for you. All you have to do is follow that list." So I took it slightly out of order and disaster was all around. I regrouped and have the same path as those who before me have proven works. At 4 months in business as a licensed, bonded, insured, corporation with a plan, cash flow procedures and clients there's only one real reason to fail at this point. Ask yourself: "Am I in my business or am I on my business?"
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Old 02-13-2016, 09:48 AM   #75
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Hmm #3

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Old 02-13-2016, 09:50 AM   #76
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I'm hoping I'm at that point within the next two years. Right now....no way. Too much of the business relys on my head and whats in it.

I've really made it a priority to start putting systems in place so this isn't an issue down the road. I have zero desire for this company to live and die by my being physically here.
You sir, and I mean nothing negative by this because I myself actually enjoy some field work from time to time, you are an employee.
Get a $10 white board and write down the top 5 things you need done to run your business. Then do that. Repeat.
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Old 02-13-2016, 11:45 PM   #77
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Re: The School Of Hard Knocks. What I've Learned While Running My Business


Since we're talking about systems. Let me share one of my systems with you:

How do we attract, hire and retain top talent.

1.) Who is your ideal employee? What's their skill level? How many years have they been in the industry? Who did they work for before? Who are they working for now? How old are they? Do they have a drivers license? Do they have tools? How far do they live from the work area? And any other traits you can possibly think of. Just be careful not to discriminate because there are many ways you can run into trouble with the law.

One of the first things you should do before spending money on advertising is identify your ideal clients and It's equally important to identify what your ideal employee looks like before you post that help wanted ad.

Doing this will help you write a compelling ad to encourage the right candidates to contact you, and help hire the right people because you now have a system in place to identify them.

2.) Clearly identify job titles, salaries, duties and requirements. My company has 6 job titles for the guys in the field. Each one has a clearly defined salary, skill level and requirements attached.

These positions are the following: A, B and C level helpers and A, B and C level mechanics.

Our C level helper is an entry level position. The candidate must have a strong work ethic, be reliable and punctual, understand basic math, and know how to read a tape measure. This job title pays $15.00 an hour.

As an employee advances up the ladder he or she will be tested to make sure that they meet the skills necessary to earn a raise because I've clearly defined what it is that's required.

All employees are given this document the moment they're hired, so that there is total transparency and trust.

It also helps me identify a fair and equitable wage anytime I hire a person or when I'm asked for a raise.

That's just a basic outline of how we attract, hire and retain great employees. Remember, your company is only as good as it's weakest employee. You owe it to yourself and the customers you serve to only hire the best.

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Old 02-14-2016, 12:04 AM   #78
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Re: The School Of Hard Knocks. What I've Learned While Running My Business


Let me show you what my ideal mechanic look like.

1. He is a professional clean cut 25-45 year old male.
2. He lives a healthy lifestyle and keeps in good shape.
3. He is a take charge individual that holds himself and the people around him to the highest standards.
4. He has a drivers license and reliable transportation.
5. He can pass a criminal background check and drug screening.
6. He is friendly and personable and interacts well as part of the team.
7. He deals with customers in a consistent and professional manner.
8. He owned and operated his own company at some time in the past.
9. He has a good understanding of business practices.
10. He has 5+ years experience in the industry.
11. He lives within a 25 mile radius of our office.

Take a look at my ad at the link below and see how I'm attracting that mechanic.
http://www.themenwithtools.com/windo...-jerseys-best/

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Old 02-14-2016, 11:40 AM   #79
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Re: The School Of Hard Knocks. What I've Learned While Running My Business


in Miami I`ll get 50 or 60 respnses in a day or 2.
they all say the same rhetoric.
"I`ve got all my tools "
"Ive been doing this for____years , I can do it all.

used to take me about 10 minutes or more , each guy , and eat up so much time

now, when I put an ad out, I don`t specify what we do ,
I put the ad out like this :

"send me a resume or please email your experience,
do you do rough? trim? which do you prefer?
commercial projects? residential?
what vehicle do you drive?
where do you live?
give me a list of your tools.
what wage have you been making ?
what wage are you expecting?
what do you expect out of this job?

that way , I can read through the emails quickly and identify those that really might be what I`m looking for.

if I say I need a trim/rough carpenter , most will say they are one because they`re desperate for a job.

but, also I do truly believe most bosses don`t give employees the respect they deserve.
of course respect your clients. but most come and go.
but truly the employees are always there ,making you money.
you need to make them feel they are a part of something , and they are important to you.
let them enjoy coming to work.
you end up with a better company , and a better product
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Old 02-14-2016, 11:58 AM   #80
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I started out in my late 20`s,.
things took off, and I had 6-8 employees quickly
I did pretty well. for 6 or 8 years
but it was total seat of my pants. I just lucked out with some good designers, and clients who gave me repeat jobs.
I guess I was too cocky, and just not professional enough , even tough our product was good.
it dropped every few years to less and less.
personal , and health issues with kids, and wife made me more distracted , and less appreciative of having work just fall on me .

I spent allot of years , just me and a helper , sometimes just me.
Now , in my late 50`s , I`m trying to get a crew together again , and keep them busy.
very hard.

I`m very lucky to still have a clients who call and refer me year around, but to all of the sudden get enough for 3 or 4 guys , that's tougher.

I`m pushing to get where I don`t have to do so much physical work myself , just because of my age.
but good employees are really hard to find( at least for me ).

you definitely have to always respect your business , even ( especially) when you own it. your still an employee yourself , and have to put in more effort than anyone else. always





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