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Hey all! I've lurked around here for a while now and finally decided to join. I'm a licensed home improvement contractor with one helper. I've been in business for myself for 5 years and created a pretty decent clientele. Honestly I don't know how I've made it so long, I have zero organization and estimating process. All I have is QuickBooks pro that I use for invoices and estimates. I don't use it to its potential at all, barely understand how it works really. I'm no good with computer programs, spreadsheets are a foreign language to me. When I look at excel I get dizzy. My paper work and job estimatesare all done in a notebook. Something like the garage I'm estimating takes me forever to figure up. Especially while on the job ten hours a day. Over the last couple years I've been trying to come up with a routine to make my business work but still havnt. Homeowners don't like waiting 2 plus weeks for estimates.... honestly I'm just reaching out for some advice now. I'm 28, a great carpenter and love what I do. I want my business to grow and it has potential to but not if I can't figure the business end of it out. Can anyone relate to where I'm coming from here? I've been tought the trade but not the business. Any advise? Thanks guys
 

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I see this to many times.

We all start out as apprentices/helpers then as the years go by we become journeymen and some continue to grow and become part of that top ten. A damn good craftsman that gets pulled from his job to be a foreman/supervisor. Then one day we get that big idea, "why work for someone else?".

Next thing you know we have great craftsmen doing something that they were never trained for, running a business.

Never ceases to amaze me.

What carpenter would wake up one day and say, "I'm gonna be a plumber" and attempts to pull it off as a journeyman plumber?

Well, that's what happens when tradesmen decide to become a business owner without getting some training. Next thing you know you have a guy that blames everything but his lack of business training for all that goes wrong. Can't find good workers, unions suck, blah, blah, blah...

Seems you did the work to earn your experience as a tradesman now it's time to do the work needed to become a business owner.
 

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I see this to many times.

We all start out as apprentices/helpers then as the years go by we become journeymen and some continue to grow and become part of that top ten. A damn good craftsman that gets pulled from his job to be a foreman/supervisor. Then one day we get that big idea, "why work for someone else?".

Next thing you know we have great craftsmen doing something that they were never trained for, running a business.

Never ceases to amaze me.

What carpenter would wake up one day and say, "I'm gonna be a plumber" and attempts to pull it off as a journeyman plumber?

Well, that's what happens when tradesmen decide to become a business owner without getting some training. Next thing you know you have a guy that blames everything but his lack of business training for all that goes wrong. Can't find good workers, unions suck, blah, blah, blah...

Seems you did the work to earn your experience as a tradesman now it's time to do the work needed to become a business owner.
Ok how do I go about that?
 

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My paper work and job estimatesare all done in a notebook. Something like the garage I'm estimating takes me forever to figure up. Especially while on the job ten hours a day. Over the last couple years I've been trying to come up with a routine to make my business work but still havnt.


nailher

Go to the 1st sticky at the top of this section and watch the videos. It will walk you through it step by step.

Even if you don't want to use Excel I still explain how I do estimating.

Think of Excel as a note pad with a calculator built in to it.

Rich
 

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Ok I completely understand where you are coming from. I'm into year three of my own business and and I'm still working bugs out. I worked for my dad's plumbing company for years and then finally branched out onto my own doing full kitchens and baths and tile. Over the last few years I've been getting schooled in te business. Thankfully my dad has been running his business for about 18 years and can give some advice. My biggest struggle has been my pricing. Way too many times I bid a job only to finish the job wondering where all my profit went.

Honestly, you don't have to get fancy with spreadsheets (though that can be a big help) the main thing is some basic organization. Come up with a system for estimating jobs and make up a cheat sheet or pull one off the internet. One thing I've learned the hard way is to have a standard estimate form that I can give to the customers with any disclaimers so they can't get upset if i charge them extra for an add on because I stated it in the paperwork.

Disciplining your time is the toughest part especially when you are working 50+ hrs a week. But set aside even 30 min at the beginning or end of every day or so to make phone calls and work up bids. The problem is getting behind and taking too long to get back with customers. Just some thoughts.
 

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Hey all! I've lurked around here for a while now and finally decided to join. I'm a licensed home improvement contractor with one helper. I've been in business for myself for 5 years and created a pretty decent clientele. Honestly I don't know how I've made it so long, I have zero organization and estimating process. All I have is QuickBooks pro that I use for invoices and estimates. I don't use it to its potential at all, barely understand how it works really. I'm no good with computer programs, spreadsheets are a foreign language to me. When I look at excel I get dizzy. My paper work and job estimatesare all done in a notebook. Something like the garage I'm estimating takes me forever to figure up. Especially while on the job ten hours a day. Over the last couple years I've been trying to come up with a routine to make my business work but still havnt. Homeowners don't like waiting 2 plus weeks for estimates.... honestly I'm just reaching out for some advice now. I'm 28, a great carpenter and love what I do. I want my business to grow and it has potential to but not if I can't figure the business end of it out. Can anyone relate to where I'm coming from here? I've been tought the trade but not the business. Any advise? Thanks guys
Don't read anything. You just outlined what you are doing wrong. So you know the problems. Why not just provide solutions one at a time.

Books don't help you with that. It takes focused effort.
 

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Not necessarily classified as business books, but two of the most helpful books I read as a young man starting out were " the richest man in Babylon" and How to win friends and influence people"
 

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nailhertaylor said:
Hey all! I've lurked around here for a while now and finally decided to join. I'm a licensed home improvement contractor with one helper. I've been in business for myself for 5 years and created a pretty decent clientele. Honestly I don't know how I've made it so long, I have zero organization and estimating process. All I have is QuickBooks pro that I use for invoices and estimates. I don't use it to its potential at all, barely understand how it works really. I'm no good with computer programs, spreadsheets are a foreign language to me. When I look at excel I get dizzy. My paper work and job estimatesare all done in a notebook. Something like the garage I'm estimating takes me forever to figure up. Especially while on the job ten hours a day. Over the last couple years I've been trying to come up with a routine to make my business work but still havnt. Homeowners don't like waiting 2 plus weeks for estimates.... honestly I'm just reaching out for some advice now. I'm 28, a great carpenter and love what I do. I want my business to grow and it has potential to but not if I can't figure the business end of it out. Can anyone relate to where I'm coming from here? I've been tought the trade but not the business. Any advise? Thanks guys
I feel your pain!!!

By trying to do it all you end up being spread too thin on tasks. If you specialized in something like painting or doors and windows then bidding is easy. Paint for instance you just need to figure sq ft and type of paint. Or a roofer same thing. But doing a remodel you have to figure tons of different trades that you'll be doing yourself. You might use a specialist or two but if you used subs for everything then all together you would be bidding a standard kitchen removal for like 50k. And since you probably do a lot if things you always have work. Especially when you run into someone that only does one trade they are super slow and asking you if you might have any work for them coming up soon.

You might pull a trailer around but the risk of having everything stolen. Instead I've tried to organize tasks for job at hand. I have tile tools set up in large bins if I am doing tile that week. And when ever possible I've got a bunch of the dewalt t-stak system tuned in with categories like hand tools , caulking ,trim work, plumbing and so on. The dewalt system is stackable and lock together. You can take each box in the house and when your packing up for the day you put things back where they belong more often. And when your not making ten trips per hour to get just one tool.

Learn to read your customers first before you waste time on them (you only have so much time so stop chasing you tail) . for instance I get a lot of new calls from a contractor rating website so I usually get calls from all sides of the categories of improvements and repairs. I have found two very big time wasters are rental properties and new home buyers/real estate agents. The rentals almost always are from someone that lives out of state and is trying to manage it them self and this never seems to go well. I have found if they don't hire a property manager to oversee it. Then there isn't any extra money to pay for repairs. Prop managers already have staff to fix it. And even if they do the renter is never there to let you in even though you turned your schedule around to fit the renters. I just tell them sorry I don't work on rentals. The other is new home purchase. If its an realtor calling they are looking to use your estimate as leverage about the sale. If new home buyer the same thing usually applies if they haven't actually moved in. I went to look at one one time it was still empty and they told me over the phone they just bought their first house!!! They wanted to gut the place dump a bunch of money into lots areas of the home. Things slowly didn't add up during the visit, they had several family members that are contractors (dad, brothers, and a cousin ). The place was pretty trashed and a repo from all the bank notices everywhere. I asked how much they paid for the home. "we'll they are going to ask for xyz price our Realtor told us so he thinks we can get it for just under xyz price so since it hasn't listed yet maybe next week we are hoping the bank will except our offer" (mad face) No wonder their were excited to remodel the whole thing ,they didnt even know they couldnt afford the payment! So anymore I have learned to ask " how long have you OWNED the home"? I put on the rating company's website about me that I don't work on rentals or do estimates during home sales. They still call but a lot less. The last good one I got was "We need a couple of estimates on a home we are under contractual obligation." I said so you don't own the home yet and he repeated the sentence again verbatim. Another good reason to ask is I had a buddy that did a bunch of work on a place then gave him the bill. The guy said "Don't give that to me send it to the landlord he is the one that is suppose to fix all these things"

If someone says to you "Thanks for your time" the deal is dead right there don't waste your time with following up. If you don't want to do any work for someone tell them "Thanks for your time"

If you go and look at a job and the homeowner keeps arguing about your advice and contradicting things you already know how to do. I've learned to say "Well it looks like you've got everything figured out about this, so I will gracefully bow out of your project and let you chose another contractor that will make you happy" I am amazed at how fast they back peddle.

If in the middle of a job you discover you missed something in the estimate and it's going to cost more. Dont go browbeating the customer for more money. Tell them you've made an error you didn't see something you should have or forgot to add in the cost of whatever. And so you will fix it or pay for it out of your own pocket (it was your mistake right?) don't confuse this with discovering an issue or the homeowner asking for more things. And you will be amazed at both the repeat biz that they don't even call someone else for bids and how many referral calls you'll get that the first home owner won't shut up about if I don't hire you then I'm an idiot statements.

Well I have more but at this point I will just thank you for your time!
 

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my long drawn out response...

Hey all! I've lurked around here for a while now and finally decided to join. I'm a licensed home improvement contractor with one helper. I've been in business for myself for 5 years and created a pretty decent clientele. Honestly I don't know how I've made it so long, I have zero organization and estimating process. All I have is QuickBooks pro that I use for invoices and estimates. I don't use it to its potential at all, barely understand how it works really. I'm no good with computer programs, spreadsheets are a foreign language to me. When I look at excel I get dizzy. My paper work and job estimatesare all done in a notebook. Something like the garage I'm estimating takes me forever to figure up. Especially while on the job ten hours a day. Over the last couple years I've been trying to come up with a routine to make my business work but still havnt. Homeowners don't like waiting 2 plus weeks for estimates.... honestly I'm just reaching out for some advice now. I'm 28, a great carpenter and love what I do. I want my business to grow and it has potential to but not if I can't figure the business end of it out. Can anyone relate to where I'm coming from here? I've been tought the trade but not the business. Any advise? Thanks guys


I know this is my first post here, so heed that my credibility here is not yet established.


I started my business 9 years ago, I had just turned 19. Being in business just shy of a decade is not nearly as amazing as some of these guys who have multiple decades under their belt. That said, I have a feeling you are now, where I was at about year 3. Looking back and wondering "How am I doing this?!". I was running a chaos machine. Sure, I was able to stay afloat, pay bills, buy stuff, and more importantly, be my own boss, but not able to really to "good business".

The trouble with me was, I'm not a good learner. rephrase: I'm not a good practical learner. Meaning, if it doesn't seem practical, or I can't relate it to something I have direct knowledge of, then my brain wants nothing to do with it, like Quickbooks for instance. I was made to build stuff, not do accountancy work.

I'll tell you like my late mentor told me... Do what you know. That doesn't mean to not be your own boss, or to not learn how to run a business. It means to look at how you accomplish the tasks you do well, to figure out how to accomplish those tasks you don't. In construction, what do you do when you need an electric service changed out, or help hanging drywall, or any other task that you just don't "do" on your own? You call someone. If you wan't to learn something "new", as a bill paying, mouth feeding, no-time-for-more-school guy, then you call someone who's good at it, buy a case of beer, and have them show you. There is no shame in asking someone for some face time, letting them see your operation as is, and then letting them tell you how it can be streamlined.

What did I do? I very quickly found that no one in my immediate market wanted anything to do with me being more successful. So I called a seemingly large contractor on the other side of the country. I got the owner on the phone after three calls. I told him I was from such-and-such, and I needed some business fast track advice... That I didn't know anyone personally that was willing to help me, and I didn't have a boat load of cash or time. I offered to fly to his location, rent a car, get a hotel room, and work for him FOR FREE for a week. In exchange, he would show me how he runs his business, and spend a day helping me plan mine.

Two days later, I was picking HIM up at the airport near MY house, and HE spent the next week at MY house, going through my business with me, and making it a machine that runs. Best week of my life, and it cost me a plane ticket. Ohh yea, and we've stayed in touch since then too.

Moral of the story? I went from 30K a year to having fullt time staff of 40 people and my company now subs more work than I dreamed of doing myself just 6 years ago...


I know, I know... Long response, run-on sentences etc... I'm not that good at writing if you can't tell. My best advice, get a mentor who is GOOD at business, be humble, ask, be willing to pay a little if need be, so long as you both know whats needed as a result of the consultation/training. It will make all the difference in your business. GOOD LUCK! :clap::thumbsup:
 

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DLFederal said:
I know this is my first post here, so heed that my credibility here is not yet established. I started my business 9 years ago, I had just turned 19. Being in business just shy of a decade is not nearly as amazing as some of these guys who have multiple decades under their belt. That said, I have a feeling you are now, where I was at about year 3. Looking back and wondering "How am I doing this?!". I was running a chaos machine. Sure, I was able to stay afloat, pay bills, buy stuff, and more importantly, be my own boss, but not able to really to "good business". The trouble with me was, I'm not a good learner. rephrase: I'm not a good practical learner. Meaning, if it doesn't seem practical, or I can't relate it to something I have direct knowledge of, then my brain wants nothing to do with it, like Quickbooks for instance. I was made to build stuff, not do accountancy work. I'll tell you like my late mentor told me... Do what you know. That doesn't mean to not be your own boss, or to not learn how to run a business. It means to look at how you accomplish the tasks you do well, to figure out how to accomplish those tasks you don't. In construction, what do you do when you need an electric service changed out, or help hanging drywall, or any other task that you just don't "do" on your own? You call someone. If you wan't to learn something "new", as a bill paying, mouth feeding, no-time-for-more-school guy, then you call someone who's good at it, buy a case of beer, and have them show you. There is no shame in asking someone for some face time, letting them see your operation as is, and then letting them tell you how it can be streamlined. What did I do? I very quickly found that no one in my immediate market wanted anything to do with me being more successful. So I called a seemingly large contractor on the other side of the country. I got the owner on the phone after three calls. I told him I was from such-and-such, and I needed some business fast track advice... That I didn't know anyone personally that was willing to help me, and I didn't have a boat load of cash or time. I offered to fly to his location, rent a car, get a hotel room, and work for him FOR FREE for a week. In exchange, he would show me how he runs his business, and spend a day helping me plan mine. Two days later, I was picking HIM up at the airport near MY house, and HE spent the next week at MY house, going through my business with me, and making it a machine that runs. Best week of my life, and it cost me a plane ticket. Ohh yea, and we've stayed in touch since then too. Moral of the story? I went from 30K a year to having fullt time staff of 40 people and my company now subs more work than I dreamed of doing myself just 6 years ago... I know, I know... Long response, run-on sentences etc... I'm not that good at writing if you can't tell. My best advice, get a mentor who is GOOD at business, be humble, ask, be willing to pay a little if need be, so long as you both know whats needed as a result of the consultation/training. It will make all the difference in your business. GOOD LUCK! :clap::thumbsup:
Would you be willing to post some of your business insights gained over that week?
 

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Would you be willing to post some of your business insights gained over that week?
Sure, just a couple rules that pay off exponentially...

1. Specialize in something marketable, with disregard for your peers' opinion.
a. "Joe blow's electric services"- What does that even mean?

b. "One Hour Power"- Clearly something to do with power, and they can get here quick, must be the people I need to call in an emergency.

2. Never compete on price.
Any time you do work, your trading time for money, and your business has a work/time capacity. Sure, you can bid a job down to the bones, and while your doing that job, the other guys are picking up work without you as a competing bidder, because you don't have the crew capacity. Also, You can do a job for 1,000 or 3,000, either way, if you do a good job, the customer feels they chose the right guy, so why settle for the lesser?

3. Quit hanging around losers.
If your intention is to make more money, be more organized, make more sales, grow your business etc... Then get around people who are trying to do the same thing. I'm not talking about an online forum, but its a good start. Completely exclude from your life, associations that aren't furthering your goals.

4. Trade Finance- Learn it.
Purchase order financing, invoice factoring, LIENS! etc... You need to know what a contract is "worth" and know that the number is not same as what it reads. Money later isn't worth what it is now, and their is ALOT of power you have if you know how to finance long term agreements with customers. Today, you can win jobs paying 3-4x the norm, if you can finance them, say, for 48 months... Those long term contracts are assets secured by liens, and can be used as collateral to finance your growth, cashflow, life...


these are just a few here and there ideas to think about.
 
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