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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
My method of maintaining motivation and enthusiasm over the long haul has been three things

1. reinvent the focus of my contracting pursuits several times to something new and exciting

2. taking large blocks of time off to pursue other entrepreneurial interests

3. having other sources of income so I do not have the pressure of making a paycheck


I have been a very entrepreneurial business owner for over 32 years. All of that time contracting was a large or small part of it depending on what blew my hair back at the time.

NY does not license contractors on the state wide level. A few but not many jurisdictions license electricians, plumbers or both but they are few and far between. This has given me the freedom to offer and pursue whatever projects I wanted to understanding many other states are different.

The trades were learned by working on my own rental properties, house flips and light commercial properties. My family is very entrepreneurial so I was taught how to make money in a wide variety of LEGAL ways.

My local towns are all very rural where all contractors are multi-trade GC types because you had to be to survive. I now serve a wide area with numerous major metro areas where single trade contractors are common.

For many years when I was a small town GC, I had never met a single trade contractor. We all did it all. I know that pisses some members off here but that is how it is where I am from. I do not understand the hostility about multi-trade contractors so I just ignore it.

Our winter weather SUUUUUUCKS in NY. It is a huge factor at least for us.

Exterior remodeling period - My first several years I focused on exterior remodeling including siding roofing gutters decks window replacements

What I liked - Large easy fast sales, never a lack of work, very noticeable dramatic highly satisfying improvements and excited customers. Siding was hot and everybody wanted siding, decks and windows in my market. It was red hot at the time and sales were so easy.

Why I phased away from it - Tired of filthy demolition, disposal, repetitive installation of same low variety materials, hauling and moving heavy, bulky equipment and going up and down ladders and being high off the ground all the time. Irritated by drama of larger crews and cold, rainy, chitty weather and always working on older homes as a REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR of OLD MATERIALS. Crooked azz homes and finessing, furring and removing and replacing rot.

Interior remodeling period - I started enjoying interior remodeling with a smaller crew more than exterior remodels. I enjoyed the design aspects of these projects, the multi-trade do something different variety every day feature of the projects, the lighter equipment requirements, being on or near the ground most of the time.

Why I phased away from it - Tired of demolition, disposal, living with customers using the work space during the projects, longer sales and design cycles and tired of the variety and all of the endless number of tools and very small orders of numerous materials and special order tedium. always working on older homes as a REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR of OLD MATERIALS. Crooked azz homes and finessing, furring and removing and replacing rot.

New construction period - additions, sunrooms, porches, garages, decks and pole barns became the focus as long as it was new construction not renovation.

What I liked about it - Minimal demolition and disposal, New construction. No more crooked azz old rotting chitty homes with accumulations of bushes and crap to work around. Not having to work around customers in the space. Variety of day. Pieces of other trades we are good at. Virtually every trade variety over the project life.

Why I phased away - I had enough opportunity to be a very choosy and I liked the four projects below the best

Narrow focus period - Decks, Pole Barns, Bathrooms, Basements

What I liked - My favorite four

Why I phased away - To simplify my life even more. Growing family and wanting to be home more had me TRACK AVERAGE SALE. HUGE IMPACT HERE. The bigger my average sale the more time I could be home not worried.

Extreme focus period - Pole Barns Only

Why - Fast, simple, high average sale, easy to increase or decrease as interests change (for us), easy to train crews, extremely high level of enthusiasm, satisfaction and demand of customer base.

Vertical integration phase - Started truss plant, buying lumber and steel wholesale, selling pole barn building material kits and plans.

I have reinvented our contracting efforts many times to suit our current interests. I was extremely bored once and took three years off, short story below. Will I get bored again? Probably, but I already have new goals set once I want to start moving on.

Now that I have more staff, momentum and resources in place and do less of the onsite work and management, I may reenter some of the past trades we used to do more of depending on what crews or subs I can build out and what management is available in my markets.

2. Taking off large blocks of time. - During the largest block of time to help a friend grow his retail furniture business, I left after a million dollar sales increase over four months for a top ten retailer in the country, set several sales records, became the trainer, wrote a training book on best proven sales and sales management practices and became a consultant and flew around the country over a period of three years to train sales trainers, sales managers and owners.

I am currently working on building custom sofas and recliners in 7 days or less as a hobby business which I am having a blast with.

3. Other income - I have always had rental property and flip houses on occasion for the fun and profit of it. I have also developed or redeveloped small properties to a different better use. I have owned a satellite TV and satellite internet business, a photo studio, two motels, a trailer park and a few other short term projects.

I could not do the same thing without variety for long. The key has always been the reliable ability to get a source of income off the ground quickly with sales and marketing skills.

I am currently very stoked about our

1. developing our truss plant as a stand alone profitable business
2. pole barn building kit sales business as a stand alone profitable business
3. developing an office farther south for winter months and warmer weather
4. excavation site work business as a growing contributor to profits
5. concrete business as a growing contributor to profits
6. growing our garage door business beyond our in house pole barns
7. interior construction of our pole barn projects for more complex projects
8. working with more subs to do more projects in a shorter time frame
9. continuing vertical integration and growth of manufacturing capabilities

If I was not stoked I would be looking into some changes. Changing goals keeps me enthused. Genuine enthusiasm is my required fuel. I am unhappy without it.

My most recent goal was to develop an absolutely fanatical number of leads so I could be very choosy what I wanted to do and I would never have to worry. We are currently seeking a solution to capitalizing on too much opportunity than we can ever process.

I hope this thread invigorates at least a few of you that mentioned motivation as an issue. Burnout and boredom completely sucks the life out of me. I CAN NOT GO THERE EVER AGAIN.

I take at least 12 weeks off per year and rarely work more than 40 hours a week so I can teach my daughter tennis (county champ 1986) and ride my motorcycle, boat, ski, hike, visit with mom and dad and snuggle with the bride.

2,055 Posts
good topic Polebarns
we share some similar traits/techniques/motivations

1) first thing though.
you mentioned you never understand why some contractors here seem Hostile to "Multi trade" contractors.
speaking for myself---what I notice is---- that as a "single trade contractor---- the longer I practice my trade--- the more I specialize within that single trade---- the more I realize how little I am ever going to know about it----and there is no way I am ever going to "know it all"

it would be impossible
and yet MANY multi trade contractors will present themselves as experts across the board----and they frequently give ,wrong,or outdated or expensively dangerous advise .
Take ceramic roof tile

Every day I go out into the market place---and several times a week I will meet people who have been told by "multi trade contractors" architects, brother in laws---and various other ostensibly well meaning but in-correct individuals---" that's not available anymore, you will never be able to match that----better tear that roof off and replace it with a 30 year asphalt shingle.

The REALITY is that the customer needs 5 specific hip caps and they ARE available because I own 37 of them in that color and profile alone
or they need a dozen field tile available to re-flash a chimney----and I currently own over 500 of those tiles---and so on and so forth
Frequently the multi trade contractor---doesn't know what he doesn't know. He may be well meaning--- but his knowledge is broad based----and some things you need to be balls deep into before you ever encounter the situation.

I am absolutely certain this will apply to EVERY trade

Having said that
2) change.

some years ago I was fairly burned out by residential roofing--for many of the reasons you already mentioned.
Ultimately ,what I did was eliminate Asphalt shingle work---which at that time was 70% plus of what we did----and re-built my business specializing in what I actually liked( slate and Tile was maybe 5% of what we did at that time.

eliminating the work I had come to hate---- let me grow bigger than ever, let me hire better employees, let me add medical benefits, vacation pay, profit sharing ,add trucks etc.

3)--- time off---this is critical. this is a seasonal business. Basically I don't do production more than 35-36 weeks a year--and in approx. 30 years I average UNDER 35 hours/week IN SEASON and take 4 months off. this allows me plenty of time to pursue personal interests.

Best wishes, all, Stephen

Livin the dream...
6,624 Posts
Some things that keep me motivated:

1) The Dream - Wanted to be a successful contractor/business owner since I started in this at 16 about 10 years ago.

2) Love for tools/stuff - I want more tools. I love tools. Someday I want to have a sweet shop, skid loader, dump truck....the works. I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction out of spending profits on new equipment.

3) Financial Security (Money) - I don't want to be dependent on anyone nor live paycheck to paycheck. Creating a business that is a profit machine is important to me. Especially at some point turning it into a profit machine that can operate without me at the controls everyday.

4) Love for the trades - I genuinly love what I do. I enjoy all aspects of new construction and remodeling. I love trying to master each. I would get very board with just one focus.

5) Autonomy - Being my own boss and doing what I want when I want. I never want to go back to a clock in, clock out job again, nor deal with the drama that comes along with being an employee in a larger workplace environment.

6) Mastery - God gives us all talents. What are we going to do with them? I want to get to the end of my life being the best that I could have possibly been.

7) Purpose - As Rush Limbaugh says, "Another day doing what I was born to do." I believe this is where God put me and where he wants me to use the talents He has given me. If I did not feel this was where I was supposed to be I don't think I could do it.

Those are some that I can think of off the top of my head. Good thread. :thumbup:

Livin the dream...
6,624 Posts
This might make some rethink motivation. He presents the idea that money is not the best motivator is situations that require out of the box thinking. It is autonomy, mastery, and purpose. If you can motivate employees by these things instead of money you are set...Money is a better motivator for simpler tasks.


34,784 Posts
Interesting. I've never thought money was a great, reliable motivator. Some people will only get motivated enough to make enough money for what they want - that may be a couple of six packs.

I'll use a little stupid motivation framework here. It isn't original:

Ideology / Values
Compromise / Necessity

Valuing hard work and being successful at what you do can be more rewarding than money.

Working out of necessity (house payments or car payments) can get you motivated, but that doesn't make it fun.

Being the best at something (building a business, selling, marketing, whatever) has an ego reward of it's own. Competitions fall into this category, IMO.

Ideally, all 4 motivators would get you going int he same direction. For those that don't handle the stress or uncertainty of money matters well, having to worry about something like making payments is a demotivator, so that can be scratched, depending on the person.

I also think that how you frame things mentally makes a big difference. People are supposed to have fun - fun is it's own reward. If you can find a way to mentally make your work seem like a game you play, then it becomes fun. People use to put money into an arcade game like pac man. What's so fun about gobbling dots, it seems pretty boring and repetitive....

432 Posts
I have to challenge myself to do a better and more efficient job, thats what keeps going

My biggest de-motivator is the people around me, customers, suppliers, other trades, employees.
Always full of negatives, selfish and dont give a ****

Head Light Bulb Changer
847 Posts
Good thread. I agree and dis-agree on a few points. In this biz you definitely need to stay motivated, however your brain tells you to. Different peoples are motivated by different things. It's human nature. One guy wants beer money, another wants financial security, and another just wants to have fun at his job. I fit in all those categories. I went from framing (nail driver), to painting, to commercial landscaping, to electrical, to plumbing, to flooring, to additions/remodeling, and now to 'Handyman' (I call it Home Repair and Preservation). Yes, I consider myself a 'multi trade contractor' and really don't give a chit if other specialty trades don't like it. I have a lot of experience in different fields and I believe that gives me an advantage in my 'new' line of work. I'm not stressed out anymore worrying about the million things that can go wrong during a reno of a clients home. Did the roofers tarp it good, we have rain coming tonight. Is the site clean enough so their children don't get hurt? Did the right materials get delivered? Etc, etc. I'm more motivated now because I can see the immediate satisfaction on a clients face from knocking out their 'Honey-Do' list for them. Some lists are long (2-3 weeks worth) and some are short (half day, but I have a 5 hour minimum for new clients). I'm working less hours and making more money per hour. Am I getting rich running multi-million dollar jobs? Nope! Am I making a good living? Yep!

That's what motivates me these days.

Master of none.
85 Posts
Motivation? Hmm what keeps me going...

Love for what I do, striving to be better every day and every job, my family is probably my biggest motivation for it all. Making sure they are well fed, well clothed and well provided for all while being able to spend time with them on MY terms, not on "No vacation until youve been here a year or two" terms or "you need monday off AFTER a weekend? we dont need you then" terms and of course, living pay check to paycheck because most pay like chit here. Gave that up a while ago. And honestly, Its never been BETTER than it is NOW.

179 Posts
Im in no way sucking up but this site helped me get back in my game knowing that we all have some of the same problems. Then I raised my hr rate and stopped doing work for house flippers and old ladies that want you to duct tape and caulk I went to "this is my $ and I dont care what joe charges" that has helped alot, I dont do jobs I dont want to do. I also think Im doing what I do with tallent on loan from god and that makes a difference. taking the right customers and jobs keeps me going. good post...

Love me some Concrete
1,838 Posts
Very good post...

I truely love the trade, time to do it had been less lately but I really enjoy it.

My motivation is my kids, 2 girls and a boy, want something tangible for them someday. My full time job doesn't have that, pays the bills and can have a good life but not the satisfaction of driving by a project after completed with the family and "looking at what daddy built". That's my drive and motivation.

The kids come to sites with me (when it's safe work) and help out, pick up garbage and little things. I hope 1 of the kids would like the business when they are ready, that would be great but if not, I will probably piddle with it til I'm burned up and spread on my land.

This forum had also been a big motivation, talking with very knowledgeable people who have been there and done that. I like learning from other peoples mistakes when I can, it's cheaper. It's nice to know there our other's that also love this type of work.
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