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startup... no refrences :(

3175 Views 16 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Mike Finley
I'm having a problem. People want to see refrences, and I have none to show since my company is so new. What are your suggestions?

I can show them work from my subs.

I can show them my personal resume to prove my experience.

I can show them jobs I managed at my last employment.
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Hey grump, I know we touched on this before.

As much as you hate to hear it, my initial suggestion that in the beginning getting work under your belt (to establish references) can be more important than profit still holds merit. Giving somebody a deal they can't refuse sometimes helps get you started. If they will take a chance on you, you will take a chance on them by giving them a great deal, as long as they agree to be a reference for you. Everybody has got to start somewhere.

You can also give them an offer they can't refuse as in a 100% money back guarantee. If you don't like what I do for you I will give you your money back on conditions. You then write into the contract that if the customer is not satisfied then the arbitration process begins, which would involve a 3rd party examining the work and determining if it meets industry standards, if it does then no money back. Of course you include that the 3rd party is determined by your choosing.

Second choice is its a numbers game, you can't land them all, you just have to keep going to you find somebody who doesn't ask you for references, you might be able to only close 1 out of 10 instead of 1 out of 3 in the beginning, but that will change as you build your references.

Third - is do you have pictures you can put into a portfolio? I have found that if you show people some really good examples of your work they become self-satisfied and don't bother asking for references.

Aren't there any people who you have done work for with your old employer that know you enough to be a reference for you?
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Mike I've dropped my prices a little bit to get me some work... But I have zero company refrences, and everyone has asked to see refrences. I told them all I would send them a list, but now I'm stuck. I gotta think of something quick.

I might do the money back guarantee thing on smaller jobs but not something 5k+

Numbers game is right. I am walking into thise closing 42% of my sales with NO high pressure, and sometimes being the highest bidder. I know my 42% is going to drop just because I am a new company.

I do have pictures of alot of my work at my last job... I suppose I can whip those out and show the customer asap hopefully that will at least make them think my company has done it before.

I am thinking of contacting some of the people I had built a good relationship with. For some reason some have really grown to like me. One woman tells me she loves me when we are finished talking. LOL I bet she'd be a good refrence.

Good advice Mike. Thanks!
Grumpy, you could just come down here, knock out a few hundred jobs and go home with plenty of references. People would give anything to stop the afternoon rains from coming inside. A week ago you could have had excellent references with a truck full of blue tarps! LOL!
Grumpy said:
I do have pictures of alot of my work at my last job... I suppose I can whip those out and show the customer asap hopefully that will at least make them think my company has done it before.
I would start doing that on your next estimates, make them look at a book of pictures while you are walking around with them and when you are up on the roof. That should help you quite a bit.

Then if they ask you for references I would just be honest with them and tell them what the deal is. You are who you are, your company is what it is, nothing you can do about it but know that this is the hardest part of it and it will only get easier after this. Tell them how much industry experience you have working for others, and that it was time to start thinking about your future and go out on your own, so here you are. If the references are still an issue, ask them if there is anything that you could do to earn their business. You might be surprised when somebody comes up with something that would work for both of you.

I'm sure it won't take you long to get going. :Thumbs:
As far as telling them about my industry experience, I was planning on making of a modified resume showing my work history, and certifications.

Once I get a few jobs I will be rolling! I spent so much time planning this that so far the refrences have been my only major hurdle. I am sure there will be more but so far I've been able to say been there done that.
I've spoken with a few old customers who agreed to speak about ME giving a personal refrence about ME and how I managed the job and how pleased they were with ME.

That's about the best I can do, in addition to the modified resume and like Rick said, just being honest.
Well Being in that same boat (i am a start-up now too).
I hit up 2 (yes i said 2) Households. 1 was my Girlfriends Aunt. And one a friend i used to work with. Let me tell you... My g/fs aunt has ALOT of friends! After seeing my work (and all i did was a Pergo Floor and a Bathroom fro her) Her friends have me booked the next 6 weeks SOLID for Little Interior jobs. My friends house was a little more of a task. It's an addition that someone started and ran off with his $$$. It's got a foundation, windows, framed, roof and siding. When it came to the interior work... they ran off. So i'm doing the interior work myself. (It's a 900 sq ft Add.) Also they never broke out the wall in his existing house. Ok and again this has me about 6 leads just from that. Now in my friends case i am BARELY charging him much labor.... $11/hr. But hell If I knew what he was gonna bring me i woulda done it for FREE! So Anyway My long winded post serves one purpose.... Hit up people you know.. even for some small jobs. It will usually pay off.

OK and now me fingers hurt from typing! lol.......
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Grumpy, sounds like you are on your way! 90% of the sale is selling yourself.
Don't get caught in the trap that I did early on. As an engineer I sold on the basis of structural integrity (snore) with all of the numbers to support it. I soon discover that it was much easier to say that the wall will be plumb and flat.
Once you have sold yourself, the only thing that you need to worry about is price range. Don't sell your expertise and definitely don't unleash a bunch of technical stuff about shingles, they don't care other than color, appearance and life expectancy. Often you have to make the choices for them. Write the contract and go for it.
Don't forget to ask for references or if they may be used as a referral. This is done after the job is complete and they are happy, not really advisable on a job where there were major screwups.
Hey Grumpy: ever think about a Web Sight, It can endorce your company 25% in the fist year alone, It would have some pics, Infomation of what kind of person you are, an estimate giude, Some time's that alone on the top left hand corner of buisnes cards can make a customer over look your refrences, Getting a licence could help also, personal refrences from friend,s and rellitive,s can be a big help to, till you get on your own. Give it a try. I did and look at me now!
LOL Yes I have put a little thought into websites. Have you seen my signature? :) I have a handfull of sites promoting my business.

As far as my liscence goes, my exam is October 23. I also have many manufacturer's certifications.
Go get 'em Grumpy and best of luck on the exam.
Grumpy, one of my friends has a business (very successful) of managing conventions (4,000+ people), but he started very small. Early on, his prospects would ask him who he did business with, and for "references". He'd rattle off a list of big names, and as for references, told them that the nature of the relationship was confidential, so he couldn't supply these. I asked him how he got the original list of big names - and he said, well, I bank at (big name bank) and I shop at (big name store) and I fly with (big name airline) and my house is insured by (big name insurer).... :cheesygri

When we started out, I basically had to "buy" the first four jobs to get something to show. In many ways, you're in a much better position, since the customer is ultimately buying "you" and you already have a good track record. Just make sure to let them know that those jobs were supervised by you, but done for your former employer. :Thumbs:
I gave away (not free, but very low profit) a few jobs to some cheap people who became refrences. Also they referred me to a few people. I am back charging what my services deserve, but the refrence list cost me alot of money IMO.
Way to go Grumpy. You'll get that "alot of money" and more back.

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