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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm hoping there are some owner/operator single man operations that can give me some tips. Maybe, some of you started out by yourselves. Do you have any tips for me?
 

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Go the extra mile. It gets good word of mouth referrals.

No job too small.

Collect at time of service, don't wait on your money.

Stock all the common parts you can. People don't like to wait for heat or cooling.

Know your operating cost, and base your prices on that, and your desired profit.
 

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1st let me say accessheating gave you the best advice you can get if you let it absorb long enough to stick. My advice is repeat it out loud over and over for the next hour.
2nd let me congratulate you on your sole proprietor role, its a tough row to hoe, but if your hungry there is no one to blame but yourself.
I am a sole proprietor, started off slow, nights and weekends, sacrifices have to be made at first. Sleep was 1 of them lol. I worked my brains out 7 days a week and still I didn't make what I needed. I quickly learned why I was booked up for 4 months ahead, I was my own competition. I thought I had to be cheap, to make a reputation for myself. Well I did make a reputation, of giving grade A work for grade B prices. I doubled my rates, and yes I missed 1/2 or more of my bids, yet I still worked 7 days a week. The difference was I made twice as much. It took years before I stopped hearing from some clients how much my prices changed, yet they still had me come back.
Here are some of my opinions. First I cant tell you how to run your business, but I can darn sure tell you 500 things that didn't work for me LOL.
#1 Its a free market out there, your place in it is by choice. if you choose to do cheap work, its what you will be known for, no matter the quality. Do you want to work 60 hrs a week for 1,200 or 30 hrs for 1,200 If you get every bid you put in, your too cheap.
#2 Be honest with yourself, if you do B work, then accept b wages and add skills and experience
#3 Sometimes the way forwards is backing up, or a different subject all together. ( When I didn't have construction to do I trimmed peoples bushes, and raked leaves. Funny yes, 35 yr old carpenter out raking leaves and trimming bushes. Yet 2 things made me do it. (a) a little bit of something is always better than a lot of nothing in the beginning. I met a lot of people, and trust is priceless advertising. (b) my uncle had a plant nursery when I was young, I knew what people throw away. Those clippings were taken home, and I spent many evenings and nights cutting them smaller and throwing them in cut off 2 liter bottles of water, all over my house. 100 to a bottle, in 2 weeks they would grow roots, and I sold them to the nurseries for 50 cents to a dollar each. THOUSANDS OF THEM. It held me as my client list grew.
#4 The knowledge that you don't need to find new customers every time, if you are not called back, and they are not advertising for you..........your already done. Word of mouth is gold. Don't JUST fill contract, overfill contract. Make decisions sometimes from the heart not the wallet as to extras. I am not saying loose money. I am saying if you are remodeling a room, and you are doing drywall, ask if they want you to fix that crack in the living room and the nail pops in the hall. You already have the pan in your hand, its 5 minutes. Let it be known they will need to do the touch up paint, most times you get the painting added on as well. LOL. this leads to 5
5 If you already have a job, you are there for a reason, upsell, upsell, upsell. People walk around all day and never look up, or notice nail pops etc. You are generally there for a purpose that is bothering them. Its as easy as saying on your way through to work in the bathroom, "wow, I couldn't watch tv with all of those nail pops, I would always be looking at them" in a week you will be back fixing them because they now cant get their mind off them, just because they know they are there. Congratulations with painting you just added 1400 to your wallet, and you have now done 2 good jobs for them. NOW you are not A contractor your THIER contractor.
6 The best money you can make is from someone else's sweat. It is all a mathematical equation. Every job takes X# of man hours. What you make is what is left after those hrs are paid for. There are 2 types of action that need to happen, logistic, and production. Production is the time spent actually installing product, everything else is logistic. If you are installing drywall, hanging is production, it needs done a particular way. moving the drywall around, and cleaning up the mess is logistic. Every minute you spend on logistic, is lost money. You need a helper, or 3 lol. If you are sweeping, rolling cords, setting up your saw, moving supplies, You ARE loosing money, worse you are loosing time, and that's the 1 thing you cant make more of or get back. If you are personally doing demo, and carrying the materials out, your burning money and time. You need 2 or 3 moving it, and you doing nothing but deciding what stays and what goes. If your man hrs was figured at 50 a hour for you, and you get 2 others to do it for 20 a hour, you will get 24 hrs of work done in 8, and you made 60 a hour that day, and someone else ate the dust.
#7 Todays squeaky door is tomorrows remodels. Decide what level you want to play. I am nobody on the scale of people here. I started from nothing, I employ 6 now, adding another every 6 months or so. I really need 2 more now.
#8 Its hard to be a 1 man show. its hard to do the work, do the planning, and network the next job at the same time. I did it for years, You must find someone competent enough to be your helper that they can be left either alone, or with others and continue working, constructively. Pay him well, he is the true core of your company not you. He is the anchor, you must trust him with your life (well livelihood lol, he is the face of your company) You have to be able to bounce in and out of a job if needed to. Appointments with other contractors, or potential clients cant be scheduled at your convenience its always theirs.


The list goes on and on, in the end its just other peoples opinions. Everyone has opinions, and everything wont work for different people. If it was as easy as 1 2 3, there would be no employees. Every craftsman cant be a businessman. The work is the easy part, as you will soon find. That's why others made so much off of our sweat for so long.

Some may laugh at my thoughts, I don't blame them, but they are mine. I have earned them, through blood and sweat, for richer or poorer. I reserve the right to change my mind at any time, as new information and field variations deem it necessary, or convenient. Anything I say can be used repeatedly if used in context, LOL. which brings me to #10

#10 stay fluid, bend with it, no matter what it is. Rigidity causes destruction and structural failure, stay fluid, and take the course of least resistance. Have faith in yourself, and surround yourself with like minded people. RULE #1 in construction and life, If your fighting it, your doing something wrong. Most fatal failures are not from a single cause. Most failures are from lack of planning, combined with just lack of motivation, or narrow mindedness. Step back every now and then and look at different angles at your business plan. Is there a nitch you can fill, do you need to send some "feelers" out a different direction. Survey your clients after you are finished as to your performance and get a written testimony from them. Make realistic goals for yourself, and your company separately. if you don't know where you want to be, how do you know what directions to take. Over the mountain, is not always the best way to the other side.
 

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1st let me say accessheating gave you the best advice you can get if you let it absorb long enough to stick. My advice is repeat it out loud over and over for the next hour.
2nd let me congratulate you on your sole proprietor role, its a tough row to hoe, but if your hungry there is no one to blame but yourself.
I am a sole proprietor, started off slow, nights and weekends, sacrifices have to be made at first. Sleep was 1 of them lol. I worked my brains out 7 days a week and still I didn't make what I needed. I quickly learned why I was booked up for 4 months ahead, I was my own competition. I thought I had to be cheap, to make a reputation for myself. Well I did make a reputation, of giving grade A work for grade B prices. I doubled my rates, and yes I missed 1/2 or more of my bids, yet I still worked 7 days a week. The difference was I made twice as much. It took years before I stopped hearing from some clients how much my prices changed, yet they still had me come back.
Here are some of my opinions. First I cant tell you how to run your business, but I can darn sure tell you 500 things that didn't work for me LOL.
#1 Its a free market out there, your place in it is by choice. if you choose to do cheap work, its what you will be known for, no matter the quality. Do you want to work 60 hrs a week for 1,200 or 30 hrs for 1,200 If you get every bid you put in, your too cheap.
#2 Be honest with yourself, if you do B work, then accept b wages and add skills and experience
#3 Sometimes the way forwards is backing up, or a different subject all together. ( When I didn't have construction to do I trimmed peoples bushes, and raked leaves. Funny yes, 35 yr old carpenter out raking leaves and trimming bushes. Yet 2 things made me do it. (a) a little bit of something is always better than a lot of nothing in the beginning. I met a lot of people, and trust is priceless advertising. (b) my uncle had a plant nursery when I was young, I knew what people throw away. Those clippings were taken home, and I spent many evenings and nights cutting them smaller and throwing them in cut off 2 liter bottles of water, all over my house. 100 to a bottle, in 2 weeks they would grow roots, and I sold them to the nurseries for 50 cents to a dollar each. THOUSANDS OF THEM. It held me as my client list grew.
#4 The knowledge that you don't need to find new customers every time, if you are not called back, and they are not advertising for you..........your already done. Word of mouth is gold. Don't JUST fill contract, overfill contract. Make decisions sometimes from the heart not the wallet as to extras. I am not saying loose money. I am saying if you are remodeling a room, and you are doing drywall, ask if they want you to fix that crack in the living room and the nail pops in the hall. You already have the pan in your hand, its 5 minutes. Let it be known they will need to do the touch up paint, most times you get the painting added on as well. LOL. this leads to 5
5 If you already have a job, you are there for a reason, upsell, upsell, upsell. People walk around all day and never look up, or notice nail pops etc. You are generally there for a purpose that is bothering them. Its as easy as saying on your way through to work in the bathroom, "wow, I couldn't watch tv with all of those nail pops, I would always be looking at them" in a week you will be back fixing them because they now cant get their mind off them, just because they know they are there. Congratulations with painting you just added 1400 to your wallet, and you have now done 2 good jobs for them. NOW you are not A contractor your THIER contractor.
6 The best money you can make is from someone else's sweat. It is all a mathematical equation. Every job takes X# of man hours. What you make is what is left after those hrs are paid for. There are 2 types of action that need to happen, logistic, and production. Production is the time spent actually installing product, everything else is logistic. If you are installing drywall, hanging is production, it needs done a particular way. moving the drywall around, and cleaning up the mess is logistic. Every minute you spend on logistic, is lost money. You need a helper, or 3 lol. If you are sweeping, rolling cords, setting up your saw, moving supplies, You ARE loosing money, worse you are loosing time, and that's the 1 thing you cant make more of or get back. If you are personally doing demo, and carrying the materials out, your burning money and time. You need 2 or 3 moving it, and you doing nothing but deciding what stays and what goes. If your man hrs was figured at 50 a hour for you, and you get 2 others to do it for 20 a hour, you will get 24 hrs of work done in 8, and you made 60 a hour that day, and someone else ate the dust.
#7 Todays squeaky door is tomorrows remodels. Decide what level you want to play. I am nobody on the scale of people here. I started from nothing, I employ 6 now, adding another every 6 months or so. I really need 2 more now.
#8 Its hard to be a 1 man show. its hard to do the work, do the planning, and network the next job at the same time. I did it for years, You must find someone competent enough to be your helper that they can be left either alone, or with others and continue working, constructively. Pay him well, he is the true core of your company not you. He is the anchor, you must trust him with your life (well livelihood lol, he is the face of your company) You have to be able to bounce in and out of a job if needed to. Appointments with other contractors, or potential clients cant be scheduled at your convenience its always theirs.


The list goes on and on, in the end its just other peoples opinions. Everyone has opinions, and everything wont work for different people. If it was as easy as 1 2 3, there would be no employees. Every craftsman cant be a businessman. The work is the easy part, as you will soon find. That's why others made so much off of our sweat for so long.

Some may laugh at my thoughts, I don't blame them, but they are mine. I have earned them, through blood and sweat, for richer or poorer. I reserve the right to change my mind at any time, as new information and field variations deem it necessary, or convenient. Anything I say can be used repeatedly if used in context, LOL. which brings me to #10

#10 stay fluid, bend with it, no matter what it is. Rigidity causes destruction and structural failure, stay fluid, and take the course of least resistance. Have faith in yourself, and surround yourself with like minded people. RULE #1 in construction and life, If your fighting it, your doing something wrong. Most fatal failures are not from a single cause. Most failures are from lack of planning, combined with just lack of motivation, or narrow mindedness. Step back every now and then and look at different angles at your business plan. Is there a nitch you can fill, do you need to send some "feelers" out a different direction. Survey your clients after you are finished as to your performance and get a written testimony from them. Make realistic goals for yourself, and your company separately. if you don't know where you want to be, how do you know what directions to take. Over the mountain, is not always the best way to the other side.
Wholly Mackeral. :blink: That'sa lotta words.
 

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I was tired, Fronty I didn't notice you are HVAC. I still stand by my opinions LOL, you just need to adjust to your field. I will say in my opinion being in a specific trade blazing your trail into a area that is surely already occupied by established companies you have set your Goals high. You will need to work twice as hard to break over the apex of sustainability. I would personally think out of the box to grow my client list. You actually have a advantage over some, that being your trade actually needs maintenance, So a sole person could work that angle alone. If given enough time it is a workable scenario. I would add a few things to your list, even if you don't like it as you get established. You are already crawling under peoples houses, add moisture barrier to your list. I know people that make 300 a day just pulling plastic around. This alone would double the things you offer, and is relevant to the HVAC. If you don't want to do it, just offer it, and get a kid to pull it, you make money, they make money, and you made a connection with people. Duct cleaning is one of the most controversial angles there is, but it may be relevant to you. That would triple what your company offers. Every week you have 3x the opportunities to make more maintenance clients. You can make it, if you sacrifice enough. Being trade specific, would be a challenge for anyone.
 

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Save more than you think you should, a lot more. Nothing is worse than taking a job because you are out of cash. Speaking of, cash flow is king, if you aren't making it, you are loosing it.

Work the numbers on every job until you KNOW YOUR COST to work. I have competitors that will clean a set of gutters on a 3k sqft house for 40 bucks! Two employees making minimum wage cost $16 to work at the house for an hour, now add gas, tools, depreciation, delays and taxes! Now remember you paid them 20 minutes to clean the truck this morning and they traveled 30 minutes to the job. You might have 40 bucks in your hand when they are done, but you are loosing money!

Do what you promise, WHEN you promise. Customers hate waiting, if you are running late or behind schedule, call them. One phone call has saved huge jobs more often than a million excuses. Oh, and for the love of all things sacred, answer your phone when it rings. If the customer has to call you about a project they might be upset, but if they have to chase you down via email, text, voicemail, etc they will be irate. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Listen to your customer. The first few conversations, especially the very first, should consist of them telling you what they want. Learn to say, I understand, can you elaborate, tell me exactly, and when they are especially vague I say, break it down for me like you would for a toddler. When they finish, repeat it right back to them in the form of a question.
 

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Save more than you think you should, a lot more. Nothing is worse than taking a job because you are out of cash. Speaking of, cash flow is king, if you aren't making it, you are loosing it.

Work the numbers on every job until you KNOW YOUR COST to work. I have competitors that will clean a set of gutters on a 3k sqft house for 40 bucks! Two employees making minimum wage cost $16 to work at the house for an hour, now add gas, tools, depreciation, delays and taxes! Now remember you paid them 20 minutes to clean the truck this morning and they traveled 30 minutes to the job. You might have 40 bucks in your hand when they are done, but you are loosing money!

Do what you promise, WHEN you promise. Customers hate waiting, if you are running late or behind schedule, call them. One phone call has saved huge jobs more often than a million excuses. Oh, and for the love of all things sacred, answer your phone when it rings. If the customer has to call you about a project they might be upset, but if they have to chase you down via email, text, voicemail, etc they will be irate. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Listen to your customer. The first few conversations, especially the very first, should consist of them telling you what they want. Learn to say, I understand, can you elaborate, tell me exactly, and when they are especially vague I say, break it down for me like you would for a toddler. When they finish, repeat it right back to them in the form of a question.
Dead on, scream it from the rooftops brother.
 

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Price always matters, you might be super charming, or a master tech,but they likely wont call back the next time, or spread the word if you threaten their bank account. Yes, we need to make a living, customers don't have a problem with that. To a limit. Be aware of what you charge. The customer may not be too knowledgable of an ignitor, but they do know about $250. Don't charge an amount that makes a customer go to Google right away.

It's not too difficult. There will always be a demand for our service. Just do a decent job at a decent price, and be a decent person in the process.

It's not a get rich quick gig, but, one can make a decent living with a steady source of work.
 

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I just started in August 2013. I've been in the trade for about 7 years. I found just visiting commercial building customers you frequent and talking to them will get you work. I just stopped into an office building were I had done work as a young apprentice and walked out with 14k work because they were waiting on their contractor to find time to get the work themselves. On the residential side get to know some realtors they are the gold mine. Do not ever or even think about doing free work, cutting prices. Good customers want to pay market rate. They don't like low ball contractors. Know your market rate as here it is $99.00 to $125.00 and hour non contract. So I came in at $105.00 and its worked wonders. Certifications are a must, educate and always educate. Get a website with matching email. Do not do the @yahoo, gmail or whatever other free email. Lastly on the residential side special get in the door pricing offer a flat rate service call fee that's low. As long as your skills are to par it wont take more then 15 minutes to find 99% of issues. Be fair on your repair bid and you will get the work. Residential is good for money now work. Commercial can take up to 90 days to get paid. But I'm now doing work for nation retailers, wineries, banks, and of course the occasional house. Growth is small but I started with $116.00 bucks in pocket and a 2k credit card. So it doesn't take much. The most valuable thing of all id the best customer service give a sh$t when you talk to the customer be truly concerned.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks for taking the time to post some great advice. I am going to concentrate on service for now. I do not want to get into new construction. I have a contract with a real estate company. I'm going to do all of their HVAC work. I'm also going to pick up some of their handyman type jobs, until I can stay constantly busy with HVAC.

Thanks again. Please keep the advice coming.
 
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