Sunday, August 31, 2008

Whats Your Dream?

I have always heard that if you open a business you should try to follow your heart and do what you love. When you find that one thing you would do for free just because you love it, you can almost guarantee success. This is not always possible due to monetary reasons, lets face it, some businesses are more expensive than others to open. I think thats where most people make the mistake of giving up on their dreams.

Being a contractor is not my dream and never has been. I just saw contracting as something I was qualified for and as a stepping stone to making more money as I chase after my true dream. I recognized that there was no way to achieve what I really wanted to do with an hourly job so I began to look into ways to earn more quicker and so far it has worked in my favor. To be honest though, I find it to be a headache most of the time, the money is even getting where it doesn't excite me anymore. Although closer than what it once was, I see my dream still a few years away. I simply do what I have to now so I can do what I want to later.

Some days are harder than others to remain focused on what I want and there are more than a few days I even start wondering if any of this is worth it. Time will tell I suppose, until then I will keep my head up and my eyes on the prize.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Losing Customer # 1

When I first started my company, I passed out so many fliers it was crazy. I knocked on every door and spoke with anyone I could and yet no business was coming in. Things were not looking good and then one day when I was close to throwing in the towel I got a call. It was from a realtor named John and he is the person that really gave me my first chance. For the last 2 years John has helped my company grow often recommending us to others and opening doors for us that were once closed.

Today, John's property management company officially changed owners as he has sold it and moved to Florida. As I stopped in his office for the last time today, I couldn't help but feel saddened. I am not afraid of what this loss will mean to my business as John has already given me many other contacts with whom I now do business. Instead I know that I will miss going by his office, being given jobs at the last minute, joking with his secretary and the general "family attitude" that was felt there. I owe so much of what my business has grown into to John for giving me my first chance and for that I will be forever grateful. Virginia's loss is Florida's gain.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

How Strong Is Your Chain?

There's an old saying that a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link and this holds true for business as well. Anyone can buy a business license, print some business cards, pass out a few fliers and call themselves a company but to be a success you have to build a team of individuals that work as hard for your success as you do. This can, will, and has been screwed up by every successful businessman ever. I can't think of any great company that started and reached success with the same individuals, along the way people will get shown the door whether it be for personal reasons or strictly as a way of weeding out the dead weight.

A new business can expect to spend months if not years attempting to put together a team of like minded individuals. One of the biggest mistakes a new business owner can make is hiring friends and family. They will either take you for granted and think that they will never be replaced (fired) or they will start resenting any success you obtain. I myself have made that mistake in the past and have seen both results. My advice to any business just starting out is to assemble your team very carefully and learn to recognize that there will be times that you have to cut someone free for the good of the company. Do not hesitate at those times.

Now how strong is your chain?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Did Dragon Lady Have A Sex Change?

I know I mentioned our Final Walk through on Monday and while everything my crews had done got the O.K. the conversations since then have made me start wondering if the Dragon Lady has had a sex change. No less than 20 additional items I brought to the contractors attention on Day 1 of this job and was told to not worry about them because he would either have his people do them or they weren't covered for repair under the insurance because they were not fire damaged items were all thrown at me. All of these items could have and should have been repaired prior to other phases of this job.

Today I finally managed to get down to the last thing, we had skim coated the hallway walls (after painting, reverse order for those of us that know) and were waiting for the mud to dry so we could apply touch up paint. Anyone that has ever done this can tell you that waiting for mud to dry is a long wait so I told my crews to knock off and I would return to finish the job.

Job Superintendant -"Where are your guys going?"

Me - "I'm sending them home and I'll return and sand and do the touch up paint after the mud has dried "

Job Superintendant - "You can't do that"

Me - "Excuse me"

Job Superintendant - "Doug will have a fit if he stops by and your people aren't here"

Me- "Doug will get over it, I'm not keeping my guys on the clock to watch mud dry"

Job Superintendant - "O.K. go ahead and I'll try to cover for you but hurry back"

Me - "First of all, I have no need to be covered for, If Doug has a problem, tell him to call me and I'll explain to him that his deciding at the last minute to do items that I pointed out on Day 1 already has my crew more than a little upset, they don't mind doing them but half this stuff has created additional work for us because it wasn't done in the right order. My guys do have a life."

Job Superintendant - OK , also when you get back, Doug wants you to make sure the last unit that has been gutted is clean so they can lay carpet today"

Me- "What???"

Job Superintendant - "He has carpet men coming this afternoon"

Me - "You're telling me he wants to lay carpet in a unit that has no drywall up on any of the studs?"

Job Superintendant - "Yup, I know it's moronic but he is the boss"

Me - ...And does he realize how worthless the new carpet will be after sheet rock mud lands all over it during finishing, or over spray when it gets painted?"

Job Superintendant - "So you think I should talk to him about canceling the carpet?"

Me - "Uh... Yeah!"

Where do they find such people and why do I always end up subbing for them?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Final Walkthrough

An hour from now I will be doing the final walk through of an apartment complex we just restored after a fire gutted it. This is where we separate the men from the boys as the contractor scrutinizes everything we have done. If all goes well we will be turning the keys over to the tenants today and allowing them to resume a normal life. Am I nervous? Maybe a little.Wish me luck. Today I truly have all eyes on me.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The People Factor

My company recently began sub contracting for a fire damage restoration company. Our first job was given to us a few days back with the instructions that speed was a necessity. The contractor went on to explain to me that his company believed in taking families that have already been through the tragedy of watching their homes burn and doing everything possible to normalize their lives in as short a period of time as possible. He used the term "The People Factor"

We were given a five day deadline at an apartment complex with 4 units that had burned. Last night, after working some rather long hours the last two days, I arrived home thinking about how today we would be wrapping it up, ahead of schedule. Still, "the people factor" was not kicking in for me. I was just trying to turn a profit as fast as possible so I could move onto our next job.

At 9:45 last night I got a call my brothers home was burning and he had been injured. I raced to the scene to find he had cut his hands open busting out windows in an effort to save his dog that was trapped inside. Before the firemen even left the scene, I witnessed "the people factor". The same contractor I had started sub contracting for had his people posting guards on the home to insure nobody would be stealing any of the property inside. At 2:00 a.m. another crew had arrived and began boarding up and securing the home against unlawful entry.

The insurance adjuster is due to arrive Monday...days later, yet here is this company, with no way of validating they will even be paid for the work already performed, taking care of "the people factor" within hours of the fire. I have already been told by the contractor that this job is mine and while I had planned to take Monday off as a present to myself and my crew for making our deadline on this last job, I know that as soon as I get the call that the insurance adjuster has viewed the damage, they will have me taking my crew in to once again restore order to a fire victims life. The people factor....I get it now!

And for those of you wondering, the dog was pulled out unconscious by the firemen who administered cpr for 30 minutes before transporting it by ambulance to the vet. Today the dog could be found playing in the park. Special thanks to the firemen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What Happens If You Go Down?

Yesterday brought about a very strong realization to me. I had gotten sick to the point of not wanting to move with the exception of the bi-hourly trip to the restroom to empty my stomach. Knowing I had to take time to recover I sent out my workers to their jobs and called each of my clients to let them know I would be indisposed and unavailable. Today as I turned my cell back on, I had 48 new voice mails with almost every one being these same clients bringing various emergencies my way. Several of them had left multiple voice mails.

This taught me 2 things. The first is that as 50 cent says "These industry niggas ain't friends, they know how to pretend" meaning that they could care less if you are on your last breath as long as you use it to do something for them.

The second thing I learned is the need to have a contingency plan in effect for my business should something severe happen to me. I don't miss many days and this was rare but if I were to be out a few weeks,things would have went from bad to worse perhaps pushing me to a point of no recovery business wise. I have been running things so long and making 100% of the big decisions that I had never seen the need for things to be different. Now I do. I'm currently operating at about 50% health wise and even though I should really stay out a few more days, I have nobody trained to do what I do.

That brings me to the point of this post, always have another person that can step in and make stuff happen in the event you go down. That is a lesson I should have known from my days as a Marine when every man had to know everyone elses job and it is something I will be implementing into my business post haste.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Overlooking the Obvious

I like to think of myself as a fairly intelligent person yet this week something happened that made me wonder how true that could be.

I was on a job site when one of my salespeople called me to inquire about whether we would be interested in providing service to a company that wished to contract us for work in the Outer Banks, N.C. I immediately asked her to send me a copy of their proposal so I could start crunching numbers. Equipped with Mapquest to gain some indication of the distance and the companies own pay scale for contractors,I went to work and it was during this time that I realized that by failing to register my business in North Carolina, only 30 minutes away, I have ignored a very large potential client base.

How could something that was right in front of me for the last 2 years totally slip by unnoticed?After thinking about that question these past few days I have come up with no answer at all other than the proverbial "can't see the forest for the trees."

Next week I will be filing all the appropriate paperwork to do business in North Carolina and after that I will call an employee meeting to brainstorm any more potential areas I may have been overlooking.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Time Management

Managing your time properly can be one of your greatest allies when it comes to business, whether online or off. As I usually have more than a few things going on at once I have found that while multi-tasking is a wonderful thing, to truly succeed at anything there has to be time devoted to concentrating on one thing at a time.

I have found that with so much on my plate, distractions occur all the time, usually these distractions come in the form of an idea that will hit me out of the blue for one of my other projects I have going and I have in the past gotten so entangled in the idea that I completely forgot what I was working on getting done until later when it became a problem. For times like this I have learned to carry a notebook that I can make a short notation in to explore the idea further.

I have also set up scheduled after hours times for each of my current side projects with regular work hours being solely devoted to my business and its expansion. Time management does not prevent me from having several different projects going on at once, it actually allows me the ability to focus and bring them all forward. I still believe it is possible to do many things and do them all great.