Any of you have a start up success story? I'm starting from the ground up with no capitol and a family. I know what most will say, thats why I'm looking for success stories. You'll never get anywhere listening to those who fail. I know it'll be tough and we are ready for that. I've got a commercial contact list of 50 solid 25 not solid, 160 personal/residential solid, 4 GC's and 3 realtors.
With no capital you will need to be COD only. Get a good flat rate program as soon as possible and be the highest mofo in your area for service, not the service call, but the hourly rate.
Get referals from everyone for more leads or more work.
Lock in all of your customers with maintenane 2 times a year.
Forget about those GCs and realators unless they will pay on your terms, COD.
I guess the best thing that I ever did for my business was going to flat rate. It puts the "Your were only here 15 minutes so I will pay for 1/4 of your hourly rate" argument to bed and really allows me to make money.
Read, read, read!
Biz success you say? Started a year and a half ago. The first six months I lost butt loads. But then again I didn't start off with near the contacts you have. The last 12 months I've made more money than ever. I've also worked more hours than ever. Personally I don’t call that success. The success has been that I’ve learned more in the past year than I have in the 5 before it. People assume that the learning has been about running a business. That’s true. But the learning I’m excited about is the technical. It’s amazing how much you’re forced to not know when you’re working for someone else. In the mad rush to slap equipment in and cram as many service calls a day as possible you don't realize what a parts changer you're becoming. At least in retrospect I find that was true for me. It’s nice to be able to do the job right now that I’m on my own.
Don't get cheap about stocking your truck or van. I've had this stupid grin on my face more than a few times as I've walked to the van to grab a part that not a single one of my former employer's or 95% of my competition would have had on the van. When you're a small time operator you really don't want to be driving around for parts. The same is true of tools. Buy the flow hood, the combustion analyzer, the sizing software, etc. if you don't already have them.
If you can establish a solid customer base through contacts, referrals, advertising, etc then do it. If you need help, don't be afraid to sign up with a home warranty company. If First American Home Buyer's Protection is established in your area then go with them. I was apprehensive about it because I figured they’d pressure me to screw the homeowners left and right. But as it turns out, they're a class act at least in how they treat the homeowner - which ironically can be frustrating for the contractor. They bend over and constantly cover things they shouldn't. I've never been pressured to do anything unethical. And considering all the butt crack mechanics that do work for any home warranty company including FA, it's not terribly hard to look real good. The contacts I've made through FA have lead to all sorts of other work. Realtors are intimately entangled with these home warranty companies. I've lost count of how many realtors I've impressed the hell out of who now refer their clients to me. Yes it's sometimes a royal pain in the arse to deal with them. But at the same time it's an incredibly effective lead generation program. They may pay a crappy hourly rate (though in my case I negotiated a pretty good rate). But when you figure the average advertising cost to get a new non-referral customer approaches $200, it isn't as bad as you might think. My average service call with FA is higher than my former 6 mil a year consolidator employer. That’s not too bad.
One other bit of advice in regards to FA: If they decide that they like you, they can overwhelm you with work. Be insistent with them and have yourself active for as few areas as is needed so that you have plenty of time to take care of your regular customers. My county alone is broken up into 5 or 6 pieces. Being active for only a couple of them is more than enough for me.
Hmm. It seems that you're going to end up getting as much advice as you are success story.
[Edited by Irascible on 02-18-2005 at 05:09 AM]
Just a quick question for you. When you got involved with the home warranty, did you still use your flat rate numbers to do the work?
budro it is good to see that you are not putting all of your eggs in one basket. My attitude is that my company can do anything you can do with a btu.
We don't do everything of course, but we have the flexiblity so that if something begins to be unprofitable we can switch in a heartbeat to some faccid of this industry that is profitable.
Since my son is working his way into taking over this company, it was decided to re-work the company brochure. I came out with the first brochure in 1980. It was updated in 1992. For this update it seems like I am completely rewriting it. A lot of changes in 25 years!!!
I'm working on the flat rate price as of now. Pretty much done. COD only except for a few of the commercial accounts that will pay, but have to go through the ropes. I know it's risky, but these customers love me and their equipement is complicated and I know it well. The contacts are "champions" and in the long run it'll be well worth the wait. One of the realtors is ready to get me hooked up with the home warrenty co's. Thanks for the advice, thats really what I was looking for.
Don't start crying here or nuttin.............
I started a little over 25 years ago with nothing except a small loan which I used to buy a truck. A few contacs which helped for about a year or so, my son was 2, my wife was pregnant and had quit work a few years before when our son was born. My health insurance crapped out after my 2nd kid was born, she had tons of medical problems, I was sued by a supplier, I didn't have money to even go out to dinner. I survived somehow, you will too if you don't quit.
I ain't rich like the Donald but I had a great time and still enjoy the freedom and opportunities that await every time the phone rings.
As soon as ya can, dump the home warranty and realtor stuff.
Mrs. Dice is a babe too. She could have married Donald.
My only advice is not to spend too much in the beginning. Take it slow
Started my own business, 14 years ago, with an $1800.00 truck ( no a/c ) with hand tools & gages. Bought each piece of equipment that I needed, one at a time. Usually would buy one every time I got a job that would pay for it.
Bought 'cheap' stuff at first until I could afford better.
Have seen three upstart contractors go belly-up since I been here. All three had new trucks, and equipment from the get-go, rented offices & shops in 'good' locations.
two of the three went into bankrupcy within three years, the other one just seemed to disappear.
Oh, yea, I work out of my home, have 1200 sq ft 'shop', am just a mom & pop business, and I have more business than I want. I don't do any advertisement. except one line in yellow pages.
And I drove that van ( no a/c ) for three years, working 12 or more per day, 6-7 days a week. Now, I work 8-5 Mon - Fri - no nights or weekends. Wjat I have is enough for me.
Also, I don't do flat-rate
And last, but not least, I have obtained all of the things that my heart desired, ( since being in Bus.) and am content now. Only looking forward to retireing some day!!!!
[Edited by bornriding on 02-18-2005 at 06:01 PM]
Thanks alot guys, I do appreciate it. I am a rather bull headish kinda guy and I'm sick of working for people who expect perfection and don't deliver themselves. I'm not going to give up and its nice to know that there are people who have persevered the start up with out the $$ to float for a while. Fortunately I've built up to this for a while, good tools ladders reclaimer etc. I will work from home until the right time. And you're right I will drop the realtor and warrenty work ASAP.
You want a success story eh....well I started my own company 1 month ago,got about 80k stashed in the bank. Had spent the last 14 years working for the commercial division of a mama Trane franchise, doing pretty much just chillers and chiller plant controls. Bosses kid took over the company and decided I wasn't a "team" player, I already had my own van, state HVAC license and insurance, got most of my old customers on board already, things look pretty good but you never really know. At least I dont have to go anymore shop meetings and hold hands with a bunch of guys doing team building exercises anymore. Everyone measures success in their own way, If you can pay your bills and do what you want, when you want and not have to answer to anyone but maybe the wife, that sounds like success to me. Good luck
If you dont stand behind our troops, please feel free...........to stand in front of them.
One of the greatest things about what we do, is that there is always an opportunity to begin a business in this, on a shoestring, with nothing and build it to a very good solid place. Because the most costly portion of this is our own knowledge. We can leverage that experience to get it going. There is no better bet at the craps table than on yourself.
I love to hear fellow contractors stories about how they got going. And the ones I truly admire are those that I can relate to. Ones that had every obstacle and still got through the tough times. I have this thought in my head that, the ones that started from scratch and are doing well today, must be a better work environment for the employee than to work for someone who never went through that process to hunt and fish for their own food. Cause to build a good solid operation, from scratch can humble you.
You are much more inclined to be conservative, but with carefull thought aggressiveness. You have much more respect for yourself and others. To learn that life process through building your own business is so important to the future of that business. It's culture will be surrounded by the values you have more than it will anything else. Remember as you move forward that the integrity, moral, reality you hold as your own, will be directly reflected in how your company is viewed. And if your head is on right, and you move forward right, you won't have to worry about masking the ugliness of your company and spend money to do so. Work will come with out such great effort.
My father basically told me that when I got started. I thought it might help. Budro, what I just wrote, man alive, there is so much truth to it. I for a small breif period of time went back working for someone else. I had to. I didn't want to. I learned how true those words above were. Now with some perspective. Some maturity. Life happenings. There is no greater reward in your life than being reliant upon yourself and creating for yourself opportunity.
I get in these conversations with people. They seem to always steer torwards making money. And I think they bring it up because I am self employed and they are trying to understand if I make a good living or what. But the reality is, some days I am loaded with cash, others not so much. I put the value of my small operation in the fact that next week, next month, next year I will have work to do, at a profit, for me, on my terms, on my decisions. I make good money and you will too, but it's not the money alone that makes this so worthwhile an endeavor. Your creation, your hard work, your ideas, your decisions, your sleepless nights. All that combined builds you a lifetime of work for yourself. Very few people in your life will see this and thats where the separation is. It takes some balls to risk everything to gain this freedom. But it's worth so much more than money. It's valuable.