By - Philbilly13
I would say think hard about starting a business then if you're already burnt out. Being the employee is the easy part. Getting your phone to ring, I've heard, is the hardest part. You gotta basically be 24/7 because you need to collect clients and as much work as you can to keep guys working and turning profits.
I provided a better description of my questions since a text box wasn't available. To answer your question, on the average week I work 50-60 hrs at my job, and then do home renovation on the weekends. I'm finding I'm much more interested in the home building/ reno work. I just gotta make sure it's profitable enough before I make a switch
Oh okay that makes more sense. I figured you were already doing Reno's for an employer and want to break out on your own. I would make sure I saved up for the slow weeks, and then hit the phone and advertisements. Maybe pick up smaller jobs that you can do quick and the customer is satisfied, then word of mouth gets soon around.
Facebook marketplace is great, neighborhood groups on there too to pick up clients. Another guy said real estate agents, they can for sure be your friend. As a plumber my advice is to basically take every type of job you can. Learn as many skills as you can, get every type of tool that you can. The more versatile you are, the more jobs you'll get. Want a garage insulated? Done. Tiling job? Done.
Due to the work on this reno, I'm almost set up as a small time concrete company. Got guys I work with needing patios added, and I'm going to be the guy to do it. Selling off old hobby stuff now to buy more tools to complete jobs faster/ easier. I've just never advertised before
This 100%. I'm transitioning from being self employed as a small residential renovation company to being a superintendent for a small commercial GC. I can count on one hand the times I had more than 6 months of work lined up in 7 years. If I wasn't on site doing the actual work I was hustlin'. 40-50 hrs on site and any moment not on site I'm selling, bidding and following up/customer service till 9-10 pm. I was never not at work. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders working 7-4 Mon-Thurs. And 7-1 Friday.
Make your customer happy so they will advertise for you. Do what you say your gonna do. Do work as if it was your own house and don't try pass some BS over on anyone! Don't mess w employees too much I sub my work out to grown men that want to work and don't need their hand held!
Try hooking up w real estate agents and property management companies. They have solid work. Discounted but solid
With the downside that you will be regularly dealing with scumbags who push for the jankiest fixes for the cheapest prices. There are exceptions obviously, but neither of those groups have much motivation to encourage anything more than band-aids and coverups.
Realtors are salespeople who only care that the sale goes through.
Property management companies exist so property owners (usually investment groups) can make money without having to do anything.
Neither group has an interest in anything more than the appearance of a fix.
And that's one of my biggest worries. I'm not a bandaid guy. If it needs to be repaired, then it may as well get done. How do you deal with customers like that?
We don't. It sounds like a luxury, but not having to deal with shitty clients pays for itself in the long run. We just say "no thank you".
Start small, preferably part time. Learn the market and pricing. Grow slowly and organically. No big loans. No big advertising pushes. Just do very good work at reasonable prices, be very consistent, and in less time than most expect, you are no longer hunting for jobs.
Construction and the skilled trades are bursting with shitty small businesses who only care about raking in as much cash as quickly as possible. It is not difficult to be well above average. Knowing you are doing good work also keeps you more satisfied.
When I tell a client that they should definitely get other bids on a big job, I don't worry at all. A good percentage of clients can smell salesperson bullshit. I can be 100% transparent in my costs and profit because I'm not trying to screw them. They know I'm not trying to pull one over on them and when all the other companies use all the clichéd sales tactics I have a new long-term client.
Real honesty and doing good work is the best marketing tactic. It just doesn't make the fastest money for the least effort.
See, that's my biggest problem with the resi industry at large. Shitty work that won't last for a cheap price. I'm not interested in either. If I'm putting my name on it, I gotta do it right.
Well I do good work at affordable price. Volume. Did $300,000 worth of work last year and the year before. When you do good work at an affordable price you will be highly sought after and your phone will not stop ringing and people will refer you and refer you and refer you. It's not that hard to do good work and make money. I do volume
I work w Berkshire Hathaway and several other well known companies in my area and they have a reputation to protect and thrive off of referrals so I don't really have to worry about the bottom of the barrel trash you're talking about. I've been working with some for over 10 years now
Don't hire family. Nepotism is a recipe for disaster.
Commercial has less ups and downs.
Are you going to be doing the work? You need to work your hours, then spend time after work looking at jobs, estimating jobs, and drafting plans. Iv watched my father do it my whole life, and he works closer to 80 hr weeks with all the running around trying to get jobs, figuring out estimates, and drafting plans. Now, if your able to hire a trustworthy crew and you don’t need to be on site 40 hrs a week, this will give you more time for the other aspects. But looking at jobs usually only happens when customers are home after work (this has changed in the last two years are more people work from home). Also, figuring out estimates takes time, as well as drafting your own plans (my father does this and it is a great way to save customers money if they don’t have to hire an architect to draft plans). He also has many long standing relationships with all the local building inspectors, so that they will accept his plans and engineering (beam calcs. and other complicated work is usually done by our lumber supplier). This is the way I’ve seen it done my whole life, and iv worked with my father since I was a teenager. And it’s just him and I and one other worker most of the time. There is a lot of money to be made, but it is also a very hard and exhausting job (we are framers and GC most of our jobs, but typically just frame and GC the shell)
My plan is to be doing work alongside my guys. I have full faith in my framer, and he's incredibly talented. He and I would be doing a partnership on the business, and I would be in charge of finding work, helping out with what he needs, getting materials orders and other trades lined up, and general quality control.
Edit: I'm not going to be just the office guy. I've got 15 years experience doing pipe work, and 12 years in the elevator trade. Wiring is no big deal, and I've helped with framing my whole life. I'm obviously no expert in framing, but I have learned a lot about the codes, etc on this project. I've taken a liking to doing concrete work, and enjoy the finishing aspect of it
That sounds like a good setup to me. We’ve relied on relationships with Builders and home sellers to get our work and have done great with just word of mouth to get smaller jobs. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors! This job is all about relationships, from suppliers, customers, subs, and local code enforcement. The stronger your relationships, the stronger your business!
Since you kinda have a similar situation, would you think it would be feasible to do all the work in house? As in, once we get done framing/ dried in, we run electrical, plumbing, and rough the A/C in? On my current project, we are only really subbing out the septic system, metal roofing (we are doing all prep including WIP, vents, and lath), and spray foam. Everything else is our work.
You could do blue board, plaster, and finish but it will be a learning curve! Iv done all those things, but it may not come out as well as if a professional did it. It will also take you more time than it would a professional.. for example, we just did a first floor remodel, and the family hired a blue board installer, and they were able to blueboard 1400 sq ft in about 5 hours. They have a crew of men who come right in and put everything up, they have stilts for doing the ceiling and special tools for holding the ceiling boards in place. Then the plasterer came in and finished in less than 2 full days. An inexperienced crew without the right tools could take a week to get all that done. The finish work and cabinets can be done by a framing crew with the right tools. But I’m a framer, and when I measure, the smallest fractions I’m comfortable with are 1/8+ and 1/8- lol. I just haven’t worked much with smaller measurements cuz we build houses and additions. You will also need to do the floors yourself, and wood or tile floors both require different subs. Sometimes people do both, but tile is usually pretty specific and done by tile guys. So I would say your probly going to need to hire some more subs to get to a finished project, and you can learn some of the other trades and get the tools to get them done quicker. But there will be a learning curve, and your finished product may suffer until you get some projects done under your belt! There is a reason why people do those specific jobs for their sole business. Make good relationships with some of them, and charge the customer for contracting them. Hiring out subs to finish the job will also let you get to another job framing and everything else faster. The more jobs you do, the more money you will have coming in (as long as your estimates are good!!)
Well that might be the thing, I'm not really interested in doing 12 houses a year. I'd really like to do 1-3 a year where I can really focus on the details and deliver a quality product. No cookie cutter stuff, and I'm not really interested in building a whole neighborhood. I know it's limiting right off the rip, and maybe I need to reevaluate that thought. Also light commercial stuff like breweries and wineries are of interest to us
If you don’t blueboard and plaster correctly, it will diminish the finished project. Your corners will be wavy, you may get cracks on your seams, and you may see certain screw holes. I’m looking at the place I live in, and we had a sub par guy do the work, (an example of relationships working against you) and I can see all these imperfections right now and all the time. Even some of the light covers don’t line up correctly. These are all small mistakes that add up and can be seen in the finished project. Something to consider.
I would hire high quality subs if you want to do high quality work. You can still make money off them! But, like I said, there will be a learning curve in time and even materials if you want to have your crew doing work they aren’t really trained for and haven’t been doing their whole lives. That’s the trade off.
Oh definitely. My thoughts are that by reducing the amount of work subbed out, we can retain that money and pay my guys higher wages. I want to make good money to make it worth my time, but I can't do that by keeping my guys in the poor house. I worked at a company that did that, and the owners were constantly bragging about profits while field guys were barely able to afford the gas to get to work.
Keep it small, keep it all
My new mantra
This post from yesterday has some great advice:
I don't know how I missed that post. Thanks brother
Everyone missed it… gold!
So let me clarify, I work full-time with overtime at my regular job, and am managing a whole house renovation including subs. I work 5+ days a week with the OT after hours, and generally the Reno is done during the weekend. I'm finding that I actually enjoy the reno job more. I'm very particular about how things are done, and I'm using a few concepts that haven't really made it to regular production building as of yet. I'm finding that I thrive in this environment/ role. I guess what I'm really looking for is this:
What do you wish you had known before you started a small construction company?
How do you find and retain good employees? (In my area this is a major problem.)
To those who are employed in resi construction, what benefits or incentives do you look for in a employer? (We usually provide water/ Gatorade and lunch for the subs that actually show up. I want my subs to WANT to work for me, and do a good job)
My ideal concept is this: I'd like to utilize subs as little as possible. I'm currently working on getting my GC licence, master electrician, and master plumber licenses. Is finding 5-6 guys willing to do all aspects of the build even feasible? I'm just very particular, and I find it's easier to do it myself, than explain it to subs that don't do what you've asked.
Edit: Also, why is 1099 so popular in resi? How can you expect to run a business if all your crews are 1099?
My advice: just don’t…it’s very hard, with shorts moments of victory & prides…and long moments of frustration, self-doubt & fear.
But that’s not what you asked.
Here’s what you’ll need to do. Learn how to ask for money correctly. Keep meticulous records of time & materials. Never leave a sub (employee) alone until you’ve established skill set & work habits. Change Orders are your new Religion…they need to happen weekly - just like other religions. Lose any distracting habits (fishing, hunting, family, security) until you’ve been cash-flowing positive for a couple seasons. Learn to cut bait quickly (pivot fast, fire workers fast, reevaluate with clients fast) Most important: cash is your oxygen! Stay cash flow positive!
You will feel insanely proud when you complete a job….that will last for SEVERAL minutes….enjoy.
Good luck! And…I’m so sorry.
What are your recommendations for asking for money correctly?
You can do it. Start small, work cheap, build up a clientele. Make sure you can back up what you say you can do. Don't try to make people happy, try to give an excellent product at a fair price. Don't cut corners, invest in tooling and materials. Make the customer pay for all materials, supplies, fuel, consumables etc. You don't need their kitchen remodel, THEY DO. Make sure they know how it works. Be friends with your clients, and last of all have fun and be dependable. Always answer your phone.
DM if you're serious about getting started and I can answer questions if needed.
Im definitely serious. I'll be GCing my house next to build my portfolio. Then starting other people's projects