The question: Is it time for this experienced restorer to strike out on his own AGAIN?
Steve’s answer: First it is self-analysis time. Next, we get our hands dirty with 4 possible steps. Sorry, no simple answers here.
I used to have a small restoration company. Then I moved from Wisconsin to Arizona but honestly I am struggling now. I am unhappily working as a senior project manager for another restoration company here in Phoenix. I want to change but I am having trouble getting out of this rut and back on my own two feet!
The good thing is I have zero overhead right now! I also own all my equipment outright which is good. But I have no contacts or funds to get started!
Steve, I have been stuck in what I think you call “The Lone Wolf Syndrome” as an owner-operator for over 28 years! But I finally see the need to make money for my family instead of these guys I’m working for who don’t really appreciate me! They just use my skills as their tools to make money for them!
Steve, how can I turn this sad situation around and start a restoration company the right way?!
Puzzled in Phoenix
After all, if you have been working as an owner-operator “Lone Wolf” for 28 years I’m assuming you are at least 50 years old. So yes, it is time to focus on “Life’s Big Questions”. (Cue the threatening, somber music!)
As someone who has been their own boss I know it is frustrating to see others profiting from your skills and knowledge. But then I also assume with your experience in business you are savvy enough to know that the “big money” your boss is billing off of your work does not go directly into the owner’s pocket! 🙂 Plus don’t forget…
The owner(s) of the company you work for invested a huge amount of blood, sweat, tears and MONEY to get to where they are today. And they STILL are under a lot of pressure to pay you and all their other employees! There is no easy money out there! (And isn’t it nice that they are under this all-consuming pressure instead of you?)
So at 50+, Puzzled, do you have a) the funds, b) the years and most importantly, c) the “fire in the belly” to go through the growth curve to build a big restoration company? I know that at a “young and healthy” 63 I don’t have “b” or “c”!
Why do I stress “building a big restoration company?” Because my feeling is in a restoration-only business you either need to “get big(er) OR go home”! With the third-party networks and preferred vendor networks combined with the demands of a 24-7 operation I find a small one or two person company quickly gets pushed aside or simply burns out. So what to do? Here’s what crazy old me would suggest…
1) Talk to your current restoration company employer. Explain that you want to build a small commercial maintenance business to supplement your Social Security for your “Golden Years” and you’d like to create a Strategic Partnership between the two of you. You’ll still continue working for them full time and will guarantee to send them all the emergency and restoration work from your commercial clients. Then they in turn can refer you any contract commercial work they come across. Both sides win AND you keep regular cash flow coming in while you build your business. (Possibly cutting back to part time as you grow.)
2) Find the start-up funds. Puzzled, you mention not having funds. Well, you do have a lot of restoration equipment that is paid for. Would your employer be interested in buying it off of you? (Even financed over time?) Then you could purchase the fairly inexpensive entry level equipment needed for commercial carpet maintenance. Frankly, with a good portable extractor and a Cimex machine you are good to go in commercial- for quite a bit less than 5K! Now here is the beautiful part…
3) Develop nightly “encap routes”. So as you sell regular Service Agreements (And they DO require “selling”!) lump them all into a Monday night. (Just for example.) You do them yourself till you have every Monday night “full”. (I suggest no more than six hours per night.) Now hire a part time employee and pay them 25% of the gross plus a mileage allowance since they will be using their own vehicle. Your tech makes out great (do the math!) and you do even better!
4) Now start “filling” another night. But don’t let the same person “run this route”. Organize your accounts to hire another different part time employee. (You don’t want all your eggs in one basket!) The beauty of this approach, Puzzled, is all your PT workers keep their regular job. If you lose an account no problem! They can still fall back on their regular employment! This really takes the pressure off you!
Now true, Puzzled, contract commercial work isn’t as “exciting and sexy” as restoration. But it is VERY comforting to know exactly how much money you will gross each month! And you can ramp this new business start a restoration companyup nice and slow while you keep your current job. Plus you (hopefully) will be able to develop a “Synergistic” Strategic Partnership with the restoration company you are working for now since they won’t view you as direct competition.
Let me know what you think about this idea. And hey, Puzzled, attending SFS could be a game-changer for you re: thinking outside the box. 🙂