Goals and plans for future work


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Old 03-25-14, 09:29 AM
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Goals and plans for future work

Hi guys. I have gotten a lot of information from this site in the short time I have spent on it! I appreciate honest feedback.

A little background:

I have been a professional land surveyor for about 10 years now. I don't hate it but it's not my passion or what I would like to do with my life. I have always built or tinkered with fairly large projects my whole life. I have built a 1200 sq ft cabin for a friend (which is still standing strong 6 yrs later btw), as well as other miscellaneous projects for friends of family. Anyway, suffice it to say I have a LITTLE experience and a lot of ambition. I don't think I'm being unrealistic, but I'm 28 now and would like to be operating (even if it's on a small scale) my own building company focusing on outdoor living areas by the time I'm 35.

My questions are these:

When looking for a contractor, what do you look at? (i.e. education, experience, past projects etc.)
For those of you who are already operating your own company, what steps did you take to get there?

Like I said, I appreciate honest feedback.
 
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Old 03-25-14, 09:48 AM
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A whole lot more to it then people think.
Got to have a license, insurance, building often times requires help so you may need work mans comp.
Best to become Inc. or LLC so you will not be at risk to loose your personal property if you get sued.
Going to need a truck and most likely a trailer, a ton of tools.
No more paid vacations, company paid retirement.
Evenings will be spent doing paperwork, weekends talking to customers.
There's the always present danger of not getting paid for the job.
 
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Old 03-25-14, 09:52 AM
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I think I'm prepared for most of that... I've seen it done the wrong way a few times. I had one good example of how to do it the right way. It's the details of the insurance, and payroll that scare me most.
 
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Old 03-25-14, 10:04 AM
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A program like Quick Books Pro or a payroll service will help with that part.
 
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Old 03-25-14, 10:13 AM
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Joe, do you run your own business? If so, (and I absolutely mean no disrespect) what made you think you could do it? Do you have any kind of degree or special licensing?
 
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Old 03-25-14, 10:39 AM
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I'm a retired painting contractor, there were several reasons that made me decide to work for myself but the main thing was being able to have more control over the quality of the finished product. IMO the more experience you have in that line before going out on your own, the better. I painted as an employee for many yrs prior to going full time on my own.

If you haven't already, you need to determine exactly what you want to specialize in. Often it's best to start out doing jobs on the side until you can build up your reputation. It takes a long time to build a good rep but it can be ruined by one or two botched jobs.

What licensing you need varies both by location and exactly what work you intend to do. Your insurance agent can help you thru whatever insurance policies you need, this may or may not be the same agent that handles the rest of your insurance. It's also important to keep good records. Business taxes aren't all that complicated but it takes time and poor records, lost receipts can hurt you.
 
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Old 03-25-14, 11:18 AM
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I have several small companies in various industries. I started with the usual college route and working for others. I was smart enough to see that the companies were not being run smartly and twice I left 6-12 months before they companies filed for bankruptcy. Eventually I realized that these big boss types were no smarter than I and that they acted irresponsibly in large part because it wasn't their money they were wasting. To me at least when you think about the companies money as your own the correct decisions become easier to spot. Your never right 100% of the time but you'd be surprised that sometimes the difference between success and failure is only 5% if you can do it consistently. Just be that 5% better than others and you can win out.

Bookkeeping I don't find difficult, probably because of my education so that part was easy. I use Quick Books Pro but don't subscribe to any of the additional services. You really have to watch that they sell the program cheap but tie many features to a additional paid service which for a small business can become a significant expense. The basic payroll plan is $240 a year plus $2 per employee per month. $336 per year if you want to electronically file W-2s. You need to be very aware of stuff like that. As a business owner you have to seriously look at what you are paying for and whether or not it's worth it. Payroll scares people but for the most part it's amazingly simple. Get a calculator with a % button and it's stupidly simple. Yes, it's boring nerd work but it only takes 5 minutes to calculate the deductions and go on the EFTPS website to make your deposits and you can save several hundred dollars per year. That's a few hundred dollars more in your pocket.
 
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Old 03-30-14, 11:15 AM
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I think a major difference between success and failure of a small construction business is first knowing how much competition is already in your region (and how saturated the market area already is), and how successful those existing businesses appear to be. If they are mostly just skimping by, and highly competitive with each other, you're not likely to jump in and be a blazing success. Unless, of course, you have a better work product than they do, and can do it more efficiently.

Something to consider would be to offer a unique service, one that people will gladly pay for but that currently isn't being offered by many others. For your part of the country and in line with your interest in outdoor living areas, maybe a good place to start would be to focus on custom BBQ set-ups and grilling areas. Coming up with a few eye-catching but yet very functional designs would attract a lot of customers. You'd need a creative flair, and masonry and concrete skills in addition to knowing carpentry. Another area of work I've thought of getting into (when I was younger and more mobile) is performing deck tune-ups. Many people simply don't have the time or interest to properly care for their wooden decks, but if a business came along that could do things like pressure-washing, staining, tightening loose connections and railing posts, and correcting any other problems, in a quick and efficient manner, such could be very successful.
 
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Old 03-31-14, 05:01 AM
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Adding to Bridge's train of thought, you don't want to be too specialized at least until you have a customer base established. Having your work well rounded will help you to get more work when you are starting out. It's easier to pick and choose your work once you get established. The main thing is to treat your customers fairly, even if it hurts your profit margin. It's all part of the learning/growing process ...... and as long as you do good work your customer base and profits will grow!
 
 

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