Do you feel trapped by your contractor business?
If you have your own contractor business you are like a lot of home remodeling maintenance and repair contractors, you’ve put in a lot of 70-hour weeks. Somewhere along the way you have probably also asked yourself version of the following questions.
“Why am I doing this?
“Why am I spending so much time on tasks I don’t enjoy, and take me away from my family and friends and other activities I’m passionate about?”
“Why do I feel trapped?”
Consultants who specialize in helping contractors, big and small, say they hear this refrain often and they think they know why. It’s because most residential contractors start their businesses primarily because they enjoy their craft and secondarily because they have a vague sense that working for themselves might give them more control over their lives.
Few, however, take the time to really examine what they want out of life and how they can achieve those things through their businesses, says Brian Kaskavalciyan, who founded and sold a handyman franchising business and is co-founder and lead marketing strategist for gFour Marketing Group Inc. The Miami firm provides relationship marketing services to high-volume home remodeling, maintenance and repair contractors to help them grow repeat sales to existing customers.
“There are times where I ask myself, ‘Why in the hell am I doing this?’” Kaskavalciyan said in an episode of “The Wealthy Contractor,” a podcast he hosts that usually features interviews with leaders in the industry. “Why am I putting myself through this? Maybe I just need to go get a job. But the answer to this question always keeps me moving forward. It’s ultimately all about freedom.”
Specifically, freedom to choose how he spends his time, how much money he makes and what relationships he is in, as well as freedom to pursue passions outside of business. In addition to his duties at gFour and his podcast, Kaskavalciyan has found time to write a book on marketing tactics and launch a career as a motivational speaker.
Consultants say that, because many contractors never set out to answer these questions in a meaningful way, they don’t know how much money they need to make to live the lives they want. Many fail to track how many hours they spend running their contractor businesses, which means they omit those hours when calculating and marking up overhead costs. In this way, they shortchange themselves with every job they bid. This results in the same disappointing discussion every spring when they sit down with their accountants to discuss their annual income tax returns.
“You should not wait until April, when your accountant — aka historian — tells you whether you made money or lost money,” notes Shawn McCadden, a consultant focused on helping remodeling contractors improve cost estimates and other business skills.
To avoid that disappointment and the lingering feeling of being trapped by your business, Kaskavalciyan offers the following recommendations:
Set goals: How much do you want to work and how much money do you want to make? What kind of home do you want to live in? Do you want to own a boat or a second home? Figure out what you want. If you can reach those goals with one truck and one crew, that’s great. But if you want to build a contractor business that earns hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars a year and runs without you, keep reading.
Delegate: Measure how you spend your time and ask yourself, “What am I doing that I, as an owner, should not be doing?” Delegate anything that can be done by someone else for $50–$100 an hour, including sales. If you are the only sales person in your organization, you’ll never be able to break $2 million in annual sales. The key to success is learning how to leverage yourself.
Invest in systems: Spend some of the time you freed up through delegating to create systems that enable your contractor business to run without you. These can make it easier to sell franchises or sell the business outright.
Get comfortable outside your comfort zone: Acknowledge that achieving your goals will require venturing beyond your comfort zone, and that’s okay because it means you are growing.