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What I learned in my first year of business (The Youngster)

Josh_10 Member Posts: 787
Glen that is perhaps the best one yet. I found that the business will run you if you let it. Now I'm trying to figure out how to get out of the busy rut. I am off to do a 2000 square foot ground work by myself right now when I should be with my son.


  • Josh M.
    Josh M. Member Posts: 360

    1) Know where your money is- Bill quickly and be aware of who is late, know what you owe in COGS and taxes, ALWAYS have late payment penalties and don't be afraid to use them.

    2) Keep a schedule- Not make a schedule, keep one. After working 7 days a week for several months I realized that I needed to make a change. What I realized is that there were tons of loose ends that were causing the Saturday Sunday squeeze. So I made a schedule stuck to it and didn't allow anyone to weesle in on it.

    3) Get advice from those who have been there when trying something new with your business. A friend of mine told me that you will make your money on what you are good at. I didn't listen. We tried fire protection and forced air (both of which I have experience with) and didn't make any money. I am good at hydronics and boilers and that is what I make my money at. I am tooled for it. So this year I absorbed Marks advice like a sponge.

    4) Better to earn your customers trust than make a sale. Up-selling is good when there is a benefit to the customer. Otherwise you will have buyers remorse. I would rather have a customer than a sale any day. The best boiler may not be the best boiler for the job.

    5) Make 1 full day a week to estimate. Lock yourself in your office with ear plugs if you have to. Other things will always come up if you don't set aside time.

    6) Do whatever you have to, to love your job. Burnout will cause lower quality work. If you are charging a premium you MUST deliver a premium product in a timely fashion.

    7) Work harder. Hard work pays off big time. Take the extra time to update your books and see if your jobs are paying out.

    8) Don't get too busy to organize. ALWAYS take time to organize. Know what you need for material, organize a way to track your spending, and organize your crew schedule. Organization has been the most profitable thing I have done with my business.

  • John R. Hall
    John R. Hall Member Posts: 2,246
    Good thoughts Josh

    I assume you are heading into year two with an optimistic attitude? Let's revisit at this time next year and hope that you continue to succeed!
  • Singh_3
    Singh_3 Member Posts: 58

    Be flexible !

    Business is a dynamic entity. Improvise , adapt and overcome.
    A biz that does the same year after year is a failing business, regardless
    of profits. If you had 5% profit margin try for 10% the next year. If you
    loss, well then it's obvious a change is needed.
    Maybe slowly work your way into the next county over, etc..

    Look at the U.S auto industry, they got a little too comfortable with one type
    of automobile, they are changing, but too late.
    Look at JetBlue airlines last week, they grew to big to fast, and one snow storm cost them big, they changed their policy, a first in the airline industry, and will give refunds back if they mess up again.

    Change is good, always, and sometimes a step back is just what is needed.

    Good Luck to you Josh.
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,675
    good job

    Glad to hear the 1st year went good.

    I'm in year 18; you'll be surprised how many lessons you'll learn over the years.


    To Learn More About This Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Professional"
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • Josh M.
    Josh M. Member Posts: 360

    Oh yeah, #10- Trust your gut. If you get a bad feeling about someone listen to your gut. We had a terrible customer this year. This guy caused us to adopt this motto: Poor planning on your part doesn't constitute an emergency on mine. This guy would say "by the way I'm ready for rough in tomorrow" and when I would say well I can get there in 5 days he would go bonkers.

  • re, #3: how do you get good at something unless you do it?

    In general, we find the first time we do something really unusual, no, we don't make any money.. or at least, not nearly enough to cover the time we spend.

    But, you don't charge people for your training. I would say if you're looking to add capabilities FOR A REASON.. make sure you work in the cushion you need so that you can afford to do a few jobs without profit, so you can explore those additional areas without fear, and without gouging, and take the time it takes to do it right.

    If you're just looking to fill an empty schedule, well then the question is, is this something you want to learn (while not making any money) or would you rather have a little time off!

    Best of luck Josh. Starting year five here, and we're so far away from what we were when we started it's almost silly.
  • allenleo
    allenleo Member Posts: 26
    great advice to a future buisness starter-upper

    maybe in the next few years i intend to start a heating service company. any other advice more specific to the initial start up of one of these companies. any input at all is greatly appreciated.
  • Darrell
    Darrell Member Posts: 303

    I just finished up my own year number one...I started on January 13, 06 which just happens to be a Friday! I celebrated by buying a new van! I'll have to figure out how to show off a picture on the Wall.

    My biggest struggle is time management...too many urgencies distract me from the truly important.

    And I gotta get better at saying no...I'm sorry...but, no.

    I can't save 'em all.

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  • Wayco Wayne_2
    Wayco Wayne_2 Member Posts: 2,479

    You cant go on calling yourself the Youngster when you have wisdom nuggets like that to share. You'll have to change yur handle to Josh the wise old fart. :) After 20 years I know what you're saying and still struggle to organise myself. It aint easy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. They're good ones. WW

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  • tom k_4
    tom k_4 Member Posts: 10
    hard decisions

    Very atute for one year. Whoever you have leaned on very advice is wise indeed. My little nugget from 25 years in business(not HVAC but insurance) Most business decisions come down to two choices.99 times out of 100 the hardest choice to complete is the right choice. Don't ever let yourself take the easy road(unless you truly feel it is the 1 out of 100)
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,675
    cool stuff

    Always nice to have a new set of wheels.

    I hear you on saying "no".

    After 18 years, i'm finally gonna pull my head out of the sand and get Service Agreements going this spring. I'll be having my guys run calls, and they don't have "internal rolodex's" like us owners do.

    So, it will become much easier for us to say NO if they're not on the list.

    Anything left for our emotions to handle will swing wildly. I speak from experience.

    To Learn More About This Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Professional"
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • Leo Galozo
    Leo Galozo Member Posts: 16
    # 11

    (which I just started recently) when going on a job assesment/estimate, make sure the the maybe client realizes that you are interviewing them also.

    Leo G
  • Glen
    Glen Member Posts: 855
    my number one -

    take time off with your family - do not answer the phone, go camping, do something else you enjoy. And ask yourself the question: "is the business serving me or am I serving the business?". Ask this often. Read for pleasure. And while Dan H is insanely happy because he does not golf - take up golf. (Imagine being around the corner from Bethpage and not golfing!) Or another sport, hunt, fish or just touch mother Earth. Year 7 here at Aspen Gas & Oil - not all of it was easy. Best decision I made - hire a business coach.
  • Glen
    Glen Member Posts: 855
    time off

    I thought I was in for a serious discussion re rates etc when I contracted with the BC. Instead he wanted to talk time off. And he did not mean adhoc stolen days or an afternoon lazily spent in the office. Each Jan my business partner and I (read best friend and partner/wife) sit down Jan 2 and chart planned days off. We list everything: family outings away, trades training & workshops, camping, weekends alone!, Rotary functions, hunting/fishing trips - everything. Of course that leaves precious time to work and collect those billable hours - so over the next few days we priorize, comprimise - but that gives us a very clear pic of the year to come. Once penned on the white board - the dates are sacred. I am back to a one man show - also due to the counsel of the business coach. We have all read the discussion on the wall re getting the right tech! But that also gives me great flexibility - and have been averaging 1700 billable hours a year. Of that 60% is industrial/commercial gas service, 20% res & 20% oil. On the down side - because I spend much time on the road - my accessability to home town customers suffers. And our target is 75% industrial service - all that from hiring a business coach. It's money well spent!
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