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My new company.... (Long post as usual, so grab a sandwich and a cocktail)

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  • My new company.... (Long post as usual, so grab a sandwich and a cocktail)

    In keeping up with the theme of where in the hell I've been and what I've been up to.... any of you that have dropped in on my other threads recently, know that I now have my own home improvement company. Well, I have a partner, but more on that in a minute.

    Many of you will remember the MANY home improvement, and general "help" threads that I participated in over on the AV123 forum. Much of my advice came from my 25 years in some form of the home improvement industry. From four years selling residential HVAC, to my start in the industry back in 1988 at the Pacecetter Corporation (at the time, second in size only to Sears). To six years working on the wholesale building products side of the business (roofing, siding, windows and doors), even working for a couple of family owned and operated home improvement companies, along with a big regional window company based out of Chicago (Feldco).

    Many of you will recall that about five years ago, I nearly died from about as severe a case of Pneumonia as you could have. Something like a week out of the hospital, I went in to the company I had been with for nearly four years and told by the owner, that the check I was picking up would be my last. He was shutting down the company. No amount of persuasion would convince him to consider selling the company in any form. He said he had given nearly 50 years to the company, his family didn't want any part of it, so he was "taking it with him."

    Truth be told, I had been in negotiations with a friend of mine to start a company anyway. So, while it was a blow that it happened three weeks before Christmas, we were at least in the planning stage of a new company anyway. I felt the time off during my recovery could be spent speeding up our planned spring start up. I had really hoped after being told that the former company was shutting down, that we could negotiate to buy that company, but alas, that just wasn't going to happen.

    Shortly after the first of the year, we had a business plan in place. Start up capitol distribution was agreed to, the make up of the company and defined roles were outlined and agreed to. An accountant and attorney had been retained and the general business structure put in place. All we really needed to do was meet a final time with the attorney to sign everything and meet at the bank and open the business accounts. The meeting with the attorney and bank were set up.

    I gave my friend a check for my portion of the start up capitol a couple of days before we were to meet. I guess I did it so that he could finalize the business package we took to the attorney's office and bank. In hindsight, that was the WRONG thing to do BIG TIME. He died the next evening after imbibing to the extreme, driving home and pulling into his garage and putting down the garage door. The problem was, he passed out right there in the car before shutting it off and died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

    After getting over the shock of him passing away, a day or two later I was able to track down his sister (who ended up being appointed the executor of his estate) and asked for my check back. Little did I know, they had already cashed it! As it turns out, my friend had already signed the thing and they just deposited it. When I provided documents of our preliminary agreement that showed my portion of the start up capitol, and a copy of the cashed check.... I started getting the run around big time.

    I may eventually get it back, but I don't hold out much hope. His estate is still all tied up in Probate due to his family fighting over every single possession he had. I guess he didn't have a formal Last Will and testament. He was fairly well off in that he and his brother were in partnership on a couple of BMW dealerships in Chicago. He had retired after 20 years as a Command Master Sargent in the army. Then retired after another 20 years at the military's finance center at Ft Harrison. So, two retirement checks, the BMW dealerships, plus he owned several commercial properties in SoCal.

    I'll give you a potty break right here, and pick it up in the next post.... :applause:
    John W.
    Indy

  • #2
    So, completely out of money and without a job.... I got lucky. Feldco out of Chicago had recently opened a local branch and was looking for a showroom manager. I guess the original guy they hired, was great with the folks that walked in, but absolutely HATED selling in the home. He practically refused to even run any leads away from the office and it cost him his job.

    The gig was great. I worked M-F 9AM - 5PM and Saturdays 10AM - 2PM. Then any after hours appointments that I scheduled from the folks that came into the show room (which I always tried to schedule on Saturday afternoons). I would occasionally pick up over flow leads that the sales force couldn't cover. In any event, I had a nice salary and benefits, plus commissions on anything I sold. Indianapolis showroom sales were up something like 350% and I was closing at an 83% rate. Of course, it was expected that showroom leads would close at a much higher rate than cold sits, but I was far and away the top showroom guy in the company, especially considering I ran a number of the regular sales lead over flow.

    Well.... a year and a half after being hired (two years in from when Feldco opened the office), I guess the decision was made at Corporate, that the overhead in Indy was deemed too high and I was "too expensive." So they closed the showroom to a "by appointment only" basis and let me go. Well, they offered me a position as a regular rep, but no salary, and severely reduced benefits, so I passed. This was in April, and by June, they had pulled out of Indy entirely, so really, it was a good thing I did.

    In looking for a job, I had remembered a company I had tried buying HURD windows from when I was working for Majestic Home Improvement. I didn't get a call for wood clad windows very often, but when I did, I wanted to use GOOD ones and always had a high regard for HURD. The problem was, getting a quote from their local distributor was like pulling teeth. So, I called the distributor figuring if I had these problems, so did every other contractor and builder that tried to buy HURD windows from them. Figuring I knew windows like the back of my hand and could help them, I called and asked for the GM.

    There wasn't a GM, I got the owner on the phone. I introduced myself and not really knowing how to be delicate, I got straight to the point and said, "You REALLY need to hire me." He laughed and asked why. When I said first, I really need a job, and then went on to explain my frustrations in trying to buy HURD windows from him when at Majestic and outlining how with my knowledge and experience, I could benefit him with his contractors and builders. He said, let's have lunch and discuss a couple of things.

    We hit it off right away. Something about our personalities meshed right away and I really liked him and I could tell, he thought highly of me as well. He went on to tell me about his desire to start a retail side to his business, selling windows and doors directly to homeowners. He had wanted to do that for some time, but it was not his forte since he had been on the wholesale side of the business for 20 plus years. He felt I would be a perfect fit to spear head this and wanted to know if I had any interest. Well, of course I did and we agreed to another lunch a week later.

    We had both put our thoughts on paper. I had some very specific (and expensive) things I wanted to have happen to do things the right way. I had a dollar figure I thought it would take to invest in start up (remember, I was flat broke because of my earlier investment that was absconded with) and carry us through the first year. I also had goals and things that were important to me if I was to help start a company. Many were product and procedural in nature, but also personal goals were put in place as well.

    After the first 15 minutes, we were literally finishing each others sentences. My start up numbers were within $5K of his, and we were on the same page in everything we talked about. It was almost eerie thinking back. The decision was made at the end of the second lunch to move forward with the company and thus it began.

    Ok.... break time again. :applause:
    John W.
    Indy

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    • #3
      Obviously, he already had accountants, attorneys and bankers already in place. After meetings with them, my first priority was to become LEAD SAFE certified to follow the federal EPA laws regarding lead paint. I became an RRP certified renovator, and started the task of interviewing and setting up vendors and suppliers. One thing I learned VERY quickly was, my partner's business - had EXCELLENT credit. Even though we were a start up with ZERO history, we were being set up with $15K and $20K credit limits. I was like.... WOW.

      I had already designed a logo that both of us really liked. But, showing it to a friend of mine and asking for an HONEST assessment, he said; "John, it looks like clip art." I laughed and said it WAS clip art I used in the logo. So, my partner agreed and said find out how much to design a new logo. After some frustrating phone conversations with graphic designers quoting $2K or more and not wanting to commit to one of those on line design contests, I was getting frustrated. On what I felt was my LAST call to a graphic designer, he asked me to send him what I had. I did so, and through a couple of follow up conversations, he said he would use a lot of what I had already done (especially with the font.... he loved the font) and not re-invent the wheel. He said he would provide three choices in three different color schemes for $250. With all hi-rez files of our ultimate choice becoming our property.

      I asked him (thinking that his price was WAY too low) what would happen if we didn't like any of his choices. He assured me that we would, but if not, we would still need to pay him the $250 and negotiate from there if we wanted him to do more. Well, the day arrived for him to reveal what he had done and we were BLOWN away. All three were really cool, but one stood out heads and shoulders from the others. It gave us EXACTLY what I was looking for. Something that said.... "Old World Craftsmanship." I was thinking more of a red, white, blue or dark green, bright yellow with a hint of fire engine red color scheme. But what he came up with was OUTSTANDING I think. We've gotten several compliments on our logo and color scheme. Especially, from the guy who designed our business cards and yard signs (more on those next). Here is our logo....


      The GD guy who did our cards and yard signs really loved the logo and colors. He took the logo to the next step IMHO in coming up with our business cards....


      And even more so in our yard signs. We use a large 36" x 24" sized sign. Quite un-like most contractors who use the 24" x 18" on a flimsy "H" stake that blow over in the slightest breeze. We use a heavy duty Realtor type sign frame. but first, the main yard sign....


      And now a mock up of one of our signs with a name rider underneath the main sign. Yes, I had hired a sales guy at this point. He was the best outside sales guy we had at Feldco and had become a good friend. Bob was indispensable in helping us get off the ground, but unfortunately, he is now working for one of our suppliers. He just couldn't pass up the opportunity for a nice salary and benefits for his family and I couldn't blame him....


      And now a shot of what they look like in real life....


      Even our wearable's carry our logo and colors. From embroidered polo shirts....



      To the screen printed T-Shirts we give our give our guys to wear in the field....



      And lastly, our website: www.completewindowanddoor.com I did the website myself using one of those free website builders/hosts. It's not a fancy WordPress or Joomla site, and yes, it's an old style template.... but it was certainly WAY more affordable than paying for one of those other formats. Plus, I have total freedom to add, change and tweak anytime I want. And yes, I know I have more work to do. But all in all, I don't think it's all that bad do you? Comments are definitely welcome for sure.

      Well, there ya have it. How we got started and got things up and running. It was VERY important to me that we have a branding that not only said quality, but had uniformity across what we did. At some point in time, I want the logo to be recognized immediately and have a positive influence on the thought process. We're not there yet, but I think we've got a pretty good start.
      John W.
      Indy

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      • #4
        Quadman ... Thanks for the great narrative regarding how you got here. You have come a long way! :applause:

        Comment


        • #5
          We even try and carry our colors, logo and over all "look" throughout our marketing efforts.

          All of our direct marketing is done around jobsites. I purchase lists of homeowners right around our job sites and do direct mail after every job. It's been hit and miss for sure, but well within industry response average, so I can't complain.

          Here is an over sized 5" x 8" post card we've used a lot. We use different offers on the back side, but the front side always stays the same....



          Or, neighborhood letters geared to a specific job where they are hand signed by me, and hand addressed on the envelope. I use actual before and after pictures of the actual job in the specific neighborhood on these. I even (with permission of course) use the actual job address and leave my yard sign in the yard as these go out. This has REALLY worked well for us.


          I've also done some two sided flyers for trade shows or to just pass out while working in a neighborhood....



          And then.... there is the "Company" brochure I designed myself and had printed. These go to everyone we visit and of course, are at any trade show booth we're at.

          The cover, then inside left, inside right and back.....



          John W.
          Indy

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by craigsub
            Quadman ... Thanks for the great narrative regarding how you got here. You have come a long way! :applause:
            Translation.... "Quadman.... we've missed these LONG and RAMBLING posts!"

            But hey, you've all got lots of PICTURES to look at now with plenty more to come. I mean....

            :pics:

            Kidding aside, THANKS Craig.... it has been a journey for sure. One that will hopefully, last a long, LONG time.
            John W.
            Indy

            Comment


            • #7
              Quadman ... NO MORE CAFFEINE. :biglaugh:

              Those are some amazing looking installs! It's fun to watch your excitement over your projects. Well done - and KEEP Rambling! :applause:

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by craigsub
                Quadman ... NO MORE CAFFEINE. :biglaugh:

                Those are some amazing looking installs! It's fun to watch your excitement over your projects. Well done - and KEEP Rambling! :applause:
                LOL.... it's been Decaf and Sprite Zero for me going on three years now.

                Thanks for the kind words. I have quite a few more MAJOR transformations to show off our work. I am really lucky in that I have a couple of really TOP NOTCH crews. The guys are simply awesome. There isn't a project we've done where they haven't been able to come up with really nice solutions to some interesting problems.

                And, what's REALLY nice, is they do it and don't complain and *****.

                I even had one instance where I had just specified a "garage service door" on the spec sheet and when Gary went to do the re-measure, he double checked with the MRS on which garage service door she wanted. The one between the garage and the kitchen, or the one between the garage and the outside. Now, he probably shouldn't have done that because I would have specified it the "kitchen service door" if that's the one I had sold.

                Well, I stopped by the job site late that afternoon and he had already installed the new door and was just installing the new inside casing.... you guessed it, in the WRONG opening. Now did he get upset and complain? Nope, he just busted ass and switched the doors back out and was finishing up installing the new door in the CORRECT opening when the home owner got home.

                She even made the comment.... "My kitchen door closes a LOT better than it did, Did you do something to it?" If I would have looked at him, we would have both burst out laughing I'm sure. But, he did have a snappy comeback.... He said, "yes I did, it was bugging the heck out of me every time I opened and closed it.... so I popped the casing and re-shimmed it. Now, it's in there all nice and square for you."

                I just shook my head and said my good byes for the evening.
                John W.
                Indy

                Comment


                • #9
                  It's great to see someone so TOTALLY psyched on his/her job -lol

                  I would use you and your company in a heart beat if you were local.
                  (well, the mrs. would want to anyway regardless of cost ... lol)

                  congrats

                  Mike

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by fanuminski
                    It's great to see someone so TOTALLY psyched on his/her job -lol

                    I would use you and your company in a heart beat if you were local.
                    (well, the mrs. would want to anyway regardless of cost ... lol)

                    congrats

                    Mike
                    Thanks Mike.... We really aren't all THAT expensive on most things. Actually, we pride ourselves on being pretty darned competitive on most things. But, on custom sized expensive entry doors, especially those with REALLY pricey glass, we get some nice coin for sure. But, that comes with the territory of taking on projects many won't even touch. Or, like we do often times, coming up with a better solution to a problem that most wouldn't even think of or be able to provide.
                    John W.
                    Indy

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