Episode 11: Charlie Engen, Red Level Improvements

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About this episode

In this episode with sit down with Charlie Engen, owner of Red Level Improvements in Grand Forks, ND. Charlie was gracious to share many helpful insights into how he started his business, and how he’s grown from zero to having 5+ people working for him. Topics covered include: how he finds and hires talent, customer service, providing a great customer experience, marketing, estimating, pricing, and much more.

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Audio Transcription

Hello and welcome to another episode of the handyman success podcast I am Jason call one of the CO hosts founder of handyman marketing pros and I am with my partner in crime and other co hosts Alan Lee with honestly handyman and the handyman journey. Our mission with this podcast is to bring on successful handyman and home improvement contractor business owners, really to hear their story about their business, their marketing operations, all this stuff that we can really glean from them so that you can learn and apply things in your own business. And then even maybe more important than that is be inspired to of what’s possible. And now you can get out there and really accomplish your dreams and your goals for your own home improvement contractor business. So without any further ado, today, we have Charlie with red level improvements. Thank you so much for coming on today.

No problem. Glad to be here.

And if you don’t mind kind of kicking us off here. Charlie, just give us a little background about you know you your business where you’re located.

We’re in. We’ve been in business since 2020. Full time in Grand Forks, North Dakota. And I guess I don’t know how far you want me to go with that. But yeah, basically, full time last year was our first full year in business 2021 of their first full year.

Okay, and how did you guys get started in the business? Like what, what brought you to start it?

Well, I was working for the railroad. And a friend of mine worked for the railroad also asked me one day if I could read a tape. And I said, Yeah, I can read a tape. He said you want to do some, some, you know, some light stuff, we do a little construction. That’s how it started. That was back in 2014. So from 2014 until 2020, he and I work together doing little odd jobs, small, small repairs, up to maybe an addition not not an addition, but putting up walls, little things like that in like, you know, making a room in a basement, nothing major. That’s how it kind of started. And in in 2020, I broke off on my own. From him, he’s still a very good friend of mine still hangs around on jobs and whatever, but he’s retired. So okay, that’s how that’s how that all started.

What and I always love the kind of question of like, if I recall correctly, were you kind of like on pause at your railroad job and like, then you started doing more of the handyman home improvement work? Or I guess the actual question is kind of alluding more to that. And then what was that trigger of like, you know, I’m going all in? Well, so

January of 20, I officially started the business. And in April of 20, I got furloughed from the railroad. So that right there, I it was kind of a perfect storm because I’d already kind of when I’d started and, and just kind of was working at it part time, I wasn’t really ever thinking I was going to be full time. I mean, it was always in the back of my mind a little bit, but never, never like that. That wasn’t the goal. I was going to do small jobs, you know, half day jobs, maybe full day jobs on a day off. And that’s where it was going to start. And that’s where it was kind of probably going to end. But eventually, when I got furloughed in April of 20 all of a sudden I was like, Well, okay, now we’re doing it full time. Now we really have to, we have to make this goal. I mean, it’s it can’t can’t just be a part time extra money gig anymore.

So yeah, definitely. And so from the get go when you started, I guess full time, which would have been around April of 2020. Was it like if you’re comfortable sharing what was your gross revenue, like during those first couple months? And was it sustainable? Or did it take it a little while to kind of become sustainable for you? Well,

in January of 20, just to kind of give you an idea, I did $177 in sales. Okay. I mean, that was it. That was me that was you know, so that was the very first the first month after April of 20. i We did like two sets 270 from April until the end of the year. So right in that ballpark. I don’t have the numbers in front of me for that but it’s close

to 170,000 Between April and the end of the year. Yeah for business.

Yeah. Wow. Wow.

And out of that we the end net result was not we net at 9000 The first year so net profit so that’s not I don’t think that’s a terrible number.

No, not not at all first year in business part of the year just kind of furloughed and you know, took a shot at full time out of necessity. And I’d say that’s pretty pretty solid.

Yeah. That’s amazing. So what would you say like took you from that? Like? I mean, what helped you to kind of get those numbers? Would you say in that first year, like, what were things that you focused on, just starting out.

So being I already had a background in construction and already, and people knew that I was, you know, capable. And that type of thing we are, I already had kind of a leg up on that. And then I got involved with Jason, with, with a contractor website design, and, you know, search engine optimization and making things kind of go that way. And it didn’t take very long to get up in the Google searches where were we were in the top five, you know, for handyman handyman near me, handyman Grand Forks. I mean, it was, it very quickly became something that I could see it was going to carry on through the end of the I mean, it was like, this is where we’re at, I mean, this is going to this’ll, we can make this work, because we had the the opportunities. And so the website, Google, and referrals, got me through that first year.

Awesome. And you’re and you’ve been in that community for quite a while. So you kind of alluded to, you know, quite plenty people knew you in the community and that you were, you know, in doing it full time. So, I know that’s, that’s a tip that I always give new businesses like you can’t Don’t underestimate the power of your personal network and your community that that already knows you. And they want to support you as well.

Well, and I kind of took I kind of took some notes here as far as like, out of the 179 jobs that we’ve completed, that we’ve tracked. 80 of them came from Google. 63, residential 17. Commercial. Hmm. But then the next biggest one is 35 referrals. Wow, that’s awesome. 27, residential eight commercial. So

how many total jobs was that? 179 179?

Wow, that’s

great. Okay. And you,

I guess, to just to give a good mix of just to set the perspective of your kind of focus jobs. I know you guys do, like larger guest deck construction, larger kind of contractor work alongside the smaller jobs, is that right?

Yes. And what I’ve found is that the handyman jobs, this, putting in a storm door, you know, little things like that oftentimes lead into a bathroom remodel, or kitchen remodel or something. It’s I don’t know the percentages, but I would say that the majority of our jobs aren’t just little handyman jobs anymore. They go from a door installation to a bathroom remodel or something larger, almost almost every single job does.

That’s awesome. So what what type of jobs do you guys focus on right now? Like, is there any like bread and butter like, like work models? Or do you just kind of do it all?

Well, I haven’t really picked a lane and driven in it yet. So I would say that the majority of our work is kind of switching towards bathroom and kitchen remodels index. Okay. So that is, those are the three things we’re trying to focus on. And any type of remodeling, I guess, kind of is encompassed in there too. And we’ve been doing a lot of lot of flooring jobs lately, which is just I mean, simple, simple flooring jobs, and they’re turning into other remodel jobs, too. So it’s kind of I’m having trouble, like specializing in something versus being all over the board.

Yeah. And just to kind of lay the foundation to before we dig into more detail. If you don’t mind sharing, like you did about about 280,000 your first year being tossed in full time in April. What did what did your last year look like? 2021 And then do you have a kind of a target this year?

Yeah. Last year we did 389 27 Wow, awesome. And with a net or net profit now that the accountant isn’t done with the bookkeepers are all done, but the accountants are done with the numbers yet so we’ll see. But the net was 50,003 83

Okay. What that’s about a shooting that’s a that’s a tough math. I’m not good.

Yeah, it’s pretty high. We won’t end up there but that’s that’s that’s what the Quicken

says you know. Okay. Yeah. may end up around 12% or so.

Yeah, I would say it’s gonna be Yeah, less but by by quite a bit. Awesome. And what are you hoping for this this year? This year will be north of 600 someplace. Wow. Okay. We’re out At we’ve invoiced 142 Three as to date. Okay, and we have a number of big jobs that are sitting close to completion that will be done this month. So we’ll add another 35 ish by the end of the month or first week in May.

Okay, awesome. So yeah, you said a number of jobs, how many jobs like do you have going on at any particular moment? Right now we already have.

We’ve got two full time and five part time. Okay. Plus, plus me and I, I kind of the way the business model works is I float between estimating and being on the tools. I’m kind of like this morning, I was on the tools. And tomorrow, I’ll be on the tools in the morning and estimating all afternoon. So I’m a full time guy when I need to be on the tools, but kind of float back and forth. I guess I’m where I’m needed.

Okay. Awesome. Well, first off, I want to commend you and congratulate you. I mean, shoot getting furloughed from the railroad. And then you know, this year, you’ll easily do over half a million dollars in revenue. I’m sure that that was not on your radar in January.

No, no. What I what do we did $177 of total revenue. I’m like, oh, yeah, this is gonna go real good.

This will be perfect. Yeah, yeah.

But, you know, the whole goal is to actually replace my income with the railroad, you know, replace the income I made on the railroad. And that was north of 100. Right in that 1105 to 110 range. And I’m not there yet, personally, but it’s coming. It’s, it’s gonna get there.

Yeah, cool.

Yeah, I understand those are, those are pretty solid jobs to maintain. So it sounds like you’re on the right direction, though. And building back up that on your own, and then it’s uncapped, too, because it’s your business. And, you know, the opportunities kind of kind of endless.

It really is. And that’s one of the beauties of it. And I, you know, kind of talking about that. It takes people it takes a crew or multiple crews to get to where we want to be. And one of the things I can say is that I’ve got phenomenal people right now, they’re, they’re just, they can handle pretty much anything. They never complain, they show up when they’re supposed to. It’s just that’s making it very easy to deal with, you know, the ins and outs of the business.

Yeah, and that’s something to I definitely want to kind of talk about with you. Because I know just from our relationship and seeing your stuff on Facebook, you’ve done really well with bringing on like younger, eager to learn workers that you’ve kind of trained up. Is that right? Did you start with your son, if I recall, right.

Yeah. It didn’t necessarily start with my son. Well, actually, yes, that take that back. He was helping me early on. And then he was also helping with prior to that with the other guy that trained me. So he started when he was probably 13. And he’s going to be 18 next month, so is basically as five years of experience. And yeah, he did help. You know, he’d helped hold hold that boards or whatever. He just, you know, kind of a golfer to start with. But now he’s pretty seasoned really, I mean, he’s so right now they’re in high school, they’re building a house. He’s taking building trades in or they’re just about done with their house. So he’s got all that experience to

at 18. That is way further along. And I was at that age.

I built the bookcase my senior year. So I mean, yeah, they’re way way past what I’ve ever done in high school, too. And it’s I just stopped at the, at the house the other day, they’re doing a really nice job. Instructors are really good. There’s 11 of them over there out of that, that senior class that are building it, and they’re all doing a nice job. So,

man, that’s fantastic. So does your son currently work with you in this? Like, yes, I’m or part time or what’s that look like?

Like graduates at the end of the end of May. Now he’s part time right now we work. He worked yesterday afternoon. And he’s going to work the rest of you and he basically afternoons for more until he graduates and he’s coming full time.

Okay, and what are his what’s his ambitions for life? Does he want to work with you? Does he want to start his own thing? What what is that

he wants, he wants to run the company. Wow. That’s that’s his goal. That’s exciting. He’s got a few years to go before he can, you know, kind of take over but I think he’s got the head for it. He’s got a really good head for construction. He’s a solid kid. I mean, he’s, he’s got things kind of figured out, you know, as much as an 18 year old Ghana almost 18 years. So he’s, he’s, uh, he’s, he’s headed down that path. Everybody likes him. He’s a hard worker. He’s, you know, he’s got all the all the right, boxes checked for coming on board. So and then the other you know, I’ve got my, my lead Carpenter, right and I was a 22 year old. He’s solid, he’s also got some electrical experience, but you need to be licensed for electrical in North Dakota. So we can, we can change a light bulb, but that’s about it. You know, so he’s got that experience behind them, plus a number of years of construction. He started construction when he was 14. So he’s got that. The other full time guy has, you know, he’s young, too. He’s 24. He’s got some construction experience, not as talented and maybe not as knowledgeable as my other lead guy. But coming along, you know, he’s, he’s getting there.

Wow. How did you find these, these young guys like, this is awesome. Well,

they were all referred back. So when I had when I started with, with Austin, actually, I’ve got three of Austin’s, Austin’s, my son, about three of his friends have worked for me, three of his classmates and close friends. And they’re all they were all referred back. Like, if you’re willing to work, if you’re willing to, you know, learn and that type of thing. You know, my dad might have a job for you. And I’ve pulled those guys in. And then I went to the Tech College in a square in a in a neighboring town, which is right across the river, and visited with the instructor and asked if I could talk to their, their construction class and hire some guys out of their part time. Wow, I’ve got to two of their students part time. Right now too. So they’re, they want to do construction. There. That’s what their whole goal in life is. And they love having a part time. They come at 130 Every day, because that’s when their classes done. And they just they they’re eager to learn eager to work. So I’ve been very fortunate with hiring people, but most of them have been referrals from other employees.

Awesome. And, and you also recently, you have like an Office customer relations person.

Yes, Casey. Casey is my she’s, she’s kind of she’s got my life organized. She really does. She’s She schedules all of our estimates she schedules where I’m supposed to be at certain times and answers the phones does all the communication. She’s She’s awesome. She does come into the office some but mostly works from home. Okay.

Is she part time?

Yes. She got us out. She’s on a salary. Now she was she was actually I wanted her about, oh, probably 30 hours a week, minute, sorry, 15 hours a week, 30 hours every pay period, so to speak. And she said this is kind of silly. Why don’t I just be on on a salary, and then I can work when I need to work when the phone rings. I can answer it. Don’t worry about checking in or out. Yeah, so yeah, I’ve put her on a salary. And she’s, she’s phenomenal that she was like she is she has been maybe you’ve talked to her I don’t know.

I have she’s very on the ball. I can easily pick that up.

She is she’s super. Her day starts way before my day. She’s usually up at 430. And she’s texting me and messaging me and, and emailing me. Like, I don’t see him for a couple hours because I don’t get up that early. But it’s like, holy smokes. She’s really good. She loves her job. She actually said I absolutely love it. You know,

can you talk a little bit about that a customer relations person? Like how did you find her? And what like, ultimately does she do and like what kind of changes have you seen in your business by hiring that gal?

So I wasn’t sure I was gonna go but I ran an ad on Facebook. And I got 27 applicants for the position, which Wow, crazy. I didn’t I didn’t expect that. Out of the 27 I got down to five that I wanted a phone interview. And from the phone interviews, I got down to three that I wanted to face to face meet with. And so it went from 27 to three and I met with all three of them and two of them after I met with them they’d ever never once initiated anything but kz she she was texting me and not not annoyingly but like, just making sure that I knew she was still there and was interested in and I’m thinking okay, this is the gal that I want because yeah, she’s she’s on top of it. So,

for 30 Odd am text

Yeah. What? Once I brought her on on board, I mean, she has transformed the communication process. She, there isn’t she never once Well, she missed a phone call, but it’s not very often. And if she does miss one, she’s immediately responding back. So that that’s one thing that has been a huge boost in business. Because if you, I mean, the, I think both you guys probably know, if you miss a phone call, and and the customer or whoever’s trying to get a hold of you, they’re just gonna go to the next person and try. Try the next person, the next person next person. So if you can answer your phone and set up an appointment immediately and actually show up for the appointment, when you say you’re gonna show up and go through the process. They’re basically your customer if you want.

Yeah, yep. Yeah, there’s a there’s a common I hear tossed around a lot that it’s, it’s just false. But like people that cannot answer the phone consistently, they chalk it up with a well, if it’s important, then they will leave a voicemail or send a text message, because they will have listened to my voicemail message that says, leave a voicemail or text. But you know, there’s plenty of really great clientele that, you know, they’re not going to leave a voicemail, they’re not going to listen to it, they’re just going to hang up and be like, well shoot, I’m going to call someone else then. And you’re missing, like some really great clients that will be calling you back for future work. Like Like you mentioned, it starts with the small one, and then it can lead into bigger things. And by missing that phone call, you know, you’re potentially missing out on a really great relationship.

This is an example the job we were on this morning. We were supposed to go just remove some drywall that was had gotten wet, it was moldy. So that’s where it started. And we took that out had to reinsulate re drywall than we had to wainscoting new flooring, new, whole bunch of different things. And when I left there today, the gal says, you know, those, those four other companies that I call trying to get a hold of somebody still haven’t called me back, and you’re almost done with the job. And she said, I just want to thank you for being here. So it was it was awesome that she kind of, you know, made made our our efforts ignited she acknowledged our efforts, basically

fantastic. So the whole thought of a customer relations person or you call it a CSR is a very, I think important topic to talk about the some that I recommend that everyone get. But can you kind of walk us through like your mindset of why you wanted to get a gallon the office a CSR? And maybe what were some of your, like, fears going into that and how you kind of overcame that and finally hired her?

Sure, um, you know, the phone was getting so busy that I was missing, you know, probably six to eight phone calls a day. I couldn’t answer. I’m laying under a Decker. I mean, I’m in the middle. I mean, I’m in the middle of something, and I can’t, I can’t answer it. And if I Yeah, if I do answer it. I’m not really doing the customer, any service by because I’m not focused, I’m not, I’m not able to write something down. I’m not that this the whole thing that wheels kind of fall off a bit when you’re trying to answer a phone in the field. So that was one of my main reasons for getting somebody to answer the phones, and messages and emails and things like that, because I just didn’t have the time. It was getting to the point where I’d get home at night and go, Oh, holy crap. I mean, I have to have 11 voicemails and I have, you know, whatever to return. And if 10 emails, or five texts or whatever, it got overwhelming. So when I hired her, that all went away, she just like, I’ll just handle it. Don’t worry about it. But then, but here’s the inherent problem with that. If you lose, you get your finger off the pulse of what’s kind of going on in your business. Right. So that part kind of made me a little uneasy, because I wasn’t seeing the phone calls. I wasn’t hearing it. The phone wasn’t ringing anymore. To me, it was ringing to her. Right. So now all of a sudden, I don’t know if we’re, if we’re if we have opportunities or don’t have opportunities. So I kind of had to step back and go wait a second. She’s got this when she is she’s really she’s on top of it and I don’t have to worry about it. And she would let I could look back on the phone records and go okay, yeah, that phone rang 18 Times today that she got them all Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah. And I look at the calendar and we use market for CSR. And our CRM, I mean, and we, I can look back and like, look at the calendar and go, Okay, we’ve got nine appointments scheduled for Wednesday for our estimate day. So she’s done. She’s answered all the calls. She’s done all that she’s put them in market. They’re all scheduled all taken care of. And I don’t. And I was still out in the field producing income.

Fantastic. Thanks. So

you’re doing the estimating to Charlie, are you the estimated? Beta? Yes,

yes. So far. Yeah. That will continue. I would say throughout the this year, for sure.

And to is a specific question on like the phones, do you use Google workspace for Google Voice to set up the phone numbers and kind of the your, your employees, emails and kind of that kind of management system,

we use talk route for the phone system. And that seems to function pretty well, when there are a couple little things I don’t like about it, but for the most part that it’s getting the job done. And as far as emails from customers and that type of thing, we’ve started use market more emailing through the market system. So they’re all tracked. And that’s we’ve, we’ve probably haven’t used market to the potential of where it could go to its full potential. But I think that’s coming as, as Casey’s kind of learning more and more about it, and getting all the little nuances figured out. It’s, it’s that’s helping a lot, you know, with with communication, and not losing people’s information.

Yeah. Yeah. That’s huge. And that’s one one great thing about, you know, having a CRM is having everyone kind of held into that, you know, specific spot and market works great for that. So you had said the talk route? I’m not familiar with that. So maybe you could kind of talk a little bit more about that. So basically, your company had a business phone number, I assume that’s the number that’s been on your, you know, your signs and this and that. How did your KC your CSR now get that number? Like, is that talk route? Did that or

Yeah, so you can add, you can add up? I don’t I don’t think there’s a limit to how many extensions you can add? Or how many phones you can have the number go to. So say, for instance, if it’ll go to Casey’s phone number first on herself, she can answer it, she knows there’s a business call coming in. It shows it’s from our business line. And so if she can’t answer it, for some reason, it rolls to me. Okay. So and you can have it roll to multiple people before we would ever get to me. And the reason I like it is because it is dedicated, it’s not something that’s, you know, you’re not answering the phone. Hello, this is Charlie here, you know, you know, it’s a read level improvements call. Right? Right, and a business call. So she’s, she can make the calls out from talk route and also receive calls. Okay. And it’s pretty, pretty simple. I mean, it’s, I know, there are free services out there that like Google Voice, talk route, I think runs us $59 A month or $49 a month, something like that. So it’s, it’s more you know, it’s it’s not that much money. And it’s it’s so far it’s served as well.

Okay, so you had talk route set up for your business even before you had Casey or is that some of you? Yeah, dude after okay, I actually

started out with RingCentral RingCentral was was I think probably for for a bigger company. I had way more features than I ever needed. I shouldn’t say ever but way more features than I needed to start with. And eventually it landed on talk route. And okay. The call quality is good. Nobody knows that. It’s like a, you know, internet phone basically. There’s not any echoing there’s not any any ever been any problems with it. So it’s, it’s always been good.

Fantastic. I love it. Yeah, I

remember it being so nice experience. Like I called Charlie for something and like, it doesn’t even ring it just has this really professional like, you know, thanks for calling Red level improvements, a little jingle in the background. And then Casey answered the phones ago. Wow, that was really professional. It was just a great experience. I remember you sending me talk route because I was asking what what system you use because I was very impressed with it so

well in the gallery that gala did the background, you know, voices and things like that. She’s actually she does it professionally. And she’s just a friend of mine. And she’s done it for a couple other people that we all know. So it’s it’s actually I think that’s part of the reason that people They like to leave message, they actually will leave a message because one, one person says, you know, it didn’t even tick me off when I called you it was kind of nice. When I got a voicemail. Yeah, yeah. So I think that’s important. You know, just this the company image is what we’re trying to portray from, from if we even if we don’t answer the phone, it’s professional all the way through.

Yeah. So that kind of leads to this larger question. But like, you’ve already covered like the starting point, but what is like your customer experience? Like, as far as you know, they call in case he answers the phone, she gets them booked. And Mark, Kate, you go give the estimate, I guess, if you could kind of talk a bit about like your process from there, like, you know, what’s your estimate process look like? Do you provide a free estimate or some kind of, you know, dispatch fee. And then from there, kind of what that looks like for your business and the client?

Sure. So, right now are like our estimate days, or we try to get every estimate date done on Wednesdays, that’s kind of my, where I can, like, put on nicer clothes and go out and talk to people, that type of thing. So once the estimate is scheduled, of course, we show up on time and mark as you give him your 10 minutes or 20 minutes out whatever, actually show up on that for the appointment on time. Once you’ve done that customers are almost like, here’s my checkbook. And just, you know, we don’t care what the job cost you’ve, you’ve shown up. So that’s, that’s the whole part of it. But so if it’s a bigger job, like a bathroom remodel, things like that, we talked about options, talk about ranges, talk about budgets, and kind of get the feel for the customer. And sometimes we don’t want, we don’t want to deal with every customer. They don’t want to take every job. So we might at that point, when I go back might say, you know, at this time, we’re not taking on any new business, in for bathroom remodels or whatever we might, we might pass. But if we don’t pass, my rule is we have to get something back to him within 48 hours. So that’s an prefer 24 kind of strike while the iron is hot. Because what I’ve what I’ve found is that, if you show up on time, do what you say you’re going to do, and get back to within 24 hours, they’re very open to almost anything that you come up with their their closing ratio is pretty high. Once you’ve once you’ve done that, so we run all our estimates through market. So they get up, they get the estimate within 48 hours, preferably 24. Once, once they have it, we have to we have to contact them within 24 hours. And typically it’s a phone call, we’ll call and just find out if they have any other questions. Just because they always, always have some questions, and what does that include? Or what, you know, what? What does that? What does this look like? What kind of timeframe? If we do decide to go with it? What are you thinking as far as when you can get it done? You know, there are a lot of there are questions. And I what I’ve found is if you get back to them within within the 24 hours of receiving the estimate, it’s just again, strike well earned taught, you just you’re getting, you’re kind of keeping the momentum going. And they’re, they’re more open to what you want to do.

And you’re freed up though, because you’ve got the processes and people in the right spots where, you know, you’ve got the space and the energy to really be proactive with with these kind of like estimates.

Yes. And that, that’s, that’s huge. Because before I would go, I mean, I’d leave a job and I’d go to estimate and I’d go back to the job that you know back and forth and sometimes you’re not always the cleanest when you’re going over there and not that you have to be in a suit. But you know it’s it’s a little it makes it a little bit better if you’re lucky a little more presentable when you’re over you know, when you when you actually go to the estimate so some people don’t care but I you know, first impressions kind of mean a lot if you can show up with you know, I have a walkie like a tool bag that I carry in with like a laser measure and just all the things I need for for the estimate. And it just it looks professional. I mean, this looks like it’s, you know, looks like looks like I mean business when I’m there and people kind of appreciate that.

Yeah, I know something Alan did and I think your estimator does now but you know, they they kind of come prepared at least for little things and if there’s something small that you they could find during the estimate when she just kind of like fix it up for him real quick if it was like a super simple thing. Yep, just give that value. Yeah, yeah,

I mean a big thing is like closet doors. Did it just come off the track? Like, I’ll just pop it on the track real quick for him? And they’re like, Wow, you’ve already solved one of my problems. On the house? Definitely, definitely.

Yeah, that’s huge. I mean, I’ve, I have a backpack in my pickup that has, you know, an impact driver and a couple other little things in there, little saws all and some other. It’s just I have I can pretty much I can fix a lot of little things when I’m at somebody’s house versus quick.

Yep. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Well, so what would you say are some of the biggest wins that you’ve experienced, like, in business and personal just kind of throughout this whole handyman journey?

Well, as far as I would say the the wins this year have been like, finally getting a shop. That Oh,

yeah, didn’t guys move into a shop this year? Yeah, we did. Okay, that’s exciting.

It is we have a shop and an office and I’m in, I’m in the office right now, which is on one end of the building, the shop is on the other end. So that isn’t it, they’re not connected, but not that big of a deal. It’s, whatever, 70 feet away, or 80 feet away. But to have some place where we can kind of stage for jobs, and actually have an office that we can meet in. We can have clients here, we have plenty of room in here we have we have three, actually we have the room that I’m in is pretty good size. But there’s a really big, like conference room buying that, that we need it. But it’s there. Right? So we can grow into it versus out of it. And I think that’s probably one of the the two biggest wins this year are Casey in the office and shop.

Yeah, that’s so cool. What is what is the shop? Have? You said that it allows you to kind of, you know, stage stuff, but what has it like allowed you to do or what kind of what does it brought to your company, the show,

so we just did a big job in a fertilizer warehouse where we had to cut a bunch of stringers? Well, when we were cutting those stringers, what, well, three sets were 24 feet long. Wow. And, and it when we were doing the job, it was 20 below zero. Man, so So we cut, we pre cut all the stringers in the shop, you know, and just things like that, we have a router table set up in there and a cut station and the tables on just things where if we have to do some production cuts where maybe we’re doing wainscoting, and we can we can go in there and zip them all out. Something like that we’re tongue and groove on a wall where we know lengths are, it’s, it’s kind of handy to have all the material inside and a place to go to do it. And say, for instance, like we got a big window job coming up. And my supplier was doing inventory. It just got done with and they said they wanted the windows out of their warehouse. So Oh, well. We have 14 windows in the shop, because I was working on in my garage before that wasn’t gonna work. Right. So So was

that the major prompt, though, as far as like, you know, that trigger point of like, well, it’s time to it’s time to find an office in a shop was it just kind of having that, that that place where you guys can prep and all get together is that kind of the major points, and just toss them out there because I know, I talked with quite a few people that they’re just kind of toying with the idea. I know, Alan recently moved into one, but you know, kind of just some common things of like, man, it’s time because of this.

Well, so my house has a single garage, and I keep my, in the summer I keep my boat in the garage, well, I couldn’t even I couldn’t even hardly find my boat, it was so packed full of stuff that you know, with an A couldn’t even walk in a garage, you’d have to get to the back of the garage, you have to take things out. So it just got to the point where we all grew that it just wasn’t going to function anymore. Right? So it was it was a necessity to find more space.

A personal necessity. Yes, because I needed

to get more of the garage back. So so at least we could move around in there and park in there and that type of thing, or park the boat, you know, whatever. I don’t like having my vehicle out in the winter, if we can help it so it was my pickups out on the driveway. And that’s just where it was at you know. So basically it was it was a personal need. But since we’ve moved into the shop, we’re able to take on bigger, bigger things, bigger projects and prepare for the better.

Yeah. So do you have any like new goals, new goals that you want to apply in the shop like now that you have a shop you want to start this or that like for instance we just we just moved into new Shop and one thing I really want to do is create like a training center where I could create like three mock up rooms, you know, and have them wired up for electrical or whatever. And I could kind of go through and teach guys, you know, one room would be kind of a kitchen, teach guys, kitchen faucets, things like that garbage disposals, you know, do you have any kind of like, goals for that for your shop? Space are?

Sound I had, I hadn’t thought about that. I mean, that’s, that’s not a bad idea. But I think a lot of the a lot of the jobs that we do, it’s kind of on the job training, you know, what? So we’ve we’ve used the job sites as a training platform, like real world stuff. Right. But I guess I hadn’t, I hadn’t thought about actually training, you know, maybe drywall repair or something like that. We could set that up and to have guys working on that, or, or whatever whatever the case might be. That’s a good idea. Kind of like, I like the fact that we can use it for other than just making something.

Right, right. Yeah, it’s really the the opportunities are limitless. One thing that I’m very interested in is there’s another so our business model is we you know, we have the call comes in or CSR takes it, the estimator writes up the estimate. And then before the job, we basically order all the materials and have the materials delivered to the house. And our technician assistant does that. Do you guys have any of that? Or is the technician going to like, say Home Depot every morning to pick up stuff? Or what is your like material acquisition look like?

It’s kind of a hybrid of what you’re talking about. Sometimes on a bigger job, all the materials will get delivered to the job site, let’s say if we’re building a deck, okay, the supplier will deliver all the materials to the jobsite prior to us getting there, okay. Now, if it’s, if it’s a small little job, they’ll they’ll stop at Menards or Lowe’s, we have both of them close to they can stop and grab the materials on the way to the job. And that’s kind of built into the pricing. We’ve already we’ve kind of worked that out. So every job we have it’s project prep and delivery. Okay, on every single job that we do, there’s always that line item. It’s not, it’s not itemized, money wise, but it’s itemized, at least on the, you know, the customer sees project prep and delivery.

So what So that’s very interesting. What so what does that look like? Is there an actual price that’s on that project prep and delivery that the client sees?

No, they don’t. They don’t We don’t itemize as far as, you know, open labor materials. Yeah, it’s in the description. So let’s see. It’s a minimum is 50.

So what Yeah, what do you guys, how do you? How do you charge for that? Is it a percentage of the job? Or? Like,

I haven’t quite figured that out yet. So, but at minimum of 50, and it depends on kind of the job size, I haven’t really come up with a percentage. But it could be anywhere from 7050 to 75, to 600. Right, I just, I just did an estimate last night for a very big deck. And I use 1000. Because I know there’s going to be many trips, and it’s out of town. It’s like, it’s 20 miles south. And so we’re going to have extra trips back and forth. Just kind of shooting from the hip a little bit. But based on the job size and location, we’re adding that much to it.

Yeah, I’m thinking, I mean, it could even be like 10%, you know, because if you had like, 10%. You know, that’s 100 bucks off of $1,000 job, you know, yeah, that’s an interesting, interesting equation.

But the reason I put it in there is because oftentimes you forget about it, you kind of just you, you lose track of it. And if you don’t put it on it as a line item, you’re not going to charge for it.

Right. And this kind of leads into like, the bigger question is, how do you how do you price a job? Like what’s your pricing look like? And and how, what goes into that? Great question.

So I use cost estimator, which is, it’s a software that we use as costs like $59 a month for that. And some of the jobs that run through that and get a man hour total. Because it will, if you break it down per it works out good because you can you can actually like start out with getting a permit all the way through to clean up and everything in between, you can add add each line item in and get a total for man hours. And based on what you’re charging for per man, per man hour. You can just take that 40 hours and multiply it by 75 or 85 or whatever you’re charging and get Your total labor cost? And I’ll also give you close total material cost. Yeah. And then you could mark it up from there, you know? Yeah,

that’s good. I think that’s the that’s usually the question, because we get that question a lot in the handyman mastermind group is, Hey, what should I charge for this job? But I think the question is really, like, what you’re getting at, is not how much you should charge. But how long will it take? You know, because everyone’s job, everyone’s cost is different, and overhead and whatnot, you know,

for sure. I mean, that’s, you know, and one guy might pay a helper $15 an hour, the next guy might pay him 25 or 30. Right, you know, so you can’t the to hit a target for hourly is you have to, you have to go back to what your scenario is. Really?

Do you have like a back end hourly rate that you kind of input into this equation?

Yeah, we’re at 75 for residential 85. For commercial.

Okay, why more for commercial?

Typically, your insurance costs are higher. Okay. And, and there’s sometimes it’s actually the jobs might be easier, because there’s not emotion involved with them, but we just charge. That’s another reason we can charge a little bit more for commercials because they want the job done. It doesn’t really, yeah, cost isn’t really the key factor.

Yeah, I’ve talked about quite a few folks who specialize in commercial and they do like it because as long as you have your ducks your ducks in a row as far as the insurance and a lot of them, you know, being able to pay and take like a net 30 You know, getting paid later. You know, the market will bear way higher price to do a relatively straightforward and like you said, non emotional job, like, you know, fixing a, you know, delivery garage door or something like that, where someone just shot signs a sheet of paper like, Yep, he can. Yeah,

you did it. Yeah. I’ll get out of here.

We got the invoice. And we’ll get that to corporate New York. Yeah, exactly.

That’s, that’s how it works. And it’s yeah, you know, we are kind of leaning more towards commercial versus residential. We’re starting to do more and more commercial jobs. So it may come to a point where that’s all we do. We’re not, that’s that lane hasn’t been picked yet.

Yeah, yeah. And from my conversations with with the people who specialize in commercial it is it can be more streamlined. As long as you have your ducks in a row, you can take the net 30 Also, a lot of the jobs are pretty similar as far as a commercial property. You know, think of like strip malls, things like that, it’s very, it’s a lot of commonality between all the different things that could come up on a commercial property that you can train, you know, people in the most common jobs and, you know, make really good profit on your crews focusing on commercial. So think about,

yeah, and that’s, that’s kind of where we’re headed. I mean, like, we’re, we’re gonna be doing a nail salon coming up in the next 45 days. And that’s, that’s all this, I mean, it’s, it’s pretty cut and dry. It’s all this little, little knee walls, and little whatever it’s not, it’s not a lot of construction. And not a lot of things going on in there other than the plumbing. But we saw all of our, like Plumbing, we have to sub that out, we have someone electrical, but I have really good subs for all that that are phenomenal. I mean, I can’t, I couldn’t ask for any better.

How does that sub relationship work? Is it just kind of like, Do you have any kind of referral fee? Or is it just straight? Like, you know, I just would like you to do this job and you don’t collect anything on it? Or how’s that relationship work? Well, in a business application there.

So it depends. If we’re bidding like a bigger job, like a bathroom remodel, where there’s a number of other variables, you know, for fixed fixtures and, and moving plumbing, that type of thing, I usually get a bed. And then what I’m what I’ve been focusing on concentrating on is profit on those subs. And I hadn’t really marked it up too much prior. But now I’m I’m actually marking it up with the multiple 1.5. So it ends up with about a 33% gross margin. And that right there has helped the bottom line considerably. And yeah, you’re gonna lose a few jobs because of it. Because you’re getting you’re probably higher than what some other people are, but some people don’t. They’re willing to pay more money, you know. And the people that aren’t you maybe didn’t want to work for him anyway. Yep. So

it’s good point. Love it. Love it, man. So really quickly, we are kind of running out of time here quickly. But it always happens like this. It always we need to we need to make these things like three hours long. Oh, you know. We’ll have to have you back on here shortly, Charlie, but up really quickly. What do you do for marketing and what would you say has been the biggest thing that is added that has helped you out in marketing?

Well, Jason’s done a really good job, whatever he has done behind the scenes as far as Google I mean, honestly We haven’t done much marketing other than whatever is search engine optimization, which I don’t even really understand. That’s,

that’s it for him to understand. I don’t Yeah, exactly.

I don’t I don’t need to know, as long as somebody knows that it’s working. I guess that’s all we care what but So honestly, it’s honestly, that’s pretty good. So, I mean, really, it’s we haven’t done much marketing, we haven’t. We haven’t pushed Facebook, I’ve actually kind of backed off a little bit, because we’ve had so many opportunities just from Google. And through the website, that and referrals that we have, I’m almost scared to push it any harder, because I can’t, I’m trying to trying to get the employees and the staff in place to take on more. But that’s, I mean, it’s kind of you kind of leapfrog you have to, yeah, you know what I mean, you can’t, you can’t just open the floodgates and then get everybody here at one time, and you can’t handle all the work.

It’s good to be conscious of like your own, you know, your own time, and then your your staff and your team and not pressing them too hard. It’s certainly a balance of pedal the metal and, you know, making sure people are comfortable and happy with their work and they don’t feel, you know, pressed if you

do Yeah, and I think I think that’s, you know, as far as marketing goes, we there will be a time where we push that a lot harder. But as of right now, we just we kind of we were at a happy medium, I would say we’re kind of where we need to be. And for next year, you know, I want to do a million and a half next year. So in 2023, that’s, that’s the goal. And in order to get there, I think the I think we have enough opportunities right now to get to that point, we don’t have the staff. So once we, once I get everybody on board, and everybody rolling in the equipment trailer, you know, extra trailer or two, or extra pickup or two, just to kind of get everybody to the job sites and the tools to the job sites that we need. That’s it’s kind of like I said, it’s kind of it’s a work in progress, for sure.

Yeah. And you gotta wait for those graduation dates to roll around. You do? Definitely. Definitely. Yeah, that’s actually Charlie. That’s something I don’t know if I share with you, but I’ve shared your like, especially going to that tech school as a strategy for people that are like, I don’t know where to start with hiring. And I always you’re kind of one of my top examples of, you know, this, this strategy works super well, for Charlie. And it’s, it’s, I mean, I think it’s brilliant to just go right to the source of up and coming people that are interested in the trades, and they’re hungry to learn, they’re going to school. And so anyway, I do commend you for that strategy. I’ve certainly shared it with a lot of people by this time. Yeah, well,

thank you for that. And I guess that if you, if you ask the people that are working for you already to find somebody else that they want to work with, and to bring in, that’s, that’s been another huge key. You get like like minded people that that really, truly are there because they want to be there. And you can take that and channel those, you know, all that energy, I’ve got, like a bunch of young guys that are working, that are talented, that are eager to learn, too. You can’t work them hard enough to wear them out. You don’t really I mean, you can’t they’re just they just go go go. And if you once you have that, and you have that mentality, you bring in more, I mean, it’s just it’s kind of perpetual just brings in this, you can kind of grow that as a team. And they I think they actually get some satisfaction out of bringing one of their friends or somebody that they can they can validate to the team, you know,

yeah, definitely. And it makes the job site, you know, work, a big part of work and join. That’s just who you’re working with. And yeah, I can totally see the logic of the rationale. You know, you get one of these students in school, and then they bring on a couple of their classmates because they’re in construction. And, you know, just there’s a lot of synergy there that, you know, win win for you as a business owner and then for them as up and coming kind of trades professional.

Definitely. Definitely. So Charlie, would you have any last advice or tips for fellow handyman business owners out there that are maybe starting out in the same position as you what kind of tips would you have for him? Well, I

think I don’t think you can underestimate a team. You know, I’ve got a excellent bookkeeper who got an excellent accountant. Good CSR person. Good employees, I think If you’re headed down the path of, of expanding your business, building that foundation is probably one of the the best things that you can do. Because if you, if you don’t have the team in place, or the right mentality for the team, you’re, you’re constantly chasing employees are constantly trying to make up for something that isn’t even there. You can’t, you can’t, you can’t produce anything because nobody cares. So if they can see the team sees the goal of where you’re headed, and you have the proper team in place, really, the sky’s the limit. You can just keep duplicating that until until the cows come home.

Yeah, yeah. I love it. Love it.

Yeah. All right. Well, we’re gonna wrap up here. Thank you so much, Charlie, I really appreciate your insight. And just being an open book, I 100%. Know, we’ve heard it all the time of just the value and inspiration that comes from you know, people like yourself that come on and just share about your story and how you run your business. It’s, it’s truly an honor for us to be here with you. And I know that all our listeners are really going to, you know, be able to take a lot of action from what you’ve shared today and just inspire them to have like, shoot, like being in that position of being furloughed, like what the heck do I do now? And, and then make the jump full time because you just enjoy it and the opportunities there. So surely, we appreciate you coming on with us today.

Well, thank you very much for having me. And I’ll do it again sometime, if you ever want me to.

Of course, of course we talk all the time about round twos. You know, like next year, we’ve only we just haven’t been a year since we’ve been doing this yet. And it’s grown to become like, I think our favorite thing of what we do as part of our work, I guess, if you want to call it something. So also one plug for to connect with all of us, Charlie work. I’m not sure if you’re part of it yet. If not, we’ll invite you to our we have a Facebook group called the handyman success mastermind group and all of this the contents focused on marketing and business operations and business growth. Rather than like, you know, how much would you charge for this and tools and things like that. So we’ll have to get you in there. Because we have people join and they can tag and Fanny specific questions for you about something that you talked about. So we’ll get you in there. And anyone listening the handyman success Facebook group is where you can find us for business and marketing and just to connect. So thank you all for listening, Charlie. Thanks again for coming on, man. It’s been a great time.

Thank you, gentlemen. Take care. All right. Bye, everyone.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai