Episode 21: Mike Kleisch, Dane County Handyman

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About this episode

On this episode Mike, Owner of Dane County Handyman, shares how they operate their business. Their business is unique because they have 3 divisions: handyman services, property maintenance, and property rentals. Enjoy!

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Audio Transcription

Hey friends welcome to another episode of the handyman success podcast. We are so excited to have you here. Our mission at the handyman success podcast is to teach and inspire by shining a spotlight on local successful home improvement businesses. So today, we are joined with an awesome, awesome person. This is Mike clash from Dane County handyman. And like always, I am your co host, Alan Lee, joined with my other co host, Jason call, super excited to have you here. But we’re gonna go ahead and hop into today’s episode, and hear a little bit about Mike’s story and see how he can help us and what kind of information he has for us today. So Mike, maybe you just want to go ahead and give us kind of the lay of the land of where you’re at today what your handyman business looks like today.

All right, now, we’ve got six of us total. And then we got a couple of guys that we subcontract with. So, I mean, we’re kind of a three facet business, we got rental properties, we’ve got a property management or property maintenance company. And then we have the Dane County handyman business. So I have a partner. And Jeff deals with the rental properties. I deal with the Dane County handyman stuff. And then between the two of us, we have a property maintenance company. And that was kind of there in the beginning, I came along later on to join Jeff, because my story is I had a job like everyone else, my hours are getting cut. They’re kind of dinking around with the budgets and we’re gonna put me a full time and then pull me back in the wintertime. It’s like, I had no guaranteed hours. I’m kind of like, well, if I’m gonna have no guaranteed hours, I’ll just work for myself. And I’ve been down that road before I did construction remodeling before, but I didn’t want to be that big again. So I decided I was going to start the handyman business, talk to my wife about it. We had money in savings and in a pretty good position financially. But I had a six month timeline. It was kind of like, if I couldn’t make this thing go after six months, I had to get another job. It was kind of her concession to the whole thing. So I was started looking for a van and I ran across Jeff one day and he’s like, What are you up to? I’m like, I’m starting a handyman business. And he’s like, wait, what? Like, I thought you were working such and such like, Yeah, but they’re cutting my hours back and stuff like that. And he’s like, What do you want to go on together? And I’m like, What do you have in mind? He’s like, Well, we’ll go 5050 On the handyman business and you can take care of our properties and you can help run the maintenance company. And I’m like, okay, so I was like, sounds good to me. So he threw money in it. I bought the van and Dane County van started up and I never had to dip into my savings were cash positive from day one. Now part of that is because we had some established companies like a couple of buildings that he was taking care of with his maintenance company. And that was a fiasco. I mean, I came in I saw the guys he had work in and it was a disaster and we I had to move everyone out of that company. So I basically took that over, ran that by myself for about a year and then I was just getting stretched too thin. So I had to hire people interview people and build up new team and now all the people that were there are gone. So it’s all new people now and the way I work so as I handle all the new clients that come in through Dane County handyman, that’s pretty much like everybody else in the group. You know, we advertise not a lot as as much as we used to, but anybody new like homeowners and stuff like that those are all being county handyman jobs. newer buildings. We’re kind of transitioning over Dane County handyman and we’re kind of thinking about closing up the maintenance property business. And then like current customers in the maintenance property, we just do routine maintenance for them any bigger projects get funneled through the Dane County handyman. So the handyman will take on the bigger projects, the remodels. You know, painting the building will sell well to our painter we have like like I said, we have 10 nine guys. So they’ll do over like our turnover stuff on apartments where we have a lot of painting because I hate painting my guys hate painting. But the one guy who does it, it’s kind of what he does. It’s what he likes. He enjoys it. He hasn’t let us down yet. And we just give them a timeline. Tell him, Hey, wait, can you get here to paint these units, he tells us what we can get there. He knows it has to be by the 15th There has to be done and turned over. So we don’t control a schedule. We don’t tell him how to do his work. We just tell him here’s the building, when can you get there? So and then, you know, we just 10 910 9am at the end of the year. So right now, we’re pretty much 80% Think of our work as referrals. When you know we get very little new calls coming in. And we’ve got a bunch of sororities we take care of and we have a bunch of landlords that we take care of there. properties, and pretty much keeps us packed right there. Now we’re at the point of looking for another guy. Mike, what would

you say like the distribution between, you know, the rental maintenance, the property maintenance? And the handyman is like across the board? And then also, as far as the maintenance goes that largely commercial?

Yep, the maintenance would be like our landlords that have two units or larger buildings. And there, that one’s a hard one to answer. Because usually, we’re going into like the sororities, and a lot of our landlords have properties downtown for student housing. So we get a lot of work. And like December when the UW system goes on winter break, we do a pile work for that month, we have everybody that’s available working, because we got turnovers going on, we’ve got repairs going on, we’ve got upgrades going on. And then the same thing when summer hits. July and August, we’re slammed, because now it’s everyone’s moving out for summer. And college life is really weird. Like, people don’t stay at the same building for like, they want to go somewhere new every six months or a year like no one ever, I don’t think we’ve ever had one person stay in a building for their entire entire college career. It’s like, six months. And that’s like they move out,

you know, it’s rare everything in the trunk of their car and go somewhere else.

Something like that. And they never say it’s because they didn’t like the building there. And it’s like, it’s just the lifestyle, I guess, like you go somewhere new every year. And so I’d say DCH Dane County handyman, probably is about 80% of our work. And then the property maintenance is probably about 15 and under on properties are about five. It’s a really sweet deal for Jeff. Because he doesn’t pay our rates for Dane County, any man, he just pays our wage rate. So he gets repairs, Done Dirt Cheap eyes on properties, but it benefits us because you know, we’re benefiting from the employment of those properties. So it’s when we’re slow, we get Phil and worked off it and stuff like that. That’s awesome.

So so what what year did you actually start this business? Just I just kind of want to break down that startup story here. What year was that?

2015 2015. Okay,

and then. And then can you tell me a little bit more about this, like six month timeline that you and your wife came up with? Like, what did that look like? And and how long into that six months? Did you meet Jeff? Or talk to Jeff about this?

Well, I would say August was when I talked to her about going on our own. And, you know, she was real hesitant about it, because you know, she enjoyed the guaranteed paycheck, the health insurance, the benefits, you know, all that comes with, you know, a decent job. And September, we kind of got more serious about it, I started to look for a van. And then I was like, well, what’s the issue? And you’re like, Why? Why don’t you want me to do this? And she’s like, well, I don’t know if it’s gonna work. Like, you know, I don’t want to three months later, six months later, we’re out of savings. We’re out of money and stuff like that. And I’m like, well, financially right now. We could last, you know, this is going bare bones, no going out to eat, they’ll go into movie theater, you know, ramen noodles, and black beans do eat or something like that. So, but we figured we could last a year off our savings, you know? And then, so we decided, Okay, six months, if I’m not producing enough cash, to supplement or to support the family, I’d get a job. And then the idea was, I’d have another six months to find a job. So and then, beginning of October, is when I ran across Jeff, and told him like, Hey, I’m looking at buying a van. I think I might have actually already bought the van at that time. It was a used one. I saw it and I just went bought it. And then he was like, Well, what do you mean? I’m gonna go on my own and talk to my wife while she’s on board with that. He’s like, Well, why don’t we team up? Well, like I said earlier, we’ll go 5050 On the business. And anything that I need done, you know, I’ll just have you go do it and stuff like that. And I’m like, oh, yeah, that sounds pretty good, because I kind of get a guaranteed income. And then we decided to run an ad and like a shopper stopper, or advantage magazine. I don’t know if that’s a national thing. But, you know, it goes out to every house in Dane County. And I don’t remember the cost of it. But you know, we had an ad printed up, we threw it in the shop or stock or sent that out. And it’s kind of like, talking about a little nerve wracking and you’re spending like, oh, I want to say it was like two grand or something like that to run that ad and you’re kind of like, you don’t know what you’re gonna get for results or anything like that. At that same time, you know, I was doing no hitting up like real estate agents, the hardware store or Home Depot was kind of talking to guys about, you pass my name out and stuff like that. And the ad did real well. I mean, after the ad hit, we probably got 4050 calls the first week. Wow. Yeah. So and I don’t know, if it’s just good timing, you’re coming right out of summer to about to enter father October. So it exceeded our expectations. And I, like I said, that influx of customers kept me busy, I couldn’t even touch our own properties. And they didn’t need to be, you know, Jeff had a guy already working for him, I was kind of doing his stuff. So I was busy from day one with DCH, when we actually launched, you know, it’s like, I knew the first month, I wouldn’t have work, because I knew I had to get my marketing out there. I knew I had to get my name out there. You know, you know, we ran the ad. And I would say, November 1, is when I think the kind of hit so like that first week in November, the cars just came flying in. And I was busy. You know, and those people started referring us to other people, and just kind of snowballed from there. And then I was getting some, I ended up talking to a couple real estate agents that turned out great for us. I know a lot of people hate real estate agents. But these two are great for us. You know, they, you know, they would refer work to us. And it was always a house that are listing for sale. And it was like stuff they wanted fixed up to get the house on the market and ready for sale. So it wasn’t anything contingent on home inspections, it wasn’t, you know, using it to negotiate the price of the house to sell it. It was like, these are higher end homes. And you know, and I personally talked agents that worked on the higher end, like, that’d be in like, our neighborhoods that have the more expensive homes, I’ve noticed who’s listing the house for sale, then I’d call that agent up and ask him, hey, you know, do you need anything done on that? Also get it ready for sale? And you’re like, hey, it’s kind of odd that you call it I do. So, so kind of like timing is everything. So. So it was a lot of it was just getting houses ready for market. And then when I go in there, I’d notice Hey, do you know this is wrong? Do you know this is wrong? I think this would help if we fix this and all of a sudden they’re like, Hey, this guy knows what he’s doing. And then it was like, a couple months later, the real estate agents would be telling the homeowner calm, like, do whatever you says. It’s like, okay, so it’s like, all my son was done. I didn’t have you know, it’s just show up, do the work, send the invoice. And

that’s actually really good. Because I think, you know, obviously, you’re a moderator of the handyman journey mastermind group. So, you know, as well as I do that, that one of the biggest questions that come up is pricing, right and hugely centered, focused around like, real estate agents or property management, like how do you get in with those people? Because oftentimes, they want stuff done, really cheap. And right away, you know, so how do you? How do you go about doing that? But I think from what I heard you say, is that you you specifically target like real estate agents that are in more higher end? neighborhoods? Is that correct? Correct? Yeah,

we were talking, you know, three quarter million million plus homes, the neighborhood, I was calling the agents and I, I wasn’t wasting the time with the houses around my neighborhood. You know, it’s like, What’s that old saying? You know, I can’t afford to live in a neighborhood I work and I can’t afford to work in the neighborhood I live. Yeah, you’re always looking for one step above. You know, I know. I know. I’m gonna waste my time trying to market to a trailer park. You can see they need tons of work. But you know, they’re not in a position. I shouldn’t I shouldn’t say that. They’re probably not going to want to pay the rates to have the stuff fixed. You do it for 20 bucks, I’d be happy to pay it. You tell them $100 I’m okay with the way it looks. And with high end homes, I know. You’re reading in the group I I’ve never had the experience of the cheap, rich people. The rich people like that I dealt with. They know, I’m going to spend 1000 bucks on this house, but it’s going to sell faster, and it’s gonna sell for more than what I’m spending $1,000 It’s yeah, yeah. You know, it’s like, they know they got a crappy doorknob on the front door. As soon as someone grabs it’s a little shaky. You’re killing the sale on the house. Yeah, that’s like that’s the first thing people touch the doorknob and it’s a loose it’s like you already kind of your first impressions you know, people are like, wow, this is wrong. What else is wrong in the house? You know, so So, so I’ve never had that experience of cheap, rich people. It’s just kind of weird when I hear people say oh, they don’t want to spend any money. That’s why the rich they don’t spend money and that’s like a Yeah, the rich people I’ve dealt with spend money because they know they’re getting a return on it.

So that’s a great point, though about, like Alan recapped looking up homes, you know, better, you know, three quarter million dollar plus spending and market like, you know, the upper tier like nicer homes and seen as listing those properties. Like, as far as you know, connecting with realtors property managers, because a common, you know, thing that Allah mentioned that you see on the group’s is like, Oh, don’t waste your time with realtors property managers, they’re super cheap, and they want things done yesterday, but they’re just like a homeowner where, you know, probably most homeowners are not going to pay a premium rate for premium service, home repair. But there is a percentage that it’s in the minority of Realtors property managers. So, anyway, I’ve never heard that strategy before. And I think it’s really brilliant to be able to pull up, you know, find one of these people that are listing a lot of nice homes, and then just reaching out to them even putting all their listings in an email me like, do you need it, I saw that you list all the songs do you need help with like repairing improvements, so just a really high touch involve way to connect with upper like realtor selling nice homes, which ideally would probably have your ideal clients in there. So anyway, just kind of one more extrapolate that for our listeners is, I think that’s a really great cold outreach strategy for anyone that’s kind of struggling to find good realtor connections, or, you know, just looking for another marketing channel. That’s a really great tactic. Right?

Yeah, I mean, I know some guys, they kind of come back and say, Well, yeah, you have to put up because you already have work lined up and you start your business. And it’s not really true, because I made the decision to start the business before I knew Jeff was going to partner with me, like I was already going in, I was already going to spend this money to advertise, I was already gonna make all these contacts. In reality. All that stuff happened, I got those, you know, influx of calls right away. I mean, it’s like, I didn’t have to rely on Jeff at all for any work. So it’s kind of like, I still started the business on my own. I think what helped me was, I knew I had a fallback, like, I didn’t get this job. I could do stuff for Jeff. And I think when you sound desperate for work, it hurts your chances of getting the job versus I can’t came in, I’m kind of like, well, that’s what that’s gonna cost. And I’ll call me if you want to do it. And it’s kind of like a natural I like, I don’t care if I get it or not, you know, I was like, I’m not like, oh, please give me this job. I’ll do a great job for you and blah, blah, blah. And it’s like, come in, I just tell them Well, this is what I think you need to do. This is what’s gonna cost to do it. Do you have any questions? Let me know. Like, okay, sounds great. And then No, sometimes before I get back to the office, or next day, I’m getting a phone call saying, When can you schedule us? Like, okay, like next week, you know, stuff like that. So a lot of what we do is service work. I didn’t want to get big again. And as I say this, I got like five big project coming up. But it’s kind of like, I wanted to do small stuff, repetitive stuff. And so I like the maintenance business because it’s repetitive work. And that’s where I wanted to position the company. It’s like, doing basement remodels are great. But once you’re done with the basement, what do you do, you got to find another basement remodel, versus what the property maintenance and the ongoing maintenance with the landlords to toilet tries breaking showerheads Roy’s getting, like our buildings have a lot of old galvanized pipes. So the water pressure canceling drops, and you gotta go out and clean the showerheads. So there’s a lot of repetition, a lot of the same stuff every day. But it’s it’s huge cashflow for us, because we’re not worried about finding that next client, we’re not worried about finding new clients. That’s like, we’re just doing repetitive work. And then those landlords slowly refer us to other landlords. And it’s kind of funny, because it’s kind of like, some people don’t want to refer you because they want to keep you to themselves. Like I got one landlords like, he doesn’t want to share us because he’s afraid he won’t get us there when he needs us there. It’s kind of like, you know, people use us calling up and like, hey, toilets overflowing or it’s not flushing, when can you get that it’s like, well, we get there today. And that’s the advantage when you hire guys is you can do that, like I can stay on a job working on the basement remodel. And then I can send stuff and to go look at the toilet or even stay behind work. And I go look at the toilet. So we can respond. And that was kind of one of the reasons we hired employees. And this is so we get to places quicker and faster. And but so we’re trying to kind of get away from constant new clients and kind of work on recurring work. So you know, we’re actually kicking around like a home maintenance program for homeowners to kind of get them on a monthly subscription or, you know, cause up if they need something done and we’re already out the details on that. It might be a set rate per month, and we don’t care if he calls one time or five times a month. We’re just gonna go out there and do it and And, you know, we’ll had some stuff in there like changing furnace filters or filling their salt, then open the water softener as part of that maintenance package. So it’s something we’re checking into, I don’t know if we’re 100% sold on it, but we kind of looked at all the jobs we’ve been doing for the buildings, we’ve been taking care of them, we’re kind of figuring out, what’s the average that they’re paying each month for us to be there. And then we’re just once we figure out what that averages, we might just say, Hey, you’re gonna pay X number a month, doorknobs loose, you call somebody take care of it’s free, you know, toilets overflowing, that’s free, you know. And their benefit is, they’re not going to go three, four months, and then I’ll say, like, $1,000 bill, they’ll they’ll pay whatever, a couple 100 bucks a month. And it won’t matter if they have 10 jobs this month, or one job this month, or no jobs this month, they just pay that fee. So that’s what we’re exploring right now.

Yeah, there’s I’ve talked to a lot of businesses that are offering that are doing that. And I will say, as far as like, you know, base offering, you know, looking at depending on your market, like you know, mentioned water softeners, you know, gutters, dryer vents, all the normal stuff that has to happen in a home throughout a year, and pricing based around that. And then as far as like the extra service work, a lot of them either bake in like an hour or two of labor every quarter, or they offer like a you know, slightly discounted labor rate from their normal or priority. So if someone is on their maintenance program, and they call, they will prioritize that work. So rather than getting to the end of the line, you know, they kind of get served within like 48 hours, 72 hours, something like that. So anyway, it’s definitely a market that I think a lot of handyman business are trying to figure out, like, you know, how can we emulate like HVAC companies, that’s a huge cashflow, positive for like, ah, back is they’ve got all these maintenance program customers, where they, you know, the biannual kind of check ins where, who knows, I mean, I’ve heard that they hardly do anything but a handy then industry kind of apply that to homeowners. But like, this kind of segues into a question I have when you’re describing the, you know, the maintenance side of the business, when you came in, it had some major issues, and it wasn’t working. Right. So do you mind kind of kind of explaining your guys’s maintenance program like what was wrong? Was it largely labor? Like, how do you guys fix it and kind of just flushing up that maintenance sites? I know a lot of our listeners, they’re really interested in offering a maintenance program. And so kind of just, you know, why did it why was it not working? And what do you guys do now to make it work?

Well, it’s hard to say. I don’t want to bad talk people. But we had a couple of people that just should have been doing maintenance. Like you had sent him a caca bathtub, and there’ll be coffee everywhere except where the clock was supposed to go. And it was unbelievable some of these jobs and, and then I would have to go in and spend a couple hours cleaning. And I don’t know if you guys ever dealt with caulking, but once you get it everywhere, and it dries on, it just doesn’t peel right off. I mean, you guys scrub it, you get it cleaned up and add spent a couple hours fixing the job they did. So it’s kind of like he was paying them to do the work. And then he was paying me to go in to fix the work they did. So there’s absolutely zero money coming in, is like hemorrhaging money. So it’s kind of like, and then he’s reaching for bodies, you know, he needed someone to get there to fix something. And that’s what he had. So it’s like, okay, I’ll send Bob over there to take care of it. And then the next day, or the later that night, the tenant would call and say, Hey, this isn’t like, right, you know, like, what’s going on? And then Jeff would call me this was before I worked with him, he would call me up and say, gang ideas on us. And I’d be like, yeah, fire Bob. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. You know, it’s like, well, can you do it? And I’m like, Yeah, I can run over there this weekend, and take care of that kind of stuff. So, and I’ve known just since we’re kids, so I should maybe explain that part of it, too. And Jeff and I are childhood friends for Wow. I don’t want to date myself, but 40 plus years. So, you know, so I know him? Well. I trust him. You know, we argue like an old couple. You know, it’s like we’re gonna have a heated fight. And then the next day all is good. But anyway, so as far as the maintenance company, he just, he didn’t have the proper people in place. He wasn’t charging anywhere near enough that I can add time, you gotta raise your rates. It’s like, well, if I raise right, I’m gonna lose my customers. And I’m like, but you’re not making money. You’re losing money. Like, you know, this is seven years ago or something like that. I think he’s charging like 40 bucks an hour to some. We’ll call him Bob. It’s like 40 bucks an hour. But he did crazy stuff like he had sent him there. It worked for like a half hour or to build a company 20 bucks. Like, I’m like, What are you doing? He’s like, Well, I will be charged 40 an hour. He’s only there half hour. And so I’m only charging 20 bucks. And I’m like, You can’t do that, like you just killing yourself. And he’s like, Well, it doesn’t matter me because, you know, I gotta pay him either way. And this is like offsetting his income. And I’m like, Yeah, but you’re literally paying those people to send Bob there to work, like you’re paying more than you’re making, and it didn’t make so. So I had to establish minimums. And we still fight that to this day, you know, he’s like, Well, we can’t go that out, we can’t go that we’re gonna lose customers. And then it’s like, we can go that high. That’s like, I’m already billing customers with DCH. At that price, they’re paying it without blinking an eye. So our maintenance company should be charging more and, and we’re getting there. But so he was under, he was under charging. He didn’t have the right guys in place. And he didn’t have any systems. I mean, a call would come in, he would take the call, he would try to figure out how he’s gonna get taken care of he would call whoever had available and sometimes that involves a client or painter or 10, a night guy, you’d call him up, say, Hey, can you go over and fix the toilet? And he’s like, I’m not a plumber, I’m a painter. It’s like, well, can you go look at it? So we, you know, again, we’d have guys that didn’t know what they’re doing to go look at stuff. I mean, but he’s a likable guy, we still have all the same clients and, you know, part of his brain because we’re super cheap. So something got done. Little they’re wrong, because they’re only paying 20 bucks. So disadvantages Advantages, I guess. But, um, so yeah, so once I took over I, you know, I just said, I can’t work with Bob, just, I’m sorry to say it, but he just does not have the skills. I don’t think he has a desire to want to learn. And he does not want to listen to me, because he had a chip on his shoulder that while I was here before him, like, so why am I listening to him? You know, and it’s kind of like, well, cuz I know what I’m doing. Right? Like, this is how we’re supposed to do it. This is the way we’re gonna do it. And, you know, and his attitude just went south in a hurry. But, yeah, yeah. So I’d say the, the key contributors was just lack of management. You know, it’s like, we can blame everything around us. But ultimately, it comes down to the person running it, you know, Jeff was under charging and had wrong guys and wrong spots. And, you know, so I came along, and, you know, good to change everything. And then we hired better people and charge more and things are running smoothly. Yeah,

that’s good. That’s good. And I think you you highlighted on something that is very important is one of the one of the issues with people in pricing is just really a mentality issue. Right? A lot of people think I can’t charge more, because people won’t, you know, I won’t be busy anymore, or people won’t hire me. But it’s funny, when you actually start charging more people start respecting you more, and you start actually attracting better clients. So it’s kind of one of those things, you just got to shift your mindset to do that, that raising your prices and charging what you need to charge to actually make money is not only good for you, but it’ll be good for your clients as well.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, he had a hard time with that one, like he was you had a hard time raising those rates? Because he’s like, What are you gonna charge for? DCH? I was like, I don’t know, probably, like seven years ago. It’s like, 80 bucks. 80 bucks. Are you kidding me? That’s what I need to charge make it worthwhile. There was no point in doing. Yeah, though, definitely. I

think that is so important. Like I tell people all the time, you have to know what it costs you to be in business. Because if you don’t know what it costs you to be in business, you might be losing money each day, and you need to actually be making money at the end of the day. And the only way to know that is to find out what exactly it costs you to be in business. Or else you might as well just pay people to go do work at their house, you know,

right? Yeah. And the other thing I told him was like, you know, we gotta charge more, too, because when we do stuff wrong, we’re fixing it for free, right? So, if you’re charging too little to begin with, you can only last so long before you sink, you know, it’s like you’re just not making enough money to compensate for anything that goes bad or delays or broken materials. You know, it’s, I never put the customer on the spot. Like, if assuming, I don’t really care who buys a ceiling fan if the ceiling fan was bought by the homeowner. And we open it up and find out what’s broken. I don’t tag the homeowner say, well, that’s 150 bucks. Let me know when you get a new one. I’ll come back and charge you another 150 bucks to put it in. You know, it’s like, it’s like, yeah, it’s broken. What do you want to do? You want to take it back? Or do you want us to go get a new one and if we go get a new one, we’ll charge you. You know, we’ll drive back to the store and get one. Most of the time. That’s what they do. Like, just take it back. I don’t want to deal with them. You know, let’s go get a new one. Bring it back, put it in, you know and then sometime They’ll be like, well, I’ll get a new one. And that’s like, okay, just call us back when you have it, and we’ll come back out and redo it, or we’ll install it and redo it because we’re broken, but you’ll install it. And, and I know a lot of guys like, well, you will go broke. And it’s like, no, we’re not gonna go broke, because we’re charging enough to offset those times. You know, it’s like, you know, yeah, we lost our minimum fee that day. But, you know, when they hire us as Next time, we’re gonna make that minimum fee, which actually kind of offset that first time we’re there. We’ll break even on it. But we have a happy client, that’s gonna hire reps again. And they know they’re not going to nickel and dimed to death.

evitable, you know, and so whenever you’re run operating profitably, when something goes wrong, you know, you, you of course, you’re financially kind of losing a corrective, but nonetheless, you’re operating profitably, and you can kind of happily show up and fix it and apologize, you know, because, like that happen. But when you’re kind of, you know, doing that 20 bucks or half an hour, and then something goes wrong, like, you know, you cannot do that for a very long time before your bank account, it’s gonna really start showing the signs here like this.

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, cuz we’ve opened toilets up and fallen crack tanks and stuff like that. And, you know, we do charge a markup on materials that off that sets that as well. So I know a couple guys have hard high labor rates, as they don’t mark up their materials, we kind of went the opposite direction, we have a little bit lower rate on labor, we mark up on arterioles. And we do that because you can buy a $90 toilet, you buy a $3,000 toilet? Well, I’m not going to charge a little bit higher rate, and install the same toilets, like, you’re going to $90 toilet, we’re gonna charge you 100 bucks, we’ll charge 150. If you get a $3,000 toy, we’re charging 4500. And hope we don’t break that to get started. But right, if this were to happen, we’re offsetting that a little bit. Same thing, we open that box, I’m fine, it’s broken. Now we gotta send it back they got. So that’s why the markup on materials, helps offset all that as well. So it’s just the more expensive things get, the more liability you have. So I didn’t like being in a position of I’m always gonna make 100 bucks an hour, regardless of what happens, right? And I’m gonna make 100 bucks by installing that $100 toilet, and I’m gonna make 100 bucks if I’m selling a $3,000 cut didn’t make sense to me. You know, and I know some guys will be like, well, you charge 200 bucks. You know, you have a high labor rate. Oh, yeah, that’s 300 bucks, break $90 toilet, no big deal. But 300 bucks, I broke the $3,000 toilet, I have an issue. You know, and I know, some guys don’t like to mark up materials, I feel it’s like evil in a way. I don’t know. It’s like, everywhere you go, everywhere you buy everyone’s marking up material. You know, I go to Home Depot, they’re not cited to me for what they bought it for, you know, they, they have a markup on their material. You know, like, you can argue other retailers. That’s how they make their money. It’s like, well, yeah, I’m kind of retailer too, because I’m installing the toilet and giving you my services. You know, the difference is Home Depot is just selling your product and selling a service along with a product. You know, and we do buy cheaper, like, you know, we’ll buy through a plumbing house. So we won’t pay like the same price that you’d pay at Home Depot. So we’ll buy our toilets cheaper, we put them our markup on it. Sometimes, it’s a little bit more than what Home Depot charges the client, sometimes it’s breakeven kind of depends on the supply house and how often you buy.

That’s good. That’s good. So if you could go back to like, maybe that first year in business, like what would you say something that worked well in your business for that first year? And what’s something that didn’t work? Well, that you would have done differently, if you could go back to that point?

I would say have more belief in the marketing. Like, you know, I think I had pricing right from the beginning. Because I had the thought of, it’s gonna be just as hard to sell for 40 bucks an hour than it is $80 an hour. I’m gonna have to do the same effort, you know, marketing, you know, it’s just to me, I just saw it’s just as hard. Like, you know, like, so I didn’t have a problem with the pricing. But I think I didn’t trust the marketing as much in the beginning. Like, I was nervous when I was running the ads. What if What if this doesn’t work? What if this isn’t gonna happen? What if I don’t get a call off of it? And that’s, that’s kind of like, have more faith in it and, and done more of it. Ironically, I think I should have done more marketing in the beginning as well. You know, I, I think I lucked out when I ran that shopper stopper ad. And it just, you know, domino Back on the phone calls, that’s kind of great, I’m done, I don’t have to do any more marketing. And it’s kind of like, had I not gotten good referrals, I might have been hurt in three months later, because I wasn’t doing follow up marketing, it was kind of like, well, I did the ad, I got good response. And I didn’t do any other marketing. So I would have probably done more in the beginning. And the other thing I did is I do a lot of different things in my market. And I’m, I don’t know, one good way to get 40 customers for you. But I know 40 ways to get one customer for you. So I do a lot of like, you know, Congress, Allstate agents, talking to the hardware store, talking to sales guys, like when I go to Home Depot, and I see a salesperson kind of struggling to get some I offered to help them, like, hey, you need help with that, you know, like, I’ll help you lower down or whatever. So it’s kind of like trying to build rapport with people. And it’s like, That guy pays me back. Because I think, you know, they’ll remember, Hey, Guy didn’t come at me and helped me pull the box off the shelf or something like that. And then they refer me because, you know, I get a couple of calls here and there, like, I got your name from Home Depot. And so, okay, I’m not signed up for their pro referral program or anything, I just, you know, so it’s one other collateral if they call her store employees, when other employees must have told them about me and got my name from them, and stuff like that. So, you know, and, like, kind of like the six foot rule, I don’t do it as much as I did back then. And it’s like, you know, the six foot rule, you talk to everybody within six feet about what you do. Like, I used to do a lot of that, you know, I’d be talking to strangers somewhere, I’d be like, okay, you know, if you ever need anything done around your house, give me a call, here’s my card. You know, it’s like, I don’t know, if I pass out like 1000 cards in the first year or something like that. So what would I do differently, I think, probably brought on employer employees a lot sooner. You know, because, you know, it’s with employees, you you’re worried about giving them enough work, you know, like, I don’t want to be a guide, hire someone, two weeks later, I gotta let you go, I don’t have enough work for you. Like, you, I didn’t ever want to do that. And I didn’t want to be a slave ship employer as either like, is get back. No, they get sick time get holiday pay, and, you know, we treat them really well. You know, and we know, there’s family. You know, it’s like, someone calls up and hey, I’m not gonna make it. No, my daughter’s sick. Fine. You know, like, we’ll see you tomorrow. We don’t, we don’t do you gotta get in here. I got all these calls, I gotta get to I got all these appointments scheduled. And, and I don’t want to speak for the group. But I kind of sometimes I wonder. That’s what guys in a group, like, they don’t want employees because they don’t want to deal with that drama. I get it. You know, some people don’t want to deal with it. But I don’t think they realize that life gets in the way. Like, you know, people have families, people have lives, you know, this business isn’t their business, it’s my business, you know, they’re never going to care for it as much as I’m going to care for it. But I also know that my business can’t strive and grow without employees. So like, it’s kind of like, I have to take care of employees to make sure that you know, I can grow and, and I’ve noticed with doing that with employees, no one ever complains, like, hey, I need you for a couple extra hours on Friday. They’re like, okay, they remembered like, you know, they got paid sick time on Monday, or, you know, they didn’t have any flak when they didn’t show up or something like that. Same thing, like when a guy shows up late, you know, I always tell guys, we’re gonna be late just call is call me up, say, Hey, I’m running 20 minutes late. Fine. I can deal with that. I mean, when I don’t like is like when you’re supposed to be at a client’s house at nine. And they’re calling me at 930 saying, Hey, where’s Bob? Like, I don’t like that position. You know, like, I can call a client say, Bob’s running 20 minutes half hour late. They’re always okay with it. Because it’s communication. You know, it’s like, it’s when you don’t communicate with them that they get mad. So, so yeah, I would say, I’d have hired sooner. Trust the marketing more probably be the big changes I would have done in the beginning.

Awesome. And you had said that you have six total people with you right now? Are those all technicians? Or do they have different roles in your business?

Well, Jeff runs the rental side of it. So I don’t know if you’d call him a technician. He does do service calls. There’s myself that’s in the field or stuff and in the field. There’s our bookkeeper. Dwayne and other tech. And then Cynthia has kind of like, does rental agreements and kind of like our human resource person as well. So we got like three guys in the field Jeff or go on the field. So puts us for us out there like Dane County. He names really just Stephen and I. Yeah, we pretty much handle all the new calls and all that. Then, between Jeff Dwayne Steph and myself, we do that Maintenance property maintenance company. Then Jeff and Sandy kind of handle the rentals. And then Renee is the bookkeeper for all of it. So, okay, seven. No, I’m just Yeah, that’d be six. So when do college kids coming in?

That’s good. That’s good. So when new clients call you, you’re the one who answers the phone and goes out and gives them an estimate, or is that someone else?

For the most part, 90% of our calls, probably dumped a voicemail. Okay? I know a lot of guys gonna hit this one, like Answer your phone, answer your phone, answer your phone, I find that when I dumped a voicemail, the ones that take the time to leave the message, are more interested in doing the work. If I get someone that calls me, like three times in a row, like I don’t answer and they call right back and don’t answer, they’re usually a big pain in the butt. Right? Like, I they’re not gonna be a good fit for us. If I recognize the number, everything’s still coming through my phone, my cell phone, it’s like the office number. When you call it it just says, Thanks for calling Dane County handyman, please message someone will get back to you as soon as possible. That’s also my personal cell phone. But when people call that number, that’s the message they get. And then they’ll be like, Yeah, I’m trying to get a hold of stuff. And I’m trying to get a hold of Jeff, or I’m trying to get a hold of Mike or something like that. If I recognize the number I answer it, you know? And usually, it’s because it’s one of our properties as a problem. So I’ll answer that call. If I don’t answer the, if I don’t know the number of recognize it, it goes to voicemail. And then at that point, when I checked the voicemail, if it’s a bigger project, I’ll schedule it for myself. If it’s a service type call, I’ll have step and call them back. And he’ll schedule his work. So we’re trying to get stuck and trained as like a general manager. I don’t think he knows that. But so it kind of bleeding work to him that way, I’m trying to get him to kind of schedule and organize his own schedules. Because up until now, it’s like, I was like scheduling everybody, you know, sending everybody out, doing the follow up on the work and you know, answering all their questions and stuff like that. Now I’m getting Stefan to call his clients back, schedule his work, and organize it. And then if there’s something that becomes more involved, then he bounces it back to me. So it sounds

like you might be able to benefit from like a phone system where, you know, some of you guys have extensions. And even to like, you know, if you guys wanted to grow more, you know, a lot of times when people ask me like, well, how can I get more like jobs on the calendar? It’s like, Well, are you answering your phone? Sometimes, because obviously, you know, every business is different. You guys are all rockin and rollin and happy with your lead flow, but hiring even like a virtual phone answering service for a couple 100 bucks a month, 300 bucks, and then they can take notes for what the person’s calling about get it to the right people. That’s a that’s certainly a growth. Like if you guys were looking for more marketing, I would say get the phones, like figured out and that would certainly bring bring a boost to the business.

Yeah, yeah. Like I said, I knew I was gonna hear about it. Answer your phone.

That’s the beauty though. Everyone’s in their own. You know, they’ve got their business and how it works out operates and how happy they are with the lead flow and jobs getting on the books. You know, if you guys already booked out and really happy with how the business is going and aren’t yet ready to kind of, you know, hire somebody and up the volume, then that’s where you are. And there’s no nothing to be ashamed about that, you know,

yeah, we’re, we’re at the point right now. Or if the phone stopped ringing tomorrow, we have our big projects that will carry us through mid fall almost one at a time. So, you know, so we’re we’re trying to hire, or, you know, we may go attend nine rounds and bring in a crude into our basements index. And that’s what our big projects are like, kind of the remodels and decks. So we may go that route. And we do have an answering service for our nighttime emergency calls, because we do our emergencies for our property. Clients. So like, we have one property, that’s Oh, I want to say around 200 units total, I think it’s like six buildings like 20 apartments per building. So I have that six, like 220, or whatever it is. So we do that for our service calls. They have three guys on their staff during the day just to maintain the property during the day. And then we do their after our call. So we do have an call service that takes the calls at night. So we may eventually bring them on board to do our daytime phone call answering. So but like you said we’re kind of happy where we’re at right now. We don’t need a huge influx of work but it’s it’s something we’ve talked about and like I said we do have for the nighttime calls. That really doesn’t take a lot of our time and we thought it was gonna be a nightmare when I brought them on. And at first, you know, Jeff was handling all those night calls like me, I think he just enjoyed it like talking to people. Tonight. I don’t know, Jeff, let me take the phone like, no, no, like, I’m okay with it. It’s like, okay, you know, it’s like that I have answered the cause at one in the morning for like the smoke detector chirping every 30 seconds, and you’d like to tell them that, I’ll just unplug it from the ceiling, you know, put it away and maintenance will take care of the morning. So, so in the phone service, they’re, they’re pretty decent, they kind of know the work a little bit. So they know when someone calls up, and they have a toilet that’s not flushing. And there’s another toilet in the unit they know not to call us, you know, they can use the other toilet. It’s not the only one they have. So, so they’re kind of nice that way. So they kind of asked a couple questions before they’ll call us up to connect us to them for a true emergency. Like, you know, 30 Blow outside and they don’t have heat in their unit. Yeah, we’re gonna get out there for it. But smoke detector tripping on the ceiling that can wait till tomorrow morning. Yeah, you might not sleep. But you know, it’s not an emergency, per se. So they’re pretty good about it. But and part of that, I think, I think why Jeff is doing this because I think he’s hoping to take over the property management. Because the owner, well, the guy that owns the management company that’s taking care of that property. He’s in his 70s. And just kind of starting to poke his nose in there that, you know, if this guy retires, he’s gonna try to get our company in there. Yeah.

Mike, are you are you still with us? Man? Yeah, I’m sorry. Okay, cut out there for a second work. We’re about to wrap things up here, man. The last thing that we question for you is, you know, if you have any kind of parting advice to our listeners that are either new in their business, or they’re just starting out and getting things figured out, if you have kind of a parting piece of advice we have a lot of listeners are new, or they’re just trying to plan everything out. What would you have to say now?

Yeah, how’s the cat worried maybe I was kind of over talking to you guys getting into the field and stuff like that. It’s been great. I would say Believe in yourself. You know, educate yourself, become confident in what you’re doing. When you walk in to talk to potential clients, you know, you need to be confident what you’re doing. You know, like, if they ask you questions, and you don’t want to answer it, just be straight up, just like, I’m gonna have to research that problem. I don’t have an answer off the top of my head. But you can’t go in to a job. Like, if you know, you’re being called replace a ceiling fan. And then you go in there, and you it’s like, you’re kind of like, never replaced a ceiling fan before it’s gonna come across that way, when you talk to them, like, well, I don’t know, if I’m gonna be Oh, am I gonna have to get a ladder, you know, it’s like, you just got to become a competency to say, Yeah, I can replace that ban, no big deal. You know, it’s not gonna be a problem. You know, even if you haven’t done it before, just being confident in your abilities to do it. You know, it’s like, you know, you replace a light fixture, it’s just three wires, ground wire, white wire, black wire, you know, just, you know, if you’ve never done it before, but you’re confident, just, you know, just believe in yourself, you know, you know, then so you’re educating yourself huge. Looking for problems, like when, like upsell, like when someone calls you up, and you go in, they want you to, like, fix a loose cabinet on the door. And, you know, I was walking through a bedroom or a door on the way to the kitchen where, you know, the doorknobs was like, Hey, let me tighten those doorknobs up getting other doorknobs in the house that we tighten up, you know, you kind of want to upsell I don’t know, the biggest tip I’m going to tell everyone is, know your numbers, you got to know how to price. You know, you can’t be coming off a job where you’re making $20 An hour and think you’re gonna charge $40 An hour and you got the world by the but it’s not gonna happen, because I guarantee you, the company paying you $20 An hour is not making 40 bucks. They’re, they’re not making 60 They’re probably making 80 $100 An hour or more, if they’re paying you 20 bucks. You know, it’s, you know, they got benefits. And I think that’s what a lot of people fail to see when they when they price they don’t even it’s not the expenses. It’s like, they don’t realize they got to pay the employer share of taxes. They’ve got to pay for insurance. They’ve got to pay for their days off like I saw some of the guys in the group that talk about making three $400,000 a year I don’t know if I buy it. Maybe they do maybe they don’t i don’t know i just as a solo guy. You gotta be working 80 hours a week. I don’t want to work 80 hours a week. Right? Well, I you know, all our guys are build We figured out 75% billable hours. So 30 hours a week is what we figure we’re going to build for our guys. And I’m like, Why? Why I work harder in my own place. So, so I do 30 hours a week in the field, the other 10 hours is estimates and bills, and probably another 10 hours grabbing crap for the guys to have in the next day. So, you know, you gotta get your pricing down, and you got to figure it out. And realistically, how many hours might be able to work this week? I mean, maybe in my 20s I could do 7080 90 hour workweeks? Yeah, sure. Back then, but not now. Plus the oh, I’m wiser. I have no desire to do it now. So I would, you know, it’s like, you know, pricing is important. You know, like I said, you know, you can’t think you’re making 20 Now, you’re gonna make 40. And you got it made, you gotta sit down, and what’s it gonna cost? What your truck on the road? You know, it’s like, you know, what’s it gonna cost get insurance, you know, tool replacement. You know, like, everyone has her own personal drill. I had it for 10 years, well, you’re not using that thing every single day. You got to plan for stuff breaking down, your trucks gonna get more mileage. You know, like, everyone, like, I remember arguing with a guy. Well, I got paid for my truck. Anyway, if I had a job and still buying a truck, I’m gonna buy a truck anyway. So yeah, I get that. But you’re gonna drive maybe 200 miles a week on your truck to go to fruit to and from work. You know, I’ll put 1000 miles on my truck driving site to site. You know, it’s like there’s a lot more wear and tear on the vehicle. There’s just a lot of costs that guys don’t realize that they need to sit down and look at, you know, you know, same thing with benefits. Do you don’t have health insurance? What family plan when I last check was 20 $100 a month just for family health insurance. That’s 30 grand a year, you’re not gonna make that on 20 bucks an hour. That’s $50 An hour right there just to pay for a family health care plan. You know, and it’s like stuff like retirement. So I’m glad to have retirement. They’re not bigger than that into their hourly rate. That’s just to live. You know, that’s just your cost to provide for my family of health insurance to have retirement plan. That doesn’t include the expenses of the business, profit for the business, you know, pricing to huge

man, that’s killer, Mike. Those are those are some words of wisdom right there. I love it. Love it. Absolutely. Love it. Well, thank you so much, Mike, for being on this episode of the handyman success podcast. This was absolutely fantastic. Thank you, Jason, my co host. And I guess I’ll say thank you to myself too. But this video, thank you, for all the listeners out there who have been listening. We appreciate you guys, we are here for you. So if you guys gleaned any information off of this, please reach out to us. You can reach out to Jason at HandymanMarketingPros.com. If you are looking for a Handyman Business Coach you can reach out to me at HandymanJourney.com. Also join our Facebook group, which is the handyman success mastermind group, we’re going to make sure that we get Mike in that mastermind group. Basically, we have all of the guests that have ever been on our podcast in that group. So if you have any questions for them, that would be the place to ask it, we would highly recommend that. And also, if you’re listening to this podcast, on any podcast listening place, go ahead and share this podcast for someone else that might need it might need to hear some of Mike’s wisdom. That would be fantastic. And if you’re watching us on YouTube, Like this video and subscribe to this channel, it would mean a lot to us. So thank you guys so much and we will catch you on the next episode of the handyman success podcast. Guys. Thanks a lot