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Estimate Rocket’s 2017 Gift Guide

Posted By Estimate Rocket, Friday, November 17, 2017

Gift-giving can be tough, but we’ve pulled together a list that should make it easier this year, whether you’re buying for a contractor, a homeowner, or anyone in between!

For travel

USB Car Charger

Our lives are on our phones nowadays. We use them to get directions, stay in touch with people, even manage our businesses. Keeping your device charged can be the difference between getting the job and getting lost on the way there. A USB Car Charger plugs into your car and makes sure you can still use your device, even if there’s not an outlet nearby.

Anker 24W Dual USB Car Charger $10

Pocket Flashlight

You never know when you may need a flashlight, and this one fits in your pocket so you can always be prepared!

Streamlight 88033 ProTac 2AA 250 Lumen Professional Tactical Flashlight $39

Mobile Wifi Hotspot

We mentioned a Mobile Wifi Hotspot in our 2016 Gift Guide, as well, but when you rely on wifi for work, the importance of a strong internet connection is clear. A Mobile Wifi Hotspot is more reliable than the hotspot a phone can create on it’s own, doesn’t drain your phone battery, and lets you use it for more important things.

Verizon MiFi 6620L Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot $75

Portable Power Strip with USB

Make sure you always have room to keep your devices charged with a portable power strip. This one has room for 3 AC devices and 2 USB ports, and also swivels to fit into small spaces.

Belkin 3-Outlet SurgePlus Mini Travel Swivel Charger Surge Protector with Dual USB
Ports
$17

Tough Water Bottle

Staying hydrated is obviously important, but when you’re constantly on the go it can be hard to slow down to take a drink. This stainless steel bottle has a collapsible handle and carrying strap so it can go anywhere you do. It’s also vacuum sealed to keep your coffee hot or your water ice cold.

Zojirushi SJ-SHE10 Stainless Steel Tuff Sports Bottle $35

For getting things done

Lightweight Toolbox

Keep your tools safe and organized with this 26 in tool box. It’s large enough to fit all your tools so you can always be prepared. It’s also super durable, lockable, and lightweight. A great addition to any jobsite.

Milwaukee 13 in. Jobsite Work Tool Box $32

Hands-Free Light

This mine-shaped LED light is powerful, durable, freestanding, and magnetic. Attach it to any metal surface and easily aim where you need the light.

Heated Jacket

Stay warm and dry all winter with this heated Milwaukee jacket. It’s wind and water resistant, has a bunch of pockets, and will keep you warm all day with zone specific heat that can be adjusted to your preferences.

Milwaukee Jacket KIT M12 12V Lithium-Ion $300

Jobsite Coffee Maker 

The Coffeeboxx is perfect for any jobsite. It’s heavy-duty but lightweight, water and dust resistant, has ties to help it stay put, and works with any single-serve coffee pod so you can make as much as you need to keep going all day.

OXX COFFEEBOXX Jobsite Single Serve Coffee Maker $230

Super Durable Markers 

The Inkzall Markers are a great tool to carry with you everywhere. They’re easy to write with on any surface - wood, steel, glass, dust, underwater, even on oil. They also dry quickly so you don’t have to worry about smearing.

Milwaukee 48-22-3104 Inkzall Point Markers, 4 $6

For managing a business

Portable Document Scanner

With a portable scanner, you don’t need to worry about losing paperwork or receipts. Just scan to upload it to DropBox, Google Drive, and more, and have an easily searchable document database at your fingertips.

Epson WorkForce ES-300W Wireless Color Portable Document Scanner $288

Tablet

If you run a business, you may be traveling a lot. And if you need to get work done while traveling, a tablet it a fantastic option. The 5th generation iPad is easy to use, has a ton of apps, and a long battery life. If you’d rather have an Android tablet, the Asus ZenPad 3S 10 is also a great pick, with more storage, quick charging, and a slightly lower price than the iPad.

9.7-inch iPad (5th generation) $329

 Asus ZenPad 3S 10 $288

Tablet Belt Clip

Make sure you have that tablet on-hand when you need it by attaching it to your belt with a tablet belt clip. This one’s got a safety cord to prevent drops and attaches to you with a buckle, making it easy to get at when it’s needed, and easy to put away when it’s not.

Tablet Belt Clip $99

Laptop

For those times when you’d rather use a keyboard than type on your phone, a laptop is a great mobile option. These ultrabooks are easy to take with you because they’re thin, light, and have a great battery life. If you enjoy Apple and Mac operating systems, the MacBook Pro is for you. The Dell XPS is great if you prefer Windows computers, and it’s also a bit cheaper than the MacBook.

MacBook Pro $1,299

Dell XPS 13 $1,049

For fun!

Desk Organizer

Nail your gift-giving this year and help your friend or family member de-clutter their workspace with this unique desk organize.

Nailed It Desk Organizer $58

Headphones

The headphones you use can make or break an experience. The Sony MDR-7506 over earheadphones are great for noise cancellation when focusing, and have great sound quality for listening to music or playing video games. The Sennheiser OCX 686G Sports in ear headphones are also a great choice. They’re ergonomic, comfortable, and perfect for those with an active lifestyle.

Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone $80

Sennheiser OCX 686G Sports Ear-Canal Ear Hook Headset $35

Games

Like to build things? In Poly Bridge, solve physics-based puzzles by building bridges, or get creative in Sandbox mode and design crazy bridges and puzzles all on your own!

PC, iOS - Poly Bridge $12

Compete with your friends and family to plan and create the best city. Add airports, movie theaters, homes, and highrises, build your reputation and income, and attract the most people to your city to win!

Boardgame - Suburbia $49

Compete with your friends and family to plan and create the best city. Add airports, movie theaters, homes, and highrises, build your reputation and income, and attract the most people to your city to win!

Voice-controlled speaker

Voice-controlled speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google Home are fantastic for helping you play music, check the weather or your calendar, order delivery, turn on the lights in your living room, and more - all hands free. The choice really depends on your priorities and what services you already use, but you can find out which would work best for you here.

Amazon Echo $100

Google Home $129

Gift Card

Who wouldn’t like a relaxing night out to dinner, free coffee, or a movie night? Give your recipient a gift card to their favorite restaurant, coffee shop, movie theater, or even a free movie from Redbox.

For more ideas, check out last year’s Contractor Gadget Gift Guide!

Are we missing any great gifts? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, Twitter, or
LinkedIn!

 

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Don’t Let Your Business Go Up In Smoke

Posted By Federated Insurance, Monday, November 6, 2017

Fires that hit businesses come in all sizes. They can occur anytime, anywhere, and from a variety of causes. They don’t discriminate. Spontaneous combustion, heating and electrical systems, smoking, poor housekeeping, the storage of flammables, and mechanical equipment failure continue to be the most frequent fire causes across all industries, and are often the result of missed opportunities to recognize and remove the hazard. But sometimes, hazards can be easy to miss:

  • A company employee was doing some cleaning with a mop and cleaning chemicals. Those two things in combination spontaneously combusted.

The point is, business owners need to be ready for almost anything. There’s no doubt that fires are devastating and have implications far beyond property damage.

Fires create chaos
Businesses are vital to a community’s well-being and survival. A fire at a business leaves the community
wondering if the company will survive.

Fires create uncertainty
Employees are a business’s most valuable asset, and a fire can leave them with a lot of questions: Do I still have a job or do I need to move on? Will I get a paycheck—even for the short-term? What can I do to help? If the company shuts down, then what?

Fires create stress
Customers rely on businesses to be operational to fulfill their needs. When customers see a business destroyed, they can’t help but wonder how it will affect them. How will their needs be met? Today’s just-in- time business transactions may require customers to go elsewhere to get the products and services previously provided them by the damaged supplier. Will that be short- or long-term?

Fire prevention is an important enough topic to take the proper time and effort to put into action. It’s not just a “one and done” risk management activity; it should be done at least daily. Investigations reveal that most fires can be prevented if businesses consciously pay attention to a few, very specific hazards. Federated provides an industry- and business-specific, customizable fire risk evaluation checklist to use during facility inspections.

The sample checklists are intended to help employees, supervisors, or managers recognize potential fire hazards so they can fix the problem. However, checklists can do only so much. Employee training and proper fire prevention safeguards, procedures, and equipment may help prevent a fire from taking over control of your company.

For more information on the checklist and employee training, visit
https://www.federatedinsurance.com/ws/fi/InsuranceResources/FIRE-PREVENTION.

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Business Checklist with Housecall Pro

Posted By Housecall Pro, Thursday, November 2, 2017

You have been busy this summer, and we all know that during busy times even the most organized businesses tend to let some things slip through the cracks. It could be that you haven’t re-ordered your supplies, or that you have a couple of unpaid invoices that need following up. Now that the busy season is beginning to wind down it’s time to take stock of your business and prepare to finish out the rest of the year.

That’s why we created this business check-up checklist. Start taking the steps to get your business back in order...

Inventory

Payments: 

With all of the back-to-back jobs you’ve had this summer, there may be some invoices that have yet to be paid. Check in with  those customers who have outstanding payments that haven’t been collected by sending them a follow up invoice

Budget:

Take a look at what you had budgeted for the high season and compare it with how much you actually spent. Adjust your budget accordingly for the rest of the year if you need to.

Supplies: 

Find out what supplies you used the most and keep track of them for next year. Once you know what supplies you used the most, you can use that as a reference to prepare your orders for the next busy season.

Reflect on the past year:

Acknowledge and learn from any mistakes you might have made this past year. See what you could have done differently and make sure to implement those changes for the next busy season. Some of these changes can be timely, so make sure to take advantage of this slower season to start implementing new structures and workflows now.

Look at Your Highlight Reel:

Don’t just learn from your mistakes, but focus on your success as well. Make sure to take note of all of your wins so you can continue the actions that have helped your business grow.

Set Goals: 

Once you’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses you can begin to set your goals for the end of the year. You want to make sure to create a distinct set of goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely - aka SMART goals.  

 

-To learn more tips and tricks to help run your business more efficiently, visit us at HousecallPro.com.  

 

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Don’t Take a Chance – Valuation Methods for Buy-Sell Agreements

Posted By Federated Insurance, Monday, October 30, 2017

A Buy/Sell Agreement helps a business owner “lock in” a value for the business. The Agreement does this by using a “valuation formula.” The formula you use could mean the difference between receiving liquidation value or fair market value. Does your valuation formula lock in fair market value? 

Common Valuation Formulas for Buy/Sell Agreements

Option 1 – Book Value

The book value method (also known as net worth or owner’s equity) is simply the total assets minus the total liabilities as shown on your financial statement. This method is sometimes referred to as the “liquidation” method. This method usually understates the true fair market value of your business, as it does not account for goodwill, profitability, or recapture of accelerated depreciation. 


Fair Market value of ABC Inc. = $1.4 million

Book Value = $450,000

Loss in value = $950,000 

 

Option 2 – Agreed Value Method

With this method, owners periodically meet and set the value of the business in writing. This new value is then amended in the Buy/Sell Agreement. If you utilize this type, how long has it been since you documented a new value? If you have not adjusted the value to reflect today’s current value, you can lose. 


Fair Marketing Value of ABC Inc. = $1.4 million

Last Documented Value (2003) = $800,000

Loss in Value = $600,000 


Option 3 – Appraised Fair Market Value Method 

This method has a stated process to formally or informally appraise the business. To arrive at fair market value, it factors in several things, such as the current value of assets, liabilities, goodwill, and profitability. This method ensures all interested parties receive the full value they deserve. 


Appraised Fair Market Value of ABC Inc. = $1.4 million

Loss in Value = $0

 

*Make sure your valuation method locks in the fair market value of your business. Take advantage of Federated’s Agreement EvaluatorSM to receive an informal review on the strengths and weaknesses of your valuation formula along with the other terms of your Buy/Sell Agreement. 

 

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4​ ​Tips​ ​to​ ​Make​ ​Upselling​ ​Easier

Posted By Estimate Rocket, Thursday, October 5, 2017

Upselling is a great tool to make your business more profitable. It can even leave you with happier customers, but only if you know how to do it right. Here are 4 easy ways to make sure both you and your customers are happy with the results.

1. Make a list of what you offer

One easy way to get organized and plan your upsells is by making a list of your products and services. Once you have your list, you can give values to your items, categorize them, and note which types of customers might be interested in which items and why. 


Your services list isn’t only for your benefit, though. Let your customer look it over, as well. If they see other services on your list they’re interested in, that’s an easy sale for you!

 

2. Figure out which services go together

Upselling often works best when you’re offering products and services that make sense together - called ‘bundling’. You may offer interior painting, gutter replacement, and grass cutting, but it probably wouldn’t make sense to bundle those services together. To create your bundles, think about which items would compliment your other services. 


Here are a few example upsell bundles to get you started:

● A residential painter offers a color consultation alongside a kitchen painting project.

● An electrician offers a whole home surge protector installation when putting in electrical outlets throughout a home.

● A landscaper offers a deal for plant pruning and maintenance after designing a backyard garden for a customer.

 

3. Show your expertise

Once you’ve figured out which parts of your business you want to upsell and how to offer them, you can actually start doing the upselling. There’s a right way and a wrong way, though. 


The wrong way is to try to get your customer to buy more expensive items that aren’t the best fit for them. Some companies even use scare tactics to try to get customers to upgrade, which can lead to mistrust and a negative experience all around - the customer will be unhappy, and you won’t have future business or referrals from them. 


The right way is, as Infusionsoft suggests, to think of upselling as “going the extra mile for your customer”, rather than just trying to convince them to buy more from you. When you’re talking with them about their project, really listen to find out their requirements and wants. You’re the expert here. You have the knowledge to recommend the best service for them. If you can't explain how and why an additional spend will benefit their overall goals, it's not an upsell worth pursuing.

 

4. Reach out to past customers about related services

If you’ve done work for a customer in the past and have a feeling they’d be interested in another one of your services, let them know! It costs less, in both time and money, to sell to past customers than it does to get brand new customers. According to Forbes, “upselling current customers is 5-10 times cheaper than acquiring new ones...” This is part of the reason it’s so important to have a good relationship with your customers and act in their best interest. When they think of you as a trusted advisor, they’ll be happy to come back to you for future projects. 
 
 
Making money is a key component to the success of your business, and upselling can be a big contributor to that success. Using the tips above, you’ll be able to make the upsell and more profit, and give your customer the best possible service. Everyone wins! 
 
 
Kayla Suhm

Logical Engine, Estimate Rocket 

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Indefinite Leave. Can You Terminate?

Posted By Federated Insurance, Monday, September 25, 2017

Question:

Our employee has tendinitis. His condition has not seen any improvement, if anything he has experienced regression. To date we have conducted two ergonomic assessments. We made the recommended adjustments following both assessments. We have also accommodated the employee throughout his employment with modified duty and modified schedule as dictated by the employee's physician and the employee's feelings for what he can undertake day to day.  The employee’s work hours since December of 2016 have averaged 20.65 hours/week. Because of this reduction in work hours and the volume of work he is producing, we have hired a new full-time employee to handle what the employee has not been producing, as well as to meet the overall increased work load demands of our engineering department. We have three employees in this group and our work volume is such that we need all three to be productive 40 hours each week. However, we are not able to spread this out evenly and the other two engineers are having to work in excess of 40 hours to handle the volume that the employee is unable to produce. This employee sent an email today advising that “both of his hands are pretty messed up now, to the point that I cannot move them without being in a lot of pain. I cannot work anymore and I do not know if or when I will be able to. The medications I’ve been given are doing a bad job of dulling the pain, and it continues to get worse. I have a physical therapy appointment on Monday and a primary care appointment on Tuesday. I don’t know if they will help to get me back to work, and I don’t know when that will be.” We are really struggling with how to move forward properly with this employee and would really appreciate some guidance here. 

Response:

It appears that the employer has taken reasonable and appropriate measures over the last few months to reasonably accommodate the subject employee, but he has now advised that he "cannot work anymore" and further that he does not "know if or when" he will ever be able to do so again. You indicate that he has advised the employer that he has an upcoming physical therapy appointment, but that he doesn't "know if they will help to [him] back to work, and [doesn't] know when that will be."  In some cases a full-time leave of absence can be a form of reasonable accommodation under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and employers need to consider this type of action in determining whether a qualified individual with a disability can be accommodated. That said, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has made clear that employers do not have to grant indefinite leave as a reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities. Indeed, the EEOC has expressly stated that "[a]lthough employers may have to grant extended medical leave as a  reasonable accommodation, they have no obligation to provide leave of indefinite duration. Granting indefinite leave, like frequent and unpredictable requests for leave, can impose an undue hardship on an employer’s operations." See https://www.eeoc.gov/facts/performance-conduct.html and particularly question 21 (at example 38 the EEOC states that if an employee on leave "is unable to provide information on whether and when he could return to another job that he could perform," then "[t]he employer may terminate this worker because the ADA does not require the employer to provide indefinite leave.") Similar guidance is provided at question 44 at https://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/accommodation.html where the EEOC further states that "[p]roviding leave to an employee who is unable to provide a fixed date of return is a form of reasonable accommodation. However, if an employer is able to show that the lack of a fixed return date causes an undue hardship, then it can deny the leave. In certain circumstances, undue hardship will derive from the disruption to the operations of the entity that occurs because the employer can neither plan for the employee's return nor permanently fill the position. If an employee cannot provide a fixed date of return, and an employer determines that it can grant such leave at that time without causing undue hardship, the employer has the right to require, as part of the interactive process, that the employee provide periodic updates on his/her condition and possible date of return. After receiving these updates, employers may reevaluate whether continued leave constitutes an undue hardship." Thus, if the employer is able to accommodate the subject employee with leave that lacks a fixed date of return, it should do so. If, however, an employee is unable to state whether or when he will ever be able to return to work (and assuming no fixed date is offered after his next therapy appointment) and accommodating would visit an undue hardship upon the employer, the EEOC supports an employer in terminating the employment relationship. If the latter situation is now upon the employer, as noted it can discharge the subject employee.  In letting him go, the employer should remind the employee of its efforts to provide reasonable accommodation over the last few months, and be candid with him as to the employer's inability to do so moving forward without undue hardship, in view of the indefinite nature of the leave now needed. The employer should, however, ensure that the employee knows that he remains eligible for (although not guaranteed) reemployment should his condition improve to the point that he is able to work again. If this occurs and he is interested in returning to the workplace, he can and should let the employer know of this situation and then the employer should consider him for positions that are then available and within his capabilities, if there are any. The employer is not required to establish a new job for this individual nor "bump" any current employees to create a vacancy for him if there is not an available position at the time the employee indicates he is interested and able to return to work. If there is such a position, of course the employer consider him for rehire, but even in this scenario the employer is not required to give the employee preference over other candidates, especially any who may be objectively more or better qualified for whatever position is then open. Indeed, the employer is entitled to hire the best qualified candidate for any available position, regardless of disability or prior employment status. That said, as noted, at the time of separation, the employee should be apprised that he is at least eligible to apply for rehire (though again should not be promised or guaranteed an offer), rather than advising him that he will not be considered for reemployment in the future at all, which can be construed as an unlawfully discriminatory decision in itself and can subject the employer to a potential claim down the road. 


 To learn more about the Federated Employment Practices Network®, contact your local Federated Marketing Representative, or visit www.federatedinsurance.com.

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5 SEO Tools for Painting Contractors

Posted By AltaVista Strategic Partners, Monday, September 18, 2017

This blog is providing follow up tools for painting contractors that are interested in
researching their current SEO after listening to the recent PaintED Podcast, "Busting SEO Myths with Aaron Hockel." 

Google Mobile Friendly Test: Use this test to determine if your current website is mobile
friendly and has a responsive design. This is important for all aspects of online
marketing, not just SEO, because more than 50% of searches and website visits take
place on mobile devices.

Moz Open Explorer Test: This is one of the best SEO software’s in existence and their
website offers tons of great educational content as well. The Open Explorer will let you
run a free test to see your current domain authority, how many backlinks you currently
have to your site and where they come from. Just put in your website to run this free test.

Digital Location Scan: Use AltaVista Strategic Partner’s free testing tool, powered by
YEXT, to scan your painting business’s name, address, and phone number information
across 60+ popular online directories. This scan will show you which sites currently have
errors and your overall percentage of errors. Building consistent listings across these sites
is a proven way to boost your SEO profile.

Google Page Index Request: It is estimated that Google crawls the entire web every 30 to
45 days to refresh its index of pages. This means you could post a blog and or build a
backlink that won’t get picked up for over a month. Use this tool to submit your new
content directly to Google. This is especially important if you have just created a new
website.

200+ Local Citation Directories: This list, while a little bit older, is a great starting point
for any painter that wants to begin building online citations for their business. The list can
be sorted by Domain Authority and it is good idea to start with higher domain authority
sites and work your way down the list. There are a couple directories on here that are no
longer around.

Have a question about these tools? The online marketing experts at AltaVista Strategic
Partners
will be happy to answer them for free!

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7 Great Questions Painters Can Ask Potential SEO Companies

Posted By AltaVista Strategic Partners, Thursday, September 7, 2017

 

This blog is providing follow up information for painting contractors that are interested in hiring an SEO company after listening to the upcoming PaintED Podcast.

 

Question 1: What is my current domain authority? 

Use the Moz tool above to know your domain authority before the conversation. Their answer should be the same or very close.

Question 2: How many blogs will you post to my website every month?

Any number between 1 and 4 is appropriate. An outrageous number of 20 or no concrete number should be considered a major red flag.

Question 3: How many do follow anchored backlinks will you build to my website every month?

There is no right number, but they should give you a realistic number which could be 1, 5, 10, or even 20. If they say something outrageous like 100, skirt giving any number consider that a major red flag.

Question 4: What is your strategy for building business citations in major and local directories?

There should absolutely be a strategy for, and it should include building accurate listing in at least 50+ directories. Follow up by asking them to provide 5 hyperlocal directories.

Question 5: What is your strategy for social media posts?

For this question, you are just looking to make sure it is part of the strategy and that it sounds reasonable – twice a week, we just share your blog posts, daily, etc. Every provider will be a little bit different in this area, but it should be part of the plan.

Question 6: How do we develop our keyword strategy?

Have them explain who will be responsible for developing the keyword strategy. Is it collaborative, is it on you, on them? Make sure they understand commercial or residential painting terms and ask them to provide a list of 5 to 10 keywords they think make sense for your business.

Question 7: What is your prediction for our success in 3 months?

This is a trap question. Their answer should be that it will take at least 6 months to start seeing results. If they promise “we will have you ranked number 1” – RUN! This is a promise no legitimate SEO company would ever make.

 

Want a free SEO consultation and proposal from an online marketing company that will already include the answers to all these questions? Contact the online marketing experts, and PDCA Members, at AltaVista Strategic Partners.

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Building a Business: DBK Painting

Posted By Estimate Rocket, Monday, August 28, 2017

I recently had the opportunity to speak with some Estimate Rocket users about their businesses. It was a wonderful chance to get to know our customers and learn about how they got to where they are today. In this series, we’ll share stories about what they did before, how they got started, and their experiences along the way.

This time, I had the privilege of speaking with Mike Kremsreiter, owner of DBK Painting.

What were you doing before you started your business?

I was actually working for a computer company doing inside sales. I was sitting at a desk making cold calls trying to sell technology, and painting on the weekends.

What made you decide to start a business?

I’ve always been good with my hands. My dad is a very hands-on kind of guy and I was always helping do little things around the house growing up. When I got to college, I was looking for a summer job, and painted with a few exterior painting companies for a couple of summers. It was something I realized I was really good at and enjoyed, so I picked up a lot of side work.

After college, I wanted to try to use my degree. I ended up in corporate America and didn’t like it. I was doing okay but I got tired of going to the office every day, being in the same place, and sitting at a desk. It just wasn’t fulfilling for me.

I was starting to make just as much money, if not more, painting on the weekends. I had a few big job opportunities come up and that drove me to decide to pursue painting as a full-time thing in 2003. The moment the word got out that I was available full-time and not just for side work or on the weekends, it snowballed.

What are the most difficult parts of running your own business?

The most difficult part for me is being able to turn it off. As a sole proprietor, wearing all of those different hats, it can be tough to turn off the business because you’re always thinking about it. The phone is always ringing, you’re always thinking about the next job and who’s going to be doing it. It’s really hard to say “I’m not going to answer my phone. I’m not going to pay attention to work right now. I need a break. I’m in family mode or I’m in personal mode.” It’s hard because when you have a free moment, you want to take care of something. You always have something on the list to get done.

A very difficult part right now in the trades is finding qualified individuals that want to come to work every day and want to learn and do an honest day's work. I can sell the work and provide a lot of work to my guys, but it’s trying to find the guys to do all those jobs that makes running this business difficult. This time of year gets extremely busy, no matter how well you prepare. The guys I have are pretty good. They’re self-reliant once you put them out there and do pretty well. I’m lucky to have them, but could use more guys like them.

What are the most rewarding parts?

The two things that I found very rewarding are building a brand and a name for ourselves, and providing a good service to our customers.

We do 95 to 98 percent residential work, so the jobs that we do are changing where our customers live and making it better. It’s always awesome to see their faces at the end of a project and how we have transformed their home. It makes people feel good when you do that work, so it’s very rewarding.

Being my own boss is also nice and I can create my own hours. I have two young children, and I’m able to be involved in their lives in the morning or be able to pick them up after school. The extra time I get with them makes the hard parts of owning a business very worth it.

What advice would you give to someone starting a similar business today?

Set it up as a business from the start. I took the long road to getting where I’m at in my business structure. I started off as a sole proprietor working for myself and when it came to the tax structure, I didn’t have separation. I was just basically a contractor working under my name.

It was less expensive and less paperwork, but I found the transition to having employees and separating of myself from the company hard to do. If I would have started my business right off the bat as either an LLC or incorporated, it would have allowed me to grow a lot faster and would have made taking on employees a lot easier. When I started hiring guys, I always treated them as subcontractors and 1099’d them. Technically they were probably employees by definition, but I didn’t realize it at the time and had to change my whole structure because it’s what was best for my clients and employees.

It’s hard to change in anything, because you’ve done it a certain way for so long you get very comfortable. Even though you learn there is a better way, you have to allow yourself to do it. Just pull the band aid off. Just change. You will be glad you did.

Also, try new technology and see how it can help you utilize the hours in your day. One of those examples of new technology for me would be Estimate Rocket. Transitioning was super, super difficult for me, because I had been using the same system for twelve or thirteen years. But I forced myself to jump straight in and cut the ties with my old system and now I’m so much more productive.

Where do you see yourself and DBK Painting in the next 10 years?

The first step for me was getting out of the field on a daily basis. When I made the transition to do mostly estimating and the management of the company, that allowed me to grow. Right now, the challenge of finding employees is holding me back a bit, but I need to force myself to not go work on a daily basis. Some business owners don’t necessarily have the knowledge to go and do the work, but I do, and I’m still enjoying it, so it’s hard to force myself not to go do that work, even though I can.

Since I want to be less involved in the field and the production, my next steps would be to hire a production manager and project manager or a combination thereof. They would take over those aspects so I can concentrate on the estimating, sales, and possibly work more with training our guys. In five to ten years I want to have all of those things in place, where I can step out of some of the day-to-day aspects and into the larger vision of networking and getting future work. Thanks so much, Mike for taking the time to talk with me about DBK Painting!

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, let us know by sending an email to support@estimaterocket.com. You can also reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn!

Kayla Suhm, Logical Engine, Estimate Rocket

 

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Back to School Training

Posted By Federated Insurance, Monday, August 21, 2017

It’s Back to School Time

When you were a kid, going to school and getting passing grades was not optional—it was expected. And if you did not score well on assignments and quizzes, it would most certainly show up on your report card. Reflecting on all the classes and assignments, it’s evident now that your teachers were training you for something you would probably need later.

Never Stop Learning

Near misses and accidents indicate that something needs fixing

The sage advice that “it’s never too late to learn something new” can apply to work-related learning (a.k.a. training) just as well as daily life. Learning something new may help us not only do our jobs better, but often, more safely. The consequences, though, of not taking advantage when educational opportunities present themselves could result in a bad report card of another kind: costly mistakes, lost profits, fines, accidents, injuries, or even fatalities.

School is starting soon for the kids—how about for the grown-ups as well? This may be a good time to plan and carry out employee training, whether for new information or for a refresher

Deciding Training Needs

Begin by checking required training. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace. No person should ever have to risk injury, illness, or even death for a paycheck. The unfortunate truth is that most OSHA standards were created as a result of harmful incidents. Training expectations for your type of business can be found at www.osha.gov. Search for “Training Requirements” in OSHA Standards.

Next, look at your company’s experience. Usually, near misses, accidents, and/or injury trends indicate that something needs adjusting. Both completed accident investigations and claims experience should be reviewed periodically. Your insurance company can help you. 

Deciding How to Train

The two more common forms of training are instructor-led and computer-based. Both methods have their place. Instructor-led jobsite meetings get everyone together at the same time to teach safety awareness and to provide training on current topics. Computer-based training works well for employee orientation, to train employees who were absent from prior sessions, or if an employee’s performance demonstrates a need for retraining.

Many technologies are available to help meet training objectives. Two offered by Federated are the Seven Minute Safety Trainer mobile app, designed to help manage and coordinate instructor-led employee training, and TrainingToday computer-based training with the built-in flexibility of a learning management system (LMS) to manage online training experiences. Both technologies have quality content coupled with the ability to schedule, track, and document employee training. Your local Federated marketing representative has more information.

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