Dear, Potential Customer. What every good contractor wants you to know.

From the moment I entered the trades, I have always thought it was facinating how other tradesmen, homeowners and builders viewed labor pricing, and how many of them have this view that it is “negotiable” and comes with no substance. I almost got the impression in the first few years of working in the trades that you basically just priced things based off of going rates, not determined by your operational cost like overhead, insurances, taxes, employees and so on, but instead by what others thought you should be working for or what they should be paying.

I could never imagine walking into a department store and saying to them “Hey, the store down the street has something very similar (not the same) and they are 30% less, will you take that?” Something tells me it would probably get me a few funny looks and directions to the door. I could also never imagine walking into a Mercedez Benz dealership and tell them “I love your cars but I cant afford it, how much will $15,000 get me cause thats my budget?” After I get my reply from the salesmen that I am at the wrong dealership, I ‘d asked him “What if I do cash?” As if your employees will take a big paycut if you pay them cash too!  Maybe these homeowners think us contractors can put it in our secret stash where we hide all of our extra money we make on our jobs (still waiting for that day). The reason that neither scenario would work is cause both the department store and car dealership both have an operating cost, they know there numbers and bottom line. Quite simply neither the store or dealership could stay in business, service a product or have employees if they opperated this way.

So here is my question, why are these skilled trade businesses different?  I dont blame these uneducated homeowners and builders for having this mentality. Afterall, we the contrators did this to our selves. How can “them”? More than likely they have never touched a tool or do not have the skills or knowledge to execute the very work they are calling us to bid. If they had this knowledge or skillset they would probably do it themselves, right? They dont know the hours a project will take, after all they watch a 30 min episode on HGTV and they build a entire house in that time frame. How can they not feel that what we do is a not a “get rich quick” scheme?

This isn’t a homeowner or builder problem, this is a skilled trades business owner problem. We as tradesmen need to step up our game. We need to understand we are running businesses. Businesses that need to sustain our families. Businesses that we can hire, train and build quality people. Businesses that can afford to do good quality work and make sure we are still in business to service our work in the future.

This year I decided to hire Shawn Van Dyke, a skilled trades business coach who not only understands what running a successful skilled trades business takes, but has years of experience as a CFO of a finish carpentry and millwork business very similar to what I am working so hard to build. I strive to want to build an amazing company. I am not looking to get rich. I have 3 beautiful children and a loving wife, in my opinion, I already am. If success in my business and financial prosperity follows, I am good with that.  After all, if any of the skilled tradesmen got into this business to get rich and not work hard, all I can say is good luck and I could think of 100 other things you could be doing that would take far less hours, skill and energy.

Long story short, if you are a fellow tradesman or skilled trades business owner, value your self and your time. Stop running your business based off of assumptions, build a great business, price your jobs to do them right, if you need help ask for it and always find ways to get better.

Dear Potential Customer,

I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to bid your project. I realize you have had many other guys (most of which are not qualified) to bid your project and I am sure far cheaper than my company, but I hope you give us a shot.

All I ask is that you carefully review the estimate they are giving, know the right questions to ask, understand what is and isn’t an extra, see there work and ask for referrals from past customers.

Demand respect of your home with proper floor covering, dust prevention and quality craftsmanship. However, please respect the fact we are going to work very hard in giving you exactly what you want from design to the execution. While we can’t do this for free or at discounted rates and expect to run a first class business, realize by doing this will allow us to give you a wonderful customer experience. Hold yourself, project and your expectations to a high standard. You see, you guys are the reason us skilled trade businesses are in business. If you have any questions or concerns call me at any time. While I try to make every effort to answer my phone during business hours,  just know that if it is 8pm on a weeknight, holiday or sunday mornings,  I might be spending time with my family but just leave me a message and I will get right back with you. Because that is all part of running a world class skilled trades business, communication and accessibility. Something those bargin tradesmen probably wont offer.

Know your budget. We understand our costs as a business, and while I know if you compare work apples to apples we will be in the same pricing zone. Please understand many owners of these skilled trades businesses do not understand this. So this is up to you to decide and figure out, but know that again, part of my service is helping you understand this. I realize that the project you are having us quote regardless of price is very important to you and I value that. Oh, and if our numbers come back higher than expected, just ask why. Just know I might ask you what you are comparing this to or what your reference for coming to this conclusion. While we cant do $30,000 worth of work for $10,000, understand we will be around for many years and we can always take your project in phases. Because we run our business like a business, we will be also able to service our work if you should ever have any problems. However, we are pricing our work to do it right the first time so this shouldn’t be a issue.

So I hope you make a educated and informed decision on moving forward with the project and really compare apples to apples. The saying “You get what you pay for” is very true. Though if you’re a more for less kind of person, the other guys should be just fine, just dont let them think you are getting a deal. Oh, if the other guys’ too good to be true price is infact just that, feel free to call us, we would be glad to take over the project. Just remember its cheaper to do it right the first time.

Sincerely,

Anthony Vitale

Owner | Probuilt Woodworking

 

Social Media; The Death and Re-birth of our blog.

In 2011, I officially formed Probuilt Woodworking LLC. To that point, my experience growing up in the trades and already having plenty of experience in not only working for, but growing up in, our family Stair and Millwork company. I had a vision to build the “best” finish carpentry and custom woodworking company out there, we would be something different. I knew as long as I could keep work steady, the passion and love I have for my craft would shine and people would take notice. While this goal or motivation I have still hasn’t changed, there was a lot I never and couldn’t have ever considered.  I didn’t realize all the long work days I would eventually encounter, sacrifices, taxes, capital needed to maintain good cash flow, oh yeah, and employees (at this point I still thought I could do it all). Nope, never thought about any of it and with our first child (of three) due early in 2012, fatherhood would bring a whole new meaning to life and work.

In October 2012, I started this blog with a very simple purpose, I wanted to give my customers, potential customers, friends, family and other tradesmen an inside look at not only our projects, but how much love I have for what I do. I thought it was a way for a potential customer to view the way we work and think throughout a project and give them a chance to experience the process. It was a platform for me to talk about jobs, techniques and I guess share what I thought might be interesting. Most importantly, I thought I could fill a void in the craft of finish carpentry that I wasn’t seeing anyone else do with maybe the exception of Gary Katz and the thisiscarpentry.com website.

Growing up in a successful family business, one that was built on the foundation of treating your customers right, hard work, long hours and dedication, I already had a great roadmap for what I would need to do if I was going to grow and achieve this kind of success. However, what I also noticed was that I was going to have to do it completely different. With a deflated workforce and a slowly rebounding economy, I knew I would have to brand and market my business differently than my father did or didn’t. Before I had an employee I already had a business name, a logo, shirts and a a vinyl decal on my truck. Every time I would pull up to a new project, the builders, tradesman and customers thought I was a small part of something bigger. Much like the Wizard in the classic movie  “The Wizard of OZ” I wore all the hats in the business, like the wizard behind the curtain. I was the guy who handled the books, walked through the projects, designed the projects, built the projects and even sent the invoices. In that first year or two, what I got most when I pulled up to a job site was the veteran tradesmen who much like the economy, took a beating and was just plain defeated, bragging to me how in 30 years they never had a logo on the truck, never had company shirts and never spent one penny on advertising either. I didn’t have the heart to tell these guys that it was probably the reason why I never heard of them or their company. Oh, and to tell them they could advertise for free on social media and a few other platforms, I figured that would be impossible to do being that they also thought smart phones and computers, like advertising, really served no purpose. The real kicker was I also didn’t want to tell them that it’s not really about getting new customers, my passion for my craft and my business was my driving force and if someone stumbled on one of our pages and wants to do business with us, than great! Lets be honest though, in our company’s niche market, most our customers don’t build multi-million dollar homes and find there trades on social media. Overall, I knew this “experienced” advice they were giving me really didn’t mean much cause I knew I wanted/still want to be something different. I didnt want to be who “those” guys were and still are.

Before the birth of the blog, in 2011 I came across an app on my iPhone called Instagram. Little did I know in the coming few years this app would not only change the way I share my work but in 2016, help me build a better business by connecting with other amazing individuals and passionate tradesman who otherwise I would have probably never met or heard about. Around those early years in 2012, I would start our company Facebook pagewebsite and houzz.com accounts. While all these platforms have been great, Our Instagram account has allowed me to give a view into the business and projects that this very blog was intended to do. Through video or a simple photo, our followers whether homeowners,tradesman, past customers, new customers, literally anyone can view our projects in real-time without me having to spend hours uploading photos and drafting blog posts. However, with our social media followers growing, I am starting to get a lot of questions on technique, tools and insight that I was hoping to address and help other finish carpenters answer back in 2012 with the start of this blog. While these platforms have been great, the blog is a place I can share plenty of information without bogging down our other non-trade related followers, family and friends feed.

While we still push everyday to grow better as a company and craftsmen, I feel like in the past 5 years this very blog has come full circle. This was something I started in hoping people would find it helpful or inspiring, and now in 2016, I have people asking daily to share more details about our projects, techniques and business in general. I just hope those grumpy worn out veteran tradesman are following us or at least figured out how to turn on there iPhone, cause this is the new way of referrals, this is the new way of doing business. 🙂