Inside the Mind of a Small Business Owner
thoughts & comments are encouraged
This is an exciting day for me (& hopefully you as well). As some of you may know (read my first blog in the archives), last year I closed the doors on my business due to a lower back injury. I purposely took time off to avoid the slightest thought about what to do next w/ the intention of clearing my mind & hitting the reset button. During the last few months, I was able to do just that, but it wasn’t a complete reset. I am officially out of the labor industry, but I came up with a new idea to refer you to the best local businesses, hassle free. I (obviously) believe this will be better than the rest out there.
The concept is: FAST. FREE. PEER APPROVED! (business ratings approved by your peers)
The website is called: peerapprove.com (check it out, we have the logo on a temp page now)
The mission is: connect consumers w/ the best local businesses in under 60 seconds.
I was on my couch on a lazy Sunday afternoon watching my son nap. A small rumble in my stomach started but I was in one of those moods where I couldn’t decide what I wanted (we’ve all been there). An idea was underway in my mind, but still needed a little development. My decision making was becoming very problematic & I wish there was something to tell me what to get. At this point anything should have been acceptable, but I did not want to order food from the same places I usually went, thus causing my mind to go blank. I also wanted an answer right away to calm my uncreative cravings. I’m sure you can see what a predicament I was in, haha. My mind was useless for my intended purpose, but that’s when the idea for peerapprove.com really took off …
I identified a problem I was having & assume many others have as well, maybe not to my dramatic extent though:
The Problem: People are always looking for recommendations on the internet. There are website reviews out there, but it seems to me most people are going to their local email groups, Facebook or other social media platforms to ask individuals their opinion(s). The main issue with this is (as well as the other sites), you still have to comb through an assortment of different opinions & businesses “plugging” their own “page.” In the end, you have wasted a bunch of time waiting for responses, reading them & you still aren’t sure who’s opinion is credible. Not to mention you are probably hungrier than you were 30min prior.
The Solution: I developed an idea that would lead to the creation of peerapprove.com. We are currently building a database that will collect analytical information from your reviews. The review process is fast & easy, based on 4 finite questions w/ an optional text review. The questions are what we decided to be the 4 most important attributes to any business (to be released at a later date). You will give a score for each question. The cumulative score (as well as individual question ratings) will be averaged for the specific business reviewed. Every time one of your peers submits a review, the business rating will be automatically updated. Requesting a local referral is even easier. Type in your zip code, search radius & specific service you are looking for & hit submit. Within seconds, the top rated companies that offer your specific service will appear on your page with the best rated companies on top.
How peerapprove.com is different: Remember? Fast. Free. peer approved!
Truth be told, I do not remember what I ate that day or if I even ate at all for that matter. But I did come up with an idea that I think can be very convenient for the general public. As always, if you have any questions for me you can always reply to any of my blog posts (www.powerwgl.com).
You can also email me directly at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Both emails are active & in use.
Also, visit our official page for more info or to follow along for updates: www.peerapprove.com
Facebook & Twitter pages coming soon!
Thanks for following! PRW
First off, I want to apologize to my “FIVE” loyal readers for being a day late. My only excuse is I contracted some form of the Flu for the last week & wasn’t doing much of anything. So much for my first ever flu shot (as an adult) … Anyway, onto My Rule of 3!
Way back when I started my business, I used to receive a lot of calls asking if I did this or did that. I never wanted to disappoint any clients so I developed yet another philosophy: If I can complete your requested task in a professional manner (& felt comfortable doing so), I would do it. BUT if I could not do the work in a proficient way, I would always help you find someone I could recommend. NOT JUST recommend, but if I referred someone, I was stamping my reputation on that referral.
What if I did not feel comfortable or did not know who to refer? Well that my friends, is The Rule of 3. I would always suggest a “local Google search” & request at least 3 estimates. Now why 3? Three estimates gives you a little variety:
In the end, if you don’t have a solid referral from someone you trust, I suggest a local search on Google & get 3 estimates before you decide.
AT LEAST FOR THE TIME BEING
As I said in my 1st ever post, I will soon be launching a new website to solve all your problems (in my opinion, haha). More details on the new website & concept next week!!!!!
Until then, thanks for reading (All 5 of you loyal followers!) PRW
In my opinion, this is the most important topic of discussion to date. Clients & businesses don’t always see eye to eye (& THAT IS OK!”). In my 13 years of business I have met many different personalities & not all of us were on the same page. These things happen from time to time, so from both sides of the fence you need to be ready for this situation. It transcends (what appears to be going on) all over the country today in dealing w/ disagreements. If a situation like this occurs, you do not need to make it personal. If I had to guess, about 6 years in I developed my business mantra: “there is a solution to every problem” & sometimes you need to walk away.
When I started my business, I had limited experience in dealing with these situations. I also NEEDED the work & reputation to build my brand, so at the beginning I would do whatever it takes. I took just about every punch & moved on. This is a very important step to success by the way, because you learn from (failure) & not success. One specific example was in the first year of business & I believe was in the first month of operation. We were doing a window washing job & the client (obviously I have a biased opinion) was being difficult. When I say difficult, I mean they changed the terms of our agreement, which in turn altered the cost of the job not reflected in the original estimate. They were arguing with one of the employees & the employee started arguing back. Was it warranted? I believe it was, but at the same time was VERY UNPROFESSIONAL. To make a long story short, I decided w/ all the variables in front of me, we needed to walk off the job. At the time, it made me nervous, scared & I had an enormous feeling of failure inside. It wasn’t until a handful of years later I realized this was a great learning experience, but some how I made the best decision I could have, given the circumstances. That lone experience planted the seed that would eventually grow into a very clear & calm business motto (as stated above).
Now as I said before, there is always a solution to every situation. The main thought I would hold in my mind is: it’s never personal (at least on my end). You are dealing with a simple business transaction & there are a lot of clients out there as well as many businesses of the same kind & MANY different personalities. The previous sentence will lead into a future discussion topic of MY RULE OF 3 (when getting estimates for jobs), but more on that later. How did I get to this state of mind? I’m glad you asked (haha) … About 6 years in, I had to make another important decision. One that I could have made based on emotion & would have become personal. I remember this one vividly. This is about the time I had hired regular employees & we had our first major growth spurt as a company. As I stated in my 3rd article, these are really good times but also adds a ton of pressure. A client texted me (the text part is very important) based on a referral from one of my clients & my reputation as a business. They stated up front that they were on a budget, but so & so recommended me because they were friends & they trusted me because of them. So we talked about the job they wanted us to do & what their financial limitations were & agreed to terms. Only so much was in the budget, but I explained I could only go so low based on my business expenses before I was personally paying for the job. The terms were as follows: I would lower my hourly rate as much as I could, we would do our best & get done as much as we could, given the time frame. It should have been a very simple process, at least I thought … That day I was out on estimates & the guys had a full schedule (based on the terms & other jobs that also had their time frames). The guys did the work & moved on to the next job. I was eating lunch in my truck when I get a call. The client says they didn’t finish the job. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! I listen for about 2 minutes when I had to cut them off & explain the situation (AGAIN). Their response was “I never would have agreed to that.” I reminded them we texted the terms to each other, read the text aloud & they still wanted us to come back at the end of the day & finish the job. At this point I realized I was in a lose-lose situation financially & reputation wise. So I said I would call them back after talking with the guys, but I never did. This was another situation where I felt terrible about it in every way, but any further discussion would only lead us further down the rabbit hole.
The point of the above story is to give insight on how to NOT take things personally, for the business owner to understand you will have to take losses from time to time, but also for the client to understand that we as business owners are people too & not robots (another future topic). At the same time, these situations can be avoided before you get started on the job. Under the conditions I wish the client would have thought out the terms beforehand & actually read what we had agreed to. As a business owner I used these so called “failures” as learning experiences, but they were tough to swallow at times. Sometimes I wondered if this type of client did this intentionally, but in the end, I realized it didn’t matter the reason for it, it was just better to walk away from the situation (& THAT IT WAS OK).
The moral of both of the above story(s) is: You are not always going to see eye to eye, so don’t make it personal. As consumers & proprietors in this country we are blessed to have options to choose. Together we need to realize that sometimes based on different viewpoints, philosophy & budgets it won’t benefit each other to do business. Because we have a plethora of different options, this theory is ok. As a consumer you do not need to run to Yelp (OR MY FUTURE WEBSITE) to give poor ratings because you made it personal. As a business owner you do not need to trash clients or get all upset because of a situation w/ a client, because it is going to happen eventually. But above all I hope everyone alike realizes ahead of time that you do not have to force a situation just because you received an estimate …
Which leads to next week’s discussion: My Rule of 3! Always get 3 quotes before you decide who to hire!
As always, thanks for “lending your ear” - PRW
One question I was OFTEN asked is “should I” or “how much should I tip the guys?” Tipping the workers is 100% up to you & there is no standard. If your asking the question it already means you have thought about it & would like to, so go right ahead. Everyone’s financial situation is different, so if you intend to tip, anything is better than nothing. In my former industry it was tough work & we would be happy if someone offered us a glass of water, so the idea of offering a monetary tip would go a long way.
My employees were always paid more than a fair rate, but not all companies are the same. I have heard over the years of some extremely low wages for specific work being done. In the end, they are being paid a wage that doesn’t encourage tipping, but everything helps in today’s world. Even if it only covers a coffee, it will generally boost the moral of an employee & that can only improve the quality of your job. We are all people & not robots, so kind gestures will almost certainly put a smile on someone’s face.
Do you have to tip? No you don’t. Should you tip? That is up to you. Every situation is a little different & not just based on your personal finances. People are hired to do a job & that is what they get paid for. But what if a worker does the best work you have ever seen? Or what if someone goes above & beyond their responsibilities (which is rare these days)? That generally means that individual cares about what they are doing & if nothing else you would be rewarding that effort. Maybe consider it a way of paying it forward & it can create a positive momentum for their work ethic in the future.
I have some unique experiences in my professional life with tipping. As a lot of you know, I was also in the service industry when I started PoWeR. So I have seen all sides of this particular subject matter. I have worked for tips, I have labored for my own company & hired employees to work for my company. My personal motto is always to be generous when I can (pay it forward) because I know the gesture can go a long way for some.
One thing I always do (as I stated above) is offer any employee hydration. But if they are doing anything laborious that saves me the time & energy, I usually offer some form of a monetary tip. A perfect example is when I had to replace a refrigerator at my condo. I order a new one online, they deliver it/set it up & remove the old one too. I could have simply said that is their job, they get paid for it & that would have been just fine. But the way I view it is they saved me a bunch of trouble carrying it up the stairs, arranging for help & most likely some frustration as well. So I gave a tip that I was able to afford.
If nothing else, tipping is a form of gratitude & can make someone’s day. No matter how big or small, it all helps in the end & could possibly create a butterfly effect in a positive way. After all, every single one of us is just a person trying to make it in this world. If you can afford it, then go for it. If you don’t have it in the budget, you don’t have to feel bad either. But again, if you are asking the question you may as well go ahead and tip because it could change someone’s day (or even their outlook on life).
Thank you for reading - PRW
This week’s post is going to be a little different & thought-provoking. I want to try & introduce a Q & A session to hopefully answer any specific questions anyone may have. Just like (almost) every website has an FAQ page, I would like to offer the opportunity to have your question answered by me. Now some people are probably asking: “who is this guy & what does he know?” If you are one of those people, I agree with you because I do not know everything (or anything for that matter). I am just trying to offer my personal opinion based on my experience of running a business & interacting with so many different people & situations over the years. My sole purpose now is to inform individuals of unique situations I have experienced & they have not. I am a believer in learning from every circumstance & it doesn’t necessarily need to be your own. You can definitely learn from other people, while saving some of your own time & tribulations. I implore everyone who does read my opinion to think about it first, research it on your own & then form your own belief moving forward.
Both consumers & business owners, ask away! I will reply as soon as I can to the best of my knowledge. If I do not know, I will simply let you know (but may try to offer a suggestion as well). If you do not agree please be respectful, but don’t be shy. I am always trying to learn as well as enlighten …
As always, thanks for following & I hope you find it interesting - PRW
This one is FOR THE CONSUMER. When is the last time you hired a contractor to come to your home & asked them for proof of insurance? Always, always, always ask for proof of insurance. If something happens at your home & you are dealing w/ an irresponsible business owner, who do you think the liability will fall on? Do not feel bad about asking either. You want to hire the best businesses & I would take a guess and say 90% or more of the top companies carry a quality insurance. Ever wonder why some companies are so cheap? They are most likely cutting corners somewhere.
Let me be the first to say the insurance industry could use a makeover (IMHO). I was thrown into the “general population” of insurance pools because there was no specific insurance to cover some of my services (making it more expensive). My last article was about what its really like to be a business owner & insurance is one of those things that make it very difficult. Between liability & worker’s compensation + automobile it adds up quickly, BUT IT IS NECESSARY to verify as a homeowner.
In my experience of 13 years in business, I was always amazed about how little people asked for insurance. Maybe it was their trust in me, but it was astonishing how small the # actually was. If I had to guess, less than 100 people asked me over a 13 year period. I was happy to show any client my insurance certificate too, almost a feeling of pride. I was completely covered & every year I would meet with my insurance company to make sure we were keeping up with changes, but not all companies are like that. Also, I would like to add, at the beginning I did not know all of this, so sometimes a person just doesn’t know. You could actually be helping the business owner learn by asking. After all we “should” learn from experience, right?
So as I was saying above & previously, It’s tough being in business, but even more difficult to compete with businesses who don’t carry all the necessary coverage. In general, you get what you pay for. If you receive multiple quotes from different companies, I wouldn’t automatically take the lowest quote. Conduct your own, simple due diligence & make sure they are “G2G”. Many times people asked if I could work w/ my price, but was very difficult to do so once I had all this coverage. I would always do my best based on circumstance, but understand that a business has a budget same as you do.
Now I am not trying to put anyone out of business here, but anyone who doesn’t carry the proper coverage (whether intentional or not), is putting a lot of people at risk. In today’s world you can’t be too careful. Is saving a small percentage really worth risking a major lawsuit because the business didn’t cover the workers? PEOPLE: mistakes happen! They are often avoidable, but w/ so many variables involved, they do happen. Just make sure you are on the right side of the fence if it does.
The following is kind of an abstract metaphor but asking for proof of insurance is in a way business conservation. I tend to think from an outside the box perspective, so please bare w/ me. A hunter considers him/herself a conservationist because they help control the animal population (not an argument about hunting here). So in turn if you ask for proof of insurance, you can control the amount of unqualified businesses that are out there. You are protecting yourself, but at the same time paying it forward to everyone else by forcing businesses to operate properly or not operate at all. The result should be better businesses, less “undercutting” & more quality choices for the consumer (IMO).
To wrap it all up, just use common sense & do a little due diligence. You can learn a lot about someone by asking a few simple questions. Not everyone will always get along, but would you really want someone working in/on your home if they get offended because you asked about insurance? The good businesses will always be happy you asked them & it should weed out the companies that do not want to take the necessary steps in the first place. Remember, YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!
Until next time …
Thanks for Reading - PRW
Next week I will be opening up a Q & A blog session. Start thinking of any questions you may have about anything small business related. I will try and answer every question to the best of my ability, based on my experience(s) over the years!
In 2006 I came home from college & started PoWeR Windows & Gutters. I had dreams of starting a business & turning it into a successful company. Then a brand name & just maybe a giant corporation or franchise. I would retire before the age of 40 & live the good life. I had no prior business experience, but I had read plenty of books & was not short on motivation. I was ready to take on the world & I am not saying I was expecting it to be easy, but how hard could it actually be?
WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE (I’m being somewhat sarcastic, but it’s all true) !
Owning & operating a small business is TOUGH! Operating a small business is never easy & there are always new challenges. Every time you reach one milestone there are more & more to achieve. Small business owners love it though. We’re kind of a different breed …
Deciding to start a business is the easiest part. After that you have to pick a name & file paper work: Where do I file? What category of business should I become? Did I do it right? Looking back on this 13 years later is kind of funny to me because I really had no idea what I was doing. I talked w/ a few people I knew had small businesses, took their advice & started a d.b.a (doing business as) under the name PoWeR Windows & Gutters. From there I just “rolled” with it.
Next you have to find clients (obviously). You’re already in the hole financially & it’s time to get your name out there. Solution: I’ll just tell people I’m going to wash windows & my phone will be flooded with calls, right? Not even close. Building a brand and loyal client base takes time. You get your first couple jobs from the support of friends & family, but then it runs dry. Where is everyone, don’t they know I’m washing windows now?
Advertising is the logical step. But where & how much to spend? You’re already “in the red”, but what the heck, let’s go for it! After all you decided to take the risk in the first place. To be honest, I really had no idea where to advertise so I picked a newspaper & ran my first classified ad. YES I SAID NEWSPAPER AD. It was actually a quite successful way in getting the word out for my first couple of years & fairly inexpensive. From there I developed a solid customer base & word of mouth took over for a while.
Now that you have all this work just go hire someone right? If only it were that easy. I learned quickly that if you don’t have consistent work & enough hours you won’t be able to hire someone. So what do you do? Do most of the work yourself & start networking. Have a friend help you here & there, hire anyone you can & hope for the best. If & when you do find someone good, can you keep them? Can you pay them enough or have enough hours for them? This is what I was getting at above when I said there’s always more to achieve. One thing leads to another & you just go with it. After all, this is what you signed up for right?
So now you have all this work & maybe a couple employees. It should get easier, but not really. You were already doing everything, but now you have both customers/employees looking to you & relying on you to get everything done. It’s time to get organized. The 8 hour work day no longer exists for you. You’re taking phone calls before the day starts, responding to emails, estimating jobs & even organizing the schedule. Oh yea I forgot, your also on all the jobs making sure everything is being done properly. It quickly turns into a 24/7 gig. Should I just quit now? Heck no, this is what you wanted in the first place so stay head strong & keep pushing forward.
If you’ve made it this far you have somewhat of a brand name. People know you, your business & your reputation (hopefully a good one). This is the time it starts to get really tough, hahaha. Around this point you should decide if you’re going to stay small or try & grow. Decisions, decisions …. If you stay small you will have enough work for you, but you cap your potential. You have less people & variables to worry about, but you can only grow so much. If you take the next step, it’s almost like opening Pandora’s Box. There’s a whole new bunch of stuff to worry about: paper work all over again, collecting money & making payroll 2x a month, w2’s (if you haven’t already), finding more customer’s, etc …. If you’re a client, just try to understand (most of us) are doing our absolute best. If the job isn’t getting done, it’s cool to find someone else, but don’t take it personal.
So what do you do? You should have already learned a lot about yourself & understand your comfort level. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, but also don’t sell yourself short. Trust your gut & roll with it because as long as you’re in business it’s a 24/7 job and it never really gets easier. But that’s what you loved about it in the first place.
This is the condensed version, just to give the outsider a taste. Before you know it, 13 years have gone by & you have a bad back & a family … This is how life goes & I would not change any of it given the chance. The way I view life: There is nothing easy, but nothing too difficult about life so long as you give your best effort. You could just find a job & go through the motions, but will that truly satisfy your desires? All that being said, if you want to start a business do it! If you are serious about it & you love the challenge, don’t hesitate. Life is a daily grind no matter what, so you may as well do what you love ….
PLEASE CONTINUE TO FOLLOW MY BLOG POSTS ON WWW.POWERWGL.COM FOR UPDATES.
ALSO, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SHARE ANY & ALL FEEDBACK!
Thanks so much, Peter Robert Wengerski -
“So what are you doing now?” & “Then what’s next?” These are the two most common questions I have been asked … Let me start by saying I am developing an idea on how to quickly & efficiently refer you, the consumer with the best and most reliable businesses in your local area!
Most of you that have done business with me in the past probably remember something I used to offer to everyone: “If you need something done, let me know. If I can’t do it at a professional level, I am more than happy to help you find the right person for the job.” These are the words that I have stood by for my entire career. I only recommended someone if I was willing to stamp my name on their work. And I was happy to help too.
As a consumer it is hard enough to find someone reliable to do good work, but also just as hard for a dependable small business to market to the general public. I am currently and aggressively trying to develop an idea to bridge that gap. When you are a consumer looking for an honest contractor or business, it can feel like throwing darts at a dartboard. You do a Google search, go on Yelp or go to your local Facebook group & even go on Angie’s List. These are all great starting places, but do they really give you the answer(s) you’re looking for? The problem I see with it is, you still have to take a decent amount of your time to comb through all these opinions, and you still have to decide whose opinion is the most credible. After you spend all that time reading & sifting, you are still guessing in the end. When you are a small business & only have so much in the advertising budget, where do you turn? For me it was always kind of the same theory (as above) for where to market my business. It was a crapshoot because you only really have one shot at it. If you go on Google or Facebook, you only get so much exposure unless you pay more. If you use newspapers, does anyone actually read them anymore? Direct mailing is very expensive & statistics show you will only receive a very small percentage of return. So for both customers & business owners, where do you turn?
My advice was always to start with me. I am a pretty handy guy, but also did not want to be known as a “handyman.” I had my limitations with what I could do professionally. That’s where I developed my above referral method/slogan. Over the years I established many professional contacts I would highly recommend, but there were occasions I did not feel comfortable recommending a business just to recommend someone. As I said if I gave a referral, I was stamping my own reputation on it. That’s when I would recommend going on Google/Yelp/Angie’s List, but to me that is like conducting a long interview and you still might not know who to choose …
So for the last handful of months I have been thinking of a better way. Right now I am in the middle of building a website to solve the above problem. I don’t want to go into too much detail yet because we are still in the early production phase, but I will give away some of the general idea. The site will be FREE to use. The entire process is designed to take under 60 seconds, and there will be NO EMAIL SIGN UP required. Does all this sound good so far? Great! On top of all that the site will be designed around local business & the idea is to get you in touch with the best businesses in your area.
That is all the info I can give for now. I am hoping to have this website launched by late spring/early summer. As we achieve milestones in the building process, I will release more detailed information. I am very excited about bringing this new & innovative idea to life.
PLEASE CONTINUE TO FOLLOW MY BLOG POSTS ON WWW.POWERWGL.COM FOR UPDATES. ONCE THE NEW SITE IS LIVE, THE BLOG PAGE WILL BE TRANSFERRED TO THE THAT SITE AS WELL.
Thanks so much, Peter Robert Wengerski -
THANK YOU! (for 13 years of support)
PoWeR Windows & Gutters has officially closed it’s doors after a nearly 13 year run. I have taken the last few months to reflect & I want to say THANK YOU to every single person who supported this endeavor along the way. I started PoWeR with no formal experience & a dream. That dream was realized almost every day for the last 13 years!
In 2005 I was unhappy & bored @ school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet, but I definitely did not want to commit my entire career to what I was studying. Being young & fearless can have its advantages. In spring of 2006 I took a leap of faith & I started a company Called PoWeR Windows & Gutters (window washing & gutter cleaning). I had no professional experience washing windows but identified there was a need for this service. I also did not realize how difficult it was to wash so many windows day in & out. Finding clients & organizing the schedule proved to be even harder.
It wasn’t always easy but I was determined. Besides everyone’s support, I attribute 3 things to the last 13 years: honesty, hard work & belief. Honesty might be the most important attribute to any business. Honesty leads to trust & if a client knows they can trust you, they will generally help you along the way (recommending you to others). Hard work tends to speak for itself. When you give your best effort each day, you will improve on the day before. If you continue to give this type of effort, over time you will find some form of success. Belief is equally vital. At the beginning, times can be extremely tough & trying. Sometimes you feel on top of the world, but sometimes a job doesn’t go so well or there is no work at all. These are the times you need to remember why you started the business in the first place. The belief you had in your dream on day one.
Why did PoWeR close? We closed our doors because I could no longer provide the quality of work people became used to. Due to a lower back injury, I just could not keep up with the day in, day out demands. The work didn’t cause the injury, my doctor said it was hereditary (although all the hours probably accelerated the process). Now don’t start feeling sorry for me because I definitely don’t feel sorry for myself. Life will throw you all types of curve balls and if you aren’t ready for them, you won’t get very far.
What are you going to do next? That is the #1 question I have been asked since we closed. I have been mulling over a few ideas the last couple months, so I am starting with my first blog post. But more importantly I wanted to use this platform to say thank you to everyone who supported me the last 13 years.
"Thank you for giving a young, inexperienced kid a chance. Thank you for trusting me in your home. Thank you for teaching me about life & allowing me to grow. Thank you for helping me live my dream. From the bottom of my heart, thank you …"
Peter Robert Wengerski – just a kid with a dream