Inside the Mind of a Small Business Owner
thoughts & comments are encouraged
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