Jan 28

Landscaping and Lawn Care

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to interview a man by the name of Brent Rabbit the owner of a brand new landscaping company called Landscapes R Us.

Aside from thinking of Toys R Us and the reversed “R” that is in their signage, I had a good laugh with Brent when I called him up about the name of his company.

Brent told me that when he was choosing the name of his company he wanted to make it so simple that everybody would know exactly what it is that he did. After thinking about that for a while it made a lot of sense to me as I have seen a lot of commercials and advertising as of late that give you very few clues as to what the company actually does.

During the first half of the interview I took a lot of time to really get to understand Brent and where he came from. Brent shared with me that he came from a middle class family in that he was the very first business owner in his family.

I have now had the opportunity to interview several people and interviewing first time business owners breaking out of that gap is always very interesting to me. I’m always asking, what are the motivational factors that drove you from that 9 to 5?

One of the common themes that I find with entrepreneurs is most of them believe that their bad employees. Brent again was not the exception to this rule. He explained to me that he had several jobs before he started his own business and never felt satisfied. He said that often as a worker or employee he felt totally inhibited and never had the ability to make real changes in the organization. This is what drove him to do something different. Brent said that I had worked in the landscaping industry long enough to see that there was tons of opportunity and lots of money to be made if you were motivated. This was the skill set that I had and did well. Choosing to go into landscaping was more of a financial decision than anything else. Brent said at the time him and his family were struggling and needed a way out of financial destitution. The only thing he had at the time was one truck in a few tools. After doing a few jobs he just simply reinvested and bought more equipment. Today, Brent stated that his cash flow is doing much better than it ever was before. He’s able to do larger jobs and carry the cost of the overhead until he can bill on a net 30.

Brent let me know that his basic business model is very simple, if I can get them to spend a dollar I can get them to spend $1,000 is what he said. Brian told me that his services or his lead generation services are simple. All he wants to do is mow the lawn at first. Over a period of time after building trust and confidence that his skill is one that’s going to be around inconsistently, then he often asks the customer for more business. He told me that he used to be very timid and would never ask in the beginning. He said the more that he began to ask he realized that more of his customers were saying yes. Today Brent has built his business into 5 trucks and a crew of 10. He’s looking to expand in the next year and says that advertising is going to be one of the key factors that will get him to that next level.

When I ask Brent what type of advertising he thought would best payoff for landscaping business he stated in the town that he lives in of 55,000 people, that it would be important to engage people not only through print advertising but through social media and soft forms of advertising. He said over there next year he is going to be engaging with a company to help his page or websites get ranked higher on the Google organic. He believes that with this strategy and some of the other advertising strategies that he has, he will be able to turn that into a lot of profit in the next year.

Jan 19

Convenience Store/ Gas Station

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to interview a gas station owner in a very small town. The local gas station owner had owned the gas station for about 4 years. I him what his largest challenges were in the ownership of a gas station. The owners name is David and he is the owner of a small BP in Dixon Illinois.

David let me know that four years ago before he became a gas station owner he was a small business man that owned a small apparel store. He said that some of the similar challenges that he had as an apparel store are some of the same challenges that he has today when it comes to getting customers. Typically, he stated, most customers seem to have a pattern that they constantly run in. If you’re on the same side of the street as the majority of people that need gas you’re going to capture a certain percentage of those customers.

One of the things that David is constantly updating is gas prices. I asked him, how do gas prices fluctuating affect his business? David said, of course when gas prices are high people typically have a tendency to fill their vehicles with less gasoline. While on days when gasoline prices are low people have a tendency to fill up. This wild fluctuation in gas prices does affect his profitability. Typically, David said he focuses on other services that they have to offer at the gas station. Ticket sales for lottery account are a large portion of profit is well. Food, drinks, and other miscellaneous sales do account for a large percentage of his overall profit.

Gas station is more of a lead generation to get people in the doors. By offering car washes 2 years ago his profitability went up by 25%. David says there are many challenges in owning a gas station and by owning multiple ones you’re able to be more profitable and spread the rest around. David hopes over the next two years that he will be able to purchase at least another gas station in a town close by. As far as all the challenges go, David is looking at growing his business through advertising and social media by offering unique opportunities for customers to save and reward programs to bring them back in the door.

Dec 18

A Roofing Company

It is amazing to me the variety of people that I get the opportunity to speak with. Last week I had the opportunity to speak with a commercial and residential roof repair contractor. Last year the small business put on over 300 commercial and residential roofs. Making over 2 million dollars in revenue.

During my conversation with Rick the business owner he shared with me the company’s very humble beginnings when it came to repair. He stated that in an earlier time when he began roofing he would simply tried to charge as little as possible to get the job. Rick told me that during those early years he barely scraped by but was able to build a small and reliable client list. By doing a really good job in offering quality work his client list of referrals begin to slowly build. I asked Rick what his biggest challenge was in the roofing industry.

Rick stated that his biggest challenge was finding good quality labor to do the work for him. He started a long time ago. Rick said by paying his labor a little bit more he is able to offer better quality work than most of his competitors in the area. Also Rick stated that the other big game changer for him was when he started buying his roofing materials differently than buying them just like a regular retail customer. Buying wholesale has offered him a unique opportunity to put a little bit of a markup and make more money off of his products.

I asked Brick what areas of growth he sees for the future of his company. Rick said the biggest area he would like to focus on is simply taking care of a lot of this hail damage that has gone on all over the Midwest during the spring. His biggest challenge is finding a way to capture that business and effectively do it with the quality that he wants to do it with. Typically hail damage repairs are made by companies that have been known to be somewhat fly by night. Rick is conscious about the type of work that he would like to provide, that it’s important that if he takes on this new challenge he finds a way to do it with the same quality and service that he has been able to offer his own very small town.

Ricky thought much about his strategy over the next year and what he wants to do to grow. The other area that he intends on focusing on is becoming an advertising guru. Attacking all social media forms such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. As well as doing full wrap arounds on his vehicles for advertisement purposes.

Nov 20

The Deli Owner

My very first interview takes place with a gentleman by the name of Michael Deb ski of sterling Illinois. Michael owns a small delicatessen in a town of about 15,000 people. He has been open since 1973 and has seen a steady growth in his business throughout this time. Growing his business to a total of three delicatessens; one in town and one in another location 45 miles away.

I asked Michael how he initially got started as a Deli owner. Michael stated that during a time in his life shortly after high school he worked for a small Deli. He said during that time he found that it was a very good business that he understood well. He excelled and became a manager of that local store.

Shortly after a relative of his passed away and left him a small inheritance. At that time, he said he took that small inheritance and put it into a small property. Flipping that property and making a profit allowed him to open his very first Deli.

He said after that things didn’t take off super-fast, things were a steady slow growth. It took a long time to find out that he needed to purchase his food correctly. One of the early successes that he had was partnering with a local baker in creating a unique style bun for his bread.

This unique value is what quickly gained him market share over some of the fast food chains at the time. Michael quickly reminded me that places like Subway and Quiznos were really not around in 1973. So a healthy choice like an old school Deli in a small town quickly made sense to a lot of people.

Over the years Michael contributed his success in his Deli to the fact that he had early on established quality checks built in. Daily he would come into the Deli and check on all the freshness of the food. Michael stated that quality sells. And it was this lesson he learned very early on, that has helped him build the cornerstone of his business.

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