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Fastlaners in skilled trades?

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lankyape

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Hi all, I'm currently an apprentice carpenter learning the ropes of house framing, and I was wondering if there's anyone on here that's built a fastlane business that deals directly with the skilled trades?

Whether it's a company that you built from the ground up in your trade or perhaps something like a material supply company for a variety of different trades?

Just looking for ideas!
 

MJ DeMarco

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I can’t think of anyone here, just wanted to say welcome aboard.
 

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@GoodluckChuck

First person I thought of but can't say for sure if he's exactly in the business you're looking for.
 

thechosen1

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All I can say is this: yes.

All of them work.

Pick the one you’re most familiar with and start growing.

Set yourself up to (eventually) be the CEO, not the tradesman.

It matters less what you do and more how you do it.
 

steve schweitzer

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All I can say is this: yes.

All of them work.

Pick the one you’re most familiar with and start growing.

Set yourself up to (eventually) be the CEO, not the tradesman.
I could not agree more. Knowing how to do the trade work has absolutely nothing to do with the business. Forget adding to your technical skills and start studying business if you want to open a business. If you want to be a technical expert get a JOB
 

thechosen1

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I could not agree more. Knowing how to do the trade work has absolutely nothing to do with the business. Forget adding to your technical skills and start studying business if you want to open a business. If you want to be a technical expert get a JOB
I will say that as you start fresh and grow, it’s going to be a huge help if you know a lot about the trade.

In fact, if you don’t know anything about it, you’re almost guaranteed to fail.

But that doesn’t mean you should be doing the hands on work.

You should know what the business does, how it all works together, how you can grow it, and who you need in what positions.
 

steve schweitzer

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I will say that as you start fresh and grow, it’s going to be a huge help if you know a lot about the trade.

In fact, if you don’t know anything about it, you’re almost guaranteed to fail.

But that doesn’t mean you should be doing the hands on work.

You should know what the business does, how it all works together, how you can grow it, and who you need in what positions.
I agree that you should know the basic technical aspects of the business but studying, practicing and being the best tech while neglecting the massive ownership learning curve required to be in business is fatal.

In my industry, auto repair and service, pretty much all small shops are technician owned and basically stagnant as far as growth. Great technical skills but not ownership skills.
 

WJK

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Hi all, I'm currently an apprentice carpenter learning the ropes of house framing, and I was wondering if there's anyone on here that's built a fastlane business that deals directly with the skilled trades?

Whether it's a company that you built from the ground up in your trade or perhaps something like a material supply company for a variety of different trades?

Just looking for ideas!
How about a person like me -- a professional real estate investor-- who deals with all the trades every day? I can, and sometimes I do, finish carpentry work -- I have a very well equipt woodshop. I have my own tools. I can build just about anything that I want. I own a sawmill where we mill most of the lumber that we use in our projects. I own a well equipt metal/mechanical shop that is manned by my husband -- a master welder and metal fabricator. I understanding plumbing, electrical, and the other trades. I routinely order and buy the materials for all of the jobs. I read blueprints and I can quickly sketch out a job plan or a schematic. I find and order the parts for the appliances and the equipment. Oh, yes, I have a collection of heavy equipment to use here on site.
And here's the real kicker -- I'm just a girl... a little old lady... a senior citizen with 45 years of real estate experience, who owns and runs the whole thing. I'm not sure that I am officially a "Fastlaner", but I'm sure busy.
 

thechosen1

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I agree that you should know the basic technical aspects of the business but studying, practicing and being the best tech while neglecting the massive ownership learning curve required to be in business is fatal.

In my industry, auto repair and service, pretty much all small shops are technician owned and basically stagnant as far as growth. Great technical skills but not ownership skills.
Absolutely. I think ideally you know both, but you grow out of doing any of the hands on work because that holds you back from reaching scale.
 

jsb13

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Oct 2, 2020
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Hi all, I'm currently an apprentice carpenter learning the ropes of house framing, and I was wondering if there's anyone on here that's built a fastlane business that deals directly with the skilled trades?

Whether it's a company that you built from the ground up in your trade or perhaps something like a material supply company for a variety of different trades?

Just looking for ideas!
When I was going through college I did labouring work for a young builder (carpenter). At the time he was building his first home for resale after doing lots of labour only builds. He went on to develop two other houses and succesfully sell them on. He kept growing and now years later is a big time property developer here in NZ and lives in a dream home by the beach.

I got to know him well and he taught me lots of things. He was excellent with people and built up a good team of friends in different trades and they helped each other out with deals. He took no shit and and was awesome at getting things done efficiently.

Was also good at selling himself and his products.

He didnt really spend much time on the tools. He was always on the job but most of his time was spent organising things and problem solving. He was a skilled man when it came time to doing the trade work though.

There are lots of opportunities in the skilled trades. Keep an eye out for what people complain about and the problems that can slow jobs down. Can be good opportunities there.
 

alexkuzmov

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How about a person like me -- a professional real estate investor-- who deals with all the trades every day? I can, and sometimes I do, finish carpentry work -- I have a very well equipt woodshop. I have my own tools. I can build just about anything that I want. I own a sawmill where we mill most of the lumber that we use in our projects. I own a well equipt metal/mechanical shop that is manned by my husband -- a master welder and metal fabricator. I understanding plumbing, electrical, and the other trades. I routinely order and buy the materials for all of the jobs. I read blueprints and I can quickly sketch out a job plan or a schematic. I find and order the parts for the appliances and the equipment. Oh, yes, I have a collection of heavy equipment to use here on site.
And here's the real kicker -- I'm just a girl... a little old lady... a senior citizen with 45 years of real estate experience, who owns and runs the whole thing. I'm not sure that I am officially a "Fastlaner", but I'm sure busy.
Can I pick your brain a little?
I'm building my own workshop from the start of thea year.
Can you post some pics and some info about essential tools for wood and metal work?
I have a bit of background in mechanical engineering, but Ive just started learning to work with my hands recently (I'm a software engineer by trade, so dont really have professional experience working with my hands)
 

WJK

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Can I pick your brain a little?
I'm building my own workshop from the start of thea year.
Can you post some pics and some info about essential tools for wood and metal work?
I have a bit of background in mechanical engineering, but Ive just started learning to work with my hands recently (I'm a software engineer by trade, so dont really have professional experience working with my hands)
The woodshop and the metal/mechanical shop are two different shops.

The woodshop has basic power tools such as a lathe, table saws, planing machines, compound chop saw, drill press, band saw, belt sander on a stand, painting stations, workbenches, bunches of hand tools, etc.

The metal/mechanical shop has overhead cranes, jib cranes, metal lathes, break machines, parts washing station, presses, a milling machine, air compressors, jacks, several types of saws, several different types of welders, a plasma burner, workstations & workbenches, hand tools, etc.

My father was a master at woodworking, so I worked at his side since I was very little. Woodworking is an art that I truly understand. I love my shop.
And I married my husband when I was 50 -- he married into all of this. He had been doing welding and metal fabrication just about all of his adult life. And he's great at mechanical stuff. We built him a shop for his tools and activities.
What kind of work are you going to do? Equip for that use. For lifting and moving heavy things, the cranes are so important.
In the woodshop, the placement of the equipment is critical since you will be working with lumber and sheets of plywood. I have a lot of things on movable stands so I can move them around depending on the job.
In both shops, one of the most important issues is providing power for all the equipment. In the metal shop, we have a system that delivers compressed air. In the woodshop, one of the biggest problems is making sure that sawdust doesn't build up. That can cause a fire. So, we have a vacuum system to collect the sawdust.
Does that help?
 

WJK

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When I was going through college I did labouring work for a young builder (carpenter). At the time he was building his first home for resale after doing lots of labour only builds. He went on to develop two other houses and succesfully sell them on. He kept growing and now years later is a big time property developer here in NZ and lives in a dream home by the beach.

I got to know him well and he taught me lots of things. He was excellent with people and built up a good team of friends in different trades and they helped each other out with deals. He took no shit and and was awesome at getting things done efficiently.

Was also good at selling himself and his products.

He didnt really spend much time on the tools. He was always on the job but most of his time was spent organising things and problem solving. He was a skilled man when it came time to doing the trade work though.

There are lots of opportunities in the skilled trades. Keep an eye out for what people complain about and the problems that can slow jobs down. Can be good opportunities there.
My job is to make the construction jobs run smoothly. Like your friend, I spend almost all my time on management activities. I try to solve problems before they happen. That includes making sure that the right materials are ordered and delivered as the jobs are scheduled. I keep extra parts on hand for regular repairs. I have kits and toolboxes for different activities and jobs. Keeping all the parts organized and on hand is the biggest challenge for me. I don't want to buy something that I have on hand, but can't quickly find. And I don't want to hold up a job for one little necessary part.
My other big challenge is to manage the personalities involved. Getting everyone to work well together is an art for both the construction projects and managing my tenants. It's all based upon personal relationships.
Here's a funny story that happened this last week. A guy came into my office asking to speak to the "man in charge." One of my workers was just leaving my office and he turned to the guy and told him, "She's the 'man'." The guy turned to me and I confirmed, "Yes, I'm the 'man'." We all laughed together and then I took care of his quarry. I know that I don't look the part...
 

WJK

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Can I pick your brain a little?
I'm building my own workshop from the start of thea year.
Can you post some pics and some info about essential tools for wood and metal work?
I have a bit of background in mechanical engineering, but Ive just started learning to work with my hands recently (I'm a software engineer by trade, so dont really have professional experience working with my hands)
Here's another group of things to think about... When we built the metal shop, we poured an extra heavy slab to support our equipment. (Yes, you can "break" a concrete slab.) The roll-up entrance door is extra tall and wide so we can get materials into the shop and the equipment in for service. We orientated the shop so we could have a direct path into the building. That is a really critical issue for access. We built a road from the shop's driveway which loops to our main road system. We didn't want to back up the equipment all the way down the driveway to exit the building. The loop in that road is a wide enough turn to be easily transversed with our equipment and semi-trucks that bring us building supplies. The building's frame itself had to be engineered to both support our snow load plus the loads that we put on the cranes.
When you build and set up a serious working shop, there's a lot to think about and plan out in advance. You want the space to be as flexible and user-friendly as possible.
 

alexkuzmov

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The woodshop and the metal/mechanical shop are two different shops.

The woodshop has basic power tools such as a lathe, table saws, planing machines, compound chop saw, drill press, band saw, belt sander on a stand, painting stations, workbenches, bunches of hand tools, etc.

The metal/mechanical shop has overhead cranes, jib cranes, metal lathes, break machines, parts washing station, presses, a milling machine, air compressors, jacks, several types of saws, several different types of welders, a plasma burner, workstations & workbenches, hand tools, etc.

My father was a master at woodworking, so I worked at his side since I was very little. Woodworking is an art that I truly understand. I love my shop.
And I married my husband when I was 50 -- he married into all of this. He had been doing welding and metal fabrication just about all of his adult life. And he's great at mechanical stuff. We built him a shop for his tools and activities.
What kind of work are you going to do? Equip for that use. For lifting and moving heavy things, the cranes are so important.
In the woodshop, the placement of the equipment is critical since you will be working with lumber and sheets of plywood. I have a lot of things on movable stands so I can move them around depending on the job.
In both shops, one of the most important issues is providing power for all the equipment. In the metal shop, we have a system that delivers compressed air. In the woodshop, one of the biggest problems is making sure that sawdust doesn't build up. That can cause a fire. So, we have a vacuum system to collect the sawdust.
Does that help?
Here's another group of things to think about... When we built the metal shop, we poured an extra heavy slab to support our equipment. (Yes, you can "break" a concrete slab.) The roll-up entrance door is extra tall and wide so we can get materials into the shop and the equipment in for service. We orientated the shop so we could have a direct path into the building. That is a really critical issue for access. We built a road from the shop's driveway which loops to our main road system. We didn't want to back up the equipment all the way down the driveway to exit the building. The loop in that road is a wide enough turn to be easily transversed with our equipment and semi-trucks that bring us building supplies. The building's frame itself had to be engineered to both support our snow load plus the loads that we put on the cranes.
When you build and set up a serious working shop, there's a lot to think about and plan out in advance. You want the space to be as flexible and user-friendly as possible.
The shops you described are way way more advanced than what I'm doing.
There is no way for me to house all the machinery you listed, not at this stage at least.
Thank you for the detailed response, it helped me alot.
 

WJK

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The shops you described are way way more advanced than what I'm doing.
There is no way for me to house all the machinery you listed, not at this stage at least.
Thank you for the detailed response, it helped me alot.
Start small. Think about the jobs you want to do. Buy and set up just the equipment you need to do those jobs. Give yourself as much floor space as possible. When you work in your shop, the biggest problem is having the space to do the job. Also, moving stuff in and out of the shop can be a big problem. Make sure you have good, wide access to your workspaces.

One thing we have done is to put a lot of the equipment on stands with lockable castors. We can push them against the wall until we need them. Then we can move them around to configure a working area for a specific job. We lock the wheels under the stands to keep the equipment in place.

Think about your convenience of use. Save yourself as many steps and moments as possible. Several of our equipment stands have drawers and shelves built-in. That makes a designated space to keep the extra parts and pieces that are needed to operate that piece of equipment.

And I like to set up kits that have everything that we need so we don't have to gather up stuff to do a job. I set up the kits in toolboxes and bags. I'm big on labels and laminated lists so I don't have to rethink the job every that I must have done. Here's an example. Someone must service the on-demand water heaters in many of our rentals every year. I have a kit (in a tote/toolbox with wheels and handle) that includes laminated step-by-step instructions on how to do that job and an equipment list. It makes doing that job a lot simpler.

I know that I sound OCD about all this stuff. But, I know that a big measure of your success is how you set up your space.
 

alexkuzmov

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Sep 20, 2019
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Start small. Think about the jobs you want to do. Buy and set up just the equipment you need to do those jobs. Give yourself as much floor space as possible. When you work in your shop, the biggest problem is having the space to do the job. Also, moving stuff in and out of the shop can be a big problem. Make sure you have good, wide access to your workspaces.

One thing we have done is to put a lot of the equipment on stands with lockable castors. We can push them against the wall until we need them. Then we can move them around to configure a working area for a specific job. We lock the wheels under the stands to keep the equipment in place.

Think about your convenience of use. Save yourself as many steps and moments as possible. Several of our equipment stands have drawers and shelves built-in. That makes a designated space to keep the extra parts and pieces that are needed to operate that piece of equipment.

And I like to set up kits that have everything that we need so we don't have to gather up stuff to do a job. I set up the kits in toolboxes and bags. I'm big on labels and laminated lists so I don't have to rethink the job every that I must have done. Here's an example. Someone must service the on-demand water heaters in many of our rentals every year. I have a kit (in a tote/toolbox with wheels and handle) that includes laminated step-by-step instructions on how to do that job and an equipment list. It makes doing that job a lot simpler.

I know that I sound OCD about all this stuff. But, I know that a big measure of your success is how you set up your space.
I`m starting way smaller than you are thinking, I`m sure :D
I havent thought about the space because the first thing I want to make is rather small.
Its more like a prototype and I look at it as more of a hobby.
BUT you never know what can lead you where.

I dont think you sound OCD, I love such levels of tidiness.
I would love to have a really big workshop one day, if I find something useful to do in it.
Or maybe not useful, but just to tinker and modify and invent stuff.
 

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I just started a construction booking agency - I handle the lead generation, scheduling and payments for independent contractors. This is especially useful with larger construction projects or multivendor residential properties. It's a little overwhelming, actually, but a) I know my way around the trades, and b) I know how to run a business. It's all about scale, and we're really big on that around here.

My suggestion is to perfect a small project system, then hire someone to do that job, while you perfect it some more, and start on the next small project system that your customers asked about.
 

GoodluckChuck

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Someone mentioned me so I'll chime in to say that there is a ton of opportunity in the trades now and in the future. There are not enough young people coming into these jobs compared to the number of people retiring.

My advice to someone just getting into it is:
  1. Learn at home as much as you learn on the job. You'll progress much faster and understanding how the whole building goes together will land you in management positions early which is great.
  2. Focus on people skills. Working with gruff as motherfuckers that require you earn their respect will harden you up and if you can learn to organize, motivate, and guide a team to producing efficiently then you'll have a skill that is not only extremely useful in the trades but everywhere.
  3. For fastlane-ness I recommend finding a service you can specialize in and that is easily repeatable. I was in remodeling and it was not scalable. It required too many specializations and it's really hard to find people with all the skills we need at our level. That doesn't mean it isn't possible, only it will take a ton of human resources to pull off.

Ultimately my biggest complaint about residential construction is that it is commoditized and time consuming. It's not too difficult for people to price shop and while we always stay busy (I'm still 40% partner in the family business), the profit margins aren't anything close to my second business which is online marketing. I make more from marketing working 10 hours a week than I do working full time building remodels. If I wanted to make more I would need to hire a crew and that has been remarkably difficult as most of the good guys just start their own business. There's not much of a barrier to entry for contractors.
 

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