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EXECUTION I Finally "Poked the Cat"

greenr

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I've been a forum member for a few years now and I've had little financial success. And its been all my fault.

I'm an IT data guy (62 years old) that always has to analyze the shit out of everything before I do anything. Everything has to be planned down to the gnat's a$$. Works great for some things, but not business. At least that's been my experience so far.

I don't have a job and for the last year or so I've been "getting ready" to provide Adwords and Google Maps ranking services to contractors. Roofers, remodelers, you get the idea.

I bought courses (some expensive) to learn the process and I actually ended up doing some low cost work for a few contractors - building web sites and doing Adwords. It's such a difficult sell for me that I finally gave up on it. Most contractors (at least those in my area) are booked months out. So even though their sites are terrible, they could care less because they're super busy and making money. I chose the wrong vertical.


This thread is something to track my progress as I completely "shift gears" and move into something non-techy.

About 10 days ago I started looking into cleaning out our garage and I needed extra storage. A shed like we wanted costs about $3,000. So I thought - "screw that, I'll just build one myself". I priced out the materials and they are only about $900.

Then my analytical wheels started turning.

CAN I BUILD THESE AND MAKE MONEY?

And that's when I "poked the cat". If you're not familiar with that term, see Chapter 39 in Unscripted.

I placed an ad in my local area and to my surprise I got about 1 response every other day from potential customers.

THE CAT LET OUT A SOFT MEOW! That's all I needed to hear.

So now I am pursuing this opportunity, but I have to work through a few challenges that include:

1) I live in California and to do this kind of work you need a contractor's license. I don't have one.
2) I don't have a truck.
3) I don't have anyone in mind to help me build these.
4) I've never built one myself yet.

A single meeting that I had today solved all of these issues at once.

We had a new deck put in two years ago. I hit it off with the contractor, I did some Adwords work for him and we've kept in touch. Today he solved all my problems.

He's 73 years old and almost blind. Probably legally blind. He told me that he brings in $1,500 a month in Social Security and his rent is $700. He said he could really use more money, but he can't really do much work any more. Pretty sad.

Here's what came out of my meeting with him:

- He's willing to be a small part of this and so I'll be able to use his contractor license number. Problem solved.
- He has a truck we can use. Problem solved.
- He has reliable help that we can use. Problem solved.
- I will pay him a fair amount on every shed that is built. His problem is solved.


For now the one single most important thing I have to do is contact the people that were interested earlier and make a sale.

Once I do that we can go through the building processes and see how things go.

Best of all... all the stuff that I learned and couldn't get other contractors to buy can now be used by me in this business. Website, Adwords, Google Maps, etc.

I'll continue to update this as things move forward.
 

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Awesome story, hope to see more! And thank you for sharing it.
 

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Thanks for yout story.
It teaches us that it is never too late to start a business and to finally never give up.
 

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I've been a forum member for a few years now and I've had little financial success. And its been all my fault.

I'm an IT data guy (62 years old) that always has to analyze the sh*t out of everything before I do anything. Everything has to be planned down to the gnat's a$$. Works great for some things, but not business. At least that's been my experience so far.

I don't have a job and for the last year or so I've been "getting ready" to provide Adwords and Google Maps ranking services to contractors. Roofers, remodelers, you get the idea.

I bought courses (some expensive) to learn the process and I actually ended up doing some low cost work for a few contractors - building web sites and doing Adwords. It's such a difficult sell for me that I finally gave up on it. Most contractors (at least those in my area) are booked months out. So even though their sites are terrible, they could care less because they're super busy and making money. I chose the wrong vertical.


This thread is something to track my progress as I completely "shift gears" and move into something non-techy.

About 10 days ago I started looking into cleaning out our garage and I needed extra storage. A shed like we wanted costs about $3,000. So I thought - "screw that, I'll just build one myself". I priced out the materials and they are only about $900.

Then my analytical wheels started turning.

CAN I BUILD THESE AND MAKE MONEY?

And that's when I "poked the cat". If you're not familiar with that term, see Chapter 39 in Unscripted.

I placed an ad in my local area and to my surprise I got about 1 response every other day from potential customers.

THE CAT LET OUT A SOFT MEOW! That's all I needed to hear.

So now I am pursuing this opportunity, but I have to work through a few challenges that include:

1) I live in California and to do this kind of work you need a contractor's license. I don't have one.
2) I don't have a truck.
3) I don't have anyone in mind to help me build these.
4) I've never built one myself yet.

A single meeting that I had today solved all of these issues at once.

We had a new deck put in two years ago. I hit it off with the contractor, I did some Adwords work for him and we've kept in touch. Today he solved all my problems.

He's 73 years old and almost blind. Probably legally blind. He told me that he brings in $1,500 a month in Social Security and his rent is $700. He said he could really use more money, but he can't really do much work any more. Pretty sad.

Here's what came out of my meeting with him:

- He's willing to be a small part of this and so I'll be able to use his contractor license number. Problem solved.
- He has a truck we can use. Problem solved.
- He has reliable help that we can use. Problem solved.
- I will pay him a fair amount on every shed that is built. His problem is solved.


For now the one single most important thing I have to do is contact the people that were interested earlier and make a sale.

Once I do that we can go through the building processes and see how things go.

Best of all... all the stuff that I learned and couldn't get other contractors to buy can now be used by me in this business. Website, Adwords, Google Maps, etc.

I'll continue to update this as things move forward.
Nice.

As one ex IT guy who now does Google Ads to another... good luck!
 

NaPal

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Great post! You won't know if the people will pay until you put yourself out there.

It's the darnest thing. Sometimes people will pay when you think there's no way in the world you'll make a single $.


EDIT:
Also an IT guy currently working for a way out :)
 
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greenr

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Thought I'd post a update.

Saturday (3 days ago) I had my first sales call. A guy wanted a 10' X 14' shed. I met him at his home. He was honest enough to tell me what kind of quotes he had gotten up to that point.

I looked at materials and I priced the shed out and came up with a number that was about 10% less than the bids had so far. There is still a fair amount of profit in it for us.

I justified the discount to him as a way to get jobs under our belt quickly and also get some positive testimonials that we can use in our marketing. That made sense to him and he liked the price.

He did not order a shed though.

I talked to him again today and he and his father are deciding whether or not to build the new shed in a new location in his yard or tear down their existing old dilapidated shed and build the new one there.

In the last day or so I put up a quick website that I can send potential customers to (atlasshed.com). It's only three pages right now, but I'll add to it as we finish jobs. The goal is to send enough traffic via ads that I don't have to stress about needing to convert every inquiry to a sale.

Today, I'll create a Google My Business listing and setup an Adwords campaign so that I can drive traffic to the website and hopefully start getting more calls.

I also need to come up with a good way to walk potential customers through the design process where they figure out what style and size shed they want along with options like how many doors and windows, etc. Probably have to sleep on that a night or so.

One other interesting note. I was initially thinking about sticking with smaller backyard type sheds because it's easy, but a couple of the inquiries I gotten so far has wanted prices on building bigger "garage-sized" structures. Maybe I should consider doing those too.

Anyway... that's it for now.
 
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greenr

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I made my first shed sale today. Sold it for $4,800 and got a down payment of 10%. Things haven't gone smoothly so it feels pretty good getting to this point.

The "crew" that my contractor buddy was going to let me use has never built a shed and they don't speak English. I've met them; they're good guys, but it makes it very difficult to communicate.

I fixed this problem (I hope) by placing an ad that lead me to a guy that has built over 1,000 sheds and knows a lot about that part of the business. He's expensive and kind of flaky so I think this will be very short lived, but it's at least a way to get started. He will be building the shed I sold today.

I think that my safest bet is to build a couple of sheds myself. That way I can train the people that I'll eventually have to hire to replace my current guy. I hate having to rely so heavily on one person!

There's a lot I don't know that I'm still trying to figure out:

Pricing - I spent a fair amount of time the last few days trying to price out different size sheds. I did notice that there are a couple of things that have fairly high perceived value that is very low cost for me to add to a shed. I think that I may use these as something to offer for free so that I can shorten the sales cycle.

Sales - I don't have a lot with a bunch of sheds people can come and see like Tuff Shed and other competitors. I don't even have a book of pictures yet that I can take into homes. So I'm struggling with that AND just the sales process itself. I'm reading up on that and I think these might be fairly easy to sell once I define the process.

Sales Tax - not sure about charging and submitting these. Seeing my CPA in the next day or so to discuss.

How to streamline/minimize costs for the building process - there are several steps that my current guy is doing that takes 3 days in total (at least that's what he says). The steps are:

1) buy materials
2) pre-cut the wood
3) stage the materials at the customer site (if it's hard to get to)
4) build the shed and clean-up the site
5) get rid of scrap at dump (probably not after every job)

In my mind, the only two tasks that require skill are 2 and 4. Seems like task 2 can even be done by a less skilled worker if all the cuts are defined for them.

Anyway, had a minor win today, but still lots to do.
 

VIVEKSINGHJADONS

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Thanks for sharing an inspiring story. It shows that one can do anything at any stage of life.
 

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Great story and thank you for sharing. Your age is just onother great inspiration.
I wish you well !
 
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greenr

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mpcharles... here are the types of sheds we'll initially be building. We'll eventually get into home offices, man-caves, etc as we get the process figued out better.

4sheds-2.jpg
 

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NaPal

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Thought I'd post a update.

Saturday (3 days ago) I had my first sales call. A guy wanted a 10' X 14' shed. I met him at his home. He was honest enough to tell me what kind of quotes he had gotten up to that point.

I looked at materials and I priced the shed out and came up with a number that was about 10% less than the bids had so far. There is still a fair amount of profit in it for us.

I justified the discount to him as a way to get jobs under our belt quickly and also get some positive testimonials that we can use in our marketing. That made sense to him and he liked the price.

He did not order a shed though.

I talked to him again today and he and his father are deciding whether or not to build the new shed in a new location in his yard or tear down their existing old dilapidated shed and build the new one there.

In the last day or so I put up a quick website that I can send potential customers to (atlasshed.com). It's only three pages right now, but I'll add to it as we finish jobs. The goal is to send enough traffic via ads that I don't have to stress about needing to convert every inquiry to a sale.

Today, I'll create a Google My Business listing and setup an Adwords campaign so that I can drive traffic to the website and hopefully start getting more calls.

I also need to come up with a good way to walk potential customers through the design process where they figure out what style and size shed they want along with options like how many doors and windows, etc. Probably have to sleep on that a night or so.

One other interesting note. I was initially thinking about sticking with smaller backyard type sheds because it's easy, but a couple of the inquiries I gotten so far has wanted prices on building bigger "garage-sized" structures. Maybe I should consider doing those too.

Anyway... that's it for now.
Good job taking action!

Your 3-page website is perfect! I like it. DO NOT get caught up making your website perfect. Just get something stupid simple up and operational, and start selling! You're website's endgame should be a phone call, email, scheduled appointment.

Have you thought about offering a defined number of pre-assembled sheds?
I was trying to think about how you could make the build process quicker. Maybe pre-assemble the sheds in your garage (base, walls, roof) to make assembly time on-site at the customers quicker.
 
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greenr

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The comments about my age have surprised me. Didn't expect that. Even though I might be up there "age-wise" - I sure don't FEEL old. I have aches and pains, but I still relate to young people and can be immature as hell (in a good way). Having more fun now than ever.

Guess I'm just a "late bloomer".
 

Legend

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I'm not sure if it works the same in California, but in TN you can get a Home Improvement (HI) License for projects that are 25k and less in value. Much quicker/cheaper than getting a full fledged Contractors license.
 
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greenr

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Hey NaPal...

As far as the website goes - You're right, I just needed to get something presentable up to give me at least a little credibility. Believe it or not I've already gotten calls from it. I believe they came from my Google My Business listing when people are searching for terms like "shed builders near me" or similar.

Today I should be able to add a pricing page that has prices for all standard sizes and options. I've done a lot of analysis on that and it's finally complete. That mey help weed out the tire kickers - I hope.

I agree with you about pre-assembly. That's what Tuff Shed does and then they can build the shed on site in less than a day (usually). That's my ultimate goal too. However Tuff Shed has "factories" and that kind of stuff.

Still working through the whole build process, but we'll eventually fine tune it.
 
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greenr

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I'm not sure if it works the same in California, but in TN you can get a Home Improvement (HI) License for projects that are 25k and less in value. Much quicker/cheaper than getting a full fledged Contractors license.
You have to have a Contractor's license in California if you do anything over $500 and that includes materials and labor. Lots and lots of rules here!

The rules used to really bother me, but now I'm looking at them as a barrier to entry.
 

NaPal

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@greenr you need to change your Google My Business configuration.

You need to have consistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone). Right now I'm not seeing an address :(
Yes, you need to put in an address and make it visible! This will greatly help your Google ranking.

My business uses my home address.

P.S. I have gotten several customers because they saw I was literally right down the road.

upload_2018-11-14_13-9-32.png
 
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greenr

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@greenr you need to change your Google My Business configuration.

You need to have consistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone). Right now I'm not seeing an address :(
Yes, you need to put in an address and make it visible! This will greatly help your Google ranking.

My business uses my home address.

P.S. I have gotten several customers because they saw I was literally right down the road.

View attachment 22482
My address IS actually complete in my listing with Google. Includes street address and everything. There was one step in the setup where G asks if customers come to you (like a store). I checked that box no and that's why my physical address does not show.

There's a guy that I follow for Google My Business (GMB) listing info and he seems to think the jury is still out on whether the address being visible actually helps GMB rankings. Although I do think he believes it might help a little. I may end up changing that setting.

NAP is very important - so when I start creating my listings in directories I'll be consistent when I do that.
 

NaPal

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My address IS actually complete in my listing with Google. Includes street address and everything. There was one step in the setup where G asks if customers come to you (like a store). I checked that box no and that's why my physical address does not show.

There's a guy that I follow for Google My Business (GMB) listing info and he seems to think the jury is still out on whether the address being visible actually helps GMB rankings. Although I do think he believes it might help a little. I may end up changing that setting.

NAP is very important - so when I start creating my listings in directories I'll be consistent when I do that.
That’s the exact setting I’m referring to [emoji106]


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
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greenr

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Time for a quick update...

Since November we've built 9 sheds. The average sales price is somewhere around $4,000 each.

Things that have gone well:

* The website is set up with pricing
* Adwords is set up
* Craigslist is working as a way to get jobs
* I can sell the jobs even though I'm not a sales guy. This seems more like I'm solving their problem.
* I set up a relationship with a local lumber company where I can quickly order and they deliver.

Things that have NOT gone smoothly:

* The two guys that I hired that have built over 1,000 sheds promised me they could build a shed in a day. So far we haven't even gotten close.
* One of the guys lives over an hour away from where our customers are and has to drop his kid off at school so we never get started before 930am.
* The other guy lives closer, but usually has to leave early to pick his kids up from daycare (330 or 4pm usually).
* They drive together so we NEVER get a full 8 hours of work in in a day.
* One guy works makes a lot of mistakes that costs us time
* One of our jobs included finishing the inside of one of the sheds. That took A LOT of time and we made very little money on it.

Money related:

* As things are currently set up there is not enough money in this to make it worthwhile. This is all my fault because of the deal I made with these guys to get the business going. The deal was to simply split the profit three ways. This is coming to an end.
* I bought a flat bed Ford F250 that can handle carrying all the materials we need.


My thoughts about the business moving forward:

* Forget the "man-cave", "she-shed", "home office" kind of jobs and simplify things by just focusing on building sheds. No interior work. It's easier and faster. People are less picky about the exterior and I won't have to deal with getting permits or anything.
* Get rid of my two guys and build the sheds myself along with my 26 year old son for a while. I can make more money building 3 sheds a month this way than I could if we keep the same arrangement and build 8 sheds a month. As a side note... my guys only want to leisurely build two sheds a week. I know of a 3 man shed company in New York (50 something year old guys plus one of their sons) that build 200 sheds a year. Makes my guys look like they're really taking advantage of me.


Changes that may set me apart from my competition:

* It would be very helpful if I could figure out a better way to build sheds in tight spaces. Right now we build them and then move them using bars. This sometimes damages the skids, etc. There is a lot of this kind of business in the Bay Area as lots are small.
* Build 4 foot wall panels at my home and bring them to the site. This would make the on-site build much quicker. It would also make it easier to train anyone I hire in the future.
* If I can make the "panel" system work I could potentially sell shed kits. Shed kits are already being sold, but you are really buying the lumber that has been pre-cut to length. Panels would make it easier to assemble.

That's it for now.
 

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NaPal

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Great update!

In my opinion;
  1. Get rid of the profit sharing 2 shed builders
  2. Do not build sheds full time (you) or you just gave yourself a job.
  3. Hire 1 local shed builder, train them, then take a back seat assisting them when needed. Then if it makes sense hire a 2nd shed builder.
  4. Do not finish shed interiors unless you mark them up 500%, and if you want to even do this going forward.
  5. Pre-build everything that you can.
This is great. You are learning what to do and what not to do. Keep eliminating the 'what not to do's' and growing your list of 'what to do's'.
 

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Great write up! This hits with me because I’m a construction guy too, though my fastlane is not.

I always wondered about a “We buy ugly sheds” business. Plenty of people doing it for houses and cars, not sure how the model would work.

Agreed on cleaning up the act of the 2 employees you have, if not replacing them with 1 employee and seeing if your son wants to work for you until you scale past this stage. Don’t do it yourself man, you need to focus on sales and scale.
 

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Take my advice with a grain of salt considering my lack of experience, but I would just hire people and pay them hourly rates.

Your material cost hovers around $900 give or take $300, right ?
How long does it take two competent guys to build 1 shed ? Let's say they're at least able to do 3 sheds a week to begin with.

Even if you pay 2 construction workers 30$/hr for 40 hours/week, that's a $2,400/wk expense (-$9,600/mo). At 12 sheds/mo (+$48,000) and $10,800 materials/mo, you end up with a profit hovering around $27,600/mo within the first few months.

Add another worker (let's imagine this is scaling linearly and the customers are there on your waiting list) and you end up with$72K revenue, $30K expenses and $41.4K profit per month (18 sheds).

At this point, you could probably work on pricing sheds differently, or developing a new construction method that would save your guys some time for every shed.

I'm just throwing numbers at you without anything to support them, so feel free to read my first sentence again.

If my father (just a year younger than you are) would ask me (25 years old) to jump with him in that business - and there was a market for it in my area - I'd be working 1XX hours/week building sheds until the business is rolling, and employees are competent, then I would be working 100 hours/week marketing the business, doing R&D for related products or expanding it in other areas !

Keep going.
 
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greenr

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Great update!

In my opinion;
  1. Get rid of the profit sharing 2 shed builders
  2. Do not build sheds full time (you) or you just gave yourself a job.
  3. Hire 1 local shed builder, train them, then take a back seat assisting them when needed. Then if it makes sense hire a 2nd shed builder.
  4. Do not finish shed interiors unless you mark them up 500%, and if you want to even do this going forward.
  5. Pre-build everything that you can.
This is great. You are learning what to do and what not to do. Keep eliminating the 'what not to do's' and growing your list of 'what to do's'.
Yeah... this is starting to feel like a job. I've been a little hesitant to change the pay structure too much because I'm not quite up to speed on all he building stuff yet. Need to work on building doors and doing the roofing. Most everything else is pretty easy.

And yes the interiors really make me pause. I went on a sales call a week ago for a shed where the customer wants it finished on the inside. During our discusion the husband mentioned that he might be able to et some of his contractor buddies to do the cement pad and electrical, etc. I felt like that idea approach was making the entire project too complex as we'd have to coordinate with guys that we don't know so I told them a few days later that we weren't interested in the job. They then said that we could do the whole thing... just come up with a quote. I'll be working on that tomorrow, but I still don't feel comfortable taking that job on so I'm going to give them a big number so that it's either very much worth our while or we don't get the job.

I'm starting to build a shed in my side yard this weekend and I'm trying to prebuild all the panels prior to construction.

Thanks for the input.
 
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greenr

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Great write up! This hits with me because I’m a construction guy too, though my fastlane is not.

I always wondered about a “We buy ugly sheds” business. Plenty of people doing it for houses and cars, not sure how the model would work.

Agreed on cleaning up the act of the 2 employees you have, if not replacing them with 1 employee and seeing if your son wants to work for you until you scale past this stage. Don’t do it yourself man, you need to focus on sales and scale.
I agree about where my focus should be. Just need to get more calls. Currently doing Adwords and Craigslist and the leads are coming from each at about 50/50 split.
 
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greenr

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Take my advice with a grain of salt considering my lack of experience, but I would just hire people and pay them hourly rates.

Your material cost hovers around $900 give or take $300, right ?
How long does it take two competent guys to build 1 shed ? Let's say they're at least able to do 3 sheds a week to begin with.

Even if you pay 2 construction workers 30$/hr for 40 hours/week, that's a $2,400/wk expense (-$9,600/mo). At 12 sheds/mo (+$48,000) and $10,800 materials/mo, you end up with a profit hovering around $27,600/mo within the first few months.

Add another worker (let's imagine this is scaling linearly and the customers are there on your waiting list) and you end up with$72K revenue, $30K expenses and $41.4K profit per month (18 sheds).

At this point, you could probably work on pricing sheds differently, or developing a new construction method that would save your guys some time for every shed.

I'm just throwing numbers at you without anything to support them, so feel free to read my first sentence again.

If my father (just a year younger than you are) would ask me (25 years old) to jump with him in that business - and there was a market for it in my area - I'd be working 1XX hours/week building sheds until the business is rolling, and employees are competent, then I would be working 100 hours/week marketing the business, doing R&D for related products or expanding it in other areas !

Keep going.
Here are a few real figures that I'm seeing so far.

$3,800 - Average shed sales price
$1,710 - Avg cost of materials
2 Days* - typical time to build a shed (ex: 8x10)

* these are 6 hour days due to the fact that my guys have to pick kids up, blah blah.

So it's not as profitable as your numbers show (unfortunately). My guys could be doing more except that they only really work about 6 hours a day.

I think the key will be prefabbing 4x8 panels and just being more organized on the job.

You mentioned "products" or expanding to different areas. I'm seriously goint to look into building shed kits made from panels. That way I don't have to deal with building on site as much. And I know of at least a couple of companies that are doing that for high end sheds that are really backyard offices, studios, etc. They simply supply the panels for the structure and a local contractor finishes the interior. I think the cheapest one of these I've seen is ~$9,600.

Thanks for the input.
 

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