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EXECUTION New direction ..or at least an sideways slant

DaisyH

Bronze Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Nov 11, 2014
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125
128
Canada
I just posted a re-introduction and now would love to get some feedback for our business.

The fire is still burning within to create something great, something with scale and something that will finally enable us to live the fastlane lifestyle ( mind you not sports cars and tropical destinations ( as we're too much of country hicks for that..we're more along the lines of a new pickup, buy more farmland and get a side by side )
BUT to finally separate our time from our money. To have the freedom to do what we want, when we want. Working hard is part of both my husband's and mine fabric ( we were both raised on farms ) and something we enjoy but right now that comes with a price, and it's a big price.

So, we have a small construction company now, and it's hard work. Hard physically, hard financially and hard to manage.
Where we live is quite isolated and currently demand is high but finding skilled labour is tough. We now have 4 full-time guys and even though we pay well, and treat them like gold, finding more to scale with is very challenging as hiring inexperienced carpenters is not efficient or for the most part even practical. So challenging that we're re-considering what we do.
This year we should pass the 7 figure mark but the profit percentage is not what it should be, as we cannot get enough help and 2 of our 4 guys are new. I work onsite when we're short, the rest of the time getting supplies, lining up subs, doing office work, etc. My dh is the lead guy and spending a lot more time after crew hours doing estimates, meeting potential customers, doing extra work to get ready for the crew, etc. We're probably not as efficient as we could be however we actually never even intended to get into this business, it just happened. And what a weird sentence that was to write, and even weirder actually to think about.

Our crew works outside most of the time and since you now know we live in Canada that means lots of cold, cold weather where fingers and noses can freeze and jobs take longer due to working with gloves on and needing to take warming breaks. The way our projects run, it's not always possible to have the indoor portion of jobs coincide with bad weather and if we and our guys don't work, then we don't get paid= trading time for money.

Right now, we're considering some type of side work that we can do indoors so as to be able to transition to a more factory type of setting, where we can produce products that we supply rather than doing custom work.

Selling on Amazon/online has been in the background for us for a while, so we're trying to figure out what types of products we can make that will sell there. We want to produce good quality products, and probably ones with a wood component to them, since that's what we know. Generally speaking wooden products are large though and that's not a great fit for online, especially since we need to be cognizant of shipping costs due to our somewhat remote location.

We were approached by a small business looking for some high quality outdoor wooden solar lights, so looking further into this as an option.

Open to suggestions or thoughts on how best to look for/evaluate potential products?

Thanks.
 

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Rabby

Gold Contributor
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My gut says go with something related to your existing business. Maybe get a ShopBot and make the closets and doors for your construction projects, and sell to other construction companies? Or go with the solar lighting, and find good ways to systematize and automate. Offer them locally as well as online or to other contractors.

That said, what really sounds important here is...

Usually if you're working too hard inside your own business, it means there are opportunities to make systems and automation. Start a log book and track how much time per week you and your husband spend on different tasks. He supervises crews for 40 hours, you spend 6 on accounting, you spend 20 looking for talent and interviewing them, he spends 5 doing some other thing, etc.

Knowing those approximate amounts of time, you can start looking at which ones free you up the most. Fair warning, this can cause fights because one of you is going to have a bunch of free time first (voice of experience). But pick a low hanging fruit with a big enough impact on your time, and figure out how to get a person, system, robot, or computer program to do it consistently. Alternate doing this between your jobs and your husband's. Once you start doing this, it's addictive. Why wouldn't it be? It frees up your time. In the short term, you may actually trade money for time, but in the mid to long term you'll naturally make more money. Why? Because you have time to really observe the business, and implement new things that make it efficient, or expand it into new products.

When you identify those jobs that need to be systems and automation, I think it helps to keep things simple. Give the job a name, list the steps that need to be done (at a high level, not in ridiculous detail), and take photos or screenshots of how it's done. Keep those together, and you have the start of a training booklet to help you plug a person into the job, or a technical spec to help a programmer or engineer design automation for the job. Keep it simple... you can always add complexity if it's actually needed, later.
 
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Kid

Bronze Contributor
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Mar 1, 2016
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How do you train new employees? By hand (so to speak) or do you have somethings standardised (on paper)?

Above is for the old business.

For the new - finding idea for new product(s) is an ongoing process. You do it by becoming aware of problems that occur in your life or in your business. Note them down on phone or paper. Look into possible solutions.

Or if you feel less inventive then you can go straight to Amazon, look for something that you can produce (those wooden lights for example) and see what people are ranting about (negative things in reviews).
Solve it, offer it, hopefully profit.
 

Rabby

Gold Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
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Another thought on systems.

When you're looking at your crew (in the existing biz or the new ones), try to quantify, or at least estimate, the impact of different efficiency sinks. Then go after one of the big ones and see if you can fix it.

Example: if cold weather is a big one, and you have crew going out to sit in trucks with the heater on, see if there's a more efficient / less time consuming way to address the problem, "crew guy is too cold." Between gear, portable heaters or mats or heated sheds (or whatever you can think to try), and/or standard rotations to warm up, you might at least find a way to make it better. If you can test that, implement it, document it, and make it a habit for the crew, you've made one little improvement. Over time those improvements build on each other and they can give you big advantages.

In Florida, we have the opposite problem. In the summer it's over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with high humidity, brutal sunlight, and no wind. Great for the beach (and for dermatologists specializing in skin cancers), but awful for guys working outdoors, or on roofs or over pavement. I had my air conditioning company over at the house the other day (ac broke down), and the technician came equipped with a beach umbrella and a high velocity outdoor air blower. That keeps him out of the sun, and moves air across him to evaporate off the heat. Result? More work, less time needed for breaks, less misery. Every company with outdoor trade folk should be doing the same thing here.
 
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DaisyH

DaisyH

Bronze Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Nov 11, 2014
57
125
128
Canada
My gut says go with something related to your existing business. Maybe get a ShopBot and make the closets and doors for your construction projects, and sell to other construction companies? Or go with the solar lighting, and find good ways to systematize and automate. Offer them locally as well as online o

Thanks for the reply and suggestions Rabby.

Yes, definitely interested in doing something related to what we currently do.

Just having you take the time to stand back and suggest how to look objectively at the current issues is very valuable- thank you!
 
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DaisyH

DaisyH

Bronze Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Nov 11, 2014
57
125
128
Canada
Rabby,

Also appreciate the thought about working conditions and how to mitigate the impact negative conditions have. Good food for thought.
 
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DaisyH

DaisyH

Bronze Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Nov 11, 2014
57
125
128
Canada
Hey Kid,

Thanks for reading my post and offering your thoughts.
Training new employees is not something we want to do at all...like many trades it comes down to experience. Goal is to hire qualified carpenters because then they are already at the desired/required skill level and we only need to show them the details of how we like things done.

Ahhh, problem solving 101- the challenge. In a previous life I actually found a large market gap and developed a product around that only to find out marketing was the real challenge. So now, in version 2.0, I'd sooner try to find a better match of a market opportunity with a hungry crowd or at least a crowd looking to get into a restaurant, with the intent of eating sometime soon.

How to determine where this market intersects is the real challenge I think...but..I'm sure that there's a way to figure this out.
 
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DaisyH

DaisyH

Bronze Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Nov 11, 2014
57
125
128
Canada
@ mods...could you please move this thread to the inside? New to insiders and thought I had posted this thread there but obviously not.
 

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