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NOTABLE! Stumbled into my Slowlane business. Time to down shift and floor it.

DC Welds

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First, Id like to thanks @MJ DeMarco for taking the time to organize and publish his approach to business. There's so much BS out there, I was skeptical to purchase either book. What ultimately drove me to purchase and read both TMFL and Unscripted was the 1000+ reviews that stated theses are a no BS system of guidelines to business.

As a no-nonsense person this really appealed to me. After reading both; I purchased the paperbacks and audio books, I was ecstatic. Finally! Someone that can think critically and cut the crust off the shit sandwich. Its so much much easier to propagate the easy way of doing things. I'm grateful for these writings as well as the time I spent reading them.

Anyways, I'm (M 31) here to chase the buzz I got after reading these titles and implement them into a new business. I have a scroll worthy list of failed or abandoned entrepreneurship ventures in my life. If you'd like that list let me know. Honestly, I have used three of the five commandments of the CENTS system in my current business without even knowing them. I'm so glad I am now able to define what does work, and more importantly was doesn't, and use this information for my next business.

Here's a quick origin story about my current business:

Employed as a welder in a small local shop, I (M 24) started a metal fabricating business in my garage. I took every dollar I had from my day job, some I didn't have, and built a small scale fabrication business. I didn't really have a business model or a plan, I was just doing what I loved. For me it was a way to fine tune my craft as I wanted to be the best fabricator I could be.

My moon-lighting gig was turned upside down when I was approached to supply steel brackets for a horse training facility that was being custom built by the Amish. This job would require 100% of my time and after much deliberation I decided to quit my day job and work from home exclusively. Many thanks to my wife for being supportive.

Being full time self employed was so exciting that I never formulated a plan after this training facility was finished. I felt invincible.

After completing the job I walked away with around $40k in profit for a summers work and man! Did I work for it. I had no material moving equipment other then my clapped out Chevy Suburban and a shitty landscaping trailer. Over the course of four months I moved over 90k lbs of steel in and out my garage.

When the dust settled, literally, I mean I had metal dust pouring from the soffits and gable vents in my garage. A few choices presented themselves: I could swallow my pride and get another job OR I could use the time that I was afforded to meet more people in my industry and further my metal working career. I chose the latter. This became the most formative time I had ever spent. Meeting with vendors and potential customers had more benefit then almost anything I had done in the past. One conversation in particular lead me to my biggest opportunity yet.

This conversion led me to a business owner in my industry that was ready to retire. His exit strategy hinged on a partner that had recently passed away. Both partners were septuagenarians. We negotiated for around four weeks and spent a good chunk of that time discussing how we could get creative with the purchase, as I only had around $30k at that point.

I felt so out of my comfort zone during this time, I just tried my best to not look like a fool. Turns out he was doing the same. It had been a family business since 1947 and he had no experience dealing with business valuations, real estate and all the things needed to sell a business with tangible assets.

Fast forward through all the boring stuff and I was able to acquire a 10,000 sq. ft. continuously operating welding and fabrication business, on 2.5 acres financed by the previous owner. The only problem is that I was broke! After paying my attorney and the down payment I had about $3k to operate.

On going, the new car smell was the catalyst for operating with paper thin capital but the income and profits were slowly growing. At this point It was just me and one employee.

All the hats I needed to wear were weighing me down. Just the paperwork and reporting alone was practically a full time job. I started to hire more people thru the years and currently employee 6 people with no intentions of hiring more.

Even though were grossing $700k annually something didn't feel right. I was no longer doing something I loved, I was managing people that do (or at least enough to do it 40 hrs a week). It took about a year for me to understand my role in the company, something I never needed to think about.

One day preparing to head home, I climbed into my truck took a deep breath and said, "Shit, now what?". Shortly thereafter I came about MJ's books.

These books gave me that new car smell all over again! It only took five years of growing my "passion" for it turn into another job. Even though we're making nearly $60k gross monthly, I have little free time and have extinguished the love for my work.

Its not all bad though, we're making a profit and my employees seem happy. At this juncture I can afford to take a different approach to a new business and hit it hard without the fear of "What if it doesn't work?".

Personally, I'm a tattoo and BBQ enthusiast that races motorcycles. I'm trying to work on my writing and learn more about e-commerce and marketing. I believe I have a product that is valuable to my target. I'd be happy to share my journey here. Thanks for listening!
 

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Ernman

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DC Welds - I followed your bio link from the Tradesman thread. Thank you for the very detailed bio. I am constantly amazed by the back stories of the folks here. Your story - combined with the Tradesman thread - have set my mind to thinking. Even though huge sums are made and transferred daily by ecommerce, somebody still needs to make the stuff. Somethings can be made in large numbers by machines. But that will lead to us to a cookie cutter, monotone world. Without trades skill such as machinists, welders, electricians, etc. What will become of an industrialized nation? Yet, as we've experienced, most trades skill based owners are simply working a job - like any other slow laner. How to turn it into a fast lane opportunity becomes the interesting challenge. Please keep sharing as you move forward, I believe there is much we can learn from you.
 

MJ DeMarco

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Incredible topic, so much so I'm marking it NOTABLE so more eyeballs can pop-in and perhaps offer some insight.

I wouldn't abandon your trade business, there is a ton of opportunity there.


Any scalable opportunities in metalworking? Mass market manufacturing?

Any way to systematize your business so you can step away to 20 hours a week?

It sounds like you're filling needs and providing value, but just haven't systematized things to a point where it can free up some of your time.

Again, I'd reexamaine what you're doing before becoming indifferent and possibly, abandoning it.
 
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DC Welds

DC Welds

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Read Millionaire Fastlane
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DC Welds - I followed your bio link from the Tradesman thread. Thank you for the very detailed bio. I am constantly amazed by the back stories of the folks here. Your story - combined with the Tradesman thread - have set my mind to thinking. Even though huge sums are made and transferred daily by ecommerce, somebody still needs to make the stuff. Somethings can be made in large numbers by machines. But that will lead to us to a cookie cutter, monotone world. Without trades skill such as machinists, welders, electricians, etc. What will become of an industrialized nation? Yet, as we've experienced, most trades skill based owners are simply working a job - like any other slow laner. How to turn it into a fast lane opportunity becomes the interesting challenge. Please keep sharing as you move forward, I believe there is much we can learn from you.

@Ernman Thank you for the reply. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, I'm just not sure whats on the other side.
 
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DC Welds

DC Welds

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Incredible topic, so much so I'm marking it NOTABLE so more eyeballs can pop-in and perhaps offer some insight.

I wouldn't abandon your trade business, there is a ton of opportunity there.


Any scalable opportunities in metalworking? Mass market manufacturing?

Any way to systematize your business so you can step away to 20 hours a week?

It sounds like you're filling needs and providing value, but just haven't systematized things to a point where it can free up some of your time.

Again, I'd reexamaine what you're doing before becoming indifferent and possibly, abandoning it.

NOTABLE? Thank you!

Scalable? Absolutely.

Mass-marketable? Yes, just not in its current form.

Systematization is very difficult with my current model, every job is unique and therefor risky at the quotation and material sourcing stage.

I've considered a hybrid approach, whereas we can utilize the machinery and skills we currently have aimed at a product that can be mass produced and marketed. Two things I have not done before.

We are a job-shop currently, for those unfamiliar with this model: As a job-shop we offer a wide-variety of processes and services and most jobs are unique. Some customers need a piece steel bent for their weekend projects, other customers we build (10) $20k machines for. We often let the customer evaluate services we offer and they come to the conclusion, "Oh, they can probably build this for me".

I haven't spent one minute outside selling, to be honest I probably shouldn't, LOL. My stature and tattoos likely wont warrant results. Then again, that could be my angle. Though I'd feel silly exploiting it.

In summary, I'm not sure which direction I want to steer my ship. I know the steel industry like the back of my hand but I've spent most of my time JIT learning how to be an employer.


Your comments (all Y'all) gave me the zest I needed on this long weekend, thank you!

PS: If I"m using this forum incorrectly, please let me know. I don't frequent any other forums, and this one actually means something to me. I want to be proficient with my effort here.
 

MJ DeMarco

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I haven't spent one minute outside selling, to be honest I probably shouldn't, LOL. My stature and tattoos likely wont warrant results.
OMG, please don't let that be a factor in your head.

If I had to hire a welder/metal-maker to fabricate something for my house and he showed up all TATTED, it would make no difference to me. In fact, I think it would be what I'd expect.

Think of it this way ...

If I wanted to pay $50,000 to have someone build me a custom motorcycle, would I be "offended" or off-put because he was tatted and pierced? Hell no.

Don't think I'd expect metalworking to be any different, in many respects, it can be viewed as an artistic skill.

In other words, be yourself and let your WORK speak for itself.

PS: If I"m using this forum incorrectly, please let me know. I don't frequent any other forums, and this one actually means something to me. I want to be proficient with my effort here.
You're fine!
 
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DC Welds

DC Welds

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OMG, please don't let that be a factor in your head.

If I had to hire a welder/metal-maker to fabricate something for my house and he showed up all TATTED, it would make no difference to me. In fact, I think it would be what I'd expect.

Think of it this way ...

If I wanted to pay $50,000 to have someone build me a custom motorcycle, would I be "offended" or off-put because he was tatted and pierced? Hell no.

Don't think I'd expect metalworking to be any different, in many respects, it can be viewed as an artistic skill.

In other words, be yourself and let your WORK speak for itself.



You're fine!

@MJ DeMarco I get it, and maybe I didn't do a good job of conveying how these things actually boil down.

Ive been very successful melding my unique approach to my craft. I've built handrails and yard art for multi-million dollar homes, I've built every fixture and focal piece for entire chain of restaurants .
Funny, every example you've mentioned I have executed with confidence and a great working relationship...literally. The problem is, IM doing them. I need to shift from this limited TIME and SCALE model to something bigger, I see that now.

An example I should have presented was, I can't picture myself cold-whatevering a pitch in front of a group of purchasing agents in order to grow my business. Even though these are my best customers. The "job variables" are fixed, usually a material list requested or blue prints, things I don't need to figure out how to make, just manage them.

This forum and your replies have given my a lot to think about, I will be back. Thank you.
 

GeoffP

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DC Welds - I followed your bio link from the Tradesman thread. Thank you for the very detailed bio. I am constantly amazed by the back stories of the folks here. Your story - combined with the Tradesman thread - have set my mind to thinking. Even though huge sums are made and transferred daily by ecommerce, somebody still needs to make the stuff. Somethings can be made in large numbers by machines. But that will lead to us to a cookie cutter, monotone world. Without trades skill such as machinists, welders, electricians, etc. What will become of an industrialized nation? Yet, as we've experienced, most trades skill based owners are simply working a job - like any other slow laner. How to turn it into a fast lane opportunity becomes the interesting challenge. Please keep sharing as you move forward, I believe there is much we can learn from you.
The irony is that for all the get rich quick morons who waste time on ecommerce crap, there are still vast sums of money that can be made doing things the old fashioned way. Case in point: I have a client that built to $6 million a year in revenue off of nothing but direct mail. The "marketing experts" don't know what to do with it. In fact, I think all the time wasted on ecommerce makes it easier to do brick and mortar business because everyone is busy getting rich quick online and like you said, someone actually has to make the stuff.
 

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currently employee 6 people with no intentions of hiring more.
My Dad went this route. Died tired and with a -$33 dollar estate. Don't go this route!

Get your head out of your a$$. You have a fantastic business! Turn it into a self running machine that does not need you to be there.

If you don't know how, hire someone that does. Only spend your time on the important things. Turn this into a massive, sellable asset. Use smart people and experts to get there.

Work for your last name. Not your first!
 
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DC Welds

DC Welds

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Well shit...you guys are right. The proverb: "The grass is always greener" fits well here. Thank you guys for the feed back. I am beyond stoked to have this forum as a resource.

All I can say is I have a lot to think about...

25604
 

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@DC Welds, nice bio!

Sounds like you've got a pretty busy fab shop. I get that you are wearing more hats than you want to.
The only good thing about that is. is that you gain an understanding of what different roles are in managing your operation.
You have current strengths and weaknesses that you might really take some time to consider. Wearing all those hats definitely dilutes all facets of your operation.

Obviously, you must have a lead man in the shop that can use his head for more than a hat rack for a welding hood. If not, I would think that needs foremost attention. It is important to find that individual and help him to stretch his legs and take some of the load off of you.
I understand this biz is your baby, but it's important to find that babysitter when you need to step out and find more work, outside the shop.
That should be your leg stretching.

If you don't do that, then you will remain the status quo of many other fab shops that have created a job for their owner but have been unable to scale their operation to a sizable growth that allows their owner to enjoy the fruits he's created.
If you haven't read Michael E. Gerbers' book E-Myth Revisited, I would highly recommend it. It really speaks about working on your biz rather than in it.

Focus on your strengths and grow enough in your weaknesses that if you don't become accomplished in some of them yourself, then you at least learn what your needs are regarding hiring your first non-shop employees.

Plan on how you can afford to hire them. If they are good, they will be worth every penny.
Your job is to manage your business from above, not in. It may not seem it right now, but it should be a primary goal-to relieve yourself of having to do most of it yourself.

Figure out where you want to take this, not the next job but where you really want to be in 5 years.

If all you want is to be under a hood all day than you might reconsider if the headaches of ownership is worth it. It sounds as though you are in this to grow and develop it.
That will only happen if you are willing to grow along with it. And that means growing out of your comfort zone.

Respect for ya dude. Anyone that takes their trade skill and monopolizes it beyond their two hands has my attention.

Try to enjoy the ride. It's learning the process that you'll look back on, is where you grew the most.

I can't think that you won't continue to build and develop this!

Good luck!
 

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LeviM

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@DC Welds It looks like you and I are similar areas of industry/ stage of business life. However you are BY FAR a better writer LOL.

I feel the same struggle everyday, its also hard to stay motivated in a labor intensive industry when its so damn hard to find skilled workers. My customers come to Cascade mobile fleet repair (CMF) because they want someone they can trust to work on their trucks. Im sure its the same for you they want to know when they come to you the welds will not break.

Do you have the large age gap in workers? It seems that most born between 85-93 either sucks at skilled labor jobs or refuses to get dirty, and jumps for the flooded IT jobs.


Your intro is very motivating! Thank you for sharing!
 
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DC Welds

DC Welds

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Do you have the large age gap in workers? It seems that most born between 85-93 either sucks at skilled labor jobs or refuses to get dirty, and jumps for the flooded IT jobs.


Your intro is very motivating! Thank you for sharing!
Thanks! @LeviM Here's what I've found in six years of hiring both welders and machinists:

Men between the ages of 40-60 are my sweet spot. The work we do is labor intensive but we're not digging ditches. A good fabricator can find the easy way to build anything.

For me, guys in this range are more loyal, responsive and responsible. Knock on wood (knocks on head), my crew today will be here for a while. They all fit that demographic.

Ive had SO many younger people ghost me at all stages of the hiring process. Once, I had TWO people in the same month ghost me on their start date. No call, no show, no nothing.

Just for reference here's what I've come across. Straight from my "HIRING" folder:

January 1st 2014-December 31st 2018

Job postings on CL, my company FB page and word of mouth - 6 different times, 3 available positions.

Resumes and job applications collected - 121

Applicants in for 1st interview - 9

Applicants for 2nd interview/job offer - 4

Applicants that actually showed up for their first day - 2

Keep in mind in not constantly hiring, most times I am not.

My crew has been stable for the last 2 years. I've only had 1 employee work out from CL and FB but he was later fired. Word of mouth is my absolute best way to hire. The five guys in my shop today are ALL word of mouth hires, excluding one employee I used to work with at another shop.

If I knew the odds of retaining an employee I don't know If I would of had the energy to manage it all. It calls to the "work on your business, not in it" mantra. Im not good at that yet.
 

LeviM

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Working "in" my business is one of my largest problems right now. I think it has to do with a few things.. Lack of skilled mechanics looking for a job, "no one can do it as good as I can", and the lack of processes and procedures.

This last job opening we did was for an entry level apprenticeship, we've had about 15 people apply which is the best turnout so far. Dwindled down to 3 interviews and one hire.... He starts Monday, hopefully he shows up LOL.
 

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