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A Contractors Story
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For this post I will share my story in “The Biz” or as we call it “T on the J” or a.k.a “time on the job”.
My T on the J started in 1985. After a few years of lackluster higher educational efforts, I decided to get a real job in the trades with the hope of scaring myself back into caring about obtaining a college degree. That didn’t work out as planned as I fell in love what I was doing, I was a helper on a house framing crew. The love didn’t come right away as I was pretty much just carrying wood all day for the other carpenters. When I finally got a chance to nail off, cut & install my interest peeked. Fortunately…luckily…I was working with a prominent 30 year master framer during the building boom of the late 80’s. House after house, condo developments, one after the other we would frame it was quite a run to be in the trades. John Cutillo (a.k.a “Pop”, as he was affectionately called) was the boss. Pop surrounded himself with young, athletic men and he was adept at developing systems to maximize efficiencies of his crew no matter what the combined experience of the crew was. Pop became my mentor and just like a sponge soaks up water I soaked up knowledge and information from Pop, the master framer.
Three years later in 1988, worked slowed over one winter, I was far to enthusiastic to sit around so I ventured off into my own business, with Pops blessing of course. Personal confidence was in great supply in me even though construction experience & more importantly business acumen was in short supply, if not in existence at all. My 1st business was with a partner Ricky and we did anything & everything. We did painting jobs & framing jobs & roofing, whatever came along. Ricky had some experience in business so off we went.
Upon completion of the 1st year we got caught up in two developments that went into foreclosure, we got screwed out of about $20K. In retrospect that was the best thing that happened to me from a business prospective. I vowed to never let that happen again so I poured myself into developing my business acumen with good contracts, payment schedules, details, thoroughness, etc. I morphed from a new house framer into a remodeling framing subcontractor. Even though it’s still framing, the remodeling framers job is much more difficult as the variables of trying to build straight, level frames on top of crooked, out of level structures is very challenging. I continued in this capacity till the mid 90’s, along the way I would do roofing jobs, decks, porches, siding and all sorts of finishings These were my learning years that I cherish.
Two years later Ricky and I split up, he went into the union as a carpenter and I went exclusively into framing as a new house framing subcontractor. It was the early 90’s and the country was in the throws of a major recession. Funny, I don’t remember it being that bad. I guess my status of being a new kid on the block, struggling, cutting my teeth in the biz I just thought it was suppose to be real hard….and it was.
The next step was to develop my business into completing the house frames that I built. I started to bid General Contracting jobs by the mid 90”s and this took me through a long, tough learning curve. I purchased a laptop computer & an estimating program and I taught myself how to estimate. Countless hours were spent investigating prices of labor & materials & then creating or customizing computer database entries. This was all done so that I could produce & reproduce estimates quickly & accurately. I figured that if I produced an estimate today and then did a similar estimate a month from now, they should be the same, or at least very close. It was truly a grind of an effort but I did it. All along the way I fine tuned my hands on ability to do most phases of residential construction. I would get a little piece of “how to” information from another tradesman or maybe a magazine article and then figure out the rest on the job. Today we have You tube where you can watch a “how to” video on anything & everything…..what a luxury. When I was young in the trades we had to walk up hill….both ways to get to the job (heard that one have you?)
Many years of General Contracting went by with a rich multitude of jobs & experiences under my belt, by the mid 2000’s I was in a real groove, the economy was booming and it was quite easy to get good paying total home makeovers. Total home makeovers became the most rewarding and type of work for me as it was extremely challenging to manage these large scale remodels with every trade being meshed together but also for the sheer cost factor of it. What an honor and privilege it is to be entrusted by a homeowner with their most valuable investment and with huge sums of money.
Over the many years of doing these large scale projects came the next piece of the puzzle in becoming a truly professional general contractor, the development of the industry relationships with great subcontractors and suppliers and other associated industries. There is no replacing having a good team in place, you can have all the knowledge & a great system in place but without a good team in place the managing of projects (large projects in particular) becomes beyond intense. I still use some of the same subcontractors that I have always used and I love to develop new talent as well. Some of my best friends are fellow tradesman & contractors.
So here I sit, some 30 years after catching the contracting bug, still in the biz. I’ve been in and out of business several times, had different partners & sole proprietorships. Currently I have two partners and we have added a restoration division to our list of services. The restoration business which is largely dealings with insurance work for claims that arise from water, fire and mold conditions is a new and exciting industry. The industry, reduced to its core is general contracting and I am proficient and successful at this craft, plus I love doing it, so onward it is, more pages to add to my contracting story……
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