Saturday, March 25, 2006

Which jobs will benefit your deck business?

Which jobs will benefit a deck builder?

Running from little job to little job may not be the best thing for a deck builder.
Small jobs may be all you can get presently—but booking 5 months in advance and all the jobs being basic in scope may pigeon-hole you as a deck builder that just does “little decks”. This happened to a friend of mine many years ago—and he worked for a long time to dispel this myth.

How about this scenario. You are booked solid for 5 months come May 1’st. You get a lead to do a 5 level deck, 2200 square feet and you know that it will set your deck portfolio apart from all the competition. There’s a healthy budget, but you are booked 5 months doing mediocre work.

Do you drop or postpone a few jobs? Do you squeeze it in? Do you hire another crew? Each of these options could mean unhappy clientele in the months that follow.

Here’s my solution-

Increase prices to make sure you are only booked 6-8 weeks in advance. This maximizes profit and ensures that you will be able to capitalize on those good jobs when they happen.

“He who works for free is always busy”


Monday, March 20, 2006

How to Sell Decks and Fences

How to Sell Decks and Fences ( prelude )

Selling decks and fences is 80% preparation and 20% experience.

Here are the absolute basics. ( Prelude to the sale )

  1. You need to show people your best work. How will you do this? Creativity counts. We give our builders the best portfolio and display work in the business. 20 years of beautiful projects like half million dollar tennis courts and up-scale trelliswork. This tells our potential clients that we are simply the best.

  2. You may not have the car of your dreams-in fact it might be a little rough. Your car should not be as nice as your best clients, it may be slightly better than what you find in your pressure treated clientele’s drive. Showing up in a $100,000 Mercedes S class says the wrong thing for a deck company. The vehicle should be respectable but not ostentatious, well maintained and signs add to credibility. If your vehicle is in obvious need of repair park a couple of doors down as not to call attention to it. If your car leaks fluids, park on the road and plan on upgrading soon.

  3. Up-scale clients will expect you to be in office casual. Armani suits may say that you are expensive-but office casual will say that you are a respectable business man. Show up in ripped jeans and people will have reservations about giving you a check. A company shirt with logo will also help confidence.

  4. Shoes-believe it or not are very important to high-end clients. They know that $30.00 shoes denote that they out-class you. I know what you are thinking here. That’s ridiculous, and if you went to a public school you may just be thinking that. This is just something you will have to trust me on, until you buy a pair of Browns, Bass, or Geox for $150-250. When you pay attention take a look at how the people in the big house look inside your shoes when you take them off. A little detail like this will actually make it easier to sell to high-end clients. Showing up in office casual clothes, with good shoes and they see you as respectable and valuing quality. If you choose to invest in good shoes you will obviously shop for the best materials for them.

  5. Do you have your portfolio, design resources, contracts, brochures, business cards, drawing pad, tape measure, a good pen? You are ready to approach the door. Have a card in your hand… and approach.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Building Decks in your own backyard

A Greek businessman once told me, “ Do Business in your own back yard “. When questioned about it his point to me was to stay local. Create a business that draws clientele to you. Transportation is expensive, and time on the road is time wasted.

This is the most compelling reason for staying local.

In our area here there are a couple of new deck company start-ups attempting to cover the entire area. They are both marketing themselves as the most creative (they are not),and the least expensive (they are). On top of having higher transportation costs, they have the smallest profit margin (if any). I would warrant a guess that both are utilizing illegal labor, (just a hunch) and sub-standard materials.

They are both marketing hard, pay per click advertising, and I know one is a full time student.

Every year there are a hundred or so start up deck companies—every year most of them go broke. Some survive a while—but rarely do they ever succeed.

This is why I am so proud of our crews.

In the 3 year history of our network, one closed his doors (he was trying to run 3 businesses simultaneously—2 lost money, which tapped the business we were helping him with for money).

Another got cancer and closed the doors, and another picked up and moved to Quebec to fulfill his dream of opening a Hungarian restaurant.

Only 3 have left the network in 3 years… this record is far and beyond the normal 75% business failure rate in the first 3 years that is the standard ratio in Ontario.

I really believe we are building our installation network utilizing the best quality people in our areas.

Well done Gents!


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Landscape Design by Garden Structure .com

Landscape Design by Garden Structure!

Garden is now in the Landscape Design Business!

We also have been working hard on getting Paul Corsetti set up as our first Landscape Designer who will be operating in the Greater Toronto Area. He’s a trained Architect—but since the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects has rigid specifications as to who can refer to themselves as a Landscape Architect, he can only refer to himself as a Landscape Designer. Even though he has been trained as a Landscape Architect—With a diploma in Landscape Architecture and a B.A. in Landscape Architecture from Ryerson—Unless he has put in his time working for tiny wages for a Registered Landscape Architect and has paid his fees to the OALA, he cannot legally refer to himself as a Landscape Architect.

We at Garden believe that people should be judged on merit—He’s finished his school, and the rules simply are not right. We have always backed the talented underdog—that’s just part of our Culture here at Garden

There are good and bad Landscape Architects in every area. Paul is backing up his abilities with a satisfaction guarantee—It’s part of our arrangement.
Further, we are arming Paul with the best architectural woodwork details going.

Welcome to the Team Paul!

Friday, March 03, 2006

It's A New Age for Deck Builders

A New Age for the Service Industry

Remember the old days? Nobody wanted to be a carpenter, electrician, janitor, plumber.

These are apparently tough jobs and the pay wasn’t great. Last year I met a couple of guys running a janitorial company and it seems they both make over $125,000 a year working no more than 40 hours a week.

If janitors now make that kind of money what are carpenters worth?

For many years carpentry and all service businesses simply weren’t attractive to kids coming out of school. This trend is still firmly in place but perceptions are changing quickly as pay rates rise. I say—let the exodus from the trades continue, it means more money for the rest of us..

Even with an estimated 35,000 illegal workers in the Toronto area (100,000 illegal aliens), the price of hiring a carpenter is rising. I hear that even the illegal workers are charging out at over $20/hour.

That means legitimate carpenters and specialists (like us), can charge upwards of $30-$70/hour.

I believe that in the very near future this shortage of skilled professional tradesmen will result in more respect for and much better pay for all of us.

I’ve had Lawyers and numerous other professionals like project managers and teachers approaching me to get into the trades full time—this is the trend. They know that the writing is on the wall.

People will be getting very wealthy in the next decades from trade careers.