This seems like the most logical place to ask silly questions. I'm a member of the IBEW. I've been in this trade for 26 years. The company I worked for has recently "suspended business". I sign the out of work list at the hall at # 145 Dec 4th. Today I'm #123 on the list. At this rate I'll be sent to work in two years from now. Therefore I've taken the road to open my own shop. I love this work and really couldn't think of doing anything else. I got my masters, I passed the test for my contractors, and now, hercules tradesman that I am, I know nothing about running a business. I got $1,000,000 in insurance lined up - I got a tax man/accountant/payroll guy lined up for $100 a month, but I'm still out in left field. What's the most efficient way of advertising and how does a guy present a bill to a customer?
First off... Best of luck to you in your new business
My company uses "Yellow Page" advertising & gets a monumental amount of service calls from pretty much all over the state.. Albeit phone book advertising is not cheap in anyway! A person I know that just started his company about a year ago simply advertises in publications like the "Pennysaver" & the "Thrifty Nickel"... These are magazine that get sent to EVERYONE in certain areas & don't cost the reader anything.. (Also available at gas stations, 7-Eleven, etc.. As far as I;ve heard, their rates are pretty reasonable.. Newspaper ads seem to get about 3-10 calls a week..
As far as presenting a contract to a customer, I can get you the phone number of the company that makes the contracts for my work... They already have the templates made up & all the contractors law required text in the design... Or if you simply meant "How do I ask for payment?" I just ask... Cash, charge, check, food stamps.... They always get the hint!
PS... Someone DID offer me food stamps for payment & said "You can take dees to da cona sto & deys gives you cash fo dem!" I told her to take them & get cash..... she did!
I suggest starting small only because that's what I did, and still am. I do well enough to have a house in an overpriced area, 1 kid (going on 2) and a stay-at-home wife. But it still gets tough wringing out that nickle.
When I was in business with my brother we had as many as 6 or 7 guys doing new homes. We probably did better then financially, but the stress and hours were worse.
My brother and I have come to the conclusion that there is an efficency that can't be matched when working solo, but it limits the kind of jobs you can take on. Luckily for me I can become a 2-man shop with one push of the two-way. (and with his speed and expertise I'd go as far as to say a 3-man shop)
I don't do any advertising and I kind of like it that way. Not only do I save the money, but referals generally come in halfway presold. I worked for a guy in the past that had a yellow page ad. The calls were alright, but you have to be prepared to respond immediatly (to the phone call at least) and that can be frustraing if you are trying to work in the field at the same time.
If you are going after bigger commercial contract work, you could consider the Blue Book. I advertised there in the past, but didn't have time to follow up on most of the job leads. Out of all the leads I did bid on, I didn't one. It can get pretty competative. They also a procurment thing on their site.
But I'd still like to know specifically what type of work you want and will you have employees?
These are hard times for everyone, especially the union electrician who finds himself on at the end of a long out of work list at the hiring hall. I've been slowly moving up the list since last September, although I recently worked for 6 weeks out of town. I've thought about doing the same thing you're doing now.
2 questions--what part of the country are you in? I know some areas are REALLY slow, while others, like mine, are just slow. Also, are you going to become a signatory contractor with the local union, and enter into a collective bargaining agreement?
After being in the trade for quite a few years I got into a partnership with a couple other guy's including a guy that was strong on the business end. After being there for several years I sold my portion and have since started my own fire alarm company. I now sell to my old competition and do not market to the G.P. There are many ways to track and manage all of the day to day paper work. I use Excel and Word for everything except my books. This includes my own estimating program, P.O.'s, Change Orders, RFI's, Contracts, Proposals, Letterhead, Fax covers, Bids, and on and on. I think it is critical to put and get everything in writing. Peoples (Including mine) memories are questionable and a paper trail (including saving email.) has covered me too many times to count. Good Luck!
What I did was approach some small general contractors in the area who did the kind of work i liked and asked them if could call on them from time to time to see if i could quote anything for them.You then will have to select some small ones and quote them a very low price but one that you can live with.Once they see that you are lower than their usual guys,they will end up calling you to quote.
One GREAT thing about this forum is that I learn something new every time I go through the threads and today is no different. I just read through the fantastic article posted as "ECN and EC&M" At the bottom of the article there is a link to "The Sparky Board" which appears to be a site dedicated to contractors and various questions regarding the electrical business.
Lostazhell/jps/crw/kentvw/getelectric Thank you for your replies and insight. To the questions: Flint MI - (manufacturing deportation center,USA) business - res/comm/ind I know I'll have to start small (probably the smaller the better 'till I learn the ropes.) Took a Mike Holt estimating class, very insightful but it didn't come with confidence.
lost - if I don't get past my stage fright I'll be looking for those stamps!
jps - Haven't ever heard of a "blue book". Sounds interesting
crw - You guys in PA must have had it tough a few years back, hope things constantly improve. I dont think I could look in the mirror if I didn't sign a letter of assent.
kentvw - I'm a little taken back you can do all that with excell, I will research. Thanks for "the sparky" tip
getelectric - sometimes a guy can overthink a thing to death. Small gc for small jobs. I feel embarassed now. thanks
here's the blue book I used to advertise in. It is fairly popular around the Chicago area. My impression is that you'll get higher profile work, but it can be a bit more competitive. You may be 1 out of 10 or 15 EC's bidding on a project. But that's not to say they're all like that. http://www.thebluebook.com/
karlwayne- I too am starting a new business-good luck in your new venture. Like you I have taken a long look at being signatory...but i have done some reaearch in my market and going Union is not practical. I will probably need to go NU at least for a couple of years until i get some traction. We need to keep in mind that "Contracting" is all about contracts! We don't have to sign a contract just the way it is written. Eyeball such things as "Pay if Paid"; Liquidated damages (for late finish); timely notification days; claim procedures, etc. Keep your guard up against ruthless general contrators. Some of them are in the business of taking advantage of major subcontactors and breaking them just so they can make money. We must remember too that sometimes the loser gets the job! That is if your too low this is generally not a good reason to pop champagne corks. Be able swallow your pride and walk away from a broken bid. Remember too that if your competition numbers more than six the chances are great that you will not make margin or will do the job at a loss. It becomes really necessary to niche market ourselves. Service work, control work, etc. We must limit overhead but still hire key people if we want to grow. It is no fun to never have a day off. We must also learn to trust our hired people-They will make mistakes, however if their heart's in the right place the mistake will be a learning experience. Oh well here we go! Stay in touch.