Our third visit with Tylor Stone, a first-year contractor
than six years ago, Tylor Stone painted the outside of his
grandparents’ house in Lebanon, a teen-ager slapping on inexpensive
paint and hoping for the best. Now, he’s back as a first-year
contractor, using a higher grade of paint and thinking about painting as
a business. His.
He survived his first winter - barely. He
worked just three days in December. While business picked up in January,
he had to wait for the money to arrive. Meanwhile, he enjoyed “total
The phone company shut him down part of a day but he
resolved that quickly with a flurry of phone calls, made from the phone
store since his phone was off. He borrowed a couple hundred dollars from
his mentor. That tided him over a few days until he received payment on
a job. Luckily, his paint supplier granted an extension on bills.
But, just as quickly, 2016 arrived with work, and challenges of another sort.
in mid-March, he’s booked out more than two months and he just enjoyed
his first day off in 15 days. His phone works but steady painting takes a
toll on his body. He finds it hard to find time to eat healthy. On a
typical day, he might bid on one project, get a paint match on another
and actually paint at yet another site, looping from Lebanon to Albany
to Corvallis and back.
With a handful of contractors providing
regular work, he must manage the logistics of scheduling. A
self-proclaimed “techie,” he uses a mix of paper and phone apps.
pays a few bucks to have a business calendar he likes on his phone.
But he uses plain old printer paper, folded in half with hand-drawn
columns, to track daily tasks such as who he needs to call and what
supplies he needs to pick up.
This particular day, he juggles
seven bids. Some jobs come with specific dates. Others are general,
like “the second half of April.” “So, how do you keep track of that?” he
When he gets a call about a job, he relies on the calendar on his phone. “Otherwise, I would be guessing.”
He found the best free software he could for generating bids, which serve as his contract. The software also generates invoices.
he uses a free spreadsheet he found by googling “free version of Excel”
to track some expenses. Mostly, however, he counts on Miller Paint for
that. He buys tools as well as paint from the retailer, and calls them
for printouts as needed.
He admires a web-based tool fellow
contractor, Ryan Schweitzer, uses to develop bids and manage projects.
Schweitzer, a builder/remodeler from the Albany area, could send Tylor
an email invitation to bid for painting work. Tylor could then log in to
the site, check out the project, and submit a bid.
wife and data entry volunteer, Tinsa, said they spotted this particular
system, called Co-construct, at a trade show. After some getting used
to, she calls it a “handy little tool.”
In addition to giving
subcontractors the information they need to bid and generating detailed
bids for clients, the system houses documents and photos in a central
location. Clients can view the progress and email questions. Once the
project is under way, it notifies all those involved of changes in
“Any time we have a change in our schedule, it will
alert all the future people so we don’t have to make five million phone
calls to tell the contractors down the line what’s going on,” Tinsa
They pay a monthly fee based on the number of projects they
have under way. Of course, they must input detailed information at the
outset of a project. Ryan Schweitzer is a one-man operation, so that
task falls to Tinsa.
She says contractors without someone to
handle data might not appreciate the program or find time to use it to
its full potential. The system replaces a spreadsheet they formerly used
to generate estimates and a Gantt chart Ryan created for project
management. Ryan would pencil the chart and erase and start over as
So, Tinsa is a fan of the 21st Century system.
“It’s saving us loads of time and our clients really love it, too,” she said. “They can ask questions.”
While the builder still makes paper plans available to some subcontractors, Tylor is a fan of online.
last job I did I called him and asked him one question,” he said. “It
was a five-minute conversation, because I already had all the
information I needed.”
In other areas of technology, Tylor
recently put up a website (Tylorstonecontracting.wordpress.com), using
free software available on the Internet. He paid just $20 for the domain
name. While on the phone with the CCB, he used a phone app to add the
CCB number to his website, as required.
Meanwhile, he’s thinking
more broadly about the intersection of technology and contracting as he
starts up a “little software company” on the side of his painting
business. Once you’ve started one business, he says, “it feels so easy
to do.” He often listens to business podcasts as he works.
is upbeat about what he is learning, saying he has learned 200 percent
more in the last five months of being his own boss than he did in the
last five years as an employee. “When you’re completely in charge of the
situation, you’re learning from those mistakes.” Here are a few lessons
learned since we last met up with Tylor.
Spilled paint: Dilution
is the key. When a ladder shifted and dumped nearly a gallon of paint
on a concrete floor of a commercial building, he didn’t panic. He just
added water, and soaked up the “painty” results with rags. “There’s not a
mark on the floor,” he said.
Light over dark: The yellow
spatter on his T-shirt belongs to Miller Paint Evolution, a high-quality
paint he used to paint an accent wall. Unfortunately, he was trying to
cover a dark wall with a light-toned paint, requiring five coats of
paint instead of his usual two coats. That cut into his profit because
he wasn’t specific enough in his contract about this contingency. He
added language to his bid that indicates whether the bid reflects the
use of a light, medium or dark-bodied color.
After December 2015, he vows “My next winter will look very different.”
This past winter he was still enjoying the “shock” of how much money he
could earn as a business owner versus an employee. “I thought I could
make money so quick…” Then, shock of a different kind set in as he
realized he needed money today for a bill that was three weeks out. “I
am not good yet at gauging when to hit the Mayday button,” he said.
over quality: Some people will, in fact, choose price. He lost out on a
bid for a large custom home to a lower bidder even though the owner
couldn’t say why the other bid was lower. Cheaper paint? Cutting
corners? Tylor wonders but will never know.