CCB Live Classes
In 2016, the CCB will hold three-hour classes in Salem on Feb. 17, June 2, and Nov. 3. All Salem classes start at 9 a.m., will be held at CCB offices at 201 High St. SE, and require registration. You can register online by going to our home page: www.oregon.gov/ccb. If you have questions, call 503-934-2227.
The CCB will also offer a three-hour class as part of the Home Builders Association (HBA) BuildRight conference April 20-21. Register with the HBA.
Most contractors take the CCB classes online. You must log into your account to take these classes. If you need to create an account, select the orange “Register” button.
Stormwater management summit
The Mid-Willamette Outreach Group sponsors this one-day training on Jan. 26 in Keizer on the topics of construction erosion prevention, stormwater facility design standards, and operation/maintenance of public stormwater facilities. Contractors can get six hours of Series B continuing education credit. Learn more at http://www.cityofsalem.net/erosionsummit
Recent news releases
Patrick Scott Cartwright, 47, will spend five years in prison for stealing money from a Lane County homeowner who hired him through a church friend for a construction project.
James E. Gabriel, an unlicensed construction contractor doing business as Florence Hearth and Patio, must make nearly $18,000 in restitution to four clients and shut down his business for repeated violations of construction contracting law and court-approved agreements.
The Construction Contractors Board (CCB) fined a Washington-based business $5,000 for working without a license while building a single-family tree house in a Sitka spruce in Neskowin.
A con artist is now serving 2 ½ years in prison after pleading no contest to stealing a legitimate construction contractor’s business name and license number. Gerald James Borton, 41, of Gresham, allegedly used the information to bilk unsuspecting customers out of thousands of dollars.
Mentoring, marketing, managing money…
Our second visit with the contractor we’re following through his first year
Three months after we first spoke with Tylor Stone, the painting contractor who is just starting his business, we meet again, this time in a Corvallis paint store. As it rains, Tylor and his mentor, Travis Wagar, contemplate the approach of winter.
Winter, in fact, is a big reason Travis offers to help new painters make it on their own.
“The nature of painting is you have to lay off people in the wintertime even if you had a great summer,” he said.
So he encourages employees with an affinity for painting to be their own boss. Both he and Tylor say learning the painting trade is relatively straightforward. But knowing how to run a business is something else altogether.
From the mentor perspective: “Half of it, I think…is figuring out whether that person has what’s necessary to be a business owner,” Travis said.
Tylor already realizes that it isn’t the craft that makes the business owner as much as “the mindset of how you go about making money.” In the first month, he called Travis multiple times a day.
“And half those calls was me telling him you’re not an employee anymore,” Travis says. “Just think like a business owner. And then the answer came…”
“That was always the answer…” Tylor agrees.
Early on, Tylor asked lots of questions about pricing. Once he panicked, and tossed out a number to a client only to hear from Travis “Never give a price on the spot.”
In contrast to mathematical formulas (square feet times a number), Travis’ system is more “home-brewed but strangely more accurate,” Tylor said. “You look at the room and think, ‘this many gallons,’” Tylor said.
While “a little more empowering” than math equations, this system comes with experience, he concluded.
Of course, educating homeowners about the bid is as important as selecting paint. Travis and Tylor not only tell clients what’s in the bid, they tell them what’s not. So when a recent client said to Tylor, “You’re going to do the baseboards, too, right?” he directed them to his written bid. It said “This bid does not reflect any baseboards.” That would have been days’ worth of additional of work.
When Tylor presents a bid, he explains to homeowners that it is based on two coats of paint. He describes the grade of his paint. And, he sticks to his guns about his pricing and the type of painter he wants to be. That’s the case even when it’s a Friday, he has no jobs lined up for Monday and a prospective client is pushing back on his hourly rate. “Is it, like, $10 an hour?” the man suggests.
You can find that price, Travis notes, “but I’m more.”
“You have to know who you are,” he says.
Problems with a job typically arise because of unreasonable timeframes or lack of information, Travis said. So, he puts plenty of time into a bid. If there is anything that’s unclear, the benefit of the doubt goes to the homeowner, Travis says. “Of course, it should.”
Clients often thank him for the detailed contract, “and the fact that you called me back.”
Travis makes sure clients understand that when they get a bid (even though his software program says “estimate”), it’s a number they can count on. “If I’m short on product because of my bad bidding, that’s on me.”
Tylor said that despite his fears he would need a law degree to generate a detailed bid and contract, he has found products online that work.
As word-of-mouth painters, client relations are key. So, if a client needs a change order, be reasonable, Travis says. He looks for a way to do something free for each of his clients, a tip he picked up years ago from another contractor. It might be 30 minutes of something he knows how to do but they don’t – fixing a cabinet door, for example.
Reading people can be as important as sizing up a job for a bid. Tylor is also learning to say “no,” tactfully. Customers who insist they need you in two weeks or appear high maintenance may not be the best to take on, especially if you’re already busy.
“It has to do with reading the market,” Travis says. Several lower-maintenance jobs will generate the same amount of money, perhaps in less time.
“Every time my gut said ‘no, I shouldn’t do this’ and I did it, I paid for it,” he added.
Let’s say your current job ends Friday, then there’s a weekend, then…nothing. “It’s basically like you have a job but you’re going to be fired in four days,” as Tylor puts it. So, what do you do? His goal to get jobs word of mouth, and that means no large advertising budget.
First, you deal with anxiety, something Travis recalls vividly. “It took me about four years to have that oh-no-what’s-going-to-happen-next-feeling go away.
On the other hand, he told Tylor, “It doesn’t actually help at all to be anxious so don’t do it…It will actually mess with your motivation for that day.”
Instead, they plotted out how much Tylor has saved, and his personal and business expenses. From there, Travis could map out a worse-case scenario. Some other strategies:
Stop for Tyvek: When Tylor sees Tyvek, the sign of a project under construction, he might turn his car around, shake someone’s hand and leave his business card.
Build relationships: He’s already developing some repeat customers, including a property management company. That came about because “my wife, unbeknownst to me, put my ad on Craigslist.” She included his CCB number, which is required for any contractor who is advertising. As it turned out, the client called, in part, because Tylor holds a license.
Work with your retailer. Tylor lives 50 minutes from Miller’s Paint but he makes the drive to a particular store in Corvallis. Retailers not only give customers a list of painters they recommend but Travis encourages Tylor to learn everything he can about the paint to further his expertise. “Talk to the people who actually know the chemistry,” he says. “Get to know your product.”
Network with contractors: If you start referring your clients to other contractors for other types of work, they do the same back. “And if you do a good job in the midst of that, then people are happy all around and then you create a mini community of networking,” Tylor said.
How do you handle the ebb and flow of money – from occasional big check to gaps between checks?
Manila envelopes. Tylor has one for each month. Inside each, are that month’s bills for the household and the business. Everything from “eating out” to “cell phone bill” has an envelope. When he gets a chunk of money, wife Joelle pays bills – envelope by envelope. At a glance, he can see when he must have the next job. Come summer, it’s just possible he’ll fill a year’s worth of envelopes. “The way my wife and I do finances now is way more awesome and way more oriented around managing freedom and time,” he said.
Taxes are unfamiliar territory so Tylor will follow in Travis’ footsteps and pay an accountant an hourly rate to help him understand the Form 1040 (Schedule C) that he’ll use to report income as a sole proprietor, and how to keep records.
Travis typically talks to his accountant twice a year now – once to prepare for getting tax information together and once when he drops off his information. He said an initial meeting to understand the form is well worth the money.
Meanwhile, no more crumbling and tossing receipts. Tylor keeps everything together in one spot. And, it’s easy to keep receipts these days when he can put business expenses on a credit card, Miller Paint keeps a digital copy of everything he buys and most retailers will email receipts.
Tylor still marvels at having a mentor who genuinely wants to help him get a start in business and has willingly fielded questions ranging from the quality of tape to use on a trim job to the proper bid on a job. “He’s been super helpful,” he says.
Nearly three months since we first met Tylor, what has changed on the business side?
Tylor found a new insurance agent. He wanted someone local who would talk him through the “confusing world” of insurance. Changing insurance agents isn’t very complicated, he said, and his new agent in Corvallis was happy to explain the ropes.
Changed license endorsement. Tylor changed his license endorsement from a limited residential contractor, which limited the amount he could earn per year and per job. He is now a specialty contractor. This is a typical endorsement for many painters, roofers and other contractors who specialize in a trade as opposed to working as a builder or general contractor. Lesson: Tylor learned that to change his endorsement with the CCB, he needed to fill out a form and pay $20.
Wife Joelle joins the business: She quit her job and now supports his business administratively at home fulltime. “I couldn’t do it without her,” Tylor said.
October 1, 2015 - December 31, 2015