Friday, March 25, 2005

Working with General Contractors

So we are moving along on the new industrial building. Although this is a steel building, it has taken 9 months to get to the point of moving in. Granted, that 9 months include 6 months of trying to get the site plan done. This project hasn't been completely terrible, but it should not have taken so long to get to this point. Here are my lessons learned:

  1. When hiring a general contractor, be sure to put penalty/rewards based upon an agreed upon schedule.
  2. Don't let a subcontractor set the pace for the entire project. In our case, it was the surveyor/engineer that held the project up for so long. When it was apparent that they were not making the changes in a timely manner, my general contract should have fired him and found someone else.
  3. Be sure your general contractor has a specific timeline for when things will happen. This includes ordering and delivery of parts, timing for subs to start and finish, timing for payments, etc.
  4. Don't let the general contractor set the slower pace. Push push push!
  5. Don't be afraid to make changes as the job progresses. However, at the same time, be a tough negotiator on the change order price. This is where most contractors make their profit. They screw you on the changes.
  6. Ask questions and learn how things are going together. If something looks messed up, tell them to fix it.
  7. Finally, visit the jobsite every other day at least. Call your general contractor daily in the morning and ask what the plan is for the day to be sure they keep you at the top of the list.

I know this sounds like a "how-to" article, but I figure if I don't give some real content, no one will ever read the blog.

By the way, we have just gotten all our brochures in from the printer ( They did a great job. I would highly recommend them. Just be sure to talk to them about how the colors will be when printed. That is the hardest part in printing.

On another update, the new Hayes Investments commercial project is moving along fine. We are still in the negotiation stage. I expect to have signed contracts early next week. I will tell you all about the project then.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Long Wait

After I place a contract on some new property, there is the invariable long wait. This can be a period of self doubt, nervousness and general angst. I have had people come up to me and mention that so and so is going to buy the very same property I was looking at. Then you start to notice all the bad things about the property. Maybe you drive by it one time too many and begin to ask yourself what in the world you are doing.

The worst part is the attorneys. They are never in a rush to get anything done. For instance, I have been waiting for better than two weeks on this contract right now. In fact, I am begining to wonder if they forgot about me. To make matters worse, most real estate agents aren't in much hurry either.

I spoke to one guy in Staunton last week about a building he has for sale. Actually, the building I called him about three months ago, just sold but he never returned my call. Now, I am trying to get a bit of info on the next building and this guy still hasn't called me back. Maybe he died or something.

I can never get over the fact that most people are in business to avoid doing business.

Meanwhile, the long wait continues.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Rare Rantings

I am in the middle of several projects today which are all moving in the right direction. This is a big switch. Normally, I would get one thing going forward but something else would slip backward.

The new industrial building is under roof. This may seem like a simple task, but it has taken my builder 9 months to get to this point. If I can offer any words of wisdom it would be this: Always put a completion date with penalties for going over.

My new real estate project is moving along nicely. I am buying a tract of land which is very reasonably priced with the intention of rezoning it and developing a high-end office park. Everything looks good and I should have some parts of the land pre-sold before I even buy the property. In addition, I have added an option to buy an additional tract across the street.

Back at RentQuick, my google tests are working well. There is nothing worse than offering what you think is a great price/product then getting absolutely no response from the market. Luckily, this is not the case on this test. We have seen a better response on this test than any others to date. The secret is go rediculously low with a great product. Everyone will rush to it. Then slowly raise it up until the response slows.

Tents and Events has recieved the new truck. This baby is 20' long and sports a lift gate. (Soooo sexy!). Now all I need to do is get the graphics done for it. I can't think of a better advertising medium than a big, new truck. If you ever buy a new truck, put lots of money in the graphics. It pays off big time.

As with all my businesses, the big thing I am looking for is a predictable return on investment. Google gives you a great place to test market messages and wording, but ultimately, you will only succeed if you offer a compelling and worthwhile product or service at a competitive rate. No kidding!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Trying New Ideas

Right now we are chugging along. Tents and Events is growing quickly, although the new building is not yet finished and we are in danger of losing our warehouse where we are renting.

Rentquick is going fine, but not as good as I would like to see. I have been toying with the price/volume mix and am thinking about running a test on our google advertising. I am thinking that I should try to run our best projector at $99/day and see how the market responds. I give it the weekend to run some more numbers. The real risk is that if I were to do this, we could see revenue drop quickly with no increase in profits. I will just have to test it first.

Hayes Investments is still in the process of selling off some of our commercial property and getting ready for a new project. I have my eye on some 33 acres in Waynesboro, but still have yet to get a reply to my offer. Hopefully, this will work out. I haven't given up on buying an old downtown building in Staunton, but I doubt that I will. I have little experience in redevelopment and don't feel like being risky.

I will try to talk more about the business issues in coming days and find my voice for this blog.

Take care.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Working on brochures

Today, I am suffering through brochure creation. This is a royal pain simply because I haven't taken the time to really put down what I want to say before I get to work. I should have spent a day writing it all out on paper before trying to create the brochure. Oh well. It is starting to take shape.

We are also in the usual spring growth stage. We are hearing from our regular customers and it is great to see them return. If you want to feel good about what is going on in your company, simply look at the repeat business you get.

By the way, I think I hurt myself sledding yesterday with my kids. I went over a jump on my stomach. Not smart.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Back from Jackson Hole, WY

I am just returning from my trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. What a cool place. I was attending the Steep and Deep skiing camp which is put on my the Jackson Hole Ski Resort. To be honest, this was some of the best skiing of my life. I really enjoyed it and learned quite a bit.

Today I returned to the office and found a pile of bills and work to catch up on. While I was gone, we received our new 200 pipe and drape booths for Tents and Events. This is exciting to me (Yeah, sick huh?) since this is a whole new arena for us. Interestingly, we are already using them a good bit.

A big part of what I do is create marketing materials for the company. Right now, I am way behind in my work. I need to create a whole set of slicks for Tents and Events, a new page for the walkie talkie sets, the RentQuick March newsletter and about five other things. Since I have so much work, it made sence to go home for lunch and go sledding with my boys.

Back to work...