October 1, 2023

How I Started My Business

I recently had a listener reach out to me via instagram asking to elaborate on how I started my business and what the beginning part of my career looked like. I know that I have mentioned this in passing, but I figured this would be a great opportunity to dive a little deeper and share my story. Here it goes!

I started my business in 2010 right after I graduated from college. I had realized while attending Drexel University and working my internships for larger commercial construction companies, that I wanted to head in a different direction. I was fairly unfamiliar with the residential construction job market, and the little experience I had working for my dad’s company did not appear to be promising from a job prospect perspective. As I am sure all of you have heard, my dad showed me how not to do things, so the exposure and experience I had working Summers and during college for him did not serve to be fruitful for my future. 

As soon as I graduated I had a change of heart and realized that I did not want to work for a commercial contractor, and I did not want to work for my dad. I also realized that most small residential companies would pay little to nothing, so I ignorantly decided to start my own business. I figured I could do some painting, handyman projects, and odds and ends to make money. I was not super ambitious to say the least. For some reason this path seemed to create less anxiety than stepping into a career working for someone else. At this point I had a small Toyota Tacoma, so I bought a utility cap, started purchasing tools, setup and LLC, picked up some general liability insurance, and I was on my way. 

I had zero branding, nothing was lettered, I didn't even have company t-shirts, but I was on my way to becoming a self-made man….barely. My first job was in Delran, New Jersey, and the customers hired me to replace all of their hollow core masonite doors with hollow core six-panel doors, remove and replace their clamshell casing, and then paint all of the stain grade jambs and stops white. I can recall making multiple trips to home depot to pick up the door slabs because I could not fit all of them into my truck. Just as with every job moving forward, I would bid the project, take a deposit, buy the tools I would need, and then figure out how to do the job. For this project I remember not having the money to spend on a track saw, so I used a piece of plywood with a door stop to make a zero clearance sled for cross cutting the doors to size. I did purchase the porter cable three gun/compressor combo and a porter cable router guide for the hinges specifically for this project (I still use that inexpensive jig to this day).

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For the next handful of years most of my projects followed this form. I would get a phone call, visit the customer’s home, prepare an estimate, and sit patiently waiting for the phone to ring. Luckily for me, we had purchased a fixer upper as our first home, so I always had projects to keep me busy or test the waters. Practice at home, then implement on the job. I mainly did painting and handyman work until I broke into the bathroom market. I had also hooked up with a realtor who had kept me busy with work that needed to be done for closings. Once I started remodeling bathrooms, I never really looked back. From there I worked my way up to kitchens, basements, larger remodels, and even an addition. 

From the onslaught I always wanted to learn. I would ask questions, never say no, and read. Holy crap, did I read!!! Every time that I looked at a project, I would go home and purchase books on the topic and then hop on the internet to devour any content that I could feast my eyes on. When I started out, I truly knew nothing. Each project and lead was an opportunity to not only learn something new, but then attempt to execute. I will say that I have always been a fast learner, but the stress and anxiety created from learning on the fly led to many sleepless nights. Every mistake was unbearable. I would obsess about the mistake, learn how to fix it, fix it, and then vouch to never make the mistake again. Most customers were not paying for this level of service at this point in my career, but I had no idea, and my personality left little room for error.

A few years into this, I met a plumber who needed  a carpenter to handle bathroom leads that came his way. At this point I was probably 3 years into my business and was beginning to form my own customer base, so not wanting to miss a potential opportunity on either side of the coin, I started both working with him while handling my own projects. Right around this point, I hired my first employee to keep up with the demand. After a couple of years of burning the candle at both ends with this plumber, I told him I was going to focus on my own projects, and we parted ways. At this point I went full in on TRG. This was right around the time I met Nick. 

I purchased a new van, re-branded the company, pushed my social media marketing, refined my product, and the TRG who you all know today was born. This was the turning of a page. We had our first child, my business was busy, I had a full-time employee, I was landing the jobs that I had always wanted, I was investing in quality tools, and I was beginning to make a name for myself. I really focused on quality and delivering more than others were willing to offer. All of these changes began around 2015. Five years after starting my business. 

Looking back on the progression of my business, it is obvious that it was controlled and deliberate. I still feel that I approach business the same way. I am conservative and calculated. I prefer to remain small and lean and focus heavily on quality and attention to detail. The early days of TRG were extremely trying due to a lack of experience, confidence, and skills. I struggled with this for many years, but it certainly helped shape who I am today. There are most certainly things that I would change, but who’s to say what impact that would have had on things. I feel as though I have done well for myself, I have established a great reputation, and I have gained more wisdom and knowledge than I would have if I had gone to work for someone else. Overall, I am happy with where I started and where that has brought me today.

- Tyler Grace

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