A question that currently comes up from all angles is, “What is your plan when you can no longer wear the tool belt on a daily basis?” That is a tough one that I have thought about for a long time for which I have a few answers. Let’s play this out from some varying perspectives.
The first scenario is one in which I truly do not ever take off the toolbelt. This one is unlikely for me, but I know many people who have worked physically for their entire lives. Most of these people remain fairly healthy and live a long life due to being in a better physical shape than most of their peers. Personally, I believe that I will always physically work in some capacity, but not on a daily basis as I do now. I can see myself performing specific tasks, lending a hand, or taking on more of a supervisory role. If I were to keep the belt on for the rest of my career, I would most definitely specialize.
Being that I prefer a quality over quantity approach I would need to focus my energy on a specialty trade that requires less physical effort, more specific tooling and knowledge, and yields a premium pay rate. Some prospects may be specialty millwork, custom cabinetry, preservation, or historical restoration work. There is plenty of this type of work in my area, it does not require massive amounts of labor, and people are willing to pay a premium for this work, if you can execute properly. I could see myself doing less bulk remodel work and specializing down the road. I am not at that point yet in my career, but if I wanted to keep the belt on, this would be a highly viable option.
Another option would be to take on a more managerial/supervisory role within my projects. I have shifted toward this over the last couple of years with good success. The challenge has been to generate comparable if not more income while performing less work in-house. How do you make more money while doing less work?
Essentially I have had to create a business model and product that affords me an ability to make enough money to subcontract most trades while charging an additional rate for my time. I have worked towards this the past few years, but it is not a perfect system. I am still limited to the volume of work I can generate due to there only being one of me. How do I go on vacation? How do I take a day off? What do I do if I need to meet with a subcontractor, vendor, or inspector, but have another obligation that interferes with my schedule? How do I make enough money to cover my time on these projects? As of right now, I am still self-performing various trades, so I am compensated for that portion of the scope, my management, and my markups, but if I were to subcontract all trades, I would need to find a way to generate more income. I would have to offset the loss in revenue created by no longer self-performing. I have some ideas, but nothing that I am ready to implement.
The most logical sequence here is to hire a qualified carpenter with an ability to run their own projects. The goal would be for them to generate enough income to cover their costs plus make a margin on them. They could help me on larger projects if I needed a hand or if I could not be on the job that day. I would have to generate more work, which complicates things, but working by myself will become more and more difficult as I get older, my kids get older, and life becomes more complicated. Again, the goal would be to remain lean and sell our services and execution rather than our numbers. I could see myself managing larger projects or builds while having a full-time carpenter to supplement my management needs or general labor on these projects/builds.
Another option would be to go and work for someone else. I have always done my best to build a quality and dynamic network of industry professionals. If the time came that it did not make sense for me to be self-employed any longer, I would like to think that I have created a strong enough network to afford me a good living working for someone else. This is the least realistic option or path for me, but I will not rule it out. I cannot discount injury, burnout, or stress as a contributing factor to this decision. Regardless I always approach life and business with a mindset that creates value for myself, but also value to someone else as an asset to their company if the time ever came.
The last path that I would currently consider is to remain extremely lean on the remodel/carpentry business side of things and focusing more on content generation, education, and digital media. The past year I have worked less on the job than I have since I started my business 14 years ago. I have focused on investing time into this platform, and lining up projects that allow me to create more valuable content for those of you who share this life and business experience with me. I have learned to enjoy writing and devoting time to the Modern Craftsman platform and the community including partners, our team, and listeners. To me, this is the most reasonable path at the moment. I have elected to devote a full day per week to this platform. The goal is to continue devoting more time to the podcast, the interviews, content generation, traveling, and partnerships.
I will continue my remodeling business, most likely hiring some additional help, and splitting my efforts between the two ventures. I truly enjoy the challenges presented through manifesting this plan. The more I put in place to ensure mutual success between businesses, the more accomplished and gratified I feel. I would like to refine my remodeling business even further, hyper-focusing on specific projects that present opportunities for growth, educational content, and partnerships. I have realized that I do not want a massive business with a large overhead, dozens of employees, and multiple large-scale jobs going at once. I still want to be able to wear a toolbelt, and work on homes and projects that challenge me. I want to simplify and distill the renovation process from design to completion. I want to document all of this and share this experience with all of you.
I hope to create a dialogue, platform, and narrative that truly has an effect on our industry for the better. I want to not only educate the next generation of builders, but the next generation of consumers. We struggle to be proper business owners, and in turn people struggle with how to be good customers. They do not understand how to hire, how to vet, or how to differentiate. Contractors and builders do not understand how to educate customers as to how this entire process works. I want to help bridge the gap between contractor and client. I want to narrow the gap between classes through education and commitment to craft. I believe that I can do that with both my belt on and my belt off. For now, I am going to continue down the path that I am on while working toward marrying these two sides of the industry. Contrary to what everyone thinks, I do not believe they must be independent of each other. Every decision that I make will be done so with the reminder that I will not always be able to work as I do today. I must manifest a plan and business that affords me the lifestyle I desire with the amount of responsibility I want in life and business.
- Tyler Grace