This is a follow up story for Patriot Chimney. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 4 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hello, my name is Mitchell and it’s good to be back. I am the Director of Administration (self-appointed title) of Patriot Chimney, which means I am over marketing, accounting, customer service, and all things on the “business” side of it. We are a full-service chimney company, but also provide dryer vent maintenance and repair.
In 2021, we have 3 vans and 5 full-time employees serving our customers every day. We’re set to cross $500,000 for the first time this year. We haven’t finished closing the books for November, so through October, we’ve earned $463,000, which is 30.81% more than last year.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
The business has been growing! We’re up about 30% since last year, and we’re looking for ways that we can increase business. The problem isn’t so much how to get leads, but rather how to service them fast enough. We’re actively hiring new technicians, but we can’t train them fast enough to get them out in the field for meaningful work beyond training.
We’re booking more than 60 days out and considering NOT taking new customers for the rest of the year and a couple of months next year. This is a very scary option, but we’ll likely need to go this route to help slow things down.
The obvious solution would likely be to raise our prices. We did that, We raised our inspections from $85 to $250 per inspection. The goal was to limit the number of new customers (all repair jobs start with an inspection) we’d take on.
To also help, we’ve constricted our service area by only servicing about a 30-mile radius around Roanoke, VA, where we’re located. We’re doing all of this in the hope that we can get to our customers a lot faster than 60 days. Our ultimate goal going into 2022 is to get to customers within 14 days on average.
The most impactful project we completed was the implementation of the Entrepreneur Operating System (EOS) which is a decision-making framework to help get your business to the next level. We created core values, 1-year goals, 3-year goals, and a big goal. All of our decision-making is based around these items and helping us achieve the goals while also falling within our core values. Without EOS or some other framework and goals, you’re trying to put together a puzzle without looking at the box. There’s no vision; no guideline for your business to grow into. Now we have that, and I can tell that there’s a big focus on achieving our goals.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Give yourself room to fail. You’ve probably heard about allowing yourself to fail. You should do that too. Without taking risks, you’re limiting your creativity, innovation, and risk. But I’m talking about giving yourself room to fail. This means giving a buffer so that if things go wrong (they will) you won’t be scrambling around trying to move things around.
Think of it as going to the airport. It’s recommended that you arrive two hours before boarding. This gives you enough time to check your bags, go through TSA (even with extra checks from them), get a snack, use the bathroom, and still relax before boarding. By getting there early, you’re giving yourself room for a buffer in case things go wrong.
In our business, as I mentioned before, we’re booked solid for the next couple of months. We work outside, so we rely on dry weather for safe access to the customer’s roofs. If it rains and we can’t do the work, we need to reschedule. The problem is when we have to schedule this customer, we have a list of other customers that we’ll also need to reschedule and we’re in a bit of a domino effect trying to get to our customers fast enough and not messing up the schedule too bad.
If we give ourselves room to fail, by maybe keeping a day open each week or only scheduling new jobs for the first half of the day, we’d be able to adjust a lot easier by filling the open days and time slots.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
Our 1-year goal is to reach $800,000 in revenue with 10% profit and have 10 total employees with four work vans. We’ll decrease the time it takes to get to our customers to an average of 14 days. We’ll also implement a much better training program that will allow employees to go from trainee to technician much faster.
We’re entrepreneurs and we want to solve problems, but focus on one at a time.
We don’t have a set 5-year goal with EOS, but we do have a three-year goal. By then, we’ll be at $1.5 million in revenue and $150,000 in profit. We’ll have 17 total employees and 6 work vans. We’ll also move into a much larger office/warehouse.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
The number one book I read was Traction. This lays out everything you need to know about EOS and how you can implement it in your business.
I’ve also read the HBR guide to Buying a Small Business. I also own another business, Town Mountain Maids, and growth through acquisition is a huge growth strategy we’re focusing on right now. This book helps layout how to buy a business even if you don’t have a ton of upfront capital.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Stay focused. I can’t stress this enough. Too many entrepreneurs get started and have this idea for a huge holding company, Warren Buffet style, and it causes them to lose focus on the tasks at hand. It’s so easy to get distracted. We’re entrepreneurs and we want to solve problems but focus on one at a time.
I have two businesses and I focus on both. But there are ebbs and flows where I’m working on Patriot Chimney a lot more than Town Mountain Maids. And then I’ll work on a project for Town Mountain Maids and put Patriot Chimney on the back burner.
I’m able to do this because I took the time up front to focus on these businesses and built a team of support (when we had enough revenue) that can handle a lot while I’m on the next project for a different company.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We’re always looking to hire new technicians for our jobs.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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