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Founders of construction and remodeling companies will tell you there are many different roads to starting a business. This week we hear how a self-taught sub-contractor transitioned to building a growing home remodeling company – and the difficult choice he made of building his business, instead of building for it. In the midst of launching a third company branch, Ken Combs sits down to talk us through his past mistakes and the bumpy road to scaling a successful business.

Show highlights include:

  • The counterintuitive reason building your business the wrong way is the fastest way to build it right (1:52) 
  • How to find former executives to mentor you for free (9:24) 
  • Why a “businessman who builds” makes more money, has less headaches, and enjoys more free time than a “builder with a business” (11:57) 
  • The “Predictive Analysis” process for scaling your construction business in the future (without sacrificing your current workload) (17:24) 
  • Why you already have the business processes that can double your construction company this year (26:24) 
  • How being the dumbest person in your company gives you an unfair advantage (29:13) 

If you want to connect with Ken, you can email him at ken@cqchome.com

To get the most out of this podcast, or connect with Duane and Dave, head over to https://buildernuggets.com and join our active community of like-minded builders and remodelers.

Read Full Transcript

So I sat there and I thought to myself, wow, what an impact, not smiling had

Welcome to builder nuggets hosted by Dwayne Johns and Dave young. Hey, our mission is simple, build freedom. We are a couple of entrepreneurs turned business coaches who have dedicated ourselves to helping our builder remodeler clients create the most rewarding businesses in the industry. My co-host Dwayne has been a successful builder and remodeler for over 30 years. He's seen the highs and the lows. From the beginning though, Dwayne has been on a quest to find a better way to run a contracting business. In 2016, he found that better way. That's how I met Dave, a lifelong entrepreneur and visionary who measures his success by the success of those around him. He reached out one day with a formula on how to transform my business and the rest is history. Since then, we've teamed up to help hundreds of contractors like you build better businesses and better lives. Now we've decided to open up our network and share our secrets so we can start moving the needle with you. It's collaboration over competition. Each week, we bring together industry peers and experts who share their stories so that we can all build freedom together.

(01:11): Our guest today has traveled a path that is very similar to my own. He started out as, at a very young age, as a laborer owned his skills that were necessary to become a carpenter moved on from there and began manage others as a site supervisor. And then ultimately went on to open his own business.

(01:26): He is a gentleman farmer and a family man with humble roots. He has spent his life in Durham, North Carolina, where he was involved in community building for decades and continues to make his mark on that great

(01:38): City. It's my pleasure to welcome Ken Combs, owner and founder of the design build firm CQC home. Welcome Ken. Hi Ken. You and I spoke a while ago. I mean, it's apparent to me that we have certainly followed similar paths during our careers. At one point, when we were talking, you said doing it wrong, helped you figure out how to do it. Right. I think most people would agree that that statement is is very true, but there's not many people that will admit that. Why don't you take us back to those days in the beginning, you know, when you were just getting started in the industry and, and had to learn from your mistakes. Yeah.

(02:10): So I'm not scared to, to say, cause I did it so wrong so long for so many times, and it was so stressful, but you know, that's, that's where you learn, right? Just the whole hard lessons in life or learn, you know, learn about doing it screwing up and, and not learning, not doing it that way again. So, but like you said, not after I was a laborer for a while working for LMA incorporated in chapel hill. And I, he kind of taught me how to do everything the right way. He was a, what I call a starving artist amazing builder did everything perfectly redid everyone's work, but just couldn't make any money. And so after working for him for three years, I just decided I could do it better myself. I, I, I thought I just 22 and I thought he didn't know what he was doing.

(03:01): And he was, didn't know how to make money. And so I was gonna go out on my own and try to do it myself. So I started collecting business, talking to people, trying to find odd jobs from building decks to per staircases, whatnot. And like I told you the other day very quickly realized it was not that easy and there was a lot of things I didn't know. And so I remember one, I was playing a staircase one time and I was a 10 99 employee. So I worked for myself, but I was a subcontractor for a general contractor. And, you know, you get paid a fixed price to do a job. You're not getting paid. You know, it's not like it takes you 20 hours. You don't get paid for 20 hours. You get paid a set for whatever the project was.

(03:40): So I was building the staircase and if I remember correctly, it was paid somewhere around 500, which, and it should have been about a four hour job. So I should have made a hundred, five an hour, which was fantastic for A2 year old. Well, when I got done with the staircase and I stepped back and looked at it and the rate was about seven all off from the stairs. So the, the last baller was 36 inches and the first was 32. So, and it was metal baller. So tear it all apart and start over and, and did it the second time, which talked me twice as long got it all finished and had the the general contractor come out, take a look at it. And, and his thing and pointed out another four or five things that were done incorrectly.

(04:23): And so I had to tear it apart and redo it again. So long story short took me about 16 hours to do what a, a skilled person that knew what he was doing. We should do it about four hours. So that's 500 paycheck for 16 hours of work. And you can do the math. I'm, I'm losing money at that point should, should have up my day job. But that happened over and over and over through, for about three or four years, just, just screwing up, learning, studying, reading, every single thing I could to try to you know, cause I don't, I, there there's no backdrop, you know, there's no, no one's gonna pay me to do things wrong. I only get paid if I produce the product. That was correct. And so I, I, to force myself to learn. And so I did that for about three or four years and, and, and just continued to just get better and better and hone my crack.

(05:07): At what point was it when you decided to start your own business? So I was about 25. I, yeah, I had gotten good enough to where I could actually hire helpers. And I hired, you know, just like probably most companies. I hired one guy and two guys and three guys. And at one point I had five guys working for me under kinda the traditional path where they're 10 99 guys they're, they don't have insurance. They don't have you know, I'm not paying them. I'm just paying them an hourly rate to, to work for me. And there was no benefits, nothing like that. So what wasn't paying workers comp wasn't paying liability insurance, none of those things. So, but I think it was, I wanna say 2013 in one day I was working for my working out my home still, and I had two young babies and I was like, well, I mean, I, I really need to become legitimate here because my risk is, is growing.

(06:02): And I think it was one of my mentors back then that told me like, Hey, you, you know, you're, you're, you're starting to gain some risk. I was going probably about a million in revenue. And so I said, well, okay, I'm gonna come legitimate. So one day I think I told you this the other day I went and put everybody payroll. I hired a payroll service company. I went and got worker's comp insurance. I went and got a liability insurance and I realized very quickly how expensive it actually is to run a business and realized that I was I was basically just buying work. It wasn't actually running a business. And then, so over the next two to three years from 2013 to 2016, then, then I had to, I learned I needed to be a businessman and not a business owner and not a a construction worker or carpenter per se.

(06:47): So I, then I did the same thing as I did before I went back to the books. I read every remodeling magazine, pro remodeler, remodeling builder, any I could find on, on business in my mindset completely changed from wanting to know what type of tools and how things are connected to what type of programs I needed and how to pay people and how to motivate people and how to, how to protect businesses and how to, how to market and how to sell and how to sell properly and, you know, learning mark up versus margin and how to make money off of my work and all those things. So I self-taught myself for the next three years. Again, same thing, every single article, every single book, obviously online, whatever I could find listening to podcasts, watching videos, talking to people, mentors, I joined RA advantage, just trying to get some education and have some people that know have done this before, teach me what I needed to learn.

(07:40): And over the next few years became a businessman 2015 bought my first showroom building hired a designer, transitioned from we work custom quality carpentry for a long time. That was what I started the company name as, just for lack of, cause I didn't have anything better. So that's what I was doing carpentry. So I was like, you know, custom quality carpentry, right? So, but since I had so many things, my trucks and business cards and everything with custom quality carpentry already on it, I decided to keep the CQC. And that's where the CQC home came from. So I rebranded in 2015, became a design build firm, brought on a designer in 2015, we did about 1.6 million with about six guys and then have one designer and myself and my wife, and then just been growing improvement every year, learning every day. But we're we've transitioned our projects. Our, our reputation has grown. Our project size has grown.

(08:34): Ken. I love your analogy about the, the starving artist and recognizing that and saying, I know that I don't wanna be that I can do better. So going out and, and starting it on your own and realize that, oh my gosh, I'm a, I'm a starving artist, but my art sucks, which is kind of what that stairway example told me. You, you were the, you were the starving artist, but without the artistry yet. And, and you got the experience, you focused on the artistry and you focused on the building or on the on the construction aspect of it. But the real shift for you sounds like it came when you recognized, wait a minute, this is about building a business. And when did your mentor have to do with that? And how did you find your mentor?

(09:17): Yeah I, I found him through I'm trying to remember the name of it. But it's a, it's a group that offers a free consulting. It's past executives that used to run companies or work for companies that now they they do it. I think it's they do it for, for, for free, for starting businesses or new, new businesses that they coach them. And I think they do it. It's just a way to get back. I'm trying to remember the name of it. I'll probably come to me here in a minute. Oh, score. That's what, it's senior core of retired executives. It didn't cost anything and it's, and it's free of, and so I, someone me about it, like, I think it was another colleague of mine from the home association. And so I called them and they partnered me up with actually a guy that was the C of Miller brewing company, obviously enough so and monthly.

(10:15): And he was the one that kind of told me like, Hey, you're, you know, you're, you're, you're, you're, you're getting your, you, your business is getting to the point where you're you're being a little too risky by not doing these things. And a lot of people, a lot of guys on that still run businesses just like that. They, they, they have guys on payroll that are not on payroll that are just paying 'em cash or under the table, and they don't have insurances. And, you know, and it's, I, I understand cause I was there and it's expensive, but it's, but it's a high risk low reward proposition. So, but no, you're exactly right. I, it almost was overnight. I mean it almost one day I was just like, I, I have to be a businessman now. I can no longer be a craftsman and, or I'll be a craftman forever.

(10:58): I have to choose. And then, and then the more I learned, the more I realized, I didn't know. And I just had to continue to learn and learn and learn. And every, and it just like every day was something new and it was unreal for a couple of years, how much was just coming at me. And I was still trying to keep a business Aflo and learn how to manage and run cash flows and, and keep, you know, not Rob Peter to pay Paul and keep clients happy and run a service business and keep employees happy and motivated. And so it was a lot there for a while, but I, but you're right. It was, it, it, it almost seemed like was overnight, I made that

(11:32): Transition. It's interesting. Cuz the word that you used, I think when you were, when you're, we were to rewind was I wanted a legitimate business. So it sounds like you recognized that, Hey, you were flying by the seat of your pants. It didn't feel like it was structured. It didn't feel like it was something meaningful that had all the intention that was looking at risk and profit and, and all the right ways. So you, so you made the shift and then it became overnight. And as you were talking about that and telling the rest of your story mindset, it sounds like you adopted was that you wanted to be a business person that builds not a, not a builder with a business, you know, Dwayne and I occasionally will challenge guests stuff too. It sounds like you felt you couldn't be a craftsman and a businessman and at the same time, do you still feel that way?

(12:15): Yes and no. So I think you can for lack of a better term, you can be a craftsman business, you know, does that make sense? Like you can literally do it well and do it savvy and and, and do it better than other people and, and improve on it. Like, so being a businessman is, is, is in itself a craft. And you can do it well. I, I think you, if you get to a certain point where the business has created enough freedom that you can pick and choose the roles you want to play, then yes, you can be a craftsman and you can be a businessman and a craftsman. So for example, right now my business CQC term, my main business, if I wasn't out trying to create other opportunities for our, our business I could go hammer if I wanted to, if I, I have the flexibility and freedom to do that, my business is 95% self run.

(13:10): I spend about five to eight hours a week actually actively working on C QC, germ, the entity that we're, that we're, you know, my main business. So, so yes, I would say you can be. And if I wanted to be a craftsman, I could go out and I could hang cabinets or build cabinets or, or, or build houses or frame. And every once in a while I do jump in the field just cause I like to get my hands dirty every once in a while. But, but starting out, getting over that hump, getting from, you know, to that two, three, 4 million in revenue range with a, with a well run business that that creates freedom. I think it would be really, really tough to still swing a hammer and still do all of the necessary things that you need to do to be able to run a successful business.

(13:48): You're right. It is hard to be able to to, to maintain that if you're doing it yourself, but one of the things we've had success with in, in our coaching, Dwayne and I is, and we do have quite a few people who want to have a, a craftsman mindset or a craftsman feel to their business because they're, they're taking great pride in the finished product. They considers it themselves, crafts people of the experience as well. And you know, it's a good, we can maybe pause for a second in here here and talk about the, a culture of craftsmanship because just because you wanna have it in your business, doesn't mean you have to be the one swinging the hammer and sure. It's a mindset that, Hey, we want to have, it is a form of artistry to us. We just don't wanna be a starving artist because we're gonna put business principles around it.

(14:38): It's a misconception that you cannot have a culture of craftsmanship that you cannot put real effort and energy and, and work with trades and real fine, real high level skilled people and wrap a business around that. You absolutely can tailor design a a business around that. And there's a, there's a real need for it. So I see where you, yeah, I see where you're going with though with the con the idea of being a crops person around your, the business mechanics itself, but you can have it in terms of, of the, the artistry or the finished product and the experience that you de deliver as well. That's, that's the beauty of what we're, we're all doing here and why we're having this variety of yes. On this, on the show is that you can really craft your business to be what you want it to be. But there are some of these basic principles and you're sharing with them, the ones you've learned along the way, how you've learned them and how you overcome them so that these are, these stories are so important. Cuz other people are sitting listening to this right now going, Hey, I've, I've been there, I've done that. And it's inspiring to hear how you got through it and, and what you're doing next. So yeah. Thanks for sharing that. Yeah,

(15:47): No, that, that, I completely understand what you're saying. And, and I, I agree with that. You can and have a, a culture of high quality craftsmanship and artistry within, and like you said, there is a demand for that. There is a need for that. I think just knowing all of the people that I know that have gone up the ranks of construction started a small remodeling or new construction or construction business. It takes so much time and energy to do all of the other aspects of the business outside of the business that you do, whether it's framing or building or general contracting or whatever you of it's to those. And also the art doing the work, swinging the hammer, pounding the nails, however you wanna call it. And, but once you get to a point where, where you, where there's some freedom allow, then, then absolutely you could. So I think we're both saying the same thing just

(16:45): In different ways. Yeah. It's the hitting the ceiling concept, you know, and, and you go through that in your business set multiple times. You don't, it's not just one ceiling, but you said you're kind of getting going. Maybe you get around that million to 2 million mark, you're gonna hit a ceiling or you can only do so much. And then you put some other things in place, processes, people get the team built. Now you can blast off and maybe get upwards of three, four, 5 million, then there'll be another ceiling. So that, and that's part of the continuous learning. But also that I think the big part is realizing it, you know, realizing that, wait a minute, I see something coming up there. This is gonna be a challenge for me. Yeah. Over the next few years, I better start making some changes so I can, can blast through it. So that's

(17:21): Cool. Yeah, no, that, that's, that's a good point. I, I think a lot of business owners, especially construction business owners, because it's such a high impact, high demand business. We, we and a lot of business I owners are always essentially just putting out fires or dealing with what's right in front of them and not enough of them enough of my colleagues and enough, enough construction business owners are looking at the future and then creating a path to where they wanna be for where they're at today and then doing some predictive analysis. Like you said, what, what's coming down the road. What do I need to look for to make sure that I'm prepared for when that does come, that there there're, it's so many moving parts that they're usually just kinda like taking it as it comes and dealing with fire and dealing with fire and dealing with the fire and never really stepping back and saying, this is where I'm at. This is what's coming. This is where I want to be. And let's make a path to get to where I want to go and then make educated steps to get from where they're at, to where they

(18:10): Wanna be. It'll be cool to talk about your scaling plan in just a second, but probably a good spot to take a look at where you are today. So you, you it's clear and this is, this is something we see. So often the first shift and anybody can do it whatever day they want. If you're out there listening, you, this can start for you tomorrow. It's that mindset shift that I'm, that I'm gonna go and I'm gonna focus on building a business and I'm gonna learn. And these are the things that, that I'm going to do and put into this business, and then I'm gonna execute the building. But without the plan first, without, without that knowledge, without that structure, you have, you're just building yourself a hamster wheel. But so that's clear, you went, you invested in that, you got a mentor, you started to surround yourself. You, you mentioned a few collaboration points that you had there and you grew and tell us where you are, you know, tell us about your business right now. What's how, how many staff do you have on, on your team? Sort of give us an idea of what the different roles are, are the key roles in your particular company and the business model that you're using. OK.

(19:16): Yeah. So right before I jump into that, I wanted to say, mention a point on what you just said. Like I said, if, if someone's listened to this and they're in that stage of their thinking, well, I need to, I maybe I wanna run a legitimate business and I need to start learning what that's gonna look like. The reality of it is, is it's, it's unpaid education. So it's not like going to college, like where your parents paid for you to go to school and you could just go to school and then go, go back to your dorm. And that's all you gotta do. Most people. And like myself, I still had to support my family and myself and I still had to run my business and I still had to build the decks and I still had to build the porches. So, so I was working 40 to 60 hours a week, swinging a hammer.

(19:53): And then I would use my off time in the evenings and afternoons learning how to run a business, reading the article, studying whatever. I couldn't just stop everything I was doing. And then start training to be a businessman. I had to do both at the same time. And that's tough if you're running a small business and you're, and you're, you're, you're still physically having to take care of and build the projects that you have to build. So you can pay the bills, all this education that you're teaching yourself is unpaid education until such time as you learn it and you use it to make you money, right? So I just wanted to clarify that most it, it's not like I just stopped one day and said, I'm gonna stop doing the business that I'm doing and start learning, be a business I had to do both at the same time and then transition over time.

(20:31): So, but back point. So today we're full. We are design build. We do 90% of our design work in house. We have a full design staff, which includes an architectural draft person, certified kitchen of bath designer, two designers, and two estimators. So that team essentially, and then we have two sales. Their only job is to go out and, and find work and sell work and bring it to our design team, sell our process, sell our team, sell our our product. They bring it to the design team. The design team takes it from there, brings our client through the design process, which usually takes anywhere from two to six months to get ready for construction. Once it's done, its passed on to our construction team. Our construction team consists of mostly project managers, but we do have some in-house carpenters as well.

(21:21): And then and, and it, we have all together about 20 fulltime staff. No part-time staff leadership team, which consists of myself, which I'm more business development and we can get into that in a minute, but I'm, I'm out create opening other locations of C QC which currently I'm opening C QC west, which is Burlington elements, county med, which is a market that's expand growing, expanding rapidly right now. But the C QC DM has a leadership team that is a sales. Manager's also a full-time salesman design manager who runs the design team construction manager who runs our 13 construction members, office manager, which runs all of our account and onboarding and all that good stuff. And then my general manager Dick and Houseman who he, he kind of pulls strings and, and facilitates everything and kind of runs the business per se, for me, similar to, I guess, what you would say as COO does for, for a lot of companies.

(22:23): So so that's the structure of our business. We're this year we'll do somewhere between 13, 15 million in strictly residential remodeling. We've no, no custom homes and very little commercial remodeling average project size is about 190,000 right now. That's gone up about 30,000 a year for the last five years. It just continues to go up as our reputation grows, we have a full time marketing manager or marketing director. It's we do most all of our stuff in house, almost all of our marketing SEO website Google social, almost all of that we do in with her. She actually facilitated and set this this meeting up with you and she's phenomenal. And then, so that's C and the CQC west which I'm starting up is myself. My wife who's helping me start it up as she did this business. And we currently have one project manager and look probably looking to hire another project manager here in the next you know, two months or so, because we've got a pretty good book of business already lined up. I know we've just gotta figure way to perform it. So does that, that did I cover all the bases on where we're at

(23:36): Wanna level up connect with us to share your stories, ideas, challenges, and successes, the builder nuggets community is built on your experiences. It takes less than a minute to connect with us@buildernuggets.com, Facebook or Instagram, want access to the resources that can take you and your team to the next level. One call could change everything.

(23:56): Yeah, that that's great. It's, it's exciting. You know, especially the part, most builders are not able to successfully launch additional offices. They struggle with it. It's something that we've worked with quite a few to do. So kudos for you for getting that off the ground. How did you make the decision to start another office in order to go in order to, to, to branch out?

(24:17): Well? So our vision at CPC is to be the largest home modeler in North Carolina and the preferred employer in this industry. So that that's, that's a fancy way of saying it's not really for the sake of being pompous. We don't wanna be big for the sake of being big. We wanna be big for the sake of creating opportunity. That's the only reason we wanna grow. So the larger we grow, the more opportunity we create for current and future employees. So there's only so many positions here in C QC Durham, but as C Q, C E, and CPC Raleigh will, you know, they're gonna have project manager positions and they're gonna have construction manager positions, and then they're gonna have operations manager positions, and then they're gonna need general manager, right? So that gives everybody the opportunity to kinda continue to grow in their skillset and, and create a true career out of this entity CPC that allows these people to, to, to row and, and, and get back to their families and the community and this, that, and the other.

(25:09): So to answer your question we originally our first office, we opened up with CPC Raleigh two years ago, last year, it's been kind slow going, not as fast as I expected it to a lot of competition and the it's Raleigh dealing with Raleigh and permitting has been really, really tough. So, but we still, we did about one and a half million in 2021 in Raleigh. And this year we'll probably do about two and a half million in Raleigh. So it's a slow growing, the main missing element. The reason I think it's growing slow is it didn't have that entrepreneurial go out there, get people, sell business, meet people, go to meetings, join HBA, join the local chamber of commerce, you know go to networking meetings, all that good stuff, right. Just get the word out there and, and, and get people to know about you.

(26:03): That should, that should have been me. I just didn't want to, because I don't. And particularly like Raleigh, you know, like the traffic, so for there. So therefore it's kind of my fault that it didn't grow as fast as I would like, whereas CQC west I am heading it up and I'm start, I'm spending 90% of my time there. And my expected to grow faster and a little more rapidly. But we, we created I mean over the last four years, we've just created documented processes for everything. And, and a lot of people say they don't have processes. Everybody has a process. You just don't have it documented. You have a, for you open the door in office, you have a how you, and what you, so you can't teach it to someone else and scale, but you have a process. So we, we created processes as necessary, but we also documented all of our processes.

(26:51): And so we basically take those same processes, put them in a new location where we try to keep the locations close enough that we can still kind of feel like a family. It's 30 minutes door to door from my two, from these two locations. But so, so the teams are, you know, and we, of course we have programs and things where we can communicate and slack and all that good stuff. But ultimately I think you need, whether it's the owner or who whomever some personality or person that's highly entrepreneurial, that's willing just go out there and like, make it work and then use the processes that have been in the business to be able to move to a different location.

(27:26): Yeah. It's such a similar story to somebody we know very well. And one of, one of our collaborators, a player McDaniel shared the same story with us, where he opened his first office and lights out success opened. Second office didn't have that local leadership there, you know, put the pieces in place. And he thought he had the pieces, the, the right pieces. But he also realized that without having that vested leader in place, that it wasn't gonna have the same effect and very similar to what you were talking about. He's like, it was still okay, but it was not this same level as the core office. So you, you really need a, you really need a local champion for each relocation that you want to open. But no, that's, that's exciting. Good for you.

(28:15): I think you're, I think just from looking at you, guys' last podcast and the last few you guys will agree with me that people are everything. I mean, people are the asset, you know, there's absolutely people the asset, right. So local champion is perfect example. Yeah.

(28:30): Yep. And it takes, and it takes leadership. I mean, that, that gets me to another point I wanted to bring up is that, you know, it's obvious that you've, you've learned a lot of different skills, both, you know, hands on skills and obviously business skills, but you've, you've acquired some leadership skills as well, to be able to, you know, grow a team of like that manage the people that you have get into several locations. I know you were part of Ram's advantage. I think Vista, I was also a member of Vista for a while. What do you think along the way, what were one of the biggest ways for you to acquire some of those leadership

(28:58): Capabilities? I, I, I, I think here, the couple of things you just mentioned were, I mean, all of those are, are really of ways, but I, I think it's just having an attitude of just not knowing everything and being willing to learn. I think I told you this the other day, I truly, it sounds funny, but I truly want to be the dumbest person in the room in my company. I want, I want the people around me to be successful. I want them to be better at their job. I want them to tell me what to do. I don't want, I don't want, want them to give me me advice. And, and that's not a cliche. That's, that's a reality. I love it when people know more than me and I have the ability to teach me and prove me wrong and show me the right way to do things.

(29:35): There's no, I have no ego about it at all. Zero. So part of, part of that's just who I am, and that's really helped me as I've grown the business and learned because I I've been willing to trust and listen to other people's point of views and then listen and implement without having you know, be willing to try things without having an ego that says, no, it's my way or the highway. And so I don't think I've ever really got an argument with, with any of my employees actually actually talking to my general manager yesterday. And I said, cause I'm a little bit, I may be a little bit of soft sometimes, but I don't think that I've ever really gotten in an argument with an employee, even if they screwed up something really bad. I mean, as long we all make mistakes. As long as you learn from your mistakes, then, then it's a lesson. It's a paid lesson or sometimes expensive lesson. Sometimes it's not, but it's just a lesson learned. And, and there's no really, I mean, arguing and fighting and getting anger at, people's not really gonna, not really make anything

(30:25): Better. No. And, and leadership is probably one of the most valuable skills to learn. And one of the skills to Contin, I would say constantly work on as you're a business owner, because what you're going to do is as you become a better leader, it just through osmosis, those around you become better leaders. And that's what really helps to grow. You know, the teams that you're building is to elevate those folks so that they can become better leader than better leaders themselves. Dave, and I you'll hear it. If you listen enough to the podcast, we talk about building a business that you can exit to have some options and we call it building some freedom. What are you, what are you doing now to pave your path to freedom? I mean, what, what kind of plans are in place for how you want the business to look and how do you plan to achieve that kind of freedom over the next

(31:05): Few years? First, I'll say this, just to give some, some of the listeners that I'm only 36. So if, if I, you know, that should give you if you're, you know, if you're in your 20 or thirties, and you're thinking this as an, as an option I'll and I don't have zero college experience. So just put that out there. So like is possible, you know, and, and I'm, I, I, I live comfortably. My business takes very good care of me and it's, but I want a business that's management run. I don't see myself necessarily for like a better word exiting or retiring anytime soon. I don't, I don't know what I would do with the space on my calendar. So, but I wanna build a leadership team that I can and trust that I can go on vacation with my family for two weeks and, and not be worried about fires, falling through, not worried about things falling through the cracks clients, not being taken care of.

(31:53): And then ultimately I want to be a business that what I intend to do is a, is like a Phantom stock. I dunno, we can have a whole podcast about that, but, but but basically I wanna build a business that's valuable enough that I can create a internal stock system that allows this leadership team and the, and the, and the vested employees that have been here and that have helped build this thing, give them value and give them long term equity that allow them to ultimately exit or retire or whatever ever. So there's a lot of things that kind of go into that. But first you gotta have an entity that's valuable enough to, to justify that similar to an ESOP, except for a lot less red tape and a, and a lot less complicated, but it's more of just an internal system that allows people that have put the time and energy to help me build and grow this business, largely the leadership team, but also other employees to have the opportunity to buy stock.

(32:50): And then, so to answer your question long term, my business will be sold to its employees is kind of the intention. If that makes sense through this fan of thought that we're gonna build, but again, you gotta have a business. The entity that's valuable enough, you know, two to one asset, the debt ratio, great cash flows, great revenue, great path, clients, all that good stuff, right? So, and once I get to that point, which I'm, I'm hoping I will be there in the next three years, that will be kind of the, my, my way to exit se

(33:19): The crux of how you're gonna get there is you, you mentioned it way back several minutes, 15 or 20 minutes ago in the show, when you were talking about what you're passionate about, and that is creating opportunity for other people as a business leader, one of the best things you can do, this is probably the best thing you can do is to go out and create opportunity for other people and it's opportunity. They may not necessarily have been able, would've been able to create for themselves and whether it's an ESOP or a Phantom stock program or ownership chairs, or just playing a fan revenue sharing or a fantastic career, it's your job as the leader to make sure that you're going out in your creating that opportunity, you're creating that environment. And it sounds like you're committed to that. You've got a, a path towards it. It's interesting in the, in the lead up for the show we talked about what's on your wall. So tell us about rising tides.

(34:12): Yeah. yeah. It's, it's posted everywhere. My employees get tired of hearing it, but it, yeah, we I, I say all the time rising tide raises all ships. So if my employees do better, you know, I do better. Their teammates do better. Our customers do better. Our community does better. It's if if so rising tide raises all ships, it's just, just say a mentality that, you know, the better I do, the better they'll do the better they do. The better I'll do the better. We all do gather collectively whether it's on a, a global level or micro level, or even just within our team. Right. So we all look out for each other. Our mission is to tangibly improve the lives of our employees and our customers. And we live and, and, and by that and our, our business for lack of a better term, every decision make, whether it fiscally benefits me or not me personally, as the owner and or our employees, it is if the decision we're making improves the lives or the experience, or the, the service to our clients and or our team members, then, then that's what we do.

(35:16): Sometimes that hurts me financially. But in the long term, it, it is always been a success. And our, our whole team kinda lives by that. So we, we constantly trying to improve, therefore our service offerings are better for our clients, and we're constantly trying to add ways whether it be financial or otherwise to improve our lives of our employees whether it be through helping them with go to school or whatever, you know, there's all types of things we know, or going on company trips or whatever, whatever we can do that will make their life better while we try to do that.

(35:50): Yeah, it's, it sounds like you're onto it. And it's something that we've put Dwayne. And I put in our, in our business with our leadership team and in the, in the businesses that we work with, it's an elevation strategy in developing a culture of elevation. Because once you do that, everything gets better constantly. And you need to, your job as a business leader becomes to make sure that your team has meaningful projects to work on that they have the tools that they have, the training, they have the systems and the processes, that those things that are in your head as a business owner are now documented and repeatable, and that makes your business predictable. And that's how you grow a meaningful business that you can scale. And as I'm listening to talk here, kinda thinking about you're a young guy, you've got a lot of things figured out, and you've got a lot of things still to figure out.

(36:42): And Steve Barkow who we just had, you know, in a recent episode, again, with the people plan started out with the life plan. And in fact, he gave us the name for our very first episode. The one Dwayne and I did was a work in progress. Your work as leader is never done. You don't totally have it nailed. And you sit back and you go because you're, you've got a team full of people and they require additional leadership and they require additional opportunity. So it sounds like you're, you know, you are a young guy, but already you've had, you've learned a lot. You've collaborated a little bit with some other, other, some other groups, but you've really committed to discovering and sticking to your guns about, Hey, this is about creating something amazing for other people. And that then the freedom will come for you.

(37:30): And, and that's what, when we learn about freedom and talk about it on the show, that's what it is. The, the freedom to work on meaningful jobs, to have the, the freedom of purpose and to do it with people that you value trades, that you value market partners that value you, and then it becomes fun. It's going to work and that culture of valuing each other amazing. And then freedom of time, you're, you're spending your time on with, on purposeful things with people that you enjoy, ultimately you are, are going to be successful. So, yeah. Congratulations, man. Good luck with your expansion. And we'll look forward to following this journey with you to see, to see how it goes.

(38:10): Yeah. Thank you. Yeah, no, you're, you're exactly right. And I, and I would say to your listeners, one, one of the best things and is speaking and construction related. You're I mean, I'm, I do, we do remodeling. So we're, it's very personal in people's homes. Your spend it's a service business. You're lots of communication. One of the best things about building a business that is well run that creates freedom is that we have also the freedom to choose our clients. And I, and that is, I mean, it is, it's been one of the, the, a game changer, because like you said, it is our, my responsibility as a leader to give my team the tools and resources they can to do their job and do creative and cool and unique jobs. I, it's also my responsibility to, to give them clients that respect and value their professional and the, and their service and their care and the, having the the freedom to be able to choose that and not just take whatever job comes your way, that's a game changer.

(39:04): For sure. So, and I give you one real quick story. You're talking about, about enjoying what you do, which I absolutely do. I love coming around my people. It's just, it's infectious. That's so fun. My, my I don't familiar with that or with this area, but we're here in Durham. My other office is 30 minutes west of here and in Burlington and which, and then Greensboro's another 30 minutes west of Burlington, right? So an hour from here. Well, my, my architectural drafts person just bought a house in Greensboro. And I told him yesterday, I said, you know, you're, I can set up you an office here in Burlington. You don't have to drive to Durham every day. It's, you'll save 30 minutes, both ways every day. And, and he just smiled ear to ear and said, no chance. I wanna be around my team. You know, I, I love going to the office and being around the rest of my team. Like, I I'd much rather spend an extra hour in the car and be hanging out with my teammates during the day in and office and save me an, I just thought that was just

(39:58): So cool. Yeah. That that's a sign of a real culture. Like there's, there's lots of reasons why people switch companies or, you know, are happy or unhappy with their place of work when you create roles and a, and a culture and a company where people don't wanna leave each other, you know, you've made some, that's pretty amazing because they can, they can tolerate some of the tough things that this industry throws at you. They can weather the struggle that, or pressures even from out outside. And when, when you've got that, they don't wanna leave each other, they support each other, they elevate each other, all those boats are going up, you know, it's a great spot to be. So, yeah. That's awesome. Congrats.

(40:37): That's great stuff, Ken, this has been some really good stuff. We appreciate you taking time and gonna love to have you back. Absolutely. We had a lot of our guests turn into regular guests on, on this show. I like the idea of the Phantom stock. We talked about ESOP stuff before, so that probably could make a really good episode around some of the ways that we can build some things internally like that for more opportunities for employees. So love it folks out there that are listening and wanna learn a little bit more, how can they find you?

(41:04): Yeah. Yeah. My email is Ken CQC. That's C QCM, and you're welcome. Reach out to me and call. I'd be happy to phone share anything I can to help this industry. Cool, man. Thanks again. Awesome.

(41:23): No problem. Thanks guys.

Hey, thanks for listening, Dwayne and I love hearing from you. Your stories are inspiring and your challenges can be overcome. Got a cool tip idea for a show problem that you haven't been able to solve, or maybe just struggling to figure out what you need next and where to get it. We can help hit us up@buildernuggets.com and start building freedom.

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