After a tumultuous week, Michael was told that his position was no longer needed at the home builder he had worked at for almost 10-years. He knew that the housing market would always have its ups and downs, but never thought he would be a casualty of one of the downs. He was wrong. After his long drive home, he shared the news with his wife and kids. While his wife, Pam, was consoling, she was noticeably shaken. After all, Michael was the primary bread-winner; and their savings was not exactly flush with cash.
Pam asked, “What do you plan to do?”
Michael responded, “I really don’t know. I suppose I could look for work, but construction is my thing; and if I just got laid off from my current employer, I can’t imagine a lot of general contractors needing help.”
“You seem so talented, Honny. Why don’t you start your own business?”
Michael reacted, “If there are no homes being built, it’s probably a bad time to start my own general contracting business.”
“Well, you have to do something. Should I try to find a job to help out?”
Michael appreciated Pam’s offer, but he knew that it would be more difficult for Pam to land a living wage as she had been out of the work force for almost 8-years, while placing most of her focus on raising their two boys. Michael knew it would be up to him to somehow try to earn an income in the construction market, as bad as it may be.
In the days that followed, Michael gave a resume and cover letter to any builder he knew. The answer was the same everywhere. No jobs. If he was going to make it, he would have to start a business of some sort. Michael was very resourceful and, as an experienced construction manager, knew how to build better than most. He started a business called Builder Mike’s. He lived in a suburb and felt like he could get work from some friends to get things going. Maybe he could at least make some income until the real construction economy returned.
Michael was able to get odd jobs from some friends who wanted to help him out. He did a few kitchen cabinet replacements and several other odd jobs that weren’t enough to pay the bills.
As the family sat down for dinner, Pam asked, “How is your odd-jobs business going?”
Michael smiled, “I know I’m doing odd-jobs now, but I hope to get a few clients who want me to build something for them.”
Pam asked, “How many clients have you tried to get who want something constructed?”
“I’ve told all my friends about my new business. If someone wants something built, I suppose they’ll call me. Right?”
“I’m not a business person, but I think you have to get out and sell your company.”
Michael shrugged, “I don’t want to be one of those pesky sales people. If people need something built they’ll ask.”
“My friend, Nancy, the chiropractor, hired a business coach. She said that he helped her double the amount of customers she has.”
“I’m guessing there’s a higher demand for chiropractors right now, than for builders.”
“Maybe. Nancy, told me she hated to sell… just like you; and her coach helped her create a system where customers could find her easily and hire her.”
“Hmm. If I can avoid being an annoying sales person, maybe this business coach can help me, too. How much does he cost?”
“Nancy, told me that he’ll do an initial consultation for free; and then he charges by the month.”
“I suppose it couldn’t hurt to give this business coach a call.”
After getting contact information from Nancy, Michael called her business coach, Coach Russ. As promised, Russ spent an hour on the phone with Michael. Russ informed Michael that he needed to create effective marketing. This marketing would attract people who needed construction projects and thus give Michael the higher paying clients he needed. Russ also informed Michael that he needed to establish a Marketing Foundation before he could start marketing at all. Russ indicated that he would charge $1,000 per month to work with Michael on a weekly basis to help him establish his Marketing Foundation and help him execute a viable marketing plan.
After this initial call, Michael was disappointed. All he wanted was customers. He didn’t want to pay some consultant a lot of money and still not have the clients he needed to pay his bills.
Once again at the dinner table Pam asked, “How did your call go with Coach Russ?”
Michael shrugged, “I don’t know. I suppose he probably knows what he’s doing, but I don’t think he can help me get the clients we need right now.”
“What do you want to do?”
There was a long pause, “I don’t know what we CAN do. I can’t find a decent job; and I’m not making much money with these odd-jobs. I think you’re going to have to try to find work.”
“Okay. Will you be watching our boys while I work? or Should we hire a daycare service to watch our boys?”
The reality of the situation settled in for Michael. If Pam worked, she would probably just make enough to pay for the daycare service they would hire to look after their boys. If he stopped working and looked after the boys, they wouldn’t be able to pay bills with Pam’s income alone. If he paid Coach Russ $1,000 per month, at least he would have a chance of creating a successful construction business and getting out of this terrible financial situation.
“If I hire Coach Russ, it will cost us $1,000 per month. Do we have this kind of money?”
Pam responded, “We have some savings. I think we can go at least 6-months, paying our bills and paying the $1,000 per month. If you feel like this coach will really help, I say ‘go for it'”
“Okay. I hope this coach knows what he’s doing.”
The next day, Michael called Coach Russ back and they started their coaching relationship. The first session was relatively intense.
Michael started, “What can I do to get customers?”
Russ responded, “Hold on. I first want to know what problem you solve for your customers.”
“What? I build stuff. What do you mean what problem I solve? If someone wants something built, I’m their guy.”
Russ smiled, “In order for people to buy something, they need to have a want or a need. Even when people want you to build something, there’s some reason they want you to build something. What is it that drives their desire to seek out a builder?”
Michael thought about it and then responded, “I suppose they’re running out of room in their house; or want a new kitchen; or new bathroom; or just need more space. They may even need a new house.”
“Very good. Let’s dig a little deeper. Didn’t you tell me that you were laid off because people are not buying new homes?”
“Rub it in why don’t you!”
“I’m not trying to open old wounds. But I am trying to get a sense of your marketplace.”
“Yes. People are not buying new homes.”
“So, what will people do who can’t buy a new house; but still need more space in their existing home?”
“I suppose they may try to make an addition; or finish their basement; or make due until they can afford to buy a new house.”
“Very good. Which need do you want to speak to in your messaging?”
“I don’t know what you mean. What do you mean by messaging?”
“You just told me that home owners will either renovate, add on to their existing home or make due with what they have. Which one of these needs do you want to address with your business?”
“I suppose I would be good at doing basement finish projects.”
“Great! I think we’ve started to build your Marketing Foundation.”
“I’m not sure what you mean. What is a Marketing Foundation?”
“A Marketing Foundation is the Why your company exists and how you will communicate your Message in a way that compels new customers to use your company. This foundation includes seven fundamental elements:
- What you do
- What needs you solve; or benefits you provide.
- Why you are uniquely positioned to help
- An avatar of your ideal customer
- An elevator speech
- A Unique Selling Proposition
- A brand”
After Coach Russ explained all of the elements of the Marketing Foundation, Michael was given homework to develop his own Marketing Foundation prior to the next coaching session.
Coach Russ was quite impressed with Michael’s resolve in doing his homework. It appeared that Michael was quite invested in making this coaching relationship and his business work. Michael changed the name of his small business to “Michael’s Basement Finishers”. He felt that this new name was more consistent with his new found niche of finishing basements. Michael created a clear elevator speech that went something like this:
Why buy a new home when you can double your square footage by finishing your basement? Michael’s Basement Finishers has close relationships with local contractors to create an impressive addition to your current home at less than half the price, and in half the time of buying a new house.
Michael stated that his Avatar was a married couple who owned a home ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 finished square feet with two ore more children; and one more child on the way. His logic was that such a family would be wanting to buy a larger home, but couldn’t afford to buy new. This was a family that would be willing to take out a home equity loan to make the pay for a basement finishing project.
Coach Russ and Michael polished Michael’s initial elevator speech and messaging to the point where they both agreed that Michael would gain a lot of traction through direct-mail marketing; and Facebook ads targeted directly to Michael’s niche Avatar.
By Michael’s third coaching session, he had a few interested home owners. At first, it was a challenge to convince his new prospects that he could successfully renovate their basements considering he had never done this work outside of his former employer. However, when Michael talked about the long-time relationships he had with local subcontractors, his new prospects were convinced that Michael’s Basement Finishers was the best choice for their basement remodeling project.
One of his new clients wanted a $50,000 renovation and the other was a $100,000 renovation. He acquired both of these clients through his direct-mail campaign.
It wasn’t long before, Michael had lined up $500,000 in basement finishing projects and could do no more work until he hired help. It was clear that Michael would have no problem paying the bills. Coach Russ and Michael were no longer working on marketing. Instead, they were working on business growth plans so that Michael’s Basement Finishers could handle $2,000,000 in basement finishing projects the following year.
Michael and Pam reveled in their mixed blessing. When Michael lost his $85,000 per year job with the home builder a year ago; they were concerned that Michael could ever find such a job again. Then, when Michael flopped at his odd-jobs business, it seemed clear that they would crash financially. It took only a month of coaching from a professional like Coach Russ to turn their curse into a great blessing. With the profits from Michael’s Basement Finishers, Michael wouldn’t be concerned about employment ever again.
As a business coach, I help my business owner clients change their mindset in a way that allows them the freedom and profitability they have always hoped for, but never thought possible. I write weekly blog posts just like this one; and am developing a robust online training system for business owners. If you want to stay up to date with all of the cool stuff that is going on at Jeff Schuster Business Coaching and receive two awesome business coaching tools, sign up here.
Note from the Author
My name is Jeff Schuster. I am a certified Life and Business Coach serving small business owners, corporate executives and others who want to transition from “expert” to “entrepreneur”. I have been a small business owner for most of my 30-years in the workplace. I grew an energy efficiency and renewable energy engineering and construction company from nothing to over $10-million/year and sold it in 2013. I now help other business owners make amazing progress toward their own dreams of business ownership independence and success.