When times get tough we generally anticipate, or at least hope, that those closest to us will be your supports system, as you would be theirs in their time of need. It is so true that in the darkest of hours that the brightest of lights will guide you and be your security, and further that a lot about those around you will be truly shown. you will see those that shock you with how much they offer their ear or a hand, those that are there if you really need them, those that are not their as much as you anticipated and those that you never really thought would be there but become someone special in your life when the tide eventually recesses a little.
When I awoke from the coma and started to really wrap my head around the severity of the situation I eventually started to think about a lot of things, such as the business that I had been growing. So, I had started delving into real-estate, and had jumped in full force with an initial purchase of 11 houses to work on, essentially flip. I keep a steady crew of people pretty busy…one crew (call it Crew A) working on demo on a house and getting ahead of the next crew (Crew B). Crew B works mainly on plumbing, electrical, rough-in work, etc. Crew A comes back and works more on final constructions such as dry-walling, perhaps a deck, sometimes flooring. Crew C focuses on finishing…painting, most of the flooring, yard details. This seems to keep everyone pretty happy, because there is some level of diversity, yet there is enough repetition that they get a little more efficient on every house. In the end, we are working on any given 3 houses, and the timing of interchanging the crews gives freedom of project space, plus with 3 crews they can shuffle a person from one to the other when needed, and if there is a delay on something it is very easy to shuffle people around and keep them working, and thus happy and not looking for a new job.
It seems to be a pretty efficient model, not sure how I came up with it with zero construction experience, but I did. I was also pretty luck because I landed a pretty darned group of trades guys right off the hop, and they seemed content to stick with me, and realized I was going to be going at this aggressive enough to keep them all going for some time. Getting a good group of construction guys here is very difficult, as the economy has been booming for over a decade. Even in the recession, it never really slowed down, and it is near impossible to find workers for anything. I have heard it can be hard to find people that even have time to bid on a job, never mind actually DO it. Some larger industrial and commercial jobs have actually been put off due to lack of work force, and the billion dollar jobs are flying people in from all over. It is rather insane.
So anyways, one of the guys, Ji, working with me is basically the foreman running all of the crews, and actually found most of the guys to work. Part way through the initial 11 houses, Ji approached me to see if I would be open/interested in some sort of a partnership. Now, he had been awesome to work with…very knowledgeable, I got along with him well, the guys respected him and worked for him, and I really liked that he kept the atmosphere at each job light yet productive…I want an environment that people like working in. What I liked in the deal was that I generally trusted Ji and that I would not have to be there near as much, which is pretty cool. He would do full over-site without me actually continuing to give him direct payment, but wanted 20% of the profit. I liked the general idea and structure, but had some unrest. At 20% of the profit it would consume about 7-8% of my profits, but the huge trade-off is of course cutting my time at the jobs probably in half, which is worth it in my opinion. However, I countered him by requesting 40% take (yes, I know, more than he requested!), but he needs to put up 20% of the costs. There was then a progression on each new house where he would have to contribute more. My thought was that this gives him a bit more motivation to manage costs and more likely keeps his numbers true. My costs ramp up, the profit goes down and my margins drop, so does his take, and I know to start looking where the money is going. It is a way that if he can come up with the initial investment that he basically gets extra take-home compared to investment to start, and once he is stabilized he has double the stake in profits than he asked for, but he also takes on part of the risk, as he is investing cash in each project between initial investment, materials, labour, etc. This is a window to grow into a true partnership where he can make a lot more money, and it is a scale that he simply did not have the finances to do on his own. I know I could simply say no, or take his offer and would line my pockets a lot more, but I like this guy, and it just seems like a good fit. To my joy he found the money for initial investment and away we go!
So yeah, I kinda had to explain that portion of the business model to explain my concerns when I started wondering about where all of that was at after I came to. Of course nobody wanted me worrying about it, and just kept saying everything was fine. Ji even came to see me when he finally could and echoed what everyone else said. It really frustrated me…I had a lot of money invested in this, and while my health was the key focus it was still important. Now, the fact that Ji actually showed up, gave me some level of reassurance.
So finally, over 7 months after going into the hospital, people finally started bringing me up to speed on what had happened. The company had slowed a little without me around, as I was the primary person securing properties, but he still had it going along, and my husband and a friend would step in to secure the odd house that he would find. Here is the crazy part…he was not receiving full payment from MY end, but he stuck with it! He understood the situation, and was patient. I mean, the guy was out a LOT of money, and I immediately took him to the bank and got him half of it, and explained I would get the books in order and go over it all and make it good within about a week. He simply replied with a polite “no rush, I know you will fix it.” Seriously, how amazing of a person is this! Here is the even crazier part. When I finally got to go home I was in a wheelchair, and had all sorts of accessibility issues. It was Ji and some of the crew who, on their own time and dime, set up my ramps and worked on stuff in the house for me to be able to have access. I never new any of this until this week…I just assumed my husband hired someone to do all of that.
You know, I don’t know how I managed to team up with such great people in this, especially from day one, and while I clearly liked Ji and the crew, I had no idea how amazing they are. The world often upsets and saddens me. I often step back and look at the world, and it brings a tear to my eye. Then you see this…it makes you see the greatness that also surrounds us…it gives one hope. All I can say is thank-you…