The Accidental Business – Part I of II

Laid off again! My claims adjusting work dried up overnight and I didn’t have a single consulting project lined up. With time on my hands, I pulled out the “honey-do” list and got busy. In just a couple of days, the list was done and my wife was happy. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and fondly remember repairing, painting and maintaining rental properties while I was in college. The sense of satisfaction over a project well-done was always a draw.

Packing the tools away, I thought about how I could use my skills to assist the senior adults in my church. As I mulled over what I could do, I remembered the retired contractor at my church who was leading our new building construction project for the youth center. I recalled how he had started out cleaning gutters on houses, then repaired a fence, then built an addition and 30 years later retired from building nursing homes and other large facilities.

I met with him and shared my need for work. We discussed my operations management consulting background and repair and remodeling experience. I came away with a list of people I could help in our church and a commitment for further counsel. Next, I prepared a flyer listing the type projects I would enjoy doing and took it to my church as well as several others. The following Sunday, walking to my car, a senior adult stopped me and asked for my help at her home. We made an appointment for the following morning.

That evening I took inventory of what I had in my storage unit, discovering tools in bins and boxes that I’d forgotten I had. I also realized that some jobs would probably require higher skill level and equipment than I possessed and some would be best handled by professionals in their field (plumber, electrician, roofer, etc.). I cleaned and oiled and sharpened and prepared my tools for active duty and packed my SUV. I secured my expandable ladder onto the luggage rack and I was good to go.

My senior adult client turned out to be a real estate agent. My nephew and I worked for seven straight days. We replaced cedar-wood siding that required driving 100 miles to have it custom cut. We removed and replaced a door and casement, pressure washed the entire house, painted the exterior, installed a doggie-door, fixed leaky faucets and pipes, cleaned slate floors, installed screens for her custom windows, re-hung some hurricane fencing, etc. And, that was just the beginning. When she offered to pay us, I didn’t turn it down. She was very generous and kind and referred us business, not just volunteer work but the paying kind.

Other realtors began to call as well as a home inspector. Those calls led to a series of repair projects on properties waiting to close. One of those repairs turned into an opportunity to add a two-car garage. Another project required removing and replacing a tottering chimney frame and then to painting the entire house. A chance encounter at a building supply store led to building a complete workshop. Like I said, an “accidental business”.

Angie’s List connected me to an antique lamp owner who needed some rewiring for a rare marble lamp. That project led to building a deck, then a wheel-chair ramp and then replacement of a picture window, then a neighbor’s siding repairs.

I took every job that came my way. When I ran into something I didn’t understand or was beyond my experience, I called my retired contractor friend for advice. Sometimes he would refer me to a sub-contractor for the job. Other times, he pulled out a tool and taught me how to use it properly.

A Craigslist classified advertisement for a carpenter brought me a true craftsman with eighteen years experience in remodeling. He was humble, intelligent, skilled and tactful. I listened closely as he spoke to clients, drew out what they wanted, explained what was possible, and described the costs involved. He was a godsend and his craftsmanship spoke volumes.

And so, my “accidental business” began to grow and evolve. Will it last? I believe so. Is the economy beginning to turn around? I hope so. But if it’s not, I don’t really care. I cannot afford to wait passively for things to change. I will continue to find creative ways to meet my family’s needs. We are AmeriCANs. That means we have the intellectual and material resources to accomplish just about anything, if we are willing to share and to apply our creativity. LED Screen Church

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