The last 6 months my life has been consumed by a remodeling project which has taught me a few valuable lessons. I hope to get into the specifics of the project in a later series of posts but for now all you need to know is that we tore a rental house down to the bones and built it back up. As you can imagine there was a lot of work to be done and a lot of lessons to be learned.
Why a Case of Beer is More Powerful than Money
So, “Why is a case of beer more powerful than money?” simply because it is true. In our project beer was used to acquire as much material as we paid for. How is this possible you ask? Well, it helps to know the right people. My brother who helped me out had contacts in the construction industry who were sitting on surplus trim, doors, cabinets, and laminate. Thinking back on it the entire kitchen owes its existence to hookups. It is not uncommon for people in any industry to have surplus material that they don’t need. Offering them something in trade can be a great way to get what you need for a fraction of what it would cost to buy new. In one case a gentleman wanted simply to clean out his garage. So, in his eyes we were paying him to hall off his junk.
The only catch to this approach is that it takes time and someone who knows the right contacts. After this project I half way wonder if I could warehouse a complete home given enough time. I could watch Craigslist, talk to local business owners, and comb suppliers for items they don’t care to hold onto. After a few years I could have everything I need to build a new home! Ok, that may be a bit of a stretch but there is no doubt value in the approach.
The Cost / Time trade off.
I haven’t taken the time yet to model the idea but for you do-it-yourselfers out there I want you to recognize there is a direct correlation between the cost of a project and the time required to complete it. If you have all the time in the world you will be able to wait for the good deals and strike when the time is right. If you are working in a window however be ready to pay a little more for product. For our next project home I plan to take the later route. If I can turn a house around in half the time for more money I will be happy with it.
There were many times in this project that I could have hit up Home depot or Lowes to get what I needed but held out for something to come up.
( In fact I am currently looking for a white stove if anyone has one in the Spokane area.) My reasoning for this stems from the success factors of small business. Watching where every dime goes is very important at the small business level. I must admit it isn’t always easy to wait for a good deal when you know what you need is available at your local retailer.
The Emotional Tie to Deadlines.
If you have tried your hand at any large project you will have witnessed firsthand the difficulty of forecasting milestones. There are many reasons for this but the biggest one for us on the house was the lack of deadlines. Our position on this property allowed very few time restraints which consequently pushed completion out. Why is this? The short of it is that a deadline institutes an emotional tie to the work. Without a deadline, and consequently no emotional tie, there is little incentive to push through any rough patches. If you’re tired you stop, if you are hungry you eat, if anything pulls you away you don’t resist because you don’t have to. Now, if you have hard deadlines the story changes and you are much more intentional with your time in the project. This dynamic exists everywhere and anyone who tells you different doesn’t know what they are talking about.
Every business large and small needs a “push man”. This will often be the owner or general manager of an organization. What is their job you ask? Among other things, their role is to create the emotional tie between workers and their work. The contrast between a company with someone like this and one without is staggering.
Balancing Work, Family and Play
That was a bit of a tangent but while we are talking about the house project I would also like to touch on balancing work, family, and personal time. My wife and I had a baby girl in October so finding time to do everything has been difficult. I wanted to put a lot of sweat equity into this project but I have to admit I won’t be doing it again. My time is much more valuable than what we will get in return on this house and my baby is only going to grow older by the day. I would challenge all entrepreneurs to make time for you family and don’t lose sight of why you are working so hard.