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Unread 04-08-2004, 04:04 PM   #1
rob 223
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Q's about starting on your own.

Hi I have worked under someone for years and want to go on my own. Any advice on how to go about finding jobs? Also could I get some advice on how to judge or try to gauge possible builders or clients as to checking their credit or if they seeing if they are nightmare type people to deal with? Any trick questions or dead give aways? I know there will always be one or two bad ones but Id love to learn from some of your guys mistakes instead of all my own
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Unread 04-08-2004, 04:34 PM   #2
mitch
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Talking

I have been in and out of the buisness for a number of years and as of jan. I started my own buisness. A couple of things I have done is advertise in a local newspaper and be prompt and honest to all customers, the good old saying about getting your foot in the door and then its all word of mouth is to be taken seriously!! Some jobs you will not make out as good on than others but bite the bullet and finish them with the same quality!!!! Most of my work has come from people I met through other work!!! Take pictures and ref's to all est. Oh yea don't open an empty day planner to check for open dates!!! Just an idea!!!!
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Unread 04-08-2004, 07:29 PM   #3
Ron
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Introduce yourself to some tilestores and see if they have remodelling work for independent tile contractors.Charm the people there with a easy-going demeanor and let them know of your pride in your workmanship.Have a nice clean and organized image(clean truck,clothes,etc.) and let them know that you have insurance.They'll probably test you out on one job,at least.

And what Mitch said.
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Unread 04-08-2004, 07:53 PM   #4
bctile601
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you could ask the guys at the lumber yards abouit builders, how good they are about paying, or other contractors such as painters, plaster .. .. etc. if you know them. otherwise simply ask the builder when you first meet .... " how long do i gotta wait for my money ? " " you have any problem with down-payment and draw checks ? "

i have had guys not like that line of questioning, and as long as you are not rude about it, you wouldn't want to work for the guy who won't answer questions like that.
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Unread 04-08-2004, 08:53 PM   #5
K_Tile
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Depending on your location, in my area builders want the "one call does it all" company to do the flooring.
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Unread 04-08-2004, 10:07 PM   #6
muley
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A good way to break out on your own is to start by going to flooring stores. You will be a sub-contractor and not a general tile contractor, but it will generate work and give you a solid feel for the business. Keep in mind when you work through a store you may find yourself in a position where your working with store, builder, cleint etc. This can be a real pain. We never install for builders, and the reasons why are endless.
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Unread 04-09-2004, 06:42 AM   #7
Airborne
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An advantage to working through a tile store (along with the drawbacks pointed out by Muley) is that you get to work with store, builder, client and see their interactions. You can get a feeling for how things run in your area by watching how the store personnel treat the builder and client, the builders deal with the clients, and how you are delt with. It may not be the best situation for the long haul, but you will likely meet some good and bad people along with having an opportunity to get some material for your portfolio.

While most stores discourage subs taking follow-on jobs from customers directly, if you impress the clients with your perfomance they may recommend you directly to their friends / family. I always ask for both a note of reference and for a couple of leads when I finish a jo
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Unread 04-09-2004, 09:51 AM   #8
rob 223
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Quote:
Originally posted by Airborne


While most stores discourage subs taking follow-on jobs from customers directly, if you impress the clients with your perfomance they may recommend you directly to their friends / family.
Why is that? I thought the home owner would be paying me. Or is it the tile store charging the owner and taking their cut, then paying me? Thats the only reason I could see them not wanting me to do follow up jobs.
Also do most of you contractors out their get a price break at the tile shops and if so do you kick any back to the customer say you get the tile 20% below list so would you give customer 5 or 10% off tile order?

Thanks everyone for the follow ups!
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Unread 04-09-2004, 10:47 AM   #9
Scooter
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Don't forget working with architects. Design and build is a big concept here, so architects are not only doing the design, but assisting in the bidding process, and doing construction management.
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Unread 04-09-2004, 02:28 PM   #10
Airborne
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There are different setups with regard to stores; some who only sell material have a list of tile setters whom they recommend, but the install is a deal between customer and setter. Others who offer "turn-key services" sell the tile installed, so they estimate, schedule the installation and take their cut.

That's a good point about Architects...free-lance decorators/interior designers are a good source of leads too. They sometimes mark up your work while other times just do their job for a flat fee to the customer.
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Unread 04-09-2004, 02:40 PM   #11
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we sent cover letters to alot of tile suppliers in our area asking them if we could refer our clients to them when choosing tiles and asked for a contact person in their company that we can work with- shows you care about your work and that they can expect business from you so they work a little more for you. you meet with these suppliers, open accounts, bring a portfolio of past installations and they actually refer people to you. one lesson we learned is that we have a base price on installs. we make our money on labour and if we can give them a deal on materials, we pass that savings onto them and we are honest about that. we know others who will quote $3.00 a square foot for say 700 sq. ft. of flooring but jack up costs for tiles and material so in reality they are making around $6.00 to $7.00 a square foot just on the install. people think they are getting a deal on the install when in reality they are not. word gets around pretty fast and most of our work is done on referrals. we don't haggle and if a client starts to question our pricing, we walk away. tiles and installs are not cheap but out lasts other flooring alternatives and you get a feel for people who can not afford to have you install tiled floors so you know it is going to be difficult to get payment. here we are in a big building boom and with doing new home installations, if a builder does'nt pay up in 30 days, we place a lien on the new home and the builder pays up because the home owner is now involved. we've talked to other tradespeople- electricians, plumbers, drywallers- they are a great resource as they are doing the work before you come into a new construction and if they get paid, then you know you get paid. we found which builders to avoid and not accept work from by doing this. also, if we know an installation requires certain materials and the builder disagrees, we don't warranty the work and have them sign off that they take responsibilty if the job fails. alot of times they will listen to recommendations and other times they go with another installer. thats fine with us as we know that no one is going to come back on us. be professional and courteous but show the bottom line on an install, yes you will lose some work but people learn that going with the cheapest is not always the best. we've been able to tell a few people- "i told you so".
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Unread 04-10-2004, 07:21 AM   #12
Bill Vincent
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Quote:
Originally posted by Scooter
Don't forget working with architects. Design and build is a big concept here, so architects are not only doing the design, but assisting in the bidding process, and doing construction management.
Scooter-- although a good idea, the problem is that most architects dealing in custom design want, and will only used established installers with a proven track record in custom design. This pool I'm doing now, I had to jump thru a few hoops to get it (even though I'd done work for them previously thru the last place I was payroll). I had to show pics of previous work, get back in touch with the homeowners from those jobs and get permission for this architect to contact them, AND I sent the architect both to this site, as well as to the FT site so he could see for himself my level of knowledge (Yeah, I know. ).


Rob, the most important thing I could impress on you is pictures Take alot of them, and not just overall pics. Take detailed pics of your installs. People like to be able to see actual installations you've done, and pics are the next best thing. And the reason I say get detailed pics is because sometimes those will sell you better than the install itself. I can't begin to tell you how many jobs I've gotten off just the one pic below by itself. As for your question concerning showrooms not wanting you to get business on your own, you're right-- they DO get a cut of your labor, and you get your check from them. Some of them may even require you to sign a non-compete form, stating that you WON'T take any work from their customers or their friends. If they do, find another showroom.
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Unread 04-10-2004, 08:47 AM   #13
Airborne
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Some serious attention to detail in the scribe job! Wow.

I'm curious Bill, what is the background to that picture? Obviously there was a desire for no shoe molding nor undercut of the casing, but why? I'm not nit-picking, just trying to get educated; did you grout the tile at the perimeter or use some sort of flexible caulk?
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Unread 04-10-2004, 09:45 AM   #14
Bill Vincent
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Quote:
Originally posted by Airborne
I'm curious Bill, what is the background to that picture? Obviously there was a desire for no shoe molding nor undercut of the casing, but why? I'm not nit-picking, just trying to get educated; did you grout the tile at the perimeter or use some sort of flexible caulk?
First off, I don't care for shoe molding, or 1/4 round which ever name you prefer. My own feeling is that it makes it look like a patch, or renovation-- either way, not planned from the start. As for the background, it's a wall ending at a doorway. Baseboard and door trim have already been installed and painted (as is the case with most new homes I go into up here). As for undercutting, I don't undercut door trim where the base is already installed because to me I see a lack of continuity. It has a different look if the tile butts up to the baseboard, and then goes under the trim. However, if the base isn't installed, I WILL undercut. There IS another reason, though. As I stated above, cuts like these will keep me working when everyone else is sitting home, and no, I don't grout the perimeter. If I did, at best, you'd see a nice open joint between the grout and where it pulled back from the baseboard afterward, as is so prevalent up here with alot of installers. ALL my installations get caulked around the perimeter where trim and base has already been installed. The local Dal Warehouse can attest to that. The showroom I do residential work for has more than quadrupled its order for caulking since I started there.
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Unread 04-10-2004, 10:19 AM   #15
Airborne
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I can see, Bill, how that creates a nice clean look. Do you leave about 1/8" between tile and trim regardless of grout joint width in the field, or does it vary? If it varies what are the factors that determine the clearance between tile and trim prior to caulk? When you caulk I assume you use color-matched sanded caulk and tool it to appear like the grout?
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