New company, new career

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Molynoox

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Location
Billericay
Hi all,

two parts to this post:
1. guidance on posting on this forum
2. quick overview of my new career path

Guidance on posting
I have started up a garden room company and I have not mentioned it on this forum up to now as I didn't want to be seen as trying to 'advertise', and also there wasn't any point mentioning it. It's just not the reason I am on the forum, so I've simply avoided any reference of it up until now.

In a recent thread somebody asked me to link the source of some images I provided but it was from my own website so I wasn't sure what to do. Is it OK to do this sort of linking? As I stated already, I am not interested in using this forum to advertise, but there are times when managing the overlap between the two worlds gets difficult / confusing.

Further background on my career change (for those that are interested)
I have worked in automotive engineering for the last 20 years until sometime in 2020 when I was made redundant as our UK offices were pretty much shutting down (cheaper engineering resources were being preferred from other countries). So I decided to take some time off, figure out what I wanted to do and then plan out the next 20 years :D

It turns out that we needed a garden room so I designed and built one. I spent probably a full year researching the topic before even starting, and then having built it I decided that it could be quite a fun thing to do as a career. There is a build thread on this forum. I had to think long and hard about what I wanted to do - the options were to drift back into engineering or to start something totally new. The things missing from my old career were as follows (straight off the top of my head):
-that feeling of being a small cog in a large machine
-that disconnection from the end user / end product
-I suppose one of the biggest things I didn't like was having to 'sell' every idea - having to explain concepts to people and convince them of the benefits to get them on board etc was a big part of the job (10-20% of the effort) and not something which felt very 'value added' even though I totally understand why its necessary :).

I figured that having my own company meant I could evaluate the options and make the decisions myself - that appealed to me quite a bit, although I fully appreciate there are also massive downsides to having all that responsibility too 😅 the grass is always greener eh?

So anyway, over the last few months I have built a website, created some additional 'standard' garden room designs, done a bit of advertising and generally tried to get myself setup. There are lots of new things to learn, such as tax, employment, insurance etc and every day is a learning day. Compared to my old job I could describe the feeling as being out in the ocean in a small rowing boat searching for new land?... something of a weird metaphor but I'm going with it.

Well, anyway, that's all I will say for now - if anybody has any advice for me as a small startup I would love to hear it. And of course, it would be good to get some clarity over my other question above so that I'm not breaking any forum rules, I will mostly be keeping my two worlds completely separate anyway.

thanks
Martin
 
Well done for taking the leap forward to being an entrepreneur!, I am aware of several new start ups for "garden rooms/offices" in my area in last year or so, all have had quite a busy time.

Cant really offer advice on business structure I'm sure you've studied that already, other than: tax, try not to pay any, employment, don't, use subbies as & when you need them, Insurance I recall that subject came up once before.

Out of interest have you taken on facilities to build off site?.

Good luck

Paul
 
Having followed, with interest, your excellent post, you obviously have the skills, the ability to learn, and strategies to understand and overcome the red-tape, involved in this type of work So, if you are feeling optimistic and can see yourself doing it, then why not? Plenty of others have used the opportunity of a redundancy to start a business, myself included.

I suppose you have to ask yourself what it is about your project that you most liked doing. If it is the 'hands-on' bit, then you might find that you drift away from this, as the business grows . I once took on the renovation of a group of cottages. Instead of concentrating on the carpentry , I found myself being a glorified gofer , organiser and payer of wages, and a one man HR department. It was only towards the end of the job that I found I could get on with the remaining woodwork. This sorted out in my mind , what I was happiest doing and stopped me from becoming a site agent.

The present economic climate, however, is pretty dire. During bad times, people stop spending money. Borrowing to finance projects won't be something ordinary folk are choosing to do, Not that there are not opportunities to be had in a shrinking market. .

I have weathered two recessions, during the first I survived with the business intact, during the second I had to change the nature of what I did, and close down my workshop. Setting out, with a financial storm brewing, might not be the wisest move, but there is no reason not to test the water, as long as it does not involve too much financial outlay. You will have an advantage above others at the moment, in that you won't yet have invested in, equipment, premises or staff. It is these overheads that cause suffering when work stops coming in. To paraphrase Lao Tzu " Pain comes from having a body - without a body , we would not have pain"

I wish you the best of luck going forward. Niall
 
Well done for taking the leap forward to being an entrepreneur!, I am aware of several new start ups for "garden rooms/offices" in my area in last year or so, all have had quite a busy time.

Cant really offer advice on business structure I'm sure you've studied that already, other than: tax, try not to pay any, employment, don't, use subbies as & when you need them, Insurance I recall that subject came up once before.

Out of interest have you taken on facilities to build off site?.

Good luck

Paul
Hi Paul,
cool advice, short and sweet :D sounds spot on though, will defo use that (y)
I have not invested into facilities no, I spent about £3k on tools when I built my own garden room; the only tools I might possibly need in future for improved efficiency would be a jobsite table saw and a second fix nailer.

Long term I do ultimately want to build things inside a facility such that I can maximise workflow efficiency (it's what I'm good at), get away from the weather etc but I need to start small and build up to that. Also, doing things that way would change the nature of the business, it could be more along the lines of supplying glamping pods to campsites or something like that.

Martin
 
Long term I do ultimately want to build things inside a facility such that I can maximise workflow efficiency (it's what I'm good at), get away from the weather etc but I need to start small and build up to that. Also, doing things that way would change the nature of the business, it could be more along the lines of supplying glamping pods to campsites or something like that.
I am very fortunate that my facility I rent has massive capacity, its part of a Farm, which means lots of covered areas to build under.
I've been involved in designing Glamping pods, Shepherds huts, Tiny houses and so on, the biggest hurdle is people want to have the the physical experience of seeing one, which takes a massive financial investment, so the up shot is I've never speculatively made any.

I am though in the process of building a very special house:


field shelter.jpg



Its a Horse house!
 
I am very fortunate that my facility I rent has massive capacity, its part of a Farm, which means lots of covered areas to build under.
I've been involved in designing Glamping pods, Shepherds huts, Tiny houses and so on, the biggest hurdle is people want to have the the physical experience of seeing one, which takes a massive financial investment, so the up shot is I've never speculatively made any.

I am though in the process of building a very special house:


View attachment 145887



Its a Horse house!
That was my last project a horse shelter!
I'll post photos tomorrow.


Sad to say another possible income stream would be flat packed houses for displaced people?

There was one on the BBC news website recently.
 
I moved from being electronics engineer in a large US based company to being a small business owner - in home improvement.

At the start I did the work as well as running the business and it taught me masses about actually doing the work and reacting to the needs of the general public rather than business to business (as it previous was).

Running the business was done when I had the time, typically at the weekends. It wasn't sustainable in the medium term.

In the end I decided to delegate much of the physical work to employees (always salaried) and to focus upon the sales and marketing, the accountancy and the running of the business. I also ensured that we had a decent handle on the money side of the business by way of a proper book keeping/accountancy software package with accurate data. It meant that I could see what the business was doing, where the costs were and what needed to be paid to HMRC. This allowed me to keep costs under control and to maximise advertising yield and to focus upon profitability and tax minimisation. Our business base was probably different to yours in that we typically had 6 to 8 different customer jobs each day rather than focussing upon one for several weeks.

Trouble is, as an engineer, it is VERY easy to get bogged down on technical details and lose sight of the bigger picture. This was one of the key reasons why I kept myself away from actually doing the work and moving more toward the setting up of the work and the running of the business.

The soft skills that I picked up while being employed were far more useful than I ever imagined they would be. Snippets of stuff that I picked up over 30 years of being employed gradually came out of my head and suddenly made sense in a way that they never did when I first filed them away. Engineers, statistically, don't make successful business owners. One of my goals was to be the exception rather than the normal. In all, I did a decent job, and it has enrichened the way I look at business and at life in general. Being retired now, I wouldn't want to do it again but I'm glad that I did it when I did.

Good luck with your new endeavour.
 
Having followed, with interest, your excellent post, you obviously have the skills, the ability to learn, and strategies to understand and overcome the red-tape, involved in this type of work So, if you are feeling optimistic and can see yourself doing it, then why not? Plenty of others have used the opportunity of a redundancy to start a business, myself included.

I suppose you have to ask yourself what it is about your project that you most liked doing. If it is the 'hands-on' bit, then you might find that you drift away from this, as the business grows . I once took on the renovation of a group of cottages. Instead of concentrating on the carpentry , I found myself being a glorified gofer , organiser and payer of wages, and a one man HR department. It was only towards the end of the job that I found I could get on with the remaining woodwork. This sorted out in my mind , what I was happiest doing and stopped me from becoming a site agent.

The present economic climate, however, is pretty dire. During bad times, people stop spending money. Borrowing to finance projects won't be something ordinary folk are choosing to do, Not that there are not opportunities to be had in a shrinking market. .

I have weathered two recessions, during the first I survived with the business intact, during the second I had to change the nature of what I did, and close down my workshop. Setting out, with a financial storm brewing, might not be the wisest move, but there is no reason not to test the water, as long as it does not involve too much financial outlay. You will have an advantage above others at the moment, in that you won't yet have invested in, equipment, premises or staff. It is these overheads that cause suffering when work stops coming in. To paraphrase Lao Tzu " Pain comes from having a body - without a body , we would not have pain"

I wish you the best of luck going forward. Niall
Thanks Niall for the kind words and also the advice 👍
I do enjoy the carpentry but I don't see me doing that for long, it should be more about project management, quoting and winning business, material ordering, general business management such as staff, tax, money etc
wow it sounds really boring now 🤣

Seriously though, I think I will enjoy the creative process of transforming people's gardens.

Martin
 
I moved from being electronics engineer in a large US based company to being a small business owner - in home improvement.

At the start I did the work as well as running the business and it taught me masses about actually doing the work and reacting to the needs of the general public rather than business to business (as it previous was).

Running the business was done when I had the time, typically at the weekends. It wasn't sustainable in the medium term.

In the end I decided to delegate much of the physical work to employees (always salaried) and to focus upon the sales and marketing, the accountancy and the running of the business. I also ensured that we had a decent handle on the money side of the business by way of a proper book keeping/accountancy software package with accurate data. It meant that I could see what the business was doing, where the costs were and what needed to be paid to HMRC. This allowed me to keep costs under control and to maximise advertising yield and to focus upon profitability and tax minimisation. Our business base was probably different to yours in that we typically had 6 to 8 different customer jobs each day rather than focussing upon one for several weeks.

Trouble is, as an engineer, it is VERY easy to get bogged down on technical details and lose sight of the bigger picture. This was one of the key reasons why I kept myself away from actually doing the work and moving more toward the setting up of the work and the running of the business.

The soft skills that I picked up while being employed were far more useful than I ever imagined they would be. Snippets of stuff that I picked up over 30 years of being employed gradually came out of my head and suddenly made sense in a way that they never did when I first filed them away. Engineers, statistically, don't make successful business owners. One of my goals was to be the exception rather than the normal. In all, I did a decent job, and it has enrichened the way I look at business and at life in general. Being retired now, I wouldn't want to do it again but I'm glad that I did it when I did.

Good luck with your new endeavour.
Thanks Ian, some really great advice in there, much appreciated 👍

Very interesting to hear your story of being in a similar boat, I totally understand about being an engineer and getting bogged down in details, it's one aspect of my character that I'm working on tbh.

My biggest issue at the moment is getting customers... I'm having to do some part time work for a landscaping company to pay the bills, and then spend the rest of my time trying to find customers. It's a bit chicken and egg, I need a portfolio to get customers, and I need customers.... well, you get to the idea 😅

I will keep going with it for a while but I will need to throw the towel in at some point and go back to the office if I can't make it work soonish...

Martin
 
Thanks Ian, some really great advice in there, much appreciated 👍

Very interesting to hear your story of being in a similar boat, I totally understand about being an engineer and getting bogged down in details, it's one aspect of my character that I'm working on tbh.

My biggest issue at the moment is getting customers... I'm having to do some part time work for a landscaping company to pay the bills, and then spend the rest of my time trying to find customers. It's a bit chicken and egg, I need a portfolio to get customers, and I need customers.... well, you get to the idea 😅

I will keep going with it for a while but I will need to throw the towel in at some point and go back to the office if I can't make it work soonish...

Martin

One thing which worked well for us was the A5 magazines. (Chrurch magazines can be good too - but I didn't try them) Most areas have them and they are cheap as chips to advertise in. You don't need a full-page spread, even a quarter page gets noticed and the ad can often be created by the publisher if you throw a few quid at them.

With these, they end up on coffee tables, in waiting rooms, in the bin! (sometimes) - but people do look at them and you are noticed, especially if you advertise regularly.

They don't guarantee work, but they do promote leads from people with money to spend. Obviously, it's up to you to convert the lead into a sale, but if you come across as having more idea of what you are doing than your potential customer and if you seem likeable and trustworthy, it's amazing how successful you can be. That said, it's always tough without a track record or loads of experience but, gradually, it will start to work. When we started, I was closing about 25% of the leads. By the time we retired five years later, I was getting about 70% of them. The nice thing with that is it allows you to reduce your advertising spend and the amount of leg work necessary to close enough sales. I was also charging premium prices too!

Many people throw money at digital marketing. Fine for the younger customer. Generally, it's the older customer who has disposable income and many of them still like to see a printed word.

Working for yourself is hard, harder than employed people realise, but the satisfaction if you are successful, is worth it.
 
I totally understand about being an engineer and getting bogged down in details, it's one aspect of my character that I'm working on tbh.
It's why engineers don't make good salesmen, we do like the details and not just the overview. It was also a big problem for me during college because I always wanted an in depth understanding and not just enough to repeat like a parrot during an exam. This is why in a technical report we have to include an executive summary because management want an overview without the detail written nice and basic so they can understand.
 
Having started and run my own successful business for 15 years I'd keep 'cash is king' as your watchword. Avoid overheads and any form of debt until you are established. Take enough deposit to pay for materials and agree staged payments as you progress. Turn down any customer who insists on full payment on completion, no matter how tempting.
Your market is anyone with disposable income who, instead of moving house, may decide to improve their existing homes with your product. You will be surprised how many older folk use social media especially Facebook and Instagram.
Use your garden room as your show house and join all your local town and village Facebook groups, paying careful attention to their rules on promoting local businesses (ours only allows non-village businesses to post promotions on the 1st of every month for example). Local rags are fine as long as they don't charge a lot for adverts.
Promotional events go down well, and our local outdoor buildings company have done very well by organising BBQ's etc. and promoting them on local Facebook pages. They are just up the road from us Bespoke Garden Structures | Woodhouse Toad | Preston Capes . Their website it is very professional with enticing close-up video clips etc. but it started out as pretty basic. Their last post was adverting for new staff.

Yes, it is hard work, and you will ask yourself many times if all that hard work is worth it when cash is tight, but there is nothing wrong with starting this on a part time basis if you need a temporary income stream. It takes a huge amount of self-belief and confidence to succeed, together with strong support from family, especially partners.

Good luck and keep us posted on progress. Oh, and never stop asking for any needed advice!
 
It's why engineers don't make good salesmen, we do like the details and not just the overview. It was also a big problem for me during college because I always wanted an in depth understanding and not just enough to repeat like a parrot during an exam. This is why in a technical report we have to include an executive summary because management want an overview without the detail written nice and basic so they can understand.
The new PM wanted that detail during UK Covid when policy was being made. Not just a summary.

The lockdown files: Rishi Sunak on what we weren’t told
https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-lockdown-files-rishi-sunak-on-what-we-werent-told
 
Congratulations and best wishes for every success @Molynoox , I hope this doesn’t mean you’ll start charging consultation fees for advice on the subject :LOL:

I hope you get approval to post a link to your website as I for one would like to have a look. A lot of trade / custom product / building websites use library or stock images, and while this isn’t ideal you could consider it just to get started (assuming you can find the sort of images you are looking for and they don’t cost a fortune) and then replace them as you gather more of your own.
 
It's why engineers don't make good salesmen, we do like the details and not just the overview. It was also a big problem for me during college because I always wanted an in depth understanding and not just enough to repeat like a parrot during an exam. This is why in a technical report we have to include an executive summary because management want an overview without the detail written nice and basic so they can understand.
I agree with what you are saying as I see this in myself - but I did my best to kerb this when we ran our company:

We used attention to detail as a sales advantage: people see that as thorough and thorough gives the impression that the job will be approached properly and executed in the same way. The confidence exuded got me loads of sales wins.

I've also lost track of the number of difficult situations which I resolved with an engineering approach rather than the flat side of a mallet and won repeat business as a result of this - generally, explained simply and people "got it" and I got the sales win.

Where engineers often fall down is when they try to provide a perfect solution to a problem. The trick is to step back and provide a suitable solution to the problem: one which addresses the original need and results in being paid quickly (so that the next opportunity can be exploited).

We can also use our engineering skills in something that really adds value: running the business efficiently and cost effectively through good process - that's where engineering is a bridge to good commercial practice.
 
Congratulations and best wishes for every success @Molynoox , I hope this doesn’t mean you’ll start charging consultation fees for advice on the subject :LOL:

I hope you get approval to post a link to your website as I for one would like to have a look. A lot of trade / custom product / building websites use library or stock images, and while this isn’t ideal you could consider it just to get started (assuming you can find the sort of images you are looking for and they don’t cost a fortune) and then replace them as you gather more of your own.
Do you have any family friends who would have one at a discount. Then you have another one in your portfolio.

Any Christmas raffles going? Perhaps you could offer the labour free on the winning office? Free advertising etc.

Anyone needing a business office - hairdressers, dog groomers, ebayers needing extra space.

Someone needing a granny annexe or (increasingly likely) boomerang kids

Tiny houses
 
Good luck with the new business.
I had a cabinet maker friend that could do phenomenal work but was constantly getting screwed by customers. Main reason was not having contracts defining exactly what the work was too be and not getting change orders written and signed for when the the customer came along and said "Could you ........". I suggested he have the paperwork so he had legal recourse when there were disagreements but he never wanted to. Probable cost him a couple hundred thousand over the years. It might put the odd customer off but stops misunderstandings and confusion about what was agreed upon months later.

Pete
 
Advertise, advertise, advertise and then advertise some more, you've got nothing without customers.
I've been self employed for 30 odd years, it's the best advice I received.
Good luck

To a degree yes, I agree.

However, it's really important, especially if your advertising channels are diverse, to directly correlate the sales revenue (and ideally nett margin) against each of the advertising sources. Just because an overall advertising spend of X results in an overall sales revenue of Y doesn't mean that the spend is efficient.

When we started our business, we were spending about £3K per month on advertising and covering a number of large towns so as to become known. We got plenty of leads, reasonably distributed across each of the towns but, six months later I sat down and retrospectively analysed what we were spending in each town and how much service revenue we got from each place and how much it cost us to provide that service revenue in each location. I quickly binned several places as they simply were not cost effective.

I was at a conference of people in the same industry on one occasion. One person was boasting about spending £7K per month on advertising. Others were doing similar - stuff like "I don't care how much I spend on advertising as long as it generates sales leads". Clearly it was a contest to see how could p*ss the highest. I kept quiet - yes, some of them had chosen to run bigger fleets than me (which is fine) but, typically, their turnover was twice mine but their advertising spend was 5 or 6 times mine. It was madness! Plus, if they were spending that much on advertising, all of the extra running around servicing the sales leads and fitting the product was massively increasing their running costs. It was clear that a lot of these operators were making zero or close to zero nett margin. With us, it was about 40%.
 
I will keep going with it for a while but I will need to throw the towel in at some point and go back to the office if I can't make it work soonish...
@Molynoox "soonish" I would suggest your going to be looking at several years to get going, how many have you projected to have to do in a year? Perhaps you could broaden you range of offerings, look at Breeze houses for instance, & as @mikej460 linked to, explore the outdoor life style options, not everyone wants a home office, I will consider anything to keep my order book busy, within limitations though.
We have, over the years done: outside rooms/kitchens/BBQ areas/car ports/porches/bars/stables etc and even things like log stores, as well as our Joinery side of things, I keep an open mind, but we make everything offsite which is a massive benefit over standing in a field in all weathers!

Many people throw money at digital marketing. Fine for the younger customer. Generally, it's the older customer who has disposable income and many of them still like to see a printed word.
Digital marketing isn't a world I operate in, but, its powerful, I find that all my clients use it in all its forms, (generally in the age range of 30 to 65) my outdated web site is miles down the ratings but people still find me. I've never advertised in print, I don't want to get bogged down with answering fruitless inquiries, I get enough of them already, as I mentioned before a local "Garden rooms" business near me, also has a fully liveried van, which is an ideal marketing tool.
 
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