What Are You, New?
A First-Hand Perspective of Starting a New
by Jonathan Schuyler
Editor’s note: Starting a new company can be fun, challenging and
scary. It’s an endeavor not everyone will experience, but after 12 years
with Giroux Glass in Las Vegas it was one for which Jonathan Schuyler
was ready. Schuyler launched his new company, Clear Choice Solutions
in March and will be sharing his day-to-day experiences, challenges,
issues and concerns, unique to a small business, in his new USGlass
magazine column, Are You New?
Planning for the initial start-up of this endeavor began
years before this actually happened. I have always been hungry; pushing
to better my circumstances in life has always been at the forefront of
the decision-making process career-wise. It was confidence to actually
take the leap that was the missing ingredient.
I hold two things dear to my heart when it comes to being successful.
Neither are specific to this industry. What has allowed me to stay positive
and motivated is the understanding that one must have fun and one must
profit. Profit may not necessarily come in monetary terms, but rather
the notion of a return from a sacrifice. If you can combine the two, you
should be relatively successful in your endeavors. The second scenario
that I believe most critical to success is establishing and maintaining
positive, honest relationships with a strong amount of credibility. Looking
back on the decision to break away from the comfort of working for someone
else, I find these thought processes the most critical elements in what
really drove me to this decision. Maybe a better way of putting it would
be to say the amount of confidence I had in these beliefs created the
confidence that was necessary to make this move.
Once my courage was built up, I jumped into planning the start-up.
This being the case, at least in my silly, happy-go-lucky head, there
was no way I would start the process without a clearly defined exit plan
that did not ethically compromise the 12 years put in with my employer.
When you’re 34, 12 years is a long time to grow and learn with your co-workers.
This made the process extremely difficult, as the desire to move on was
not a reflection of wanting to hurt anyone, but rather to better those
closest to me.
Once I convinced myself this was worthwhile, it became
paramount to create a business plan. I probably built five varying spreadsheets
with multiple work-in-progress reports showing samplings of what I would
be capable of doing. Crunching numbers and going over everything with
my wife and close friends was truly a sobering exercise. In fact, I actually
set the dream aside for more than two years solely out of fear. It is
one thing to dream it; it is an entirely separate feat to act out on said
dream. Cash flow, licensing, insurance, taxes, startup costs, etc. all
felt so very overwhelming for a fella who was able to turn it off on the
ride home each day.
“Cash flow, licensing, insurance, taxes,
startup costs, etc. all felt so very overwhelming for a fella who was
able to turn it off on the ride home each day.”
Voices of Encouragement
After two years of dreaming, several very specific circumstances played
themselves out, making me feel ready. The final decision to do this came
on a Tuesday morning with an out-of-the blue phone call of encouragement
from my sister. This was followed five minutes later by a call from one
of my biggest mentors, Larry Hamer telling me he was ready to help put
all of this together. Mind you, he was an individual who had been pushing
me to do this on my own for some time. The added incentive of having him
on my team was the deciding straw. I jumped.
As the head of preconstruction for a fairly sizeable glazing subcontractor,
my two weeks’ notice was note taken lightly. In fact, I was immediately
released. I knew this was a possibility, and had planned for it. So now
I had no steady income, a business plan, and a lot of scenarios that could
go any number of directions. The support of my mentor gave me a great
bit of confidence. So now we had to put a partnership agreement together
The first two months were very much focused on further defining our business
plan, finalizing our space, branding our image, acquiring our first rack
truck, finalizing cash contributions of each partner and acquiring our
licensing. We anticipated this process would last approximately two to
three months and were fortunate to finalize it all in fewer than three.
We had to consider our ability to survive an estimated six months without
an income stream. This obviously required a fair amount of planning, but
we were willing to make sacrifices knowing the big picture could ultimately
become a whole lot.
On Our Own One of the most encouraging elements of
stepping out to start our own company was having the ability to do this
our way. Seeing the dream turn into a reality was realized more than ever
during these first two months. Finalizing our logo, branding our image
with respect to our space, and our very first vehicle were all exciting
times. Over the past couple of years I have built an amazing relationship
with my neighbors. I actually helped finalize and build their space just
three months prior to the decision to start Clear Solutions Group. Little
did I realize that this would end up being our home space. As a creative
agency, their focus in terms of the end user essentially falls within
the same range of clients with whom we are working. We all agreed with
a “connect the dots” theory that working together allowed us to not only
feed off each other’s energy but also grow a dynamic client base together.
We made the decision to share offices, creating an environment that is
not only productive, but also fun. There’s nothing more important in this
whole process than to have fun and profit.
“An important factor we needed
to take into all of this was our ability to survive an estimated six
months without an income stream.”
Allocating Resources As a start up, we have a limited
need for warehouse space. Downstream this will be a different story, but
as of inception, with cash flow being king, it was not a necessity to
have space that would sit without product. Taking this into consideration,
we decided to put a lot of effort into our first vehicle. We spent a fair
amount of time shopping for the right deal, eventually agreeing on a sprinter
van. In our minds, it was our very own mobile warehouse. A lot of attention
to detail was put into this vehicle, from finding the right rack and outfitting
the interior to branding the vehicle. This is the image we portray around
town so it is very important we put the effort into showcasing who we
are. I will never forget the first day we actually ran around town in
our shiny new sprinter van, buying saws, drills, glass cups, and gloves—basically
tooling up. It was an exciting day. Near the end of February we received
our contractor’s license, and that was exhilarating. All of the energy
put into this endeavor was beginning to manifest. Enter the next challenge:
we now had to acquire work. I immediately began emailing a copy of our
license to the five or six key individuals with whom we set out to work.
I will never forget the first call. I answered the phone and the voice
on the other end simply said, “Are you ready to go to work?” I responded
with a hesitant “Ummm, yes?” my head spinning thinking of him needing
a glazier available to replace a piece of glass or adjust a door. He posed
the same question again “Are you ready to go to work?” My response this
time was far more confident “Yes, bring it on my friend!” Turns out, this
was not a replacement or adjustment, but rather a contract that would
begin immediately, lasting eight to ten weeks, covering 80 percent of
our entire license limit. I look back on that phone call as the very first
moment I knew we could do this. All of the anxiety, the what ifs, all
played out in my head in a losing battle to the exhilaration and confidence
of now having to prove ourselves. This was exactly where I wanted to be.
Ready to Work
Now we needed to bring on our team. To refine this process, we had to
revisit the planning stages of this endeavor. Having 12 years of experience
in the market gave us insight into a lot of quality people. I must point
out that as we work specifically on the strip in Las Vegas, the majority
of our clients require union labor. This being the case, it made absolute
sense to work with the local hall and employ union glaziers. Even before
we acquired our contractor’s license, we reached out to the union hall
and, more specifically, a handful of hungry and talented individuals we
felt carried the same sort of values that would coincide with our vision.
We walked through our intentions and our plan as to how we saw all of
this building up, and then laid a foundation for how we would like this
to progress once we acquired the work. So it was exciting to make that
call and let the guys know we were ready.
The Next Steps
Now we are at the point where we have an active business with work on
the books. It is hard to really summarize what all goes into this, as
the planning stages are far easier than the actual execution stage. Taking
on an aggressive schedule with our very first project sent us into hyper-drive
from a standpoint of setting everything up. Key accounts with vendors,
scheduling the project in a fashion that would flow best, working closely
with our field as well as our vendors to ensure these dates made sense.
The first step was setting up our insurance, executing the contract and
getting our safety program initiated—all processes I did not have to deal
with in my past life. There, my sole responsibility was bringing the work
in and turning it over to a team of experts in their respective craft.
I was a bit of a fish out of water—a beautiful rainbow trout sort of fish,
glowing with pride knowing that we were actually doing this. Initially
it was overwhelming, but as it all sank in that first week I realized
that every single one of these problems was a good problem. Having surrounded
myself with people who are all brilliant in their own regard, I began
to realize that with every task that felt over my head, it was truly nothing
more than a learning experience that was easily solved step-by-step.
Today we have four glaziers employed, one project manager, myself and
Larry Hamer, my partner, along with a part-time accountant. We just completed
our first contract, and now have four contracts on the books. Everything
is exciting and crazy all at the same time.
Jonathan Schuyler is the vice president and co-founder
of Clear Solutions Group in Las Vegas.
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