Volume 49, Issue 6 - June 2014

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What Are You, New?
A First-Hand Perspective of Starting a New Glass Company
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.

Where to Begin
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 as well.

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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