Jason Gean Launches Consulting Business for Home Services Contractors
Jason Gean has been one of the industry’s most respected names in residential roofing since 1991. Now, Jason Gean is offering his expertise to other home services contractors. A consultation with Jason Gean teaches business owners how to: Establish Correct Pricing, Set Annual Budgets, Increase Sales Closing Ratio and Provides a Roadmap to Manage Your Reputation.
Jason coaches business owners in multiple home services industries including: Roofing Businesses, Remodeling Contractors, HVAC Contractors, Plumbing Contractors, Electricians, Garage Door Companies, Brick Masons, Window and Siding Contractors, Flooring Installers, and Painting Contractors.
Granting a request through a Christmas Wish Program Gean Roofing volunteered time and manpower for a local family just days before Christmas. “Jason Gean says that they try to help out on projects like this one or two times per year. There are businesses out there that are qualified and are not out to rip people off,” says Gean. “I think people need to know that there are good contractors out there.”
In the Know/Jason Gean
You get what you pay for when hiring a contractor
Once again, I notice numerous ads and news brief warnings that there are home repair companies/contractors who are failing to uphold the laws of sound, honest and professional business practices. This seems to be an unfortunate cycle for which there is no visible end. I continue to console prospective clients after their project has been started and left unfinished; completed in an unsatisfactory state; shut down by building inspectors or worse yet, not even started, and the contractor is missing with several thousand dollars in deposit money. It is amazing to me that these clients account for more than 50 percent of our annual business. An overwhelming percentage of homeowners choose on price, and price alone. This is a catastrophe. While we all should have budgets with our spending habits, I recommend choosing the right contractor first and then work with him on the quantity and quality of the project to fit in the budget. After all, what good is a 1,000-square-foot room addition for half the price if it is left incomplete or looks as if your 5-year-old son did it?
Most professional contractors are happy to work within these parameters. They are grateful to have a client who wants to work with them. Professional contractors also do not mind competing with other professionals because they know that they will be working within the same proper guidelines to make a profit. In fact, many will gather after work-golfing, bowling, etc.-and converse on bidding the same project.
Professional contractors can not (most will refuse) compete in pricing with those unqualified, Jack-of-all-trades, unheard of contractors who continue to pop up with yard signs and yellow page ads claiming their stake as professionals.
Many make the mistake of believing a good tradesman makes a good businessperson. The two are nothing alike. A professional contractor (owner) must know good trade skills and possess excellent business skills to ensure the future of a successful contracting firm. However, a tradesman needs virtually zero business skills to perform his job.
So, now the questions become, Can’t I just find a good tradesman to do my project? You can-maybe. However, the odds are overwhelmingly against it. Here are some facts to consider if you wish to defy the odds:
- Four out of five contractors fail within their first five years.
- Of those remaining, four of five will fail in the next four years.
- Of those remaining, only 10 percent will be making a significant profit, while the rest barely survive.
Contractors are second only to restaurants for most start-ups.
- Contractors are generally higher up on Better Business Bureau inquiries for most asked about/ most complained about types of business.
Most professional contractors that are tagged as “too high” are usually not. It is the other 90 percent who do not understand their financials and, unless they change quickly, they will end up applying for a job with one of the 10 percent of professional contractors. In the process, they will leave behind many unhappy customers, some of whom may have unfinished projects or deposited money with their contractor who has already spent it. This point is where one business may end, but many, many more are starting in the same vicious circle, all competing with homeowners looking for the cheapest deal, not realizing what they may be getting themselves into.
Be careful whom you choose to improve your largest investment. There is little regulation for anyone to call himself a professional contractor.
Homeowners can conduct an initial inspection of their roofs and gutters, but some professionals offer basic services that cover the ladder work.
Do-it-yourselfers must practice ladder safety-making sure the ladder extends at least 3 feet beyond the gutter and sits 1 foot from the house for every 4 feet in eave height.
Check for buckling, curling, or blistering shingles, loose material around chimneys and pipes on the roof, and excessive shingle granules in the gutters that show wear. The granules make the shingles heavier and protect them from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Cleaning clogged gutters means scraping out debris with a flat tool, especially near downspouts, and running water from a hose to make sure the flow is free.
Most problems with gutters probably won’t show up immediately after last year’s winter that created ice build up on many homes. Long-term problems could result from water seeping into wood supports, causing slow rot that will eventually allow gutter attachments to pull away.
Before hiring a roofing contractor, consultants say, the homeowner should check references, proof of insurance, material and workmanship warranties, and the company’s permanent address, telephone number and tax identification number.
Gean Roofing recently started a roof maintenance program, cleaning leaves and debris out of gutters, washing gutters and downspouts, inspecting roofs and making minor repairs, as well as recommendations for larger repairs.
“A lot of houses tend to get leaves and twigs and even large branches on the roof,” says Jason Gean. “We’re going to start serving them, sweeping off the roof. We check for flashing areas that may have damage at times.”
“We also document the damage areas by photo so they don’t have to get up on the roof.”
The professional’s checklist matches the homeowner’s.
“Problem signs you’re going to look for are cracking, curling, missing shingles from wind damage,” Gean says. “In the valley areas where two roofs join, you get extensive wear before you get it in other areas of the roof.”
The company checks flashing at wall intersections and chimneys, a common trouble spot. Gean Roofing performs 100 to 200 chimney repairs a year.
“We cut into the brick and mortar and the flashing goes into the brick and mortar,” Gean says. “A lot of homes have just the tarred chimneys. That is a maintenance issue.”
“We try to stay away from the tarring of the chimneys. It is not a long-term fix. Everything’s becoming maintenance free.”
The average cost for the service is about $90, he says.
“Were trying to provide more than cleaning gutters.”
In the decade Dave Chimel has directed the Building Trades program, he has watched many of his students turn the skills he has taught them into their livelihood.
The majority of Chimel’s students pursue a non-academic path after high school.
“Very, very few (of the students who participate in the program) go on to college,” he said. “These kids aren’t like the academics-they’re more hands-on kinds of people.”
“They’re a different breed.”
This year Chimel has 17 students in his class. Of these, only three have expressed interest in attending a two or four year college.
“I can see how you could go out and work right after this.” said Adam Egendoerfer, one of the college bound trio. “And really, there are just a few of us (in the program) who are planning to go to college.”
Jason Gean, a former Building Trades student and the owner of the North Liberty-based Gean Roofing, said he is always looking for qualified workers.
A sound economy in recent years and a trend leading away from construction contracting has only heightened the value of qualified workers.
“People are staying away from hard-labor types of jobs, which is understandable,” he said.
However, with hard work, he said, starting salaries in construction, which can be about $10 per hour, can double over a couple of years.
“And if they work hard, they can easily work their way up in companies – the pay is there,” he said. “For those starting their own companies, if they’re built strong, salaries can be as much as doctors and dentists.
“Without all the years of education – it’s getting a jump,” Gean said.
Additionally, Chimel said graduates can earn a respectable living while gaining experience in apprenticeships. And some do so by working their way toward associates degrees.
“Salaries range from $24 an hour for carpenters to $31 an hour for electricians,” Chimel said. “Apprenticeships usually last about five years and can often lead to a degree.”
And companies “might offer tuition reimbursement,” Chimel added. Trimboli, too, has noticed high school graduates returning to school after being in the workforce.
“A lot of these students go back later,” he said. “We’re always getting transcript requests.”
Egendoerfer disagrees. From what he has heard from his peers, that isn’t usually the case.
“It seems like a lot of them say they’re going to go back,” he said. “But most of time it doesn’t happen.”
The American Dream
Chimel said success stories are also plentiful among those who do not go onto college. So much, in fact, that he teeters back and forth over which track – college or trade/vocational – is the best choice for students. “I have mixed feelings,” admits Chimel, who has had a prosperous career in construction and holds a college degree.
According to Chimel, he” realizes the American Dream is to have all pupils go to college.” However, when the job market is good, all things have to be considered. There is a need, he said, “for craftsmen and trades people.”
Chimel has watched a number of his former students achieve a different American Dream.
“A couple of those are Jason Gean and Dan Hoober,” Chimel said. “They started their business right after the Building Trades program, and they’ve never worked for anybody.”
“It’s been great,” said Gean, who today is the lone proprietor.
While Hoober left the business for a while, he returned a few years ago and is now vice president. The payoff has been great, Gean said, but it has not come easily. Especially in the beginning.
“We had very few financial responsibilities,” said Gean, who was only 17 at the time.
“The first few years, we had little financial profit,” said Gean, adding that neither he nor Hoober was academically focused during high school.
“I’d say we made less than we would have working at McDonald’s for maybe the first three years,” he continued. “But we gave it time and let it grow.”
They preserved by doing their homework, he said. And by simply working hard.
“A lot of people don’t make it in this business,” he said, citing a report published by Dun & Bradstreet Corp. a couple of years ago. The report, he said, listed construction contracting as the business most destined for failure due to insufficient profits. “The study stated that 90 percent of those who obtain a business license for construction will be out of business in 10 years,” Gean explained. “And the local Better Business Bureau says construction companies are the most inquired about and complained about.
“What this means is that there’s a need for qualified workers,” he said. It has been – and continues to be – a learning process. But Gean does not feel it would have been smoothed by additional study. “I’m not against education – it the furthest from that,” Gean said. “The Building Trades program was a school program, and it helped immensely.
“I’ve seen those who went to college,” he added. “In my opinion it could be beneficial, but you really just learn from experience.”
High School class helped build a foundation of a construction career
February 11, 1994 — When 20 year-old Jason Gean hammered his way into the construction business, he wasted no time on his first project.
Gean and his friend, Danny Hoover, had been doing remodeling and other odd jobs and needed to organize them around building their first house.
“We worked before the sun came up and stayed until after dark so we could stay on schedule.” said Gean.
But schedules can go awry. According to Gean, difficulty in finding reliable people has delayed plumbing and electrical work, consequently delaying further work on the house.
I think the problem that Jason is facing now, speculates Mishawaka High School Building Trades teacher Dave Chimel, “is that, when guys come to talk to him, they look at him and think he’s just a kid. So they wonder if he’s responsible to pay his bills.”
Chimel occasionally advises Gean, who now runs Gean Roofing by himself after Hoover left to pursue other projects.
Gean and Hoover learned their skills at Mishawaka High School, in the Building Trades class, formerly taught by Zano Vannoni. Gean says he entered the class knowing “nothing at all” about construction, but left with a foundation of skills upon which he could build.
“It was the best class I had in high school because it gave me something to put towards life,” said Gean.
Now headed by Chinmel, the two-year program fuses textbook study with hands-on training at a selected site, where students build a house from the ground up. On the site the students divide into groups. All students learn framing and roofing, then separate into the area that interests them most, such as electrical, heating, or plumbing.
That the class has never had trouble selling its handiwork says something about the quality of the workmanship.
“Its difficult for people to understand that these kids can really do a fine job if they’re started in the right direction,” said Chimel.
“It (the class) taught us responsibility, too,” added Gean. “When you’re left alone with a job, you know it’s your responsibility to get it done.”
After high school, Gean and Hoover got jobs doing gutter work, repair, or remodeling for parents, relatives, or friends.
Deciding that he wanted to build houses. Gean purchased a lot on Home and McKinley, and bought blueprints, lumber, and other supplies from Wickes, down the road. Gean and Hoover broke ground in October, and did all the labor themselves. Once the house is completed, Gean will try to find a buyer.
It’s a heady task for a 20-year-old.
“Were still learning a lot,” said Gean. But he adds that he knows people for every phase of the project, so there is always someone to consult, someone else’s experience to learn from.
He still does the repair jobs in order to help pay bills, insurance, and a payroll for a crew that has now sprouted to 6.
“Seems like every year we get a little bit busier,” said Gean of his crew, which includes two former students from Chimel’s class.
Standing in the drafty framework of the unfinished house, Gean laments the roadblocks that have slowed the work. It was easier when it was just the two of them, he says, but remains optimistic, and proud of what’s been accomplished so far.