Wow, what a crazy summer it has been. As the temps start to drop and it feels more and more like fall coming on here in Durango, I took a moment to reflect on the failures and successes of my business this summer. It has been a wild roller coaster ride, and the ride is far from over. I realized I hadn’t done any work on the site or blogged in a very long time. I was starting to get emails whether or not I was still in business. Turns out a lot of other builders aren’t, or they just aren’t getting back to anybody, leaving potential clients to believe they aren’t in business.
Well let me tell you right of that bat, RMTH is open for business. If I haven’t gotten back with you, I sincerely apologize. I have been absolutely so overwhelmed with work and inquiries that I just haven’t been able to keep up. For the longest time, I was a one man shop, taking calls, doing designs, building houses, delivering houses, doing my books, doing my marketing, etc. etc. I have finally gotten enough business to start outsourcing a lot of this work, but much of remains in my hands. I have gone weeks at a time working 12-16 hour days. I have pushed myself to the brink of exhaustion, only to get up and do it again.
I wanted to give a brief update of all the cool things that have happened since the Spring.
First off, I took a trip to Boulder in early spring to meet with my potential business partner there, and also meet a sales representative for Porter Corp, who manufacturers Structural Insulated Panels. We discussed the building system at length, as well as its possibilities for tiny houses. I left feeling excited and upon my return began putting together some designs to try out. One of the major hurdles with this product is shipping. They prefer to use semi’s to transport them from their plant in Michigan, and one semi load costs $3200, so it doesn’t make sense to do one project at a time. If you can 4-10 projects on a single truck, then shipping costs make more sense per project.
Hunter Douglas, a window treatment manufacturer in Broomfield, CO, commissioned me to build three energy huts on wheels that they could use to test their products, and coincidentally, they wanted them built out of SIP’s, so I had three units right away. I didn’t immediately have any other projects in the cue that I could add to that truck, so I added a Durango SIP package that my partner could build as a spec house and see how that went.
Since the client was only 20 minutes away from Boulder, and my partner had a shop space there, I decided to travel back to Boulder to build the units there with my partner and his crew. There were quite a few details to iron out but we got the units complete in three weeks and delivered to a happy customer.
Before I had departed for that trip, the city of Durango had informed me that I could not operate my business at its current location due to zoning and public access issues. I fought it for a little bit, but soon realized the validity of their arguments and began looking for a new property to relocate to. Luckily, I found a better property just two lots away and setup an agreement with the new landowner. It’s funny how seemingly bad news can actually turn into something better.
So, following my return from Boulder, I immediately had to relocate my shop, which was no small undertaking. I had to take down the old pole barn, put up a new and bigger one, erect a new tool shed, move all my tools, lumber, and other materials I had acquired for the operation of the business. As of this blog post, I still haven’t quite got the new shop fully done, although it is operational.
The reason for the shop not being done is because I’ve had lots of new commissions this summer! The first was an 18′ house for a couple in Colorado Springs. We decided to build this one out of SIPS, and by this time I had my ducks in a row to order two more spec houses (new designs!) out of SIPs so I was able to get three SIP packages on one truck delivered to Durango.
This house was on a super tight deadline since the client had just gotten a new job in Nebraska and needed the house ASAP. I recruited some good help and worked my ass off to meet the deadline. We were able to complete this beauty in 4 1/2 weeks and get it delivered just in time. I wasn’t sure if the old ’94 Ford would be able to tow an 18 footer that far, plus I had another build coming up that would require a much larger truck, so after weeks of looking for a new truck I tracked one down in Loveland, CO, somewhat on the way to Norfolk, NE, so the old Ford was able to tow the house up there, I purchased the new truck, and we used it to complete the trip, having to swing back through Loveland on the way home to drive both trucks back to Durango. What a hassle that turned out to be, but completely worth it.
The new truck is a 2000 Ford F-250 Super Duty, with the legendary 7.3l turbo diesel. It is so much more powerful and smoother than the old truck it’s not even funny. The truck had some problems neither the owner or I was aware of, probably brought on by towing a 7,000 lb tiny house 500 miles, but once I get them fixed this will be solid hauler for years to come.
Following delivery of that house, it was back to Durango to tackle four projects at once. Luckily, before I had set out on the Nebraska trip, I had hired a new full time employee to start when I got back. Chris is a super skilled carpenter with attention to detail and has already proved a great asset to the company. I gave him one of those four tasks to handle mostly by himself, a new 12′ house that will be going to Austin in a few weeks to be used a funky East Austin rental. Having used to live in East Austin, ironically only a few blocks away from where this will be parked, I’ve got a good feel of what the client is looking for and have no doubt she will be absolutely thrilled when this house arrives! After four easy days of work, Chris was able to get it floored, framed, and sheathed on his own.
The second task is starting construction of a 30′ house that will be going to family in Austin as well. I’ve been getting a lot of calls from Austin, TX lately, I guess my reputation is doing well down there. It is slated for delivery mid October. I will probably have to hire another employee to meet that deadline!
The third task will be to finish out the Stanley log cabin I stared back in Spring. I got it about 75% done before I had to jump over to other projects. I got a call from a guy who will be going to school in Oregon looking for something to built quickly or in stock. After mentioning the Stanley he was excited about it and actually drove out to take a look and put a deposit down. I have two weeks to get it done before school starts for him.
The fourth task is to try and get the shop completed. I had setup the tool shed, office (my personal house), and barn on a part of the site that was tucked in at the rear. I knew it was close to the property line of the neighbors, but I had no idea it actually crossed the line until they came over one to let me know that felt like it did. After some brief survey work, we discovered that it did, so I had to stop what I was doing and relocate those structures so I was in the right property. Got that taken care of and am now in the process of getting a roof on the new pole barn. I had the walls and roof trusses up, just no metal on top, which has been a pain in the butt since it has been a rainy summer. With a little luck I can hopefully knock this out while managing the other three projects. Busy, busy, busy. I’m really hoping things will slow down over the winter so I can get caught up on office work and sleep.
All the while, I’ve been trying to keep up with new leads. This has proved to actually be the hardest part. I keep thinking I’ll use all the daylight hours I can get to do physical work, and then do office stuff at night, but by the time I’m done doing design work and emails on current clients, I’m just too exhausted to do anything more. Luckily, with some new help coming in I’m starting to get things checked off my list and seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. Once I get through September, I feel as if my greatest hurdles will have been cleared. I surely hope so. Being your own boss is cool and exciting, but it’s also extremely demanding and damn hard work.