Another Case Study: Five Steps to Five Figures

Howdy, Steppers!

SO I told you I’d clue you in next time a Bizness I’m running or coaching went to the Five Figures Per Month mark. This is to build in a little credibility for my soon-to-be-opened Shoestring Mentoring Program.

Five Steps to Five Figures per Month, eh? On a Shoestring… meaning that you start with less capital than you might take out of a garage sale, then leverage that into a small Bizness that profits Five Figures (that’s a LOW of $10,000) per month.

Sounds like a tall order.

Well… it happened yesterday.

The small Bizness I started with my son Pierce (15 years old now) to teach him entrepreneurship in a hands-on kinda way just topped the $10K/month level. Wanna know how? By applying the Shoestring Steps. Five Steps to Five Figs, baby!

From Motivation… to Market Research… the Unique Selling Proposition… and Business Metrics… finally, Automation and Outsourcing… to a “Bizness” model that nets Five Figures per Month… we’ll cover it all in this post.

THREE disclaimers before we move on:

1) Your results may vary

Because I have taken a number of Biznesses to the Five Figures per Month level, I knew it could be done with this one. But you’re likely in a different part of the world, with a different set of circumstances, skills and talents… you get the idea. I’m not promising that just anyone can duplicate this. I will, however, assert that no one becomes successful in Bizness without knowing the Steps I’ll be showing.

2) Results are extrapolated

What that means is that we only just hit this level; we’ve had a number of $275, $300, $400 profit days of late. But just yesterday is when my son and I did $592 worth of Bizness with about $90 materials cost. That’s a $500 profit day… and since we are doing it 5 1/2 days per week, having 24 days a month like yesterday equals over $10K a month.

3) This business will need more Steps taken to ensure a year-round income

The particular Bizness that Pierce and I started can be year-round, but we must establish more relationships with institutional buyers than individual homeowners to make the kind of money we’re making this summer into a year-round proposition.

So, if’n ya waded through those disclaimers and are still willing to see how we applied the Shoestring Steps to make serious bank toward my son’s car and college account, read on…

Shoestring Step ONE:
Get OFF Your ASS

So, the very first thing we did was to decide what we were going to do. The easiest kind of Bizness to grow quickly with positive cash flow right away is a local service business.

As a teen I had discovered that I could make in the neighborhood of $30 an hour… in the Eighties (!)… by aerating lawns. But lawn aeration is quite seasonal, it’s HOT work, and Pierce is still a bit small to be handling a heavy piece of equipment.

We also thought about window washing; it’s LESS seasonal, especially for those commercial accounts that need it done all year. But there is the thing about jockeying ladders… I don’t mind heights and neither does my son. BUT it’s hell on your back to take those things on and off a car and move ’em around a house or commercial building.

Then it hit us. Screen Repair. I had done this as a younger man to confound the big window cleaning companies that came in with big financing and big plans… you can read about my Ninja Marketing Move elsewhere on the blog.

Screen repair is a needed service, especially in Colorado where the Miller Moth is the freakin’ state bird. The main pieces of equipment are a spline roller, flathead screwdriver, and utility knife. Ya also need screen material, as well as corners and springs to replace bad ones.

With an TINY initial investment of $62.66, we were off to the races.

Shoestring Step TWO:
Find Out The W’s

This Step is about finding out Who Wants What, Where they can be found, Why they Want What they Want, When to hit them with the sale… and hoW to reach them.

The most important part of this whole equation is the WHO… and not only Who wants your stuff but also Who is supplying their needs now. These guys are not necessarily your competitors, as we’ll see later. And having this intel was key to developing our USP – Unique Selling Proposition – later on in Step THREE.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s examine what we learned in Step TWO…

There are a number of others in our space.

We have City Glass, which is mainly a window glass company (duh) but they also do screen repair. They’re waaay down south in Colorado Springs, about 20-30 minutes drive from anywhere. City Glass will repair a screen door but they’re really in the business of doing glass. You gotta bring it to them (20-30 minute drive) and they’ll call you when it’s done in 7-10 days (‘nother 20-30 minute drive) Oh, and YOU gotta get your screen door in and out of the tracks, and transport it as well.

There is A + L Home Improvement, a family-owned establishment that has been serving the area for 38 years. They also mostly do glass, but they have parts for patio doors and screens that Home Depot and Lowes don’t carry. A + L Home Improvement will come to you, but they really would rather not. They’re too bizzy doing other, more profitable things like replacing whole windows. For a single screen door they will come out for $65, then charge for the time and materials to replace the screen. You might be looking at a hundred bucks, but at least you don’t have to fuss with getting the screen in and out of your tracks.

There’s Ace Hardware, the last of the hardware stores in the area that actually will do screen repair.  Ace Hardware will sell you the screen material or they will do it for you. But hey won’t send somebuddy out to your place; YOU have to remove and replace your screen door.

Besides finding out Who was already in our space, we learned more and more about our target market. What their needs were, What they needed as a solution. That enabled us, believe it or not, to come up with an solution that Created Value for everyone in our space… both customers AND “competitors” welcomed us in because of the next Step.

Shoestring Step THREE:
Learn To CREATE Value

So here is where Pierce and I began to develop our USP – our Unique Selling Proposition.

 Our unique selling proposition is that WE come to YOU. One visit, no hassle. Same day we come, the problem is solved.

Nice.

One Day Biz Challenge

At first we used signs to advertise. Now Google serves up customers without charge—NICE! Learn more in the One Day Biz Challenge

City Glass didn’t bat an eye over the competition. In fact, they are grateful that I send ’em bizness when I see broken glass.

A + L is happy with us for the same reasons, but I’m also a customer of theirs now when I need to get custom parts for dated hardware that no one else sells anymore.

Ace Hardware is happy that I buy materials from ’em, and they don’t have to hassle with telling customers how to get their screens in and out.

Win, win, win, all the way around. Our customers are pleased and we’ve become partners with 0ur competitors.

Winning With the Unique Selling Proposition

“We come to You!”

– Mobile Screen Repair

The signs were effective immediately; we weren’t finished putting out all six signs when the first call came in! We also used a number of other free or cheap advertising sources:

Fixr.com, a site dedicated to helping local handyman/electrical/plumbing types to put out their shingle. There’s a paid and a free listing. We went with free.

Craigslist. Free, easy listing of goods and services for sale.

Facebook Fan Page. Also free and easy to put together. https://www.facebook.com/Colorado-Springs-Screen-Repair is our “vanity” url.

Fiverr. Five bucks. I went to Fiverr.com to have some fella in Indonesia submit my little screen repair companies to free listings in local searches: Yext, MerchantCircle, SuperPages, YellowBook, ThinkLocal, FourSquare, et cetera, ad nauseum. I think I got thirty free listings for the one $5 investment.

Google Plus page. Free. With the juice from the Facebook branded URL, the local search listings I paid five bucks for, and the Fixr.com listing, I ended up being #4 and #5 on the local search results for “mobile screen repair”.

P.S. — I’m the ONLY one with a phone number right after the name. Nice… I don’t know what other local bizzes are thinking 😉

Next up: I’ll probably make a couple of YouTube videos, naming them “Colorado Springs Screen Repair” and “Screen Door Repair” with a number of zip codes afterwards, and post them on my Plus page, Facebook fan page, Craigslist and Fixr. They don’t have to be super-professional, just have the USP and contact info.

Shoestring Step FOUR:
Measure Everything You Can

In all of the Biznesses I’ve ever created or coached anyone in building, we have NEVER reached the Five Figures per Month mark until taking this Step seriously. Measuring inputs and outputs, and analyzing what they mean, is what separates a hobby income from a FULL-TIME income.

It’s what brought us to that $500 day I told you about in the beginning of this post.

During this stage, we:

  1. Looked at what sources the calls were coming from (can you tell me how you found out about us?), and more importantly where they were sending us. This told us which free and paid methods were most effective and where to put more signs.
  2. Tracked how much time we were spending on the road versus hands-on screen-doin’ time. This helped us make the decision to buy a zip code map of the area and designate certain days to spend in certain areas. Higher volume zip codes got more reservations.
  3. Collected receipts for a couple of weeks to see how much of what we were buying at the hardware stores. This told us how to plan the week, making ONE trip to stock up instead of several trips per day.
  4. Compared the amount spent on materials versus gross income. This showed us we were spending about .23 cents per square feet on material and charging about $2.25 per square foot. We became fanatics about conserving material with a nearly 10-to-1 return 😉
  5. Measured how long it took to do a particular kind of job. This enabled us to plot whole days and weeks in Google Calendar efficiently, allowing me to juggle this and my other Biznesses.

This last metric about time management is key. In addition to this nice Father-and-Son biz, I own a martial arts studio, promote a book I wrote about trading the stock market, write this blog… believe it or not I was able to do ALL these things on the very day we broke $500 profit. Not shabby.

This Step, Measuring Everything You Can is how you find the holes in the bucket… where you are wasting time and resources and where the time and money you put in has the BEST results.

By the way, special kudos and thanks to my wife Sabrina for handling the scheduling after we started getting too dang many calls. The low-cost advertising I was doing above started working SO well, we had to forward the phones to her because we kept getting interrupted on one job to deal with another. She really saved the day by taking over the scheduling after we grew too big to handle it alone

Shoestring Step Number FIVE:
Now, WRITE Everything DOWN

We’re in this particular Step now.

Step FIVE is about documenting, so you can duplicate.

  • Duplicate your past success.
  • Duplicate your best results.
  • Duplicate yourSELF… by handing over a list of to-do’s, procedures, contacts, suppliers, et cetera… to someone ELSE to do.

Step THREE is where you Create Value for others. But Step FIVE is where you create value for yourself.

Because once you have a viable Bizness in place, the next thing to do is to work ON your Bizness instead of IN it.

The documentation makes it easy for me to train someone to do anything I don’t want or have the time to do. With a list of necessary steps for each process, I can take that list and quickly teach another what needs doing. Step FIVE avoids reinventing the wheel.

Documenting to-do’s, procedures, contacts, suppliers, isn’t just for you as an employer… it’s for when you move on. Think if you were selling this Bizness to an investor. Sure, you might hand over the brand name and the customer list, even your materials and equipment. But at the end of the day you’re selling someone else a JOB… and who wants to buy a job?

No, with a boatload of documentation to support every process that you do in your Bizness, your are giving your prospective buyer a turnkey business. You are handing over a complete system, not just equipment and a name. Which has more value, the parts that make up what you do, or the mechanism as a whole? You know the answer.

Hmmm… this Bizness might even become licensable or franchisable. Wouldn’t THAT be something?

So even now, while I’m driving around to spots with my son repairing screens, hanging out with him and teaching him valuable lessons about sales, PR, work ethic, and more…

…I’m building and documenting a proven system for making cash, that anyone that’s willing to work… or put others to work… can put to use immediately.

Okey dokey Steppers! That’s the power of the Five Steps to Five Figures. Hope you enjoyed it. Now how’s a little bit of feedback? If you enjoyed this post, give it some love and tweet or fb it out, wouldja? And comment below so we can continue the conversation.

Keep Stepping,

Kurt

Comments

  1. Window washing can be very difficult on your back, as you suggest. Incorporating window washing and screen repair into potential business plans can definitely give you plenty to consider.

  2. This is mighty awesome real world stuff Kurt!

    And I think as I’m exploring you excellent blog, it really boils
    down to the same things!
    You’ve gotta be in concentrated, structured forward motion,
    in order to get anything worthwhile done!

    And the theory goes out the window, along with you logos and
    business cards!LOL! At some point, you’ve got to get off your asset
    and start aggressively moving forward!

    Thanks for showing us how it’s really done!
    Mark recently posted…Being An Entrepreneur: So You Kinda Of Sort Of Think You Understand What It Really Takes!My Profile

  3. My name is Greg. I live in Walter Hill, Australia.
    I randomly stumble on shoestring101.com. I just want to say “Hi”.
    food delivery near me recently posted…food delivery near meMy Profile

  4. I think with the way the economy is going, that everyone should have multiple streams of income. I feel that thinking “local” but also using the internet is a great way to get this started. I also believe that your 5 steps are important ones… especially measuring everything.

    Peace,
    Todd
    Todd recently posted…3 Barter Items You Probably Haven’t Considered But Will Be Valuable Even If the Poop Doesn’t Hit the Fan!My Profile

  5. Regina says:

    I think it’s really amazing the way you are teaching your son how to start and run a business. You’re giving him amazing tools that will continue working for him for the rest of his life!

    I’ve never really thought about it before but the fact that a local service business is the easiest to grow really does make sense. Those signs were a great idea and the fact that you are able to get supplies locally and send extra business to another local business that could be a competitor is very big win. Plus your family is getting to know your neighbors around town and building a positive reputation! Never underestimate word-of-mouth advertising. =)

    • kurtf
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks Regina! Pierce now knows he has NO excuse for learning and earning. Recently he asked, “Dad, would you show me the trade of how to make money online?” Makes my heart skip a beat.
      BTW, his screen repair business is waaay overdue for a new post… to update everyone on what we’re doing now. After Finding Out The W’s a little better, now we spend ZERO on advertising. Check my post, How to Hack Google For Free Front Page Advertising For Your Local Business
      Also, we figured out how to get LOTS of biz from one phone call. I was able to get just a few roofing contractors to try out my services and wouldn’t you know it… when a roof needs replacing in the Colorado Springs area because of our frequent hailstorms… so do the screens and screen doors! Now I get calls from three roofers that keep me bizzy, bizzy even in the off-season. Doing five figures a month again with no overhead but our contractors.

      Keep Stepping,
      Kurt
      kurtf recently posted…Inside the $2 Startup: Making a Real Business on a Shoestring In Two HoursMy Profile

  6. If you have seen your “return visitor” counts go up the last couple of days, its just me digesting everything on your site.

    I love you idea with the screen business. While I am a successful professional, I love business and starting new ideas. I have no problem doing the work to get it going, but then I want to hire someone to actually do the work.

    Do you have any thoughts on turning this type of “service” business into more than a job? Where you actually run the business instead of doing the business?

    I would be interested in hearing you thoughts specifically as they might relate to the screen replacement business (if your 15 year old was not going to take it over).

    • kurtf
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks for visiting Burke!

      I’ve been able to get seasonal help for screen repair and window cleaning bizzes by targeting colleges’ bulletin boards.

      Have figured out how to combat seasonality with the screens, though, and have been keeping it close to the vest so as not to create competitors.

      Of late I haven’t done ANY outsourcing, open to ideas because now my screen repair biz has grown beyond what I care to do personally any more 🙂

      Thanks for the comment and you are welcome any time Burke.

      Keep Stepping,

      Kurt
      kurtf recently posted…Walk The Shoestring Steps With Me This Week: Measure Everything You DoMy Profile

  7. Awesome steps, Kurt! These are fundamentals that can be applied to all businesses and I really found them very well laid out. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

    Cody

  8. I love how you go into great detail on the steps you took, Kurt; certainly makes it very helpful for anyone looking into starting an offline business.
    Ana Hoffman recently posted…Aweber Review – Why I use Aweber AutoresponderMy Profile

    • kurtf
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks Ana!

      I happen to believe that offline and online businesses share all the same principles; it’s just a matter of ‘translation’.

      For example, tracking the number of phone calls coming from a particular sign is very much the same as tracking the number of opt-ins coming from a particular Facebook PPC image and copy.

      In ten years, WHO KNOWS what we’ll be tracking? How many Heffalumps we get per flickerdoodle? 😉 But there will always be the same PRINCIPLES at work: find out what is working and do more of the same, while exploring to see if it can be improved even more.

      Thanks for visiting Ana! The Queen of Traffic is always an honored guest.

      Keep Stepping,

      kurt
      kurtf recently posted…Local Marketing Secrets From My New Book, My Profile

  9. This is awesome. Questions, though:
    1. Are you going to sell this window-repair business to your son? 2. When are you going to write a book on this or teach an MBA class? 3. Where were you 20 years ago when I needed your help?
    Oh, and thanks for distracting me this morning…I already know how to repair window screens and I’m now thinking about dropping everything I’m doing to go start this business. Stop messing up my life, Kurt! LOL
    Curt Sumners recently posted…Are the 3 Working Generations Spoiled Employees?My Profile

    • kurtf
      Twitter:
      says:

      Sell, no. I will transfer ownership gradually. What I am doing with him is working ALL the aspects of the business and recording as I go. Pierce knows how to do the actual repair work on a variety of screens now. He knows the logic of how and where to place signs and other types of ads. He interfaces with customers at the job sites and collects money. He’s even done a few upgrades, the equivalent of “Would you like fries with that?”

      😉

      We’ve also looked at inventory control, budgeting, and how to make free websites.

      Next up, he will be handling the phones and scheduling. Then we’ll look at all our documented procedures, suppliers, and other bizness relationships and package it up with an operations manual. At a certain point, I’m going to kick him out of the nest and watch him fly… right now he’s putting money together for a car bcuz he’s fifteen and has his permit.

      Once Pierce gets a ‘real job’ at sixteen… (insert maniacal laughter muauhahahahaha…) he will have had a taste of the entrepreneurial lifestyle his Dad leads… able to take off when he wants, able to ‘crank it’ and make embarrassingly huge amounts of cash when needed… able to schedule Bizness around his life rather than structure his whole life to fit what he has to do for someone else for his living.

      Hey Curt, if you are serious about repairing screens I could give you some mentoring… FREE… provided that you blog about the experience and refer to me as your high and glorious exalted master. Okay, kidding about the master thang but it would be great to document the Shoestring Steps at work. I smell a challenge…

      How would extra $1,000 in the next 30 days sound, working a nice leedle side Bizness that you start on a Shoestring? Give me a shout if you feel that experience might give you inspiration in your REAL Bizness, the Bizness of helping others with your blog.

      Keep Stepping,

      Kurt
      kurtf recently posted…3 Ways to Kill Procrastination and Actually Get SOMEthing Done!My Profile

      • You just inspired me to write a new post, “Abe Lincoln: Entrepreneur.” (This is one of the first ways he became well-known in the communities where he lived.) Of course, I’ll tie you into it since you were the inspiration. Maybe, I’ll even do some first-hand research with your proposal (I’ll need to think long and hard about that though. I’m on vacation and it’s really hot – whine, whine.)

        By the way, I lmao’d when I read the comment about you looking like Steve Austin. Dead ringer!

        And yes, I already think you’re a glorious, exalted master in your field.
        Curt Sumners recently posted…Lincoln Can Teach Us a lot about PassionMy Profile

    • kurtf
      Twitter:
      says:

      Sell, no. I will transfer ownership gradually. What I am doing with him is working ALL the aspects of the business and recording as I go. Pierce knows how to do the actual repair work on a variety of screens now. He knows the logic of how and where to place signs and other types of ads. He interfaces with customers at the job sites and collects money. He’s even done a few upgrades, the equivalent of “Would you like fries with that?”

      😉

      We’ve also looked at inventory control, budgeting, and how to make free websites.

      Next up, he will be handling the phones and scheduling. Then we’ll look at all our documented procedures, suppliers, and other bizness relationships and package it up with an operations manual. At a certain point, I’m going to kick him out of the nest and watch him fly… right now he’s putting money together for a car bcuz he’s fifteen and has his permit.

      Once Pierce gets a ‘real job’ at sixteen… (insert maniacal laughter muauhahahahaha…) he will have had a taste of the entrepreneurial lifestyle his Dad leads… able to take off when he wants, able to ‘crank it’ and make embarrassingly huge amounts of cash when needed… able to schedule Bizness around his life rather than structure his whole life to fit what he has to do for someone else for his living.

      Hey Curt, if you are serious about repairing screens I could give you some mentoring… FREE… provided that you blog about the experience and refer to me as your high and glorious exalted master. Okay, kidding about the master thang but it would be great to document the Shoestring Steps at work. I smell a challenge…

      How would extra $1,000 in the next 30 days sound, working a nice leedle side Bizness that you start on a Shoestring? Give me a shout if you feel that experience might give you inspiration in your REAL Bizness, the Bizness of helping others with your blog.

      Keep Stepping,

      Kurt
      kurtf recently posted…3 Ways to Kill Procrastination and Actually Get SOMEthing Done!My Profile

  10. Thanks for this awesome post sir. You’re really giving your son a good business training and I like that. This article is full detailed and very explanately and I’m going to share it.

  11. Pinned, +1ed, liked, tweeted. If you put your Twitter username in your canned tweets you’ll get more clicks and followers. People are more likely to click on links in retweets when they recognize the blogger.
    Gail Gardner recently posted…Twitter Best Practices: How to Use Twitter Effectively ~ Make Twitter Work for YOUMy Profile

  12. Hi Kurt,

    You have thought me something new once again so for that, kudos to you. I think your advice comes in handy when it comes to my apartment referral business as well as my custom vest and jacket design business. I really wouldn’t call them a full-fledged business though since I kind of only worked on them half way with good reason. The jacket and vest design is a trend and its dieing as we speak so it wouldn’t make much sense trying to grow it farther, but I’m happy with the couple grand I made. As for the apartment referral business, I think its a genius idea but… Okay I don’t have a good reason for this one. Perhaps I apply your awesome steps to it.

    Just between me and you(and the world obviously) I had this idea where I give people $200 for moving into my apartments after the apartments pay me my $500 for reffing new tenants. Pretty sweet idea huh? I think your five steps can really help me with this.

    As for your mentoring program, sign me up! Or I just sign myself up when its ready. Oh and by the way, you remind me of Stone Cold Steve Austin from WWF in your pic. 🙂

    Keep up the awesome work dude!
    Bernard Z. recently posted…How to Do 5 Things at OnceMy Profile

    • Hi Kurt,

      So you will be announcing you mentoring program shortly huh? Is that the bottom line? Hehe.. I went as far making some flyers for the idea. the “$200” was in big letters with enough information on there to get several phone calls but no follow ups. I was going to go add place the flyers around just within the city my apartments are in and only use my apartments for starters. But like I said, no follow ups. Perhaps it sounds a bit sketchy, not sure… I’m always honest with them and I do tell them that the apartments pay me and once they do I give them $200. I’m not really the salesmen type to be honest. I’d rather hire someone but I have to make the money first. Since I’m savvy with this online stuff I figured I make a landing page and try to draw people from online as well but if the problem lies within my phone skills then perhaps I should work on that. Plus it can get crazy since I know I can get to where I get a 100 phone calls a day.

      Any who, I would be extremely grateful if you did that for me. Who doesn’t want advice from a guru? Possibly after this I just might try and work on that business. 3 referrals a month and my rent is free for that month 🙂 I don’t know why none of the other tenants thought of it.
      Till next time,

      Bernard
      Bernard Z. recently posted…How to Do 5 Things at OnceMy Profile

      • kurtf
        Twitter:
        says:

        Believe it or not Bernard, I tried this as a business over twenty years ago, pre-internet. 🙂

        I went so far as placing classified ads saying, “Moving? Save $100 INSTANTLY”

        That was expensive back then, but did generate some interest and get me a few side dollars.

        If I were doing it TODAY I would use the Shotgun/Laser technique and “Psycho” trick, along with the FREE advertising methods available today.

        Por exemplar: how about “Moving? Let me find you the perfect place and slide you $150 grocery money. It costs you nothing. Details 555-1212”

        or “Shopping for the perfect apartment? Don’t just save gas, let me BUY you $150 gas for your car if I find you a place you enjoy to live. Costs you nothing, come to http://www.mycoolnewapartment.com

        Maybe these ideas will help. Call me if you’d like to brainstorm more.

        Keep Stepping,

        Kurt
        kurtf recently posted…Effective Marketing on a Shoestring Budget Part TWOMy Profile

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