December 15, 2020

4 Building Blocks That Lead to Success

In this post, I'mm going to share some tips I’ve picked up over the years that have undeniably helped me to mold NS Builders into the business I dreamed it would be. More than just transitioning from one level to the next, I like to think of these steps as building blocks (take a wild guess what my first toys were as a child… Shout out to all those wooden blocks and Lincoln Logs I used to build my tiny empire).

I recently addressed this question on an episode of Coffee Break Q&A: How did I successfully make the leap from employee/subcontractor to full-fledged business owner? And whether your plan is to stay small or expand to a large-scale operation, these building blocks will help you find success as you build your own empire.  


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There comes a point in life where you have to ask yourself: Am I content to continue working as an employee or subcontractor for someone else, or am I ready to make the jump to being my own boss and running the whole enchilada? Making that kind of transition doesn’t happen overnight. And the decision to do so will probably rob you of more than a few night’s sleep. I remember reaching that point and knew it was time to pursue my goal—I wanted to build the homes that I had a hand in designing, implementing my elements of craftsmanship. And the timing was right.

Is it the right time for you? Consider this: Can you handle it financially? Will you have to go into debt in order to secure equipment or working capital? How will you handle the mental and emotional load that comes with running your own business? Is your family on board? Do you have enough help to handle the jobs that come in?


When you are ready to move your business from one level to the next, it’s crucial to have a well-defined plan on how to do so. If not, you may find yourself making a lateral move versus upward. This is where a mission statement comes in. Carefully list what your objective/goals are, where you want to be in one year, five years, etc., and the steps you will take to get there. Read your mission statement periodically, update it as needed, and use it for inspiration to keep going on those days that it seems like everything is holding you back.  

Once you know where you are going, it’s time to get others into the car. But building a portfolio to lure in new clients is arguably one of the toughest things to do. Don’t waste time or risk discouragement comparing your website or online portfolio to bigger, longer-established competitors. Instead of wishing you had more to show-and-tell, focus on what you do have. For each project you work on, seize marketing opportunities: Take LOTS of high-quality pictures of before, during, and after the job; ask customers for a written testimonial that you can use on your website, and openly communicate to any subs you used that you would appreciate referrals. Having a professionally designed website (or DIY but enlist the help of a copyeditor to proof it) is an excellent place to showcase your work.

A word of caution: Do not use images or testimonials from jobs that were not yours—in other words, you were hired as a sub by the GC to do a specific job. You can ask the GC’s permission to allow you to use your work on the project as part of your portfolio. But, if permission is not granted, it is never a good idea to try to claim credit for a job that wasn’t yours. You’ll only end up burning bridges with the GC, other subs, and possibly the homeowner. Keep it honest.


I cannot stress this point enough: Surround yourself with superstars—amazing people with talents you are lacking. For example, I actively pursued hiring people that I knew were better at certain things than I was—like a bookkeeper. Sure, I can balance a checkbook and input basic income and expenses into QuickBooks, but when it comes to populating an Excel spreadsheet for a detailed P&L report for each quarter in comparison with the last year’s commensurate numbers… yeah right

And even though I have a passion for carpentry, I humbly acknowledged early on that there were going to be others that were just as good, if not better, than myself. I have some cabinet-making skills, but I hired GREAT cabinet makers. I’m a good carpenter, but I’ve hired BETTER carpenters. We learn from each other. They bring skills to each and every job that add to the success of NS Builders—and make me look really good!


Life changes constantly—so why should it be any different with running your own business? When you prepare to adapt to the unexpected curve balls that WILL be thrown your way (COVID anyone?) you’ll be able to weather those storms with confidence and keep your business on track.

Right now, at NS Builders, our top priority is working safely—whether remotely from home as much as possible, following all safety precautions, and doing everything within our power to keep our work family healthy and safe. That means reducing the number of projects, how many people will be on-site, and no mingling (as much as we miss each other, we know it’s for the best). No one could have predicted 2020, but here we are. And by adapting to these new circumstances, we will continue to move ahead.


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Building something from scratch, figuring out how to design it, getting stumped, knocking it all over, starting again, coming up with something even better, reaching new heights—this is why we do what we do. So, keep reaching for the next building block to build your business. Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of others (i.e., people smarter than you… yeah, they’re out there), and realistically identify your strengths and weaknesses. Surround yourself with great people who will share your vision of creating a company to be proud of, and be quick to adapt when needed. Using these building blocks helped me get to exactly where I want to be… and will continue to guide me to where I want to go.

Ready to take your home to the next level? At NS Builders, we’ve got the tools and expertise in place to get you there! Whether it’s a high-end kitchen or bathroom renovation, an entire-house remodel, or a fabulous new build, let us travel on the journey with you. Contact us today to get started!

—Nick Schiffer


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