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Building Business

Building Business

The Self-Taught MBA

comments (8) December 14th, 2011 in Blogs
FPR Fernando Pages Ruiz, contributor

Its tough to put down your toolbelt and pick up a briefcase (or laptop computer). David Gerstel’s 1988 article, “Running the Company,” described this problem perfectly back when Fernando Pages Ruiz was wrestling with the demands his budding construction company.
Once a builder is comfortable as a business manager, its time to focus on adding innovation to the construction process. Fine Homebuilding online members can read Ruizs recent article on incorporating best practices.
Its tough to put down your toolbelt and pick up a briefcase (or laptop computer). David Gerstel’s 1988 article, “Running the Company,” described this problem perfectly back when Fernando Pages Ruiz was wrestling with the demands his budding construction company.Click To Enlarge

It's tough to put down your toolbelt and pick up a briefcase (or laptop computer). David Gerstel’s 1988 article, “Running the Company,” described this problem perfectly back when Fernando Pages Ruiz was wrestling with the demands his budding construction company.

About 30 years ago, I read a Fine Homebuilding article that changed my career. I came upon it while building my second house. By then, I owned a sturdy Ford truck and a garage full of tools, and I felt like the consummate homebuilder. I could layout a foundation, frame walls, cut rafters and stringers, hang a door, and even thread steel pipe, so I had little use for subs, which I regarded a lazy builder's expense. Taking pride in digging footings with a pick and shovel and driving every nail, my project moved slowly; work stopped every time I sped to the lumber yard for materials. So I hired a helper, but things didn't improve much; I was purchasing a lot to build a third house, and then started lobbying blueprints through the Los Angeles building department. I hired a few, minor subs reluctantly, but they complained the framing wasn't moving along quickly enough, so I even hired people to do the jobs I had always done, like the framing, and demoted myself to sweeping and fetching materials, frustrated by more frequent stops at corner payphone.  Late at night, I pulled wads of crumpled receipts from my pockets and penciled numbers into a hardbound ledger.  

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That was 30 years ago, before cell phones and computers made things a little easier, although neither would have solved my problem. The technological breakthrough I first encountered in the pages of Fine Homebuilding was something still beyond the grasp of many of today's newly aspiring building entrepreneurs, the briefcase.

Trading Tool Boxes
David Gerstel's 1988 article, "Running the Company," described my plight perfectly: I had yet to learn that management is a trade onto itself, requiring its own set of skills, a new toolbox and the same level of focus you'd give to cutting a compound miter-100%. Today's management tools have become highly sophisticated, but the concepts behind a well run business remain the same, and understanding the structure of business, from operations through finance and marketing, can help you remain organized and effective, even if you still wear all the hats.
This blog will seek to blueprint the basics of business management following somewhat the same syllabus taught in a typical MBA program, but teasing out the lessons as they apply to running a small construction company including interviews with successful, entrepreneurial managers in the homebuilding and remodeling business, as well as management experts in other fields.  The purpose of this blog is to offer a business management forum on this site, and to outline business management concepts that may help readers scale their current management systems and strategies to allow for future growth.


For more business insight, read the next installment of the Self-Taught MBA.

- Fernando Pages Ruiz

posted in: Blogs, business, self-taught mba
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Comments (8)

farsflisespikkeri farsflisespikkeri writes: Hello.

Do anybody have a tip on where to buy different types of moulding on the web in the states?
I am looking for the normal types but also bigger and more elaborate designs.

It is important that they have a online shop with good pictures. They will only need to ship with in the states, more aprox. to New Jersey

So any tips?

Best regards
Posted: 11:13 am on February 5th

madhammer madhammer writes: Looking foward to following your blog. After 20 years in the Hi Tech business, 3 consecutive layoffs led me back to my roots when I worked my high school and college summers with my dad the builder. Now after 10 years in the remodeling businses I am having trouble making the transition from doer to manager. I need to make the leap, but can't seem to step back long enough to lay it all out. I'm hoping to find some nuggets of wisdom in your blog. Looking forward to it.
Posted: 7:28 pm on January 5th

FPR FPR writes: I hope you will all weigh in, especially Penny, who comes to homebuilding with an MBA in her nail pouch. Later today I have a conversation scheduled with David Gerstel, I will ask him what has changed since the latest iteration of book in 2002, and how much has stayed the same. You will get eavesdrop on this parley very soon.

Posted: 1:57 pm on December 20th

MyPenny MyPenny writes: Interesting! I am a MBA who loves to (learn) how to build. I am currently working on my 5th house. A 4000sq ft slab on grade passive solar home in Ontario Canada. Looking forward to the discussion.
Posted: 5:43 pm on December 19th

Mike_Maines Mike_Maines writes: Gerstel's book is great. Another book I learned a lot from, especially starting out as a woodworker, is Jim Tolpin's "Working at Woodworking." Like Gerstel, he talks a lot about organization and setting up systems in ALL aspects of the business, from sales to production to bookkeeping.
Posted: 3:15 pm on December 19th

Canchopp Canchopp writes: Great topic for a blog. Making the transition from working on the tools is a major change to a one or two man show. The transformation is vital to keeping up with the pace especially as we age. Growing older and trying to perform the same is challenging enough. We need to share our stories to survive in tough times, keep on enjoying our work, and create value in our businesses.
Posted: 3:48 pm on December 17th

Margo7 Margo7 writes: I worked in wholesale building supplies and saw many young guys start up contracting businesses. Almost inevitably things went well for the first 6 months or so, then the paperwork caught up with them! My advice is to go to your local community college and take a bookkeeping course before you go out on your own. The good hands on skills that you have are not enough without paper handling knowhow behind the scene.
Posted: 11:45 pm on December 16th

DancingDan DancingDan writes: This is a great idea for a blog. For all of us who learned from Gerstel's book, our appreciation in advance for your contributions, Fernando. I hope all the young contractors who are debating how to proceed read this.
Posted: 2:31 pm on December 16th

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