What was the biggest obstacle to the success of your business and how did you overcome it? "I was not marking up enough because I was too afraid of losing a job. If I didn’t get the work, I felt rejected and resigned, but that was just stupid thinking. It’s a business, not a popularity contest. Now I have a take-no-prisoners attitude and I don’t reduce the markup for anything." — Sue Cosentini "Becoming a professional salesman, instead of a tradesman who was an ‘order taker’ for the homeowner’s project." — Steve Klitsch "Thinking I had to do everything myself, which burned me out." — Randy Polombo "Delegation and trust. First I had to figure out what to delegate; then I struggled to find people I could trust. That has taken me years. Now we have a network of subcontractors, suppliers, and friends who are able to supply the dedicated and talented people we need." — Michael McCutcheon "I was overly optimistic, which means my estimates were too low. I overcame this by getting feedback on estimates from the field crew and by raising my estimated gross profit to cover slippage between my estimates and actual production costs." — Paul Eldrenkamp

Small contractors who do everything themselves often have trouble deciding which responsibilities to delegate first — bookkeeping, sales, estimating, field production, etc. What advice can you give to someone making a first hire? "Bookkeeping is the easiest to delegate. Next is sales, although you have to choose between teaching remodeling...

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