Apart from being a nifty tool for people thinking about a bathroom remodel, The Bathroom Survey is my early attempt to get back into full bathroom remodeling. Which is to say, I’m not there yet, and I may never get there, but I’m starting to seriously think about it again. It wouldn’t be my first foray. Almost a decade ago, my friends, Dave and Doug, and I started our own bathroom remodeling company—Custom ReBath. Dave did the construction. I did the plumbing. Doug did the electrical work. I was known as ReBath Matt.
Dave and I had gone to vocational school together back in the day. I had met and made friends with Doug at a bar one night over an epic game of table shuffleboard. I introduced Doug to Dave shortly thereafter, and it wasn’t long before we were talking about starting our own contracting business. Doug had always had an offer from one of his uncles to help him start his own business. Dave helped me cover my portion to get me on board.
I was known as the cool one; Dave was known as the funny, fun-loving one, and Doug was the weird one.
The beginning was great. We were the three amigos, the three musketeers, the triumphant triumvirate. We thought about going the franchise route with someone like Five Star, but thought we had enough resources and marketing chops to go it alone. We notched a few successes under our belt and started building a referral network and word-of-mouth advertising. We had plenty of work during the winter and spring. Fall could get a little slow.
We also got leads from the home improvement marketing company, ServiceMagic (now HomeAdvisor), where we would pay something like $20 or something for each “lead.” It wasn’t a bust or anything, but it was hard to gauge just how effective it was because of all the time you would spend responding to and pitching people who never did anything or who would choose a different contractor in the end. On the other hand, I don’t know what our alternative would have been.
Dave’s son did our old website for us. It looked snazzy enough for sure, but then Dave forgot to renew our web hosting, so it went down for a short period of time. We did our own accounting. We used the software company, 1099-Etc, for our 1099 contractor filings. They’re still around, but I guess they go as Advanced Micro Solutions now. At one point, we were thinking about taking on a couple employees, so this small business software solution made sense so we knew they had a payroll software option if we ever needed it.
We had our fair share of hidden disaster projects with subflooring areas, joists, and pipes that were in not too good of a shape. Including one project in which we discovered a termite infestation. I wish I still had the photos from that old project. It was quite the sight to see. Here are some pictures from a somewhat similar story in Pittsburgh. We also had our fair share of customers who thought they could just make changes at the 11th hour and assumed we’d be able to accommodate them—or would have to accommodate them to keep them happy. We had a couple of customers just outright try to stiff us mid-project.
Still, we were making decent money. Not like we were hoping but enough. Or at least I thought it was enough. Dave didn’t think so. Our business was still young and still had room to grow, but he was always wanting to do more, more, more. It got to the point where I felt like I had to micro-manage the customer every step of the way to make sure everything was done on time and without issue so we could move on the next project as quickly as possible. Which was fine, I guess, it just felt like it reached a point where it wasn’t about the work and individual bathroom remodels anymore. It wasn’t fun, anymore. I mean, it is work. It’s always been work, but I never hated it like I did when the whole company seemed like it depended on never running into an issue. So we had a little falling out. Nothing too bad really. We agreed to part ways on amiable terms and all that. Truthfully, it felt a lot like a divorce, or what I think a divorce would feel like anyway.
Plans for the Future
A lot of the construction and carpentry I can do, I’m just not as efficiently precise as Dave was. But then I don’t need to handle the volume that we used to tackle. As the electrician, Doug seemed to have more opportunities for side contract work, so the down times were less stressful for him. He also seemed to be the one who handles the busy times best, too, for that matter. So while it’s the area where I only have basic skills, it’s also the area where I feel most confident finding subcontract work.
Still gotta save a little more to get to a point where I can get the minimal requirements for equipment and supplies and get all my ducks in a row. Plus, I currently have a great boss, who’s been really supportive, and can guarantee me side-work so that I’m never totally out of work. So in the meantime, feel free to reach out to me and let me know what you think of The Bathroom Survey. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before I’ll be available to give estimates to people who take survey and realize it’s time to remodel their bathroom space.