Sabir x Chris Lalomia
Top Tips On Being An Entrepreneur With TheTrustedToolbox Founder
Chris Lalomia is the founder of TheTrustedToolbox, a multi-sided marketplace that offers handyman services. He is an experienced entrepreneur who has a lot of insights for fellow professionals and was more than happy to impart some words of wisdom during the latest This Week With Sabir episode.
Here are a few of the tips that Lalomia has for other entrepreneurs.
- The Grass Isn’t Always Greener: It’s always going to seem like other business owners have it easier and that you have an unjust amount of issues. But everyone works hard and everyone has runs of bad luck, you just don’t see it on social media.
- Get Support from a Mentor or Partner: As an entrepreneur, you’re on your own. You don’t have a finance department to deal with payroll issues and you can’t just click your fingers and make big issues someone else’s problem. If you’re not very independent or strong-minded, it’ll be a struggle. In any case, it always helps to have someone who can support you and guide you.
- Embrace the Gig Economy: Hire contractors so that you’re not obligated to pay salaried workers and only spend when work is being done. For a new business, this can make a massive difference and will ensure you’re able to grow slowly and scale gradually. You can use sites like Fiverr, Upwork, and countless others to find freelancers across a wide range of skill sets.
- Remember That Success Doesn’t Happen Overnight: Don’t give up just because you don’t hit your targets in a few months or even a year. It takes a long time and contrary to what you might think, there is no such thing as overnight success. You need to stick at it and keep going until you get to where you want to be.
Chris Lalomia’s “$100,000 advice” is to create a business plan but double the expense projections and half the expected revenue. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you know, or how much time you have spent on that plan, there’s a good chance things won’t go your way.
When that happens, you need to be ready for it and make sure you can actually deal with it.
Insights Into The B2B And Entrepreneurial Journey With Chris Lalomia
Chris Lalomia is an experienced and successful entrepreneur who built a multi-million dollar handyman business from scratch. He has experienced all the highs and lows that come with launching and running a business, so he’s perfectly placed to offer some helpful insights.
Watch my full discussion with Lalomia on YouTube and in this blog. Alternatively, check out the following guide, where I go into detail regarding the key areas of discussion.
If you’re an entrepreneur preparing to launch a new business or struggling through those difficult early stages, pay attention to these insights.
Remember That Everyone Is Working Hard
Your job will always feel like the hardest and your business will always feel like the most challenging.
It’s all a matter of perspective.
You work incredibly hard and it will constantly feel like nothing is going your way. You will doubt your decisions and fear the ever-present threat of financial annihilation.
At the same time, you’ll see other business owners posting about their success on social media and talking about it in interviews.
The grass always seems greener on the other side, but it’s not.
Those social media posts are only flexing the positives. They’re showing you the successful side and the happy times. You’re not seeing all the work that went into that success or the doubt that continues to hang over it like a dark cloud.
If you have ever spent time around a community of sports bettors or card players you will see something similar.
They all talk about their wins. They’ll happily tell you about the time they won $10,000 on a lucky bet or the time they turned $10 into $1,000. But they don’t talk about their losses.
Eventually, they start to believe their own lies.
Ask a room full of sports bettors how much they have won/lost over their lifetime, and 50% will tell you that they are in profit while the other 50% will tell you they have “probably” broken even.
If you follow them on social media and see their winning slips and the things they have supposedly bought with their winnings, you might believe them.
But if that were true, casinos and sportsbooks wouldn’t be profitable. They would be akin to charities, as opposed to the billion-dollar enterprises that they are.
The grass is not always greener on the other side; you are not the only one working and struggling.
Don’t assume that you have chosen the wrong industry or you’re doing something wrong just because you’re not driving sports cars and wearing Rolex watches like the entrepreneurs you follow on social media. They probably have (or had) the same doubts as you and they likely work just as hard.
Going From 0 To 100
Chris Lalomia runs a multi-sided marketplace, which is something I spoke about extensively with Bryan Clayton, who runs a similar business.
But regardless of the business you choose, it’s always difficult to take those initial steps and get your business off the ground.
The best way you can do this is to take things slowly.
Don’t make assumptions and don’t make expensive purchases if there are cheaper alternatives.
That includes your employees.
Why pay an expert developer $80,000 a year just to keep them on your team when you could spend a fifth of that on a freelance developer that does the work as and when needed?
If you haven’t been introduced to the gig economy, now is the time to get acquainted with it.
There are freelancers for every skill set and at every experience level. These contractors work remotely and can be hired on fixed or hourly contracts. If they’re not working, you’re not paying, and so if the business hits a wall and the money stops coming in, you’re not paying thousands of pounds a month on staff who just sit around doing nothing.
It's also much easier to scale with freelancers. If your business grows and your demands grow with it, just hire your trusted freelancers for more projects or bring some more freelancers onto the team.
There is always a fear that you will lose your favorite freelancers if you don’t tie them into a long-term contract. But that’s a small price to pay when you consider how much money and time you could save by working with freelancers.
Use sites like Upwork to find skilled freelancers. You can also find hard-working designers and developers on Fiverr, though it’s more of a mixed bag.
There Is No Overnight Success
Overnight success is like winning the lottery, both in terms of the instant money/success you receive and the rarity.
We’ve all heard the stories of businesses that blew up overnight and suddenly became the thing that everyone was talking about and everyone wanted a piece of. But they’re incredibly rare, and they rarely tell the whole story.
For instance, some people believe that Zoom exploded “overnight” during the pandemic, but it was actually founded back in 2011 and experienced steady growth among business and professional users.
Gary Vee is also someone often regarded as experiencing overnight success, but he work very hard for many years.
Just because someone or something has suddenly appeared on your radar doesn’t mean they weren’t working hard for many years to reach that point.
For more information, check out the episode featuring Joe Yoon, an influencer who experience what many considered to be “overnight success”, but actually built his brand steadily over years.
Get Support From A Mentor, Friend, Or Partner
You need to be mentally strong and independent to succeed as an entrepreneur. Most of the time, it’s just you. You’re always the one who cares the most and has the most to lose if the business fails.
There will be times when you can’t sleep because you’re worried about an upcoming event or the potential loss of a client/opportunity. You may lose sleep and you’re definitely going to be stressed.
You will find employees and freelancers who can help you along the way, but they aren’t as invested in the company as you are.
A few years ago, a freelancer friend of mine told me a story about a new client who had invested his savings in launching an e-commerce site. He didn’t have any business partners, he lived alone, and as he couldn’t afford full-time employees, he resorted to hiring freelancers.
My friend is a writer and he was contracted for a single press release. One job. $100. No nonsense.
But as the client explained the job and made his lack of knowledge and experience clear, my friend felt bad for him. Having worked for many businesses, he knew a thing or two about e-commerce and was able to provide some tips.
Those tips were basic and mentioned in passing, so my friend didn’t think anything more of them. He wrote the press release, collected the money, and let the client know that if he needed any more help (meaning actual work), he should get in touch.
A week later, my friend woke to find 20 missed calls from a strange number on his personal phone. The calls had started at 5 AM. Upon checking his emails, he found numerous emails and messages from the client, a man he had only contacted through instant messages to that point.
The client’s site had gone down due to a server issue. In his panic, he scanned the invoices on the freelancing platform, found my friend’s number, and then called him 20+ times at 5 in the morning.
It was too early to contact the web host. He panicked. And so he harassed a writer who knew nothing about servers and to who he had only spoken briefly.
Needless to say, my friend immediately blocked the client’s number and clarified that he could only help with writing, on account of him being a writer.
The client clearly had one of those early morning moments, and you will too. Bad things happen, and you’ll feel like everything is falling apart and there is nothing you can do about it.
It’s normal to panic and it’s normal to lose sleep. But if you fall apart as soon as something like that happens (like the aforementioned client), you shouldn’t be doing it by yourself.
Get a business partner. Find a mentor. It also makes a huge difference just to have a spouse/friend who can provide emotional support.
It’s also good to have this support even if you’re very strong and independent. Most successful entrepreneurs do.
When you think about launching your own business, you’re probably thinking about all the money you will make, the success you will have, and the freedom you will enjoy. You’re not thinking about the times when everything falls apart and you haven’t slept for 2 days but you still have to wear a smile and go to a friend’s birthday party or endure a social gathering.
Incidentally, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the client mentioned above remained in business for less than a year.
Lessons Of Scale
I asked Chris Lalomia for some tips on scaling a business.
How can you grow without risking money you don’t have or can’t afford to lose? How do you minimize the risk while still giving your business every opportunity to grow?
For Lalomia, it’s all about discipline and communication.
He notes that your employees won’t always tell you what you need to hear. You’re paying their wages, and they don’t want to risk that, so they’ll agree with you and tell you what they think you want to hear.
This is especially true if you’re very self-confident and don’t take criticism well.
But you need to be open to criticism. You need to listen to what they have to say and let them use their skill sets.
What’s the point of hiring an experienced and skilled writer if you’re going to tell them what to write and instruct them? What’s the point of hiring a developer and then instructing their every move and pretending you know better?
Many people assume that the most successful entrepreneurs are people who know everything and can do everything.
That’s not the case.
The ones who succeed are the ones who know how to delegate. Yes, there will be times when you need to step in and do a bit of everything, but as soon as you start thinking you’re better than trained and experienced specialists, you’re heading down the wrong path.
Also, regardless of good they are and how hard they work, nobody cares as much as you do.
Don’t assume they are on the same page as you and will work just as hard, as that’s rarely the case. It’s a job to them. Sure, they want the company to succeed, as that might lead to more opportunities, but they can always find another job. This is especially the case with freelancers, who are probably already working on several other contracts.
That’s not a bad thing. That’s just how it is. The employee will never be as devoted as the employer.
I talked about my friend and his client above. My friend had expressed genuine interest in the project and had offered some help as he felt bad for the client.
The client misunderstood this and took it to mean that my friend was wholly devoted to the project, enough to be woken up at 5 AM due to a server emergency.
It’s an extreme example, but many entrepreneurs have a similar belief.
Your duty as a business owner is not to assume devotion and then wait for them to bleed for you. It’s to provide them with the sort of safe, friendly, and enjoyable working environment that will make them work hard for you.
Be a good employer as well as a strong leader.
The $100,000 Question
If you’re thinking of starting a business, get a business plan and make sure you’re prepared for the worst.
That was Chris Lalomia’s advice when I asked for his most valuable insight.
He also recommended halving your projected earnings and doubling your projected expenses.
Every business owner considers these things before they launch. They run the numbers, account for a few unexpected outcomes, and plan accordingly. But every single one of them is wrong.
There are times when you will earn less than you think, whether it’s because of world events (as seen with the pandemic and the war in Ukraine), a change in customer trends, or some seemingly minor stock, manufacturing, or marketing issue.
There will also be a lot of unexpected expenses.
So, after creating your projections and making those changes, confirm that you still want to go ahead and still have a profitable and worthwhile business when all is said and done.
Lalomia talks about a time when he acquired a client who earned him $80,000, but he ended up spending $84,000 completing the job. Those things happen, and if your business isn’t ready for them, it will fail.
About Chris Lalomia
Chris Lalomia is a successful entrepreneur and change leader that has built on his experiences working with the largest companies in America and bringing his unique style to produce success in starting his business from an idea. He currently runs a multi-million-dollar handyman and remodeling company and has started the Home Service Institute to provide a community of like-minded service business owners who have a passion for providing an incredible Customer Experience.
Starting a business from scratch is the single hardest business move anyone could undertake and Chris was able to start a business during the 2008 recession and grow it into a thriving symbol of professional home repair excellence in the Metro Atlanta area. The Trusted Toolbox is the largest award-winning handyman company in the area.
Chris is originally from Michigan and grew up in Jackson (60 miles west of Detroit) and YES, he uses his hand to show where is from. He went to school in the Upper Peninsula and earned his Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering at Michigan Tech University. He then realized that he wasn’t enjoying the cold, so he moved to Charlotte, NC and earned his Masters Degree in Precision Engineering from The University of North Carolina - Charlotte.
His path to business ownership was a lot like peoples’ paths to their current position… not exactly straight… His first engineering job was at Curtiss-Wright Flight systems making airplane parts, but soon realized he needed to add some other business skills to his resume, he joined Accenture and began working with large banks to help them merge, which led him to SunTrust where he ran the Commercial loan operations department… That meandering path led him to start The Trusted Toolbox in 2008. That’s right at the start of the recession, and he has proven that he could make it through those times.
He has lived in Georgia since 2001, with his wife Nicolle and they have 2 children. Sydney and Austin. He likes to spend his free time enjoying wine and good food , playing golf and watching sports.
- LinkedIn: Chris Lalomia
- Facebook: Chris Lalomia
- Instagram: CustomerService.freak
- TikTok: CustomerService.freak
- Home Repair Company: The Trusted Toolbox
- Podcast: Safari Podcast
- Training: www.thehomeserviceinstitute.com
- Book: From Zoo to Wild