Q. Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
Ans: HW Contracting is licensed, fully insured, and holds several professional certifications enabling them to provide an unmatched level of service. We use quality products, creative solutions, and have the experience to manage your project from conception to completion. With a Team Approach we will guide you through the design, development, permitting, and construction process, resulting in your idea becoming a reality.
Q. Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
Ans: Peter’s primary focuses are on establishing business goals, strategic direction, contracts and to maintain the financial portfolio. He also performs estimating, pre-construction activities and quality assurance roles. Peter is a licensed Certified General Contractor for Florida, a LEED-AP BD+C and is qualified in OSHA 30. Peter earned a Master’s of Science in Project Management from Embry-Riddle. He has extensive experience in quality processes, water management evaluation, continuous improvement initiatives and safety. Prior to HW Contracting Peter worked for LandSouth Construction, a multi-family builder based in Jacksonville, Florida. While at LandSouth Construction he worked through many leadership roles Superintendent, Quality Assurance & Safety Director and as interim Estimator.
Caleb’s primary focuses are on construction management, job site safety, information technology, and quality assurance. He also performs estimating, strategic planning activities, and has his Florida State Roofing License. Caleb is a licensed Florida Certified General Contractor and Florida Certified Roofing Contractor as well as holding a Bachelor of Business in E-Business Technology from Stetson University. He has extensive experience in construction field operations and management. Prior to HW Contracting Caleb worked for LandSouth Construction, a multi-family builder based in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. While at LandSouth Construction he was the Construction Superintendent on numerous projects where he was responsible for the day-to-day operations and the management of a team of assistant superintendents that oversaw the projects. Before joining LandSouth Construction, Caleb worked for Williams Construction as a foreman where he learned most of his hands-on construction skills.
Q. What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
Ans: Early in 2011, Peter Helton and Caleb Wagner were faced with a tough decision – leave the ailing construction industry damaged by the recession, or combine skills and resources to create a full service contracting firm targeting both residential and light commercial clients. One afternoon on Caleb’s back porch, HW Contracting began with the idea that there was still an opportunity for success in the construction industry. The key was to combine strengths, and develop trusting relationships based on a strong commitment to following through on their word.
HW Contracting is a general contracting firm based in St. Augustine, Florida. Helton and Wagner draw on their combined strengths and experiences in commercial, multi-family and residential construction to offer a wide range of contracting services. Remodeling projects include room additions, redesigned kitchens and bathrooms, custom cabinetry, flooring, fixtures. New construction encompasses residential and commercial projects such as new homes, office buildings and tenant build-outs. Exterior hardscapes include gazebos, decks, walkways, trellises, and arbors.
Q. What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Ans: Make a business plan for your business. This is necessary to give your business and identity. Many times early on you might find yourself asking who you are as a business. This will keep you grounded on the reason you even went out on your own. Take it from me this is one area I wish I had done differently when I started my business.
Set goals for your business. This will help keep you focused when times get tough and you’re trying to figure out what to do next. This helps give your day structure. You have to have a direction to march in and goal setting gives that direction.
Set some benchmark metrics on performance. You need to figure out how you are going to measure your efforts. Without benchmarks you won’t know if you are staying the course or drifting. These benchmarks need to be in all areas of running your business, i.e. financial, performance, quality, personnel, etc.
Q. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Ans: Guts: You need to be ready to take some risk and be willing to accept the potential of failure.
Stamina: You need to be able to withstand the inevitable failure that will happen while you figure out how to run and operate your new business.
Wisdom: Know when it is time to get help or outsource certain tasks. Know when to say no to some opportunities as they may just be better left alone.
Q. How many hours do you work a day on average?
Ans: In the beginning I probably worked on average 55 hours per week. I technically should have worked more, but I had a young family and tried to make sure I spent time with them. Don’t mistake that to mean that some weeks didn’t hit 60+ and sometimes several weeks in a row. Or that when on vacation I never truly get to disconnect. Just that on a 52-week year there were long weeks and short weeks. You really have to just do what needs done when it comes up no matter how long it takes. Accept that it is what it is.
Q. To what do you most attribute your success?
Ans: Hard work. It is cliché but there are no two ways about it. You have to work at it. Sometimes it feels like it isn’t even worth it, but then you start having little successes and a sense of accomplishment.
Q. How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Ans: We have tried paying for leads, word of mouth, professional networking, industry associations, website, Angie’s List, etc. By far the most successful form of advertising is word of mouth. We have all but quite paying for leads as most of them are terrible and unqualified. We now focus on building relationships with other professionals and clients to build a pipeline of word of mouth referrals.
Q. Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
Ans: Simply took our own money and tools and went into business. Re-invested earnings and took low salary to help boost the cash reserves of our business.
Q. What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Ans: Build relationships. Your personal brand is what will propel you forward. People buy you not what you are selling. At least in the construction business I run.
Q. Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
Ans: A $3-5M company and expanding.
Q. Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Ans: Risinger Homes
Q. How important have good employees been to your success?
Ans: Extremely. We have a good superintendent now, but up to this point turn-over has been difficult. When you don’t have employees sitting in the right seat on the bus you will always have performance issues.
Q. How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Ans: No set formula. You really need to give it a fair chance, but not be afraid to pull the plug on something that isn’t working.
Q. What motivates you?
Ans: Satisfied customers. When you know that your customers are happy with you and know that they are trusting enough to tell their friends.
Q. What are your ideals?
Ans: Doing the best I can for my employees and clients.
Q. How do you generate new ideas?
Ans: Reading industry magazine, attending association events, watching TV.
Q. How do you define success?
Ans: Able to support my family and knowing that we are putting out a quality product that satisfies our clients.
Q. How do you build a successful customer base?
Ans: Giving your client’s a better value than the competition. Making sure you always do right by the client. There will be disagreements, but standing by your work and honoring what you say you are going to do no matter if you lose money doing it.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Ans: Satisfaction in knowing you were a part of creating a successful business.
Q. What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Ans: Having clients write a great review about their experience with us.
Q. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Ans: Flexibility to do the types of projects we want to do. Ability to adapt.
Q. What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
Ans: Work hard play hard. Pretty much get after it when things are busy so that when there is time for a break you can enjoy yourself.
Q. In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Q. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Ans: Diversify and try and learn more of the business side of things. Doing tasks/work and managing a business are totally different skillsets.
Q. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
Ans: Learning how to balance work with quality family time.
Q. What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
Ans: Failure. Pray that the Lord gives me the ability to take things in stride.
Q. How did you decide on the location for your business?
Ans: Proximity to home, the interstate, and central to the area we do most of our business.
Q. Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Ans: Adaptability. You have to be able to adapt quickly to the dynamic nature of starting and running a business. There are some many aspects to a business you need to be able to shift gears between multiple tasks in any given day or week. You have to be an accountant, legal aid, estimator, project manager, supervisor, quality assurance, worker, secretary, customer service, marketer, PR, counselor, etc. You end up wearing many hats sometimes at the same time.
Q. What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
Ans: Not creating a business plan when we started out.
Q. How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
Ans: Have regular lessons learned debriefings. It is important to sit back periodically and see what is working and what is not so that you can course correct. Hopefully, before it is too late.
Q. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Ans: Spend time with family, go boating, shooting, hunting, fishing, and reading.
Q. What makes you happy?
Q. What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Ans: Security in financial matters. Family time. Stress.