Building a Lasting Legacy: The Contractor Envy Blueprint – Interview with Kevin Starks Sr

by | May 13, 2024


Kevin Stark, founder of Contractor Envy, shares insights in the Digital Remodeler podcast. He emphasizes the importance of specialization, process optimization, and embracing technology like AI in the contracting business. Stark’s journey from fieldwork to consulting underscores the significance of understanding one’s niche and implementing efficient processes. He advises contractors to focus on problem-solving skills and building strong relationships through networking and social media. Stark offers a community for contractors to seek guidance and a lead generation service. His key advice includes scaling down to increase profitability, leveraging technology, and prioritizing problem-solving abilities. With Contractor Envy, Stark aims to empower contractors to excel in their field and build successful businesses.


(00:03) hey welcome to the digital remodeler podcast I’m so glad you’ve chosen to join us today with me is Kevin Stark senior he is the founder of contractor envy and Kevin it’s great to have you on the show today appreciate it Carl it’s definitely a pleasure to be here man absolutely well let’s uh let’s Dive Right In and give a little bit of your background you you’ve you know been in the trenches and now you’re helping other contractors get get the rolling in their business so let’s just kind of
(00:32) take us on that Journey if you don’t mind quick Journey you know I’m the guy that started in the field took me some Years to you know go through trial and error um I started here five years ago believe it or not making $10 an hour you know and um ended up you know couple months later was lead foreman and then I started got into my own business a couple years later and from there I did a lot of residential remodels from kitchens bathrooms basements full remodels little bit of new construction and then we jumped over
(01:08) to uh commercial and that’s where you know I got to experience where the workforce was really hurting at and uh went through some trial and errors there but you know through it all I know God was just testing me and and building up my knowledge and um I ended up finding a job while I was on um the commercial side where literally I was just like man I’m tired with this I’m looking at the app and it’s saying $40 an hour I’m like no way as a project manager no way I’m a GC I’m licensed you know and went out
(01:43) applied for the job got it worked there two and a half years and it was just God’s blessing to me to be under you know a company that actually had processes and we’re doing higher end stuff I excelled at that for two and a half years and I just said you know what is my passion actually working you know in these companies and and um you know in the field every day with the guys or is it helping these companies grow so um I immediately worked on you know my my software and and website for over eight months and said you know what I think
(02:22) I’m gon go ahead and take this chance of uh getting into some Consulting because a lot of guys were just coming to me for information and I wasn’t charging them any so I said you know this is actually something I can get paid for because I get I do this every single day and that’s what I did Fant cont eny yeah fantastic so so when you as you were you know making this this adjustment like what were some of the common things people were asking you you know so as this idea started swirling in your mind
(02:52) what were some of the recurring themes that just kept coming up the recurr was really the basics of hey how do I start my cont contracting business hey I want to you know make more money how do I estimate how do I structure my business and then the technical part how do I do this like a bathroom or a kitchen or you know something like that so that’s my expertise I’m I was just born to be a project manager excellent so so now that you you’ve been at this a while you know and you you just named off three really
(03:25) critical things um do do you find that that more of of guidance you’re giving is the how-tos as far as the actual work itself or is it more of the the first things you talked about how to structure how to how to project manage how to you know do all of those higher level entrepreneurial business owner type skill sets well it depends on the client and I’m I am finding more passion in working with the owners that are already established but need to Implement those processes so that they can you know grow
(04:03) their business or work on the business instead of in the business but again I work both sides because we do a little bit of lead genin and stuff like that too with our marketing and so I work with the guys as well that’s just trying to figure out how do I stay busy so it’s it’s hand inand okay excellent yeah so so I think if you don’t mind why don’t why don’t we just kind of dive into a couple of those things a little bit uh give give some some value here to to anybody that’s listening you know one of
(04:34) the first things you talked about was was even how you structure and I think a lot of guys you know they know how to do some things uh they see an opportunity so they slap a sign on the truck or they you know get some business cards printed out what’s really The Next Step what are the things that you’re you’re you know is is you see that sometimes often get overlooked in that initial startup well in the initial startup the biggest problem with contractors is understanding what they do so you know
(05:08) like I tell a lot of guys when they get started and or even if they try to come get work from us is what do you specialize in like what are you really good at you know when you hear a guy that says I do everything that’s the red flag you know and it’s like come on now you can’t do everything or you will be a general contractor managing um so if that’s answering the question uh the biggest problem that I’m that I’m actually seeing with these guys is that if they’re not finding a niche the other
(05:38) problem is they’re doing the work and they’re not focusing on actually getting the work so they do the work then they go looking for the work then they do the work and it’s just a constant back and forth yeah so they’re they’re stuck working in the business but never working on the business is that kind of what you’re seeing yes sir yeah yeah good and then you know one things that that you know as you as you grow and I’m sure you’re you’re talking with some contractors here they get to the point
(06:07) where they become the bottleneck yes uh they’re at that critical juncture do they they bring somebody in do they they hire Subs uh you know some of those types of things are you seeing some of that in your in your Consulting as well yes from experience um you know you see a lot of owners they they the big thing right now is coaching right right you can go get a coach and they can they can walk you through you know your problems and that bottleneck but a lot of times the owner that’s what he needs because
(06:39) he can identify right um and the bottleneck like you say is typically from the owner just not understanding that it takes processes all right to get to working on the business I worked with one client recently and he said I said so what are you using for a uh a CRM or a project management tool he’s like what is that I’m like you’re doing 800,000 a year and you don’t know what this software is and so you know that’s just that that’s really what it is is the education side guys know how to do the
(07:14) work they know how to get the work but they don’t know how to operate the business to where it’s efficient and be home at five o’clock absolutely you know I think that’s that’s one of the things that that we see also in our business is there’s a lot of guys that U they’ve actually created a job for themselves yes and and that’s not really why they started the business and so you know a lot of times I’m sure this is a lot of your conversation uh helping them become more efficient helping them you know do
(07:46) something they can scale with yes so let’s kind of talk about that for a minute you know when you when you look at the your journey or or the Journey of other you know contractors you you go from startup in your mind what’s kind of the first big milestone uh that that the contractors out to achieve I mean for every contractor is to get a job or you know book their schedule up um but I don’t know if that’s you know the right step to take of course you want the work but as one of my mentors taught me and I mean this
(08:22) is free game for for the listeners is that you want to build out as many jobs as you can before you even start one you know and and and I think that’s the biggest problem with the newcomers is that they jump on the first thing I start tomorrow and they forget about what’s going to come next month and the month after and years down the line hopefully that answer the question oh that definitely so in sales you know we talk an awful lot about the pipeline what’s in your pipeline it’s not just the the job that’s in front of you right
(08:56) now it’s what are you lining up for the next six months uh behind you so here’s here’s another question for you uh you know one of the things that that we’re often working on with our clients is developing a brand for themselves and I always pose the question do you want to be the person that just does any kind of work or do you want to be the premier remodeler do you want to be the luxury remodeler you know who are you in the marketplace yes what do you do to you know as as you’re working with these
(09:26) these contractors how do you help them figure out what their brand idea is ah so I I got a story that I shared on my podcast it was a quick 10-minute clip and it was just about a conversation I had with one of our subs he was a painter and he was on the job site with no logo just a white shirt no logo on the truck and I’m like what we paid him was outrageous but it was worth it because we knew this guy was quality right so I just stopped and I asked him I said how do you stay busy especially at a higher level like this without a
(10:07) logo without any of these these branding things that we teach and he’s like well I started with The Branding I started with the logos that’s how I got the business up and going but then people started knowing me for what I do he was a painter he said once I established those relationships I never had to worry about just trying to mark it out to anybody I had my repeat clientele that always referred me because of again it still is the brand but he he kind of mixed the two he made himself the brand as well so when I when I talk to guys
(10:42) about brand I always tell them first you know especially in this field it’s great to have a logo and and all that but people like to deal with you right so first you establish you as the brand and then you built that Foundation to where you can start working on the business business as you build your team out and they start representing the brand so now they know they know the company and you as well you know and and hopefully that that grows into you know a lot of these guys don’t think about selling their
(11:15) business but for you to step away and your business continue you know in the future absolutely so what do you feel like are some of the best steps to to establish that personal brand I know part of the reason I’m I’m kind of leading into this I know you’ve been reworking your brand here yes over the last few months and and putting a lot of thought into the brand yes and so what are some of the steps that that a you know a contractor should take to to establish their credibility number one as part of that brand and then leverage
(11:47) into the the bigger brand as they go with witchar being so I’m not going to say it’s small but there’s a lot of opportunity in just getting out and networking all right so as a contractor it’s about relationships you can go get the the code calling and the calls that come in as leads but when you build those relationships with other professionals they refer you because of who you are so the big thing is get out meet people let people know what you’re doing you know you gotta you got to go
(12:22) out and let people know what you’re doing excellent so kind of Shifting Gears a little bit um you know one of the dangers for a contractor is to not have their brand known and now the only thing you have left is price yes and I think you would agree you know when you get into the price game it’s a quick race to the bottom yes um so so how can a contractor stay out of that whole trap of I’ve got to be the lowest priced I’ve got to undercut everybody how do you get away from that so that people want you
(12:59) for the quality of work you do not just because you’re the lowest price well first and foremost you got to identify your Market your target market at that because every Market is not every person is not going to give you the price that you said so when you identify that target market and who you’re dealing with all right you can start setting your price because they value it all right but there’s levels to it you as the contractor have to identify what level you’re on because every level needs somebody for instance we Supply
(13:32) jobs for make Rees and repairs but again I had a contractor tell me he’s like I can’t do those jobs they’re they’re they’re they’re you know they’re lower quality and I was like I understand that you set your terms so again identify your Market set your price and no matter where you go you should keep that same price perfect and then as far as showcasing your work you know what are what are some of your best practice practices that you encourage your uh clients that you’re Consulting with how
(14:03) do you show off your work to to the public out here so they know exactly what you can do and social media is it’s at the top of the list I mean it’s so easy to just uh get some software that’ll allow you to post on all your social media platforms at one time doing reals and doing YouTube those are the things that’ll help you build up the eyeballs the views right but also um I’ll be honest with you you know I still feel like uh you should do some advertisements so not only should you just try to build it organically put it
(14:43) out there and and I don’t know what platform you want to use but the Facebook ads the Google ads put it out there in front of them and get the eyeballs on the work and not just uh uh advertisement for this is this is uh what we’re looking for show them the working you advertisement absolutely so so that brings up a good point you know when’s a good place for a contractor to start putting some money behind their marketing well with every company you got to set your goals right so even at the beginning I think you should have
(15:16) your goal set on again Target marketing how you’re going to bring jobs in and then scale from there so initially from the beginning you should be putting money into marketing some percentage of what you’re making should be going back out into marketing and sales perfect then then as you reach the different levels of course you’re going to put more money into the marke and because that means you want more qualified leads absolutely and then you know again just kind of moving down the progression you
(15:49) know the other thing that I I think is critical is is knowing your numbers and that’s not just your marketing numbers but that’s knowing your your Revenue numbers your cash flow numbers your profit and loss numbers what are some of the other numbers that you’re you’re encouraging your clients to really pay attention to in their operations me the biggest numbers like right now you know is understanding how to work with the uh with the uh spreadsheets right so when we talk about those numbers you just
(16:21) said even profit margins revenues cost codes you got to know what you’re bringing to the table one of the biggest things we start with with our clients is understanding what’s your overhead all right that percentage that you charge just for overhead and then what is your manh hour cost all right so you can always jump into a minimum when you say hey I’m taking on this job here but I know how much I charge an hour per man hour for my guys and just to clear that up that includes the overhead cost does
(16:56) that make sense so I can say to you know hey I’m doing this it’s a three-hour thing but I charge $125 an hour because that covers my overhead and my man hours because as an owner you’re covering Insurance gas tools all these other lights phone marketing those things got to get paid for for every call you go out on absolutely and so looking back at your own Journey uh you know uh what what are two or three things you wish you would have known uh when you got started in your own Contracting Journey
(17:35) that now that you you you you’ve got some experience you you’ve got some wisdom uh you know how could you help somebody else avoid a few of those those hardships I tell you I wish I would have understood processes first I mean that’s I everything was in my head I would jump on one app don’t even use it you know jump to another app don’t even use it so process is for sure and then man being on top of the money you know uh when when I got into you know the higher level of uh construction understanding
(18:14) that you know change orders is a part of the business you lose money when you just say I do I do I do I can I can I can um and then also niching like I was really great at you you know again being a project manager but in the field if I would have just focused on what my hands were good at I’d be a lot farther hey why didn’t I just frame instead of go say I’mma do the whole remodel no no no no no no because now you’re learning on the job all right you’re losing time on the job when you could have subbed it
(18:48) out and made your money off of what you do best yeah that’s good I especially like that last one you know in the marketing world we we have a saying uh the riches are in the niches and uh yes you know your your greatest profitability comes from actually scaling down yeah and focusing on on what you’re best at so that’s that’s great advice um so Kevin you know what what things do you offer in your Consulting business I know you’ve got a group you’ve got some other things tell me a little bit about what it is you
(19:20) offer and and how you can really benefit the contractors out there so we got two things that we offer we offer a community for the contractors to be a part of to where when they got questions or they’re looking for answers they can come right there to this free group and see opportunity um we got EV every level of contractor in there uh that’ll help you with whether it’s Marketing sales pricing uh even just learning Hands-On things like how do you actually remodel a bathroom um and then outside of that
(19:54) we offer where we’re we’re actually started launching this week where we do lead gen so we get leads in that we qualify and we work with the contractor not on a pay us for the lead uh upfront we work on a percentage base to where we get a percentage of the job depending on what kind of job it is um it is a monthly fee we build out their website on our platform which is a directory and we promote them only since as contractor Envy we’re not saying we want you to be jealous of the next man we want you to
(20:31) be at the top of your game where people desire to have what you have going on as well so it’s not a hate thing so we deal with Selective contractors when it comes down to giving out these leads and working with them and building out their schedules and building out their crms and building out their processes perfect perfect so Kevin if somebody wants to to find out more about you where can they go contractor is eny man we’re all over all over Google uh just man www.c contractor envy.
(21:06) com contractor um we also have a a 800 number 855 why Envy me you know so you can give us a shout uh you can reach out to us on Facebook we’re heavy on social media because we know that’s where everybody is so um simply type in contractor envy and you’ll see either me or our brand or somebody in our uh uh platform that you can reach out to fantastic and any any last comments that you have for our audience just Golden Nugget piece of wisdom and the it’s crazy that even just in this 20 minutes we were able to catch the
(21:50) biggest points and those biggest points again is you have to scale down to understand you know how to be profitable you can’t do any you can’t do everything the guy that jumps around and says he does everything he’s in a learning phase once you find out or once you figure out exactly what you want to do and what you’re really good at you’re going to see the profits that’s that’s it because now you can tweak the numbers you can watch the numbers every job you get is easier to estimate and then embrace the
(22:28) tools like we didn’t even speak on AI I’ve been I’m I’m an advocate if you if you want to implement AI into your business today you should reach out and follow us because we are at the curve with the AI when you create estimates and minutes with AI when you create proposals and minutes with AI I got to give you this one I gotta give you this one I was with a customer the other day we do large VA jobs as far as as as the general contracting firm right and so I was in with a customer last week and I
(23:05) was like you know what how about I record this y’all mind if I record it they was like yeah go ahead and record it I said I’m just gonna go over everything that y’all talked about in the project and then we’ll go from there I recorded it it was maybe seven to 15 minutes I don’t remember I said I’mma take this recording I’mma throw it into my software it’s going to transcribe everybody that was in on that on that conversation and then I’m going to ask it to create the proposal that would
(23:36) have took me a whole week to do you know a whole day at least shoot it in there spit out a proposal for me I do my little tweaking I got this proposal out in 20 minutes do you see how much time how much time you’re saving now people used to read books all right I’m a big book reader All right but now with AI and what oh man you could whatever you’re trying to figure out if you have as a contractor I gotta say this as a contractor the number one skill you must have as a contractor is problem solving
(24:17) it ain’t that you can build a deck you can remodel a bathroom you can do all these fancy things it’s the problem solving that makes you great because every job’s going to be different you know don’t matter if you do every job’s going to be different so if you could implement this into your business meaning AI meaning software and you can problem solve and you can kind of see what works this way and that way to cut down your time you gonna need less people You’re Gonna Keep more money and you’re going to grow a lot
(24:57) faster so yeah absolutely that was more than a gold nugget that was Fort Knox so appreciate you dropping that one man Kevin from contractor Envy has been great having you and uh we’re gonna post this up and hope to have you back on with us again in the near future well we gonna go to lunch and and and we’ll talk about it absolutely thanks Carl you bet all right have a good one you

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