Thursday, January 30, 2014

"From Classroom to Pump Room" Part 3: Teacher succeeds after a few failures!

If nothing else, I always fathomed myself an “idea” guy. I may not know how to get there, but I always have an idea. You may not believe this next part but I swear on my daughter it is true. I realized selling the cosmetics wasn’t going to happen. But, I had an idea. Let me assure you, I’m still on the failure part, this is just the next failure.

One of my frustrations as a teacher was contacting parents. I would send home the appropriate attendance forms, detailing dates of absences, tardies, missed assignments, and the like. But, and I knew this, the students got to the mail before their parents did!! I would call during my planning period, I would call the parent’s place of business, and rarely did I have much success contacting parents by the “school approved” methods. I got to thinking…what if there was a computerized dialer that actually worked? 
What if I put the numbers in and sent home a recording? I approached Lou with the idea and he immediately liked it. While these exact systems are widely used in schools today, once again, I swear, if I wasn’t the first person with the idea to use these machines in schools, I was among the first couple. One thing I knew for sure, I couldn’t go to my principal and sell him our phone computer, I was too ethical to sell him a piece of junk, and I knew, the school didn’t have an extra $5000.00 sitting around to be spent on, what at this time, was a crazy, but maybe workable, idea.

I figured, there has to be more of these phone dialers out there. I set out to find one that worked and Lou would find a computer programmer expert-type who could make them for us by figuring out how they worked. Sure enough, I found a company, I believe based in Kansas City, who manufactured and sold a board that was actually placed in an existing computer, hooked to a phone line, and worked by dialing numbers that were manually set, and delivering a pre-recorded message. It cost about $400.00 as I recall. Again, please accept my figures as fairly accurate. I never thought I would be writing about any of this, and it was many years ago.

Again, being an “idea guy” I wanted to test this machine, see if it worked, and see if I would have any success using it for the purpose of contacting parents. I had a very amicable assistant principal back then. I knew he thought I was an excellent teacher, and he trusted me. I went to him with my idea. He made the mistake of telling me the principal would be out of the building attending a conference or something, for the next week. I explained in more detail about my idea and how I would use it. All I needed was a computer, an office with a phone line, and his okay to just try it and see what happened. Son of a gun if he didn’t think it was a good idea and not only did he help me out, the office I used was the principal’s!!

I got an older computer that had the necessary amount of memory to support this board we, had purchased and talked the school tech support guy, Brad, into installing it. I then went to some of my friends with the idea. I asked them to give me the phone numbers of their twenty or so worst students. It came as no surprise that many of the names submitted were duplicated over and over. It also was coincidence that parent conferences were a few days away. Instead of recording a message regarding student attendance, I recorded one saying that, “your student has been identified as one who would benefit from parents attending the conference." Usually, these invites were sent home in the mail as part of a beginning of the year newsletter and students were asked to remind their parents as the times approached…yeah, right.
So, with no warning, I began entering phone numbers of the identified students, recorded the message inviting parents to the conference and eagerly awaited the results. The results were, to say the least, terrific. So I had the idea, now, could we either duplicate or mass produce a similar board and sell them to schools. I learned, again from Lou, about selling an idea. He was a master at selling ideas, and dreams, unfortunately.
He went so far as to have a "non-working prototype" produced and entered our business in a couple of educational conferences. We didn't sell one of our  machines, though we had a lot of interest in them. Looking back, it's a good thing we didn't sell any, since we didn't' actually have a working one to sell!

During this time, Lou leased us a small office. I wasn’t sure why, but it was cool telling people I had an office. Then he came to me and told me he needed to secure a line of credit and needed me to sign for a line of credit. I hesitated knowing this could be a stupid move, but becoming more and more desperate, I agreed. All was good for months. I trusted Lou and had no reason to believe he would go against his promise to never, ever use my credit. By now our daughter was born, he and his wife knew about her heart defect and I was certain he wouldn’t cause me any financial distress. I know you’re thinking, is this guy an idiot?…well not exactly, but close. One day I got a call from a bank telling me I owed $1500.00 on a line of credit. I was crushed. I went to the bank and found out Lou had in fact used some of my line of credit… stupid, stupid me. I also learned what check kiting was. I had never heard the term until the banker explained it to me.

So… for my effort during these couple of years I was a failure and duped out of $1500 by a “friend”. Shortly thereafter, we took a chance, assured by doctors that our first daughter’s heart was a one in thousand fluke, we had our second child, another daughter. The doctors were right; she was born with no health problems.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


I thought, damn, if I could just find a way to make some money in a small business I could help my family and my financial worth.
I know what you are probably thinking as you read this. Here we go with some huge, one in a million, success story that this guy is trying to make profit from. Not true. I have done over two million dollars in gross business in the years I have been in this business, but I am far from a millionaire.
My Initial Failure
Before our daughter was born, my wife talked me into joining a bowling team from her work. I suck at bowling, but I did it more for the beer and socialization, plus, it was a cheap night out. Anyway, we bowled with a bunch of her co-workers and their spouses. One of these spouses was an elderly gentleman named, Lou. He saw I was eager to make money and we became friends. He had purchased a formula for a collagen based cosmetic line and approached me with the idea of marketing it. The only reason I went with it was because he offered me part ownership in the business. Please stay with me here as this is one of my failures, but it is important that you see how I ended up where I am today. Anyway, he seemed to be honest with some financial resources to get this company started. He brought on another young guy that claimed to be some marketing genius….he wasn’t. But, he did design the packaging, the pamphlet and the strategy before he slipped away with money Lou paid him never to be seen or heard from again. His strategy was to do mailings generated from leads which were generated from, and I hate to admit to this…computerized phone dialers. Lou purchased a $5,000.00 machine and I made myself a little office from a spare bedroom. I would run the machine and listen to the responses. Most were people cussing me out for interrupting their day with this stupid message, not very cleverly disguised as a survey (our disappearing marketing genius’ script). Crazy as it was, some people would actually respond with their name and address and I would address the envelope, stuff the pamphlet and send it off. To my knowledge, we never sold one bottle of the magical collagen cream. But along the way, I was getting the itch to own and operate a profitable business. I wish I could say I took this opportunity and now own a Fortune 500 cosmetic business, but that’s not even close.
Part of my frustration was the dialer machine didn’t work very well. I would check it at night after it was supposed to have run all day only to find it had been stuck in some kind of sales call limbo. We took it back to the manufacturer who tested it, tweaked it, tweaked it some more and finally told us that was as good as it gets. The company that sold us this piece of garbage went out of business.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

From CLASSROOM to POOL PUMP ROOM, a teacher's journey Part 1

After retiring from 29 years in education, 19 as a high school English teacher and 10 more as an Assistant Principal, I decided maybe there are other teachers out there who might benefit from my entrepreneurial success and yes, failures.

Without going in to too much detail, I was a typical teacher.  I was married, my wife worked in retail, and at the end of every month we would see our bank statement and realize that though we had lived frugally, we had $8.34 left until payday!

Our first daughter was born with a severe heart defect, we were told she would need surgery, we couldn’t find a daycare provider to accept her and we decided it would be best for her health if my wife stayed home to care for her. Again, this isn’t about her story or our struggles as a family, it is about my need to make money.

At first I decided the best thing to do would be to get out of teaching and into the corporate world. But there were two problems; one I had an English education degree, and two, I had no idea what I could do and realized I loved teaching. From there I decided a part-time job may be the answer, but honestly, every part time job I looked into was chump change given the time I would spend away from my family. Somehow, fellow teachers and friends saw this as their opportunity to solicit me to sell term life insurance, become an Amway distributor, etc. I was told many times how I would excel at sales since teaching is basically selling to students. The problem was, I didn’t want to sell. I wasn’t about to call my family and friends and try to sucker them into the benefits of vitamins, soap, insurance, none of that.

I will continue to post short exerpts like this for those reading and interested in how a high school teacher/administrator started a perfect small business.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What if someone did the "community walkthroughs" for you?

There has to be a way to help Community Managers spend their time more wisely!

Is there a way my semi-retired work force can lighten your work load?

If given a list of items, my guys would happily and thoroughly do community "walk arounds" and submit a report to CMs, make the repairs we can and suggest repairs we cannot make all at very reasonable prices.

Little by little Community Managers are using our "I Got a Guy" handyman services for those small tasks that need to be done sooner, rather than later. Checking and changing community light bulbs, adjusting/replacing photo cells or light timers, replacing broken/stolen light post globes, removing graffiti, cleaning gutters and downspouts, repairing perimeter fences and fixing hose bib drips are just a few of the light handyman jobs we have performed for communities.

Community Managers use our reliable services for communities whose pools we service, as well as communities that do not have a pool.

Please call or email if Talkin Handyman Services can be of help.

Feel free to post any comments or questions.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tired of poor handyman services?

One call or email is all it takes for us to dispatch one of our handymen.
Rates: $35.00 - basic minor repairs
$50.00 - locksmithing, construction 
$75.00 - plumbing

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Free pool class for community managers

The past few pool seasons, I have been asked to meet community managers at a pool site and give a "Pool School 101" seminar. I do this as a free service for a couple or reasons. First, I know that community managers are inundated with information from vendors as problems arise. I have seen how a basic idea of a pool and pool parts helps with the communication between me and the community manager and just as importantly, between the community manager and the HOA board. Secondly, I was a high school English teacher and basketball coach for 20 years so I enjoy the "classroom."

Rest assured, I know exactly how much information is too much, and how much is just enough. There will not be any test and all questions will be answered on the spot. Also, if a management company cares enough to send their community managers to my seminar, which always includes managers I do not directly work with, then I feel a responsibility to continue the relationship by responding to calls and emails regarding pool questions whether I am the pool service provider at that community or not.

Please contact me for information or to schedule a seminar. Each seminar lasts approximately one hour depending on the number of questions, concerns and discussions that usually take place.