This story was written for anyone who is struggling with business and has begun to feel as though all hope is lost. It’s my story and my hope that it may bring comfort and strength to others.
My first Restoration business began while I had a house cleaning & carpet cleaning business. It was the epic mid-west flooding of 1993 where I got my break. Living right on the Missouri river much of our community and surrounding communities and its residents were hurting.
I had a few pieces of equipment but nothing that would have classified me as a real resto company and I certainly lacked formal training. Lucky for me, I met a man from Colorado who specialized in storm chasing. He contacted me and asked if I would take him around to commercial properties that had been flooded for introductions, whereby he would compensate me with a 10% finder’s fee on closed deals. I got him one large project which was a hotel. Funny thing was that when we walked into the hotel lobby after the 8 feet of water had receded, we met the General Manager, hotel owner and no he was not a Patel and the Insurance General Adjuster. After I introduced us we exchanged business cards, then the General Manager promptly threw us out of the property and accused us of being opportunistic carpet baggers. I was embarrassed to say the least, but he was as cool as a cucumber and as we were getting into my truck he says - thanks Ivan we got this one. I truly thought this cat wearing a floppy hat was bat shit crazy.
A week later he called and told me that he was in Jefferson City with his crews setting up for drying at the hotel and asked if I would like to stop by and learn how they dry commercial properties. He promptly paid me my fee and made me feel confident that perhaps I could have a successful future in the Disaster Restoration arena.
He allowed me the opportunity to observe his men as they were setting up trailer mounted desiccants and spent a great deal of time sharing how he and his brother had built their multi-million dollar restoration business. The evening before he left to other areas along the river valley seeking work he asked me if I wanted to really get into drying to which I replied Hell yes! His reply was – get out of carpet cleaning and house cleaning since you have already stated that you aren’t making enough money from both services to fuel your goals in life. This long conversation was in the Ramada parking lot as we were sharing a six pack of beer.
Fast forward – I became addicted to disaster restoration. I made it my goal to make sure that every insurance agent, adjuster, brokers, CSR’s, property managers, plumbers and every other influencer in my community would know who I was and the name of my business. I knew full well that most in the insurance field wouldn’t refer my business and would use their vendors, but I only needed a few. I knew that some might not like me, but by God they are going to know me and my business, no matter what. My previous business of 23 years was AERODRY Restoration. The name came from the “Aerodynamics of Drying”. Being a pilot, flying was my hobby so I incorporated both into the name. Actually aerodynamics plays a large part in drying as well.
To this very day I can clearly remember the reception on the opening day of an industry conference that I was attending after only having been in the industry for little more than one year. By sheer luck and the blatant ignorance that comes with being a greenhorn that had absolutely no sense of conference etiquette, I waltzed over to and seated myself at the head table with the industry legends and giants. By the time I was seated the program had just begun, it was too late to get up. As I sat there at the time, I recall the sudden fear that overcame me with the thought of - oh my, what am I to do if one of these legends ask me a question about myself or my business? These were men who were running multimillion dollar operations and some had multiple locations. One Disaster Restorer and his company had the entire eastern seaboard covered. I had not even broken six figures in gross revenues, yet.
I went into panic mode in fear that the question was coming and remembered one of my favorite Zig Ziglar quotes -The major difference between the big shot and the little shot is the big shot is just a little shot who kept on shooting. It happened. The table went silent, all eyes turned to me and just as expected one of the men introduced himself and asked – can you tell us about yourself? Nervously I pointed to the lanyard dangling from my neck with my company and personal name clearly visible and replied, oh, ah I’m Ivan Turner from Jefferson City Missouri, and ah, um, oh, I’m just a little shot.
In my mind I was thinking, now is the time when they tell me to scram, you know - go over and sit at the little peoples table. That thought alone induced ghastly memories from childhood at Grandmas during thanksgiving dinner when I had to sit at the little peoples table with the other kids, even though I didn’t want to be a little kid. To my delight, he too was a raving fan of Zig Ziglar and no sooner had I declared I was a little shot, he replied - well keep on shooting little shot, we all started out as little shots. Followed with, there are a mix of close to three hundred big shots and little shots assembled in this conference hall this week from around the country for the purpose of learning how to fulfill the same mission in life – to help others recover from disasters.
That was a profound statement for a young man like myself who knew what he wanted to do in life, but just hadn’t yet figured out how to do it. Each man at the table introduced themselves and gave me the backgrounds about how they had started out, the challenges they overcame and sometimes at great cost and sacrifice. I learned that very day just how generous and caring the members of this industry really are. For the rest of the three day conference these men took me under their wings and collectively shared insights and wisdom with me that would have taken a life time to learn on my own.
I love this wonderful industry and being in the service of others with every fiber of my being and will always painstakingly guard it and its members, as a soldier hunkered down in the trenches on the front line guards a brother in the trenches. I consider it of the highest honor to serve as a professional restorer. The professional restorer is the vanguard in helping restore the lives of people and property, an event that is played out thousands of times every day, from Syracuse New York to San Diego California and all points in between. Even with all of its shortcomings, there are also positive changes being made and there is always hope that tomorrow will be a better day.
I built that business through thousands of sales calls on agents, adjusters, a lot of free press releases, serving on Boards of Directors, serving on committees with multiple associations, developing relationships with community influencers, golfing out the wazoo with agents and adjusters even though I sucked at golf and hated the stupid game. I developed CE courses for agents and adjusters (a first in mid Missouri and delivered the presentations). I couldn’t speak to save my miserable life at the time so I joined toast masters.
Competition was tough, but don’t get me wrong, I love competition and competition is a driving force for many entrepreneurs, myself included. The disaster restoration field has plenty of room for all of us that currently share the space in addition to many more. But for some the antagonism of competition and the quest to be the biggest becomes ostensibly insane. Like rabid dogs they hike their leg or squat and wiz on everything they come into contact with as though signaling competitors to stay out of my territory.
The adrenaline rush that comes from wanting to do more than, to be better than, to get up from a knock down faster than, and to give more than a competitor gives is a rewarding and very exhilarating experience that is repeated day after day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. If they begin their day at 8 a.m., my day will start 6 a.m. If they close at 5 p.m. I’m closing at 9 p.m. If I find a weakness in their operating system, I will make every effort to capitalize on it and I know that I can expect the same in return. I am impetuous at times and possess a high level of measured confidence. Yes, I have even been known to have an air of pride at times and I have the tendency to call things as they are, with my favorite idiom being “A spade is a spade”. But, one undeniable truth is that I am completely unmasked, always have been and always will be. – I am - who I am.
About six years ago after selling my business, the true love of my life as a result of a long protracted and very expensive divorce, things began to fall apart. I became almost paralyzed with fear and found it very difficult to rebuild. Sure I was doing a lot of selling. I was selling my Grand piano, my second home of 4400 square feet in Columbia Missouri, my beloved rag top corvette, my furniture and then I was forced to sell my beautiful home of 23 years to get out of debt. The repo man and foreclosure goons were rapidly closing in.
Luckily for me I had retained one of our many rental properties as part of the divorce. The four plex is where I intentionally reside. Though located in one of the worse areas in my community. It is literally in the “Hood”. But it does nonetheless afford me the opportunity to grow my business. Deb and I are actively searching for a new home or may choose to build a new home very soon.
Today I am debt free, but more importantly, at least for me is that I have regained my strength, my will to win and I am in it to win it, with an attitude of gratitude. And I have made it perfectly clear to anyone and everyone of significance in the areas that my business serves that “The News of my death has been greatly exaggerated”.
For anyone wondering how things changed for me and how your own situation may change for the better, the answer is this. One day a dear friend who knew my dire situation emailed me an online book titled - You were born rich - by Doctor Bob Proctor. While reading the book I realized that through my stinking thinking, I had literally talked myself into the poor house. Negativity, lack of confidence, drifting, sloped shoulders, depression, fear and all the other nastiness that comes from bad thinking had won. However, I am not a quitter, nor should the reader of this article be a quitter. Quitters never win and winners never quit, it really is that simple. When I finished reading the book I was sitting at my desk pondering my future, when out of nowhere I began laughing so hard that my stomach was aching. It was then that I had realized that if that type of thinking had landing me nearly in the poor house then the opposite type of thinking could and would return me to the top. From that very moment forward I have made it my life’s goal to climb back to the top.
So once again I am repeating the same steps that I used at my last business and my future looks very bright. This past couple of years have been very good and this year is a banner year and we will be closing with some impressive numbers, but the work has only begun.
I’ll close with my favorite Zig quote – You can have everything you want in life if you will just help enough other people get what they want.
Today is you day, make it a great one!