Posted at 8:00 am by HomeDabbler, on September 20, 2019
Roosters are gorgeous and majestic, the iconic poultry specimen. That said, I do not have them in my flock and haven’t had for many years.
Most roosters are extremely aggressive once they reach sexual maturity (about six months old). After that, they are prone to attack you or your children.
Don’t roosters protect the flock?
Contrary to the idea of the noble rooster protecting his flock, more often than not our roosters spent more time harassing the hens.
If you get a serious predator like a raccoon or fox, even the burliest rooster will be no match, especially at night when these varmints attack.
Ready for a 24-hour serenade?
And the crowing. Roosters do not just scream at day break. They crow around the clock, disturbing you and your neighbors.
But what about eggs?
The idea is that, without a rooster, your hens will not make eggs. Not true. The female of almost every species makes eggs no matter what. If you have no roosters, you will have no fertilized eggs, so no baby chicks.
Chicken. Wire. Wire for enclosing chickens. What could go wrong?
A lot. Chicken wire, also called poultry netting, is a lot like duct tape. Used for everything but good for nothing.
You’ve seen it, the cute honey-comb pattern wrapped around rustic coops, the very model of American farm yard-ery. The only problem is that chicken wire, while visually pleasing, doesn’t do its job, at least not long term.
The primary reason for enclosing your chickens in their own space – a coop, run, or nursery – is to keep them safe. Chicken wire is made of, well, wire. However, the wire is very thin. It is galvanized to withstand the elements, but will not over the long haul.
Eventually, your chicken wire will rust and corrode. Because it is so thin, predators like raccoons can (and will) break it. And they don’t need much space to get in. A raccoon or fox can slink through a hole the size of a grape fruit.
These predators play for keeps. I lost my entire flock of 12 chickens in one night when two coons broke in.
There is a better way
There are three better options to chicken wire, based on application.
1. 2″ x 4″ weld wire
Weld wire is also made of galvanized wire, but it is much thicker than chicken wire and will last longer.
While I do not recommend using weld wire for high-security areas like your run, it is fine for a broody breaker or yard fence.
2. “Rabbit wire”
Love this stuff, especially the kind coated with PVC. Rabbit wire is the common name for 1″ weld wire (it is commonly used for rabbit hutches).
It is expensive, so use it sparingly. You would not use it to cover an entire run (you could, but you better have serious budget), but it is great for nurseries. The small spaces make it impossible for even the tiniest chick or slither-i-est rat snake to pass through.
3. The ultimate: chain link
Lasts for ages. Virtually unbreakable. Chain link is the ultimate poultry protection device.
It is also expensive but you will not have to replace it for years and years and years. No predator (save a bear, maybe) can penetrate it. I use chain link to cover my run – top, sides, and along the ground – and haven’t lost a chicken to a predator since.
You won’t regret it
I used chicken wire for way too long and lost many birds along the way. If there is one tip that I wish someone had shared with me when I was a new chicken raiser, it would be this one.
Dump the chicken wire and use something actually made for chickens.
The idea is that not only should you expect failure in business, you should actively seek it as a necessary step toward your big success. Repeated failure is a glamorous badge of honor.
What a dangerous idea.
Fail fast + fail often = failing strategy
Fail fast, fail often may work for breezy Silicon Valley tech startups full of 20-year-olds with rivers of venture capital to burn, but that is not how everyday businesses operate. For them, one big failure is usually all they can afford.
Most businesses close within their first five years. Most of those failures don’t mean just coming back Monday, playing a game of Foosball, and finding something else to fail at. Those failures mean bills don’t get paid, savings get lost, and families in financial and emotional crisis.
It took me more than five years and much pain to dig out of my first failure. It’s true, you do learn from failure. I learned volumes (that I share on this blog). What I learned helped me be successful in my second business, which I ran profitably for 10 years.
But please listen to me, failure is not a game and certainly not something to be sought. Don’t glamorize it.
When does this post get happy?
Now. Just because you may fail does not mean you should not start your business. As mentioned above, I started another business after my first failure and it was a success. It was profitable within the first year and grew for 10 years, when I closed it on my own terms.
My second business was successful because I learned from my first failure. That said, I could have learned those lessons other, less painful and expensive ways. Here are a few.
Ways to grow a business other than failure
Read, read, read. And listen. There has never been a better time to learn the art and science of entrepreneurship. There are thousands of books, blogs, podcasts, and websites (including this one) to help you avoid mistakes and failures.
Also, take time to listen to seasoned entrepreneurs. We love to share our wisdom with others.
For instance, I probably should not have bought my first business. From a financial perspective, the deal was too risky. People tried to tell me that, including the lawyer who brokered the deal. But I wouldn’t listen. I was going to beat the odds. Just like in Vegas, the odds beat me.
Doing your homework before starting a business can save you years of time (and tons of money) trying to learn these lessons on your own. In fact, here is an article from Forbes to get you started.
Good blog: Lesseverything.com (Less is a software development firm, but the content is relevant to all entrepreneurs).
Maybe start your business as a side hustle first. I understand the romance of jumping off the cliff and starting a business with no parachute, you against the world. I’ve done it. But it is largely a myth.
It is perfectly fine (and many times, much more successful), to start your idea as a nights-and-weekends thing first. Keep your day job for now, pay your bills, and see if you actually like running a business. Many folks find out that they don’t. At least you will know before going all in.
If your enterprise starts to grow and you like being an entrepreneur, find the right time and go for it.
I am an entrepreneur and always will be. I will always have business ideas and want to pursue them. If you are like that, don’t be afraid of it. There are few things more rewarding than business ownership. Your time will come.
But don’t buy in to the hype of the risk-it-all, devil-may-care entrepreneur. You’ll go broke and may never come back. The real entrepreneurs in my life are some of the most careful people I know.
They are careful because they hate to fail. And so should you.
Posted at 10:19 am by HomeDabbler, on September 7, 2019
Live in your home long enough and you will have to deal with wood rot.
I’m sure they will figure out how to make houses from completely synthetic materials one day, but until then wood rot will continue to me a major home maintenance issue.
There are three spots around you home that are especially prone to wood rot, the three most common that I dealt with in my home repair business. You can prevent them though.
Exterior Door Frames
Your exterior door frames are likely made of wood. Really cheap wood. You probably also have a concrete pad or a wooden deck that leads to your door. When it rains, water splashes onto the door frame, especially the bottom 12 inches, under the first hinge.
This kind of rot can sneak up on you because the frame is painted. The paint gives the appearance that the frame is solid when it is not.
Find your most exposed door. If you have a garage, this is usually the pedestrian door on the side. Crouch down and push with your index finger where the door from meets the threshold (the horizontal metal piece that you walk over to go through the door). If it is soft or your finger pushes through, you have rot.
Here’s what it looks like.
How do I fix it?
Once the rot starts, it is a done deal. You must have the rotten spots repaired. A skilled carpenter can do this, but it is delicate surgery. You are likely to end up with clunky patches at the bottom of your door frames.
You may have to replace the whole door. If you do, I recommend spending the extra money on doors with composite frames. Solve the problem long term.
How do I prevent it?
There are a few ways to mitigate and prevent this. First, make sure the eave over the door is guttered. All that roof water splashing on the door will surely rot it. Also make sure the frames are completely caulked, every crack, and painted at least every other year.
When I say horizontal trim, I mean any piece of trim that sticks out perpendicular from the wall. This is usually an exterior window sill.
These pieces essentially become a shelf for water to sit on. When (not if) the caulk fails between the trim and the window, water can leak in and rot the trim.
Looks like this.
How do I fix it?
Remove and replace the rotten material. I recommend that when you (or your carpenter) make this repair that you go back with either pressure treated lumber or a non-wood product like fiber-cement.
How do I prevent it?
Like most exterior effort, caulk and paint regularly. And keep the water away. This is usually done with gutters.
I predict that over time this type of rot will be less of a problem. The builders are using more resilient materials than they used to for house trim, like pressure treated and fiber cement.
Here’s the trim on my parents’ house. It’s made of pressure-treated lumber and will last till the cows come home.
Under Your Sinks
This is the most insidious of all because, seriously, who ever checks for leaks under the sink? We just grab the next bar of soap and shut the cabinet door.
But you should check every once in a while. There are two main ways water will leak under your sink and cause rot. First, your faucet supply lines can (and over time, likely will) start a slow drip. Second, your drain seals can fail.
This leak is insidious because it is one drip at a time – no sound, behind the scenes. Until one day you do look under the sink and see black mold everywhere and have a puddle (and rotten wood) in the bottom of your sink cabinet.
How do I fix it?
First, diagnose the problem, supply lines or drain. If it is the supply lines, you will see dripping water even if the sink is not running. For drains, it will only drip when water is running through the drain.
Only one way. Look under your sinks ever month or so. Another trick is to put a dry paper towel under your sink. If there is even a drip, you will see it immediately without having to crawl under there.
A little prevention goes a long way
I know it’s a pain to add more maintenance tasks to your already busy list, but repairing these three common wood rot issues is really expensive.
You can check and prevent these in less that three hours a year vs. hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars in repair.
I’m good at keeping customers happy. Really, really good.
Do your clients offer their vacation homes to you rent free? Happened to me twice. Will they wait a year for your services if you are backed up? Mine did, gladly.
Have you ever had a customer ask you to perform her wedding? Yep, I performed a customer wedding.
I got good at lots of things in my 15 years of business, but I was better than anyone at keeping customers satisfied and loyal.
How? Simple, really. In fact, I’m shocked that more service businesses don’t figure this out. If you do, you’ll have an instant advantage over your competition and earn business away from them.
The secret to superior customer service (and loyalty) comes down to two words.
The easiest way to solve a customer problem is to never have it in the first place.
Your customers need to feel like you know them – their interests, frustrations, preferences. In short, they need to know that you give a crap.
The only way to do that is to pay attention to them, listen to them. Is there music playing when you come into the house? What kind? Do they like cockapoos? You should know that.
Knowing your customers well lets you anticipate their problems – and avoid them.
Example: I was installing a set of attic stairs in a new customer’s garage. I had to cut the ceiling drywall back to make room for the larger stairs. Before I started cutting drywall (a dusty mess) I laid down a sheet of plastic to catch the debris and make clean up easier. I also covered his work bench and cabinets.
My customer raved about my attention to detail.
“Most people wouldn’t do that on a garage floor. Now there won’t be any residue!”
What did I learn? That my customer was a neat freak and that all his other service people ignored that. I had a customer for life.
Anticipating problems does two things for you. First, you avoid the problem (obviously). Second, you build massive trust with your customer. She knows she is in good hands, that she can trust you.
Like an old timer told me once, “You can live with someone you don’t love. You can’t live with someone you don’t trust.”
Anticipate your customers’ needs and be there waiting to meet them.
Are you going to be late? Text your customer. Did materials not come in on time and you need to reschedule? Call your customer immediately. Did your customer expand the scope of what she wants and you need more money? Talk, talk, talk to her.
I am still surprised at how many service people suck at communicating with customers, because it is so easy. Today there is no reason why you should not keep your customers updated consistently. There are just too many ways to communicate with each other.
And trust me, other than not showing up for a job, nothing ticks customers off more than feeling like they are in the dark. It makes them feel like you are neglecting them. Or worse, ripping them off.
Communicate so much that they tell you to stop. They won’t.
Again, this comes down to making your customer feel special and appreciated. Do that and they’ll appreciate you right back, with their dollars and loyalty.
Example: More than once I have shown up to a house to do a quote and was greeted by the homeowner in his bathrobe, completely surprised to see me.
Customer: “I didn’t expect you.”
Me: “We had an appointment at 9 am, didn’t we?”
Customer: “Well, yeah, but all the others never showed up and didn’t tell me they weren’t coming.”
Again, I got a customer for life.
More important than price
Most customers aren’t won or lost on price. That is a myth. Profitable customer relationships, especially long-term ones, are built on anticipation and communication.
Posted at 12:18 pm by HomeDabbler, on September 2, 2019
Many new chicken raisers are afraid their chickens will run away or that they won’t come back to the coop at night. Luckily, chickens are like little feathered robots. You can program them to pretty much do what you want.
It’s all about habits. Once a chicken establishes a behavior pattern, she almost never breaks it. That includes her sleeping and laying spots.
How to Program a Chicken
When you introduce new birds to your space, leave them locked in the run for several days, a week if possible. This will make them sleep in the coop and lay in the nest boxes. Don’t worry if they don’t lay right away.
After a few days and nights in your run, their habit will be locked in and they will return to that spot every night, no matter how far they roam during the day.
Feel free to let your flock loose in the yard at this point. Then watch as the sun starts to set. They will slowly scratch and peck their way back to the coop and put themselves to bed. Just shut and lock the door behind them!
What if One Won’t Behave?
Every once in a while you’ll get a rogue hen who wants to sleep in the yard. Wait till night fall, gather her up, and put her in the broody breaker for a few days. It should reset her habit.
P.S. – Bantams are a little wilder than large breeds. They can be less likely to follow the patterns you set for them. Sometimes they are just going to sleep in the trees. It’s one of the reasons I quit raising them.
You’re a business person and you’ve made your pitch. You killed it. Then your prospect looks at the quote and asks … “Is that your best price?”
I was in business 15 years and heard that dreaded question dozens of times. If you’re in business and haven’t yet, you will. Answer it wrong and you’ll regret it, trust me.
It’s Not Their Fault
Some people are taught to always ask it when making a large purchase like a car or hiring for home services. “Never accept the first price!” we are told. The assumption is that the first price is intentionally inflated to 1) take in suckers who accept it or 2) give some wiggle room for those who are savvier.
Sadly, this is true many times. Bad business people have made customers skeptical of all business people, even good ones.
Do Better for You … and Them
Reducing your prices is obviously bad for you but in the end, it is bad for your customers as well. Your heart will not be fully in your work if you know you are not making enough money. Even though you will try to do your best, you simply will not.
Remember this – If you do poor work, the customer will only remember that it was poor, not less expensive. If you do great work, the customer may remember the price but will be proud that she got full value and will tell others.
Three Powerful Words
Early in my business career “the question” terrified me. If someone challenged me on price I immediately folded and reduced my quote. I needed the work and was afraid my prospect would not hire me unless I did.
I felt trashy every time I reduced my price. I also enjoyed the job less because I knew I wasn’t working for what it was worth. Over time it started to make me angry.
One day I got frustrated enough to try a different tack. I had just delivered a quote to a potential customer, a job that included multiple small jobs around her home. She looked it over, glanced at the price, and asked.
“Is that your best price?”
My gut clenched and I felt that familiar insecurity. She would be a good customer and I didn’t want to lose this opportunity. But for some reason, I decided to risk it.
“Yes it is.”
And I waited. Not because I was a steely-eyed negotiator. My nerves simply wouldn’t let me speak.
My prospect looked over the quote again and, after a tense moment, said, “Okay.”
And that was it, my business life had changed for the better.
Three Really Powerful Words
I tried it the next time the question came up and it worked again. And again. In fact, it never failed. In my remaining years in business, no one ever chose to not hire me because of price.
Later I added to my response. I would say (helpfully, NOT snarky), “Tell you what, if you’d like to shop around I will give you the numbers of a few of my competitors who do good work. Have them look at this scope of work and if they can do the same job for a better price, you should hire them.”
No one ever took me up on the offer. I got the job every time.
Why “Yes It Is” Works
In short, credibility. If your prospect knows you are willing to walk away from an opportunity instead of compromising your price, you are telling the prospect that you can be trusted to shoot straight. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, trust and credibility are everything in business.
Conversely, if you do drop your price you are admitting that you inflated your first quote unnecessarily. You have therefore broken trust by starting this relationship with a lie.
Tips Before You Try This
Make sure it is your best price. Don’t be a jerk. Set appropriate prices that you can justify. Otherwise, you deserve to get beat.
Ask them to compare apples to apples. If your prospect does want to get quotes from other vendors (and she should), ask her to use exactly the same scope of work that you bid on. Some shady vendors will try to cut corners so they can come in at a lower price (especially on materials – cheaper brand paint than you bid, for example).
Be sweet. Do not be impatient or sarcastic when you say “Yes it is.” Be helpful and honest.
Do good work for a fair price. Fair to you and to your customers. You’ll be happier and so will they.
P.S. – Another note about scope. If your prospect does want to cut the task list to get price down then by all means adjust your price likewise. Just make sure you get the final scope in writing (*signed by you and the customer) before beginning work.
Paul Newman supposedly said, “I like watching excellence. If I see a waitress doing her job really well, I could watch it all night.”
I was reminded of and humbled by this recently in an airport bathroom. I travel a lot for work so I visit lots of airport bathrooms. Some are better than others but none is impressively clean. Except this one.
It was in Charlotte International. Across from gate E4. The first thing I noticed was the bathroom attendant. He stood just inside the entrance, greeting us individually.
“Welcome to my bathroom, fresh and clean!”
He wasn’t being ironic.
The man had a European accent (Italian?) and spoke with genuine gusto.
“Welcome to my little kingdom!”
His presence and hospitality took me by surprise. This is not normal bathroom attendant behavior, trust me. But then I looked around the bathroom and it was indeed clean. Very clean. And no foul smell, which is a minor miracle in a men’s room.
As I did my business, the man continued to greet his guests, for that is what we clearly were to him.
I finished, left the bathroom, and caught my plane. But that man and his care stayed with me.
And his use of the word “my.” “My bathroom,” “My little kingdom.” He took ownership of that bathroom and felt responsible to give us his best effort.
I never thought I would say this, but I had a great and memorable customer service experience in an airport bathroom.
Excellence is always impressive, always. Even if (maybe especially if) the job is “menial.”
Painting is a chore. You have to move the furniture, mask everything off, watch for splatters. Standing on ladders in awkward positions. And the clean up. Ugh.
So when the paint companies announced “one-coat” paint (aka paint-and-primer-in-one), I was jubilant. Yes, I would pay extra money for reduced effort. I fell to the temptation.
Obviously, I was not impressed. No matter how thick I applied that one coat, it was insufficient. I saw the old color peeking through. Less of the old color than with traditional paint, but nonetheless.
One-coat paint is basically one-and-a-half coat paint—which is two-coat paint—just more expensive.
There’s no getting around it. Make up your mind to apply two coats of color for every paint job (with one rare caveat, see P.S.).
Oh, and don’t let your contractor use it either if you hire out. He’s going to have to do two coats in the end and it will cost you.
P.S. – Caveat: if you are repainting walls the same color as the previous paint job, you can usually get away with one coat. If there are no scuffs or patching to be done. But only then. Just paint two coats.