Having been back on the east coast now for more than six years, we’ve since come to realize that we had it pretty good out there. The winters of 2010 and 2011 alone were enough to make anyone long for continuously warm and sunny weather.
This winter so far has thankfully been a mild one. But it’s still winter. Colder temperatures, gray skies, short days and long dark nights. And a question I am asked continuously is just what I do during the winter months.
And yes, the lack of significant income during these months can be a nuisance, to put it mildly. That part certainly requires a bit of budgeting and planning on the contractor’s part.
Over the course of the year, I keep a running list, or running pile, or more accurately a running pile of lists of things that I just don’t have time to address when things are kicking. Updating web listings, updating contacts, filing, budgeting, website revisions, marketing plans, advertising copy and layout, bookkeeping, and office clean-up to name just a few. Winter is my time to knock these things out.
This year one of the big things to do on my list is clean up my garage. I’m not necessarily talking about the fleet of bicycles and the canoe, although I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of the intended clean-up. But as a small business owner, my garage has become my shop. And that shop tends to collect all the things that are leftover from each and every project. So as of now, my garage looks like my truck dumped a year’s worth of supplies all over. 20 leftover pavers from that job, 15 fence pickets from this job, a continuously morphing pallet of leftover flagstones of every shape and size imaginable, lumber, lumber, and more lumber, mortar bags, concrete bags, adhesive and glues, concrete form tubes, screws and nails, hardware of every conceivable type -- just to name a few of the things cluttering the garage right now. And even though I make a strong effort to keep my tools organized, it’s somewhat inevitable that things can get put back hastily during the rush of the season. All of that needs to get cleaned up and organized. And that’s only going to happen during the winter.
Networking. Over the course of my travels throughout the year I always meet a wide range of interesting people. And we always say how nice it would be to be able to get together and get to know one another better. And then we have to get back to our crazy schedules. January and February provide the time for us to finally have coffee or do lunch. These meetings can help the business grow.
Once upon a time I heard a rumor that I have a family. While these rumors often cannot be verified outside of a summer vacation or a few long weekends over the course of the year, the winter is time for me to spend with the family. I spend a longer time with them in the morning before school, play family games in the evening, watch movies together, go to museums, and in general just get to know them better. Turns out they’re pretty cool people!
Household projects. My wife could probably shed light on this one better than me, but she keeps a running list, or running pile, or more accurately running piles of lists of all the household chores she wants me to get to. There’s hanging the punching bag the kids got for Christmas in the basement, fixing the treadmill, fixing the dining room light fixture, installing a programmable thermostat, and, well I’ll need to go downstairs and check the list. I regret to say (and inform my wife particularly) that very few of these projects have yet to happen. Rest assured though, she’ll stay on me about them.
And remember that little money issue I mentioned earlier. Well even though I may take off from most income-producing activities during the winter, I’ve discovered that mortgage companies do not. Nor do utility companies, auto loan companies, etc. So I do have to make a little bit of money. So I also undertake a few handyman-type projects for various clients. Interior trim installation, hanging drywall, and building a bookshelf are a few of the projects I’ve been keeping myself busy with this year.
And before I know it, spring is rapidly approaching and its time to get busy with client meetings, estimate preparation and inevitably the kickoff of the season.
So that “winter off” theory that on the surface sounds so enviable isn’t all that. Do I wish I was lounging on the beaches of St Maarten or soaking up the sun in Key West? Absolutely! But don’t we all this time of year. I may however still try to squeeze in cashing in on those massage gift certificates I got for Christmas. Wish me luck.