He’s famous on Instagram for his daily depot run, or better referred to as “Popa Run.”
But what most people don’t know is the very interesting story of Tom Popa’s life behind the scenes.
In this episode you’ll learn:
- The booming business Tom ran before the recession took it down.
- Why it’s so important to save money for “rainy days.”
- The amount of money you should have saved up as your emergency fund.
- When is the best time to talk about things going bad.
- The 3 keys to success as a contractor
- And of course, How to start in a new market even if nobody knows you yet.
…and so much more.
Tom has experienced a lot in his career as a contractor, and you will be very inspired, as well as educated to run your business at a higher level.
If you love this show, please share it with your friends. This is how more contractors, just like you will find out about it. Also, please leave us a review on iTunes.
Thank you so much!
<—All About Tom Popa and The Birth of Popa Construction—>
Tom Popa was born and raised in a town thirty minutes north of Detroit, Michigan. While attending school in Michigan and living with his step-dad and mother during the school year, Tom would spend every summer visiting his father in Florida. During this time, Tom would work with his father and uncles at Popa’s Pools, where they would construct and repair pools.
When Tom returned to Michigan after his summers in Florida, he would continue to pursue his passion for building and creating by taking as many wood shop classes as he possibly could during his high school years. For his senior year of high school, Tom had the opportunity to spend a portion of his school days working for his uncle at the local Black & Decker/Dewalt service center. At first, he was working in the repair center, learning how to fix tools.
Eventually, Tom’s uncle would allow him to do the ordering for the tools. After Tom graduated in 1995, he began working for a company called Village Cabinets, which made cabinetry for medical facilities as well as other professional settings.
Tom says that this first job and the long hours it required instilled in him a sense of good work ethic, and set him on a path of appreciating a hard day’s work.
Although at the time he was working for others, one of Tom’s very first entrepreneurial pursuits involved selling and installing granite countertops. He didn’t have his own shop, but clients started offering him granite work due to his experience with granite due to some family connections. Then, in 2001, Tom signed a lease for his own granite business.
The building boom of this time allowed Tom to grow his business fast, and at the time he was landing a lot of commercial jobs.
Part of his success during this time can be attributed to the sales team he hired. The team consisted of four salespeople who would go to new construction sites to essentially sell their business to contractors. That’s how they landed big gigs such as some suite rooms in Detroit’s Ford Field. Tom was even able to land some work with Home Depot.
The market crash brought his business to a halt, and Tom would eventually dissolve this partnership and pay off his debts to vendors in order to clean his slate. Tom says that this was difficult, as he felt like he was giving up on something he built, but that at the end of the day, it was crucial to leave on good terms with the people with whom he worked. Because he left his business having done the honest work of paying his debts, Tom was still able to use these vendors as references in the future.
Some of the advice Tom has for other contractors in these situations is to always save and prepare for the worst. When you are trying to build your business, and it’s growing fast, Tom admits, saving money becomes less of a priority because you’re using the money you’re making to invest in your brand.
After dissolving his first business, Tom decided to relocate to Florida. Here, he began working for a large kitchen and bath company. He quickly discovered that he does not like working for other people, and although he had a tough experience running his own business, working for himself was worth the trouble.
So, using references from former vendors in Michigan, Tom began taking on jobs. He was receiving offers to do more commercial work, which led to him to that until his father fell ill. Tom began researching ways to make homes more accessibly and livable for aging people or people with disabilities, and he began to do this type of work under the name Ability Home Solutions. This work was hard, he says, because not only was it upsetting to see that people needed these home adjustments, but that many of them could not afford it. This dilemma caused Tom to price his work less competitively than he would have liked. At this time, he was still taking commercial jobs and was asked to act as the director of development for a small investment company. In this role, Tom was working with a lot of commercial use buildings and restaurants, and he was looking to rebrand his work.
He was more interested in pursuing residential rehabs, and was offered an opportunity to do one, and then by the end of that year he had done around four hundred similar jobs. For these jobs, Tom was mainly working for banks, renovating homes either to market standard or to health and safety standards, but this was mostly at the discretion of the banks. Tom enjoyed this work, but wanted to do his own rehabs by his own standards and pricing.
Tom started doing some rehab work under Home Depot, which meant that he was doing rehabs for clients but exclusively using Home Depot as a vendor.
As far as technology, Tom has found that apps like Pruvan Direct allow him and his team to be efficient and thorough in their work. With Pruvan Direct, Tom’s employees can upload pictures of their work along the way, thus insuring that a record exists of what they are doing and how they are doing it. This form of accountability and documentation allows Tom to adjust any issues that they run into on a job, which, in the long run, makes for a far more organized job site.
In regards to social media, Tom’s most used platform is Instagram. He originally used a personal account, but saw how other contractors were using it. Since then, Tom has been getting jobs from it after using it for some time.
The relatively new Instagram stories feature has especially helped Tom show potential clients what kind of work he is doing at the moment.
Others Mentioned In This Show:
- Andrew Kremski – @krembuilt
- Ryaan Tuttle- @rjtcarpentryandtile – www.rjtcarpentryandtile.com
- Tim Roman- @imperialbuilder – www.imperialbuilder.com
Parting Words Of Inspiration and Motivation From Tom Popa:
“Work hard. Do a good job. Charge a fair price. And your business will be a success.”