Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Installment Stub 1.3: Seeking Wise Counsel

Raymond took in a meeting that evening.  Toward the end he shared that he was on the brink of starting a painting business and asked if anybody could stay afterward and give him wise-counsel.

Bob, one of the wall-flowers suggested that they step out for a cup of coffee afterward to talk about those kinds of things.

Bob looked like he was eighty when, in fact, he was sixty-two.  His arms and legs were soda-straw thin.  His body was round, face pockmarked, eyes rheumy, teeth broken and his nose an enormous potato netted with hundreds of burst blood vessels.  Bob was not who Raymond expected to volunteer but it would have been rude to blow off the invitation.

At the café Bob refused a piece of pie.  “I got sugar.” he said but took his coffee with two cream.

“What are your questions, young man?” Bob asked as the mugs were filled.

“I know how to paint.  I don’t know shit about bidding, hiring and cash-flow.” Raymond admitted.

“You know more than you think about hiring.” Bob said.  “What is your greatest fear about hiring?” he asked.

“I worked on some crews where they got right down to business and I worked on some where the crews basically told the boss to fuck-off.  And then I worked on some crews where the boss tried to keep the crew under his thumb and he was such a dick that we all started thinking of ways to fuck him up.”  Raymond said.  “It seems like a real crap-shoot, getting a good crew.”

“Well, that is the easy part.  Start with small jobs, small crews while you go through your growing pains.  Another thing is to hire a new crew every day so you can get a feel for the labor market.  You cannot recognize a ‘rock-star’ if you don’t know what ‘average’ is.”  Bob said.  “You will probably see some rock-star painters and you can tell them that you will come looking for them when things smooth up for you.”

“Another thing: at the start always hire two more guys than you need for the day, even if you only need five guys.  The crews will test you because you are new.  As soon as you can, fire two guys.  You will know in twenty minutes who is there to play grab-ass and instigate.” Bob said.

“I can’t do that.” Raymond said.  “I can’t afford to pay workers a full day’s pay for just working twenty minutes.”

“Don’t pay them.” Bob said, simply.  “They didn’t do any work.  Kick them off the site within thirty minutes and they can still go back to the pool and get a full day’s work.”

“You don’t have to get mad when you do it.  Nothing sends the message more clearly that everybody is there to work than tossing the people who are getting in the way.”  Bob took a big slurp of the hot coffee.

“You said something about small jobs and five workers.  Will that turn enough profit to make it worth my while?” Raymond asked.

“Here is the deal, you cannot afford to do big jobs.  Remember, the people you will be contracting with are likely to pay you sixty-days-net…almost a guarantee on the bigger jobs, really.  You are going to have a pile of money tied up in that sixty days.  Bigger jobs means more money tied up.” Bob explained.

“You want several handfuls of smaller jobs.  You will get lucky on some and get paid sooner.  That will help your cash-flow.  The other thing is that you are gonna make mistakes.  Better to learn on small jobs where they won’t be as damaging.”


Four weeks later the pro tem appointment for the legislator from Huntington Park was chosen.  Raymond Rojas was one of the fifteen people nominated by the community.  The brief description beneath his picture read:

24-years-old.  Lifelong Huntington Park resident.  Has employeed 145 workers since starting his business earlier this year, many of them from Huntington Park.

The debate was short-lived.  After all, it was just a temporary appointment until the elections.  Raymond was won the appointment.

Next Installment of Stub

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