Monday, August 20, 2012

Work the program and be your own boss.

Six men wait in a conference room. Each has been escorted in and advised that Mike would join them in about five minutes leaving time for any others who might be running just a little late. The online job posting for “Inspector $65,000” is why we’re here.  The office is sparse with functional office furnishings. I arrived more than 45 minutes prior to the appointment but I didn’t go in and sign the sheet until #3.

“So is everyone ready?” I felt compelled to break the awkward silence in the room. Only one answer. It came from the young guy closest to the door and last to be seated. (He is #6). “Yes, let’s get started,” with a mildly gung-ho attitude that brings a smile or two.  The ice was broken but only for a moment. The room returns to a calm. As if on cue,  Mike entered the room. He was confident. He has a Florida tan offset by the bright yellow company polo shirt with black American Building Contractors embroidery. He was also wearing a lanyard with photo and Home Depot logo. He was instantly engaging and wastes no time delivering his message. “I’m sorry about this format but we’ve found that talking to a group like this is best way to answer questions. You’ve responded to an ad that says ‘Inspector’ but in reality this is a sales position. ABC has a unique relationship with The Home Depot to perform inspections and contract roof repairs due to hail damage.” Mike goes on to explain that ABC is growing. There are opportunities to earn pretty good money. It is an easy sell because once the connection with a homeowner is made and hail damaged is determined the repair is 100% paid by insurance. You will note there is a number on your applications and that is the order in which you signed in so I will meet with each of you one-on-one in that order.

“So, we’d work as independent 1099 subcontractors?” says the guy next to me who shared with the group that his family was actually in the roofing business. “Yes, but we’re going to do everything we can for you to be successful,” offers Mike. “What about expenses? You said something about a stipend,” asked the guy across the table from me. (He is #4 on sign in sheet.) He has construction experience and like me is not sure he wants to be climbing up on rooftops as a guy in his 50s. “Oh yeah, we want you to have something to work with to pay for gas and expenses so we offer $300 a month… Once you get rolling though we pay $100 per contact on those who agree to inspection by appraiser and $200 every time you get a start work contract and another nice commission when the work is done, say $2,500 on a $10,000 job.” 

Just then, Mike is called out of the room. He apologizes and offers the group one of his managers to answer questions while he takes a call. The manager accepts the chore and answers a few more general questions about earning potential and how the system works. “If you have a good work ethic and work the program you can certainly make $65,000. Some make a lot more.”

“So you have to go door-to-door?” (#5 presses.) “Well it stands to reason that you would want to work a neighborhood that has been hit, especially when one of their neighbors has ABC signs up and yellow tape  is up and guys (with their shirts on) are installing a clean new roof," offers the manager. “I don’t want to go door-to-door” says #5 “This is not for me.” He leaves the room, clearly not persuaded.

Mike is neatly assembling manila folders as he conducts his one-on-one interviews. My name is on one of them (#3). “It’s really up to you.” This isn't an interview as much as it is recruiting I am thinking that evening. By now, Mike is probably on a plane heading back to Deerfield Beach. I have his card. (It's Black with gold foil letters.) Maybe #6 will take the challenge. I told my wife about this meeting. She said with a sort of funny face, “Roofing sales, are you nuts? Why don’t you find something you are passionate about?”

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