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Niche Construction with Portland Commercial Construction’s Kurt McLaughlin

May 23, 2020

Construction and Marketing Go Hand-in-Hand.

Kurt McLaughlin is the Founder and CEO of Portland Commercial Construction.

Portland Commercial Construction specializes in medical and dental construction.

Learn more about how Portland Commercial Construction utilizes networking and marketing to grow a construction business by listening to this episode of The Thoughtful Entrepreneur above and don’t forget to subscribe on   Apple Podcasts – Stitcher – Spotify –Google Play –Castbox – TuneIn – RSS.

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Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, Founder and CEO of UpMyInfluence.com. We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. stick around to the end of the show, we're all reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.

And with us right now, we've got Kurt McLaughlin. Kurt, you are the President and well, I guess so the Founder. What's your relationship with Portland Commercial Construction?

I founded the company just over four years ago.

My gosh, well, you guys have gone through a lot of growth in that past for some years.

Yeah. I've been in this market in Portland for 28 years but just started this company. Four years ago, my biggest concern when I started the company was, how do I get sales? That's the only thing I really hadn't done in the industry. And it turns out that I'm pretty good at that. Oh,

my gosh. So we're definitely going to talk about that. So you're working in the construction industry. And talk to me about this in the back of your mind. You're like, you know, I wonder if I could start something myself. Like, what was that? What was that story? What was that experience?

I had left a company small,

sole solopreneur construction company, and the founder actually inherited the company and was very sheltered, very worried about anybody taking his ideas and information so it wouldn't share anything. So everything was just hush hush quiet. We found out what was going on, you know, weaker three year or six months later. So working in the dark. I got really tired of that. I spent about two and a half years there, building a bunch of relationships that just more relationships in town. I left there went to a company that had the worst culture I'd ever had in my life. I mean, it was a go to work. On the second floor of a tilt up concrete building, there wasn't a window in sight, sit at your desk inside your closet, or make phone calls to talk to people to try to build relationships in our own town. I did that for about nine months. I had found out a little bit later I was. Let's see, I was the longest employee of the 27 people 20 before me seven after me to work there. I think the 10 year for them was about six to six weeks.

Oh my gosh.

So I got fired. That was October for just over four years ago. My partner at the time said hey, you do all the work already. Why aren't you doing I want to start your own business and I'm like, oh my god that takes so much money and so much time and so much effort and I don't know how to sell. So, here we are. That was October 2015 by James First, I had a business partner and

started on our way.

So how does someone start a commercial construction company? It seems like there's going to be a lot of expenses. I mean, guys, I wouldn't even know like a, you know, you got your chicken and egg like, Oh my gosh, we need the jobs. But in order to get the jobs, we have to have the resources and the manpower, the tools, you know, all that sort of thing. How did you how'd you begin this?

Yeah, that I mean that and that's probably not abnormal, if you could start a construction company, but plan on not getting paid while you kind of get the ball rolling.

Yeah, you know, there's some things you didn't have to I didn't have to do at first, you know, our insurance was less. We didn't we didn't need a big general liability policy. It was just the two of us. So we didn't need workman's comp. So those are things that were able to roll into effect payroll, we didn't do payroll for nine months, you know, we just took minimal draws. Yeah. Before we, you know, started spending that money on things that were requirements, but they weren't requirements on day one. So the operating agreement, estimating forms and some contract forms, you know, we had seen many before and had plenty of opportunity to look at other stuff and so kind of put some things together that worked well that were small and then just got started hit the streets started talking to people

Yeah, so I would imagine then that you're spending, what are you spending the majority of your time doing? Is it a lot of networking and talking and finding out how you can serve the community? And I guess, you know, another part of my question is, how did you eventually hone in on serving the industry that you do? Because you primarily serve if I'm not mistaken, doctors and dentists offices, is that correct?

Correct. Yeah, I had been doing that for the past seven years of my career, previously different companies. So I was pretty well versed. And it was, it sounds like a complicated process. It's not as complicated as it sounds, but it also was easy to sell that, hey, you know, we have those details down. We know we're doing it and we can knock that stuff out for you in a reasonable timeframe. So, but really, it was about showing up like I showed up to everything, but the first year I probably did. 159 networking events.


And not just once, but you know, I've never done anything one time. If they had multiple times and locations, I would hit every one of them at least three times. And just getting that trust and knowledge for people that I'm here to stay, you know, I'm here to help you. No, I'm not going anywhere. And I don't need your business today. Now let's build a relationship and go from there.

And so what value is there? This is going to be the biggest softball here for you. So let's say that there's someone who's building a medical office. Yeah. How much of an advantage do you have? Because you've missed yourself, as opposed to someone who says, Well, I'm just a general contractor, and well, we'll build about anything you just will. We'll take whatever job we can get, like, how much easier is it for you to get that job? Because when you show up, you're like, was all we do?

Yeah. Well, there's, there's over 2500 dental offices in our community. So why don't we put that into perspective, there's four contractors in town that specializing in dental. So having focused on actually taking care of the, the maintenance guys in the dental equipment field, and we focus on taking care of those guys, so they trust us to come in and get that stuff done. So, when we go in and see a dentist, you know, we're asking, Hey, you know, there's three equipment providers in town, which one do you use, you know, and then we know the guy by name, and we offer a, hey, if you want to give your your rep a call, he would give us a referral. So you start getting into trust, and that that relationship instantly becomes that much bigger. And then they asked about, you know, how long is it going to take? He said, Well, the last six we did take took, you know, within a week of, of this amount of time, and the costs have been rising. You know, about $5 every six months. per square foot on a full remodel so and then knowing their equipment and exactly how it needs to be because we just pay attention and what we're actually know the room sizes matter how their efficiency, really to the point of what affects them the most, you know, what affects the doctor or the assistant or the

practice manager. And so really addressing their concerns. It just builds trust.

So how many business cards do you think you exchanged in that first year?

over 2000, the first year over 1000 What's that over? 1000 the first year.

Wow. But you Okay, now think about how valuable was that exchange in 1000 business cards what what do you think that that did for your business?

I looked at it in a couple of ways. I believe marketing is you know, and that business development pieces, looking for a year ahead, so nothing I do today is gonna affect me for A year, right? And the intent is to get specific about I, I dress a certain way I carry myself a certain way. I'm happy go lucky. I'm always excited to be places. And people remember that. And then we talked about, I do complicated commercial construction projects, like medical and dental offices, when someone goes to their next group meeting where they are, you know, back to their friends and family. And someone says, Ah, my dentist is looking at building a remodeling or building a practice with my surgeon. You know, I think I have made myself stick out to the point where people go, Wow, I know this guy. And that's all he does. Yeah, yeah, that's probably 50% of our business. The other half was, I would get a phone call from someone saying, Hey, I got your card, because someone said you did complicated medical projects. I've got this project and no one returned my call. Would you come take a look at it? Oh, my gosh. I'm like, absolutely. You know, we, we do medical, we can do anything.

Can I can I just you mentioned something right there. You know, there are certain industries, where it just blows your mind that someone can be, you know, and and, you know, I guess it could be, right. And I've heard this explained that, for many, for many of us, it's our it's our inclination to bounce between crisis and normal. And we keep doing that. And when we get in crisis mode, that we do an insane amount of work to get back up to normal, where we're paying our bills, we're doing fine, we're comfortable. But then what happens is then, eventually, we stopped doing the thing that God has to normal. And we start to slide down again until we get back into crisis mode. And then we're like, oh, shoot, we don't have enough business bear start scrambling, getting some more sales. And so what you just said right there and I see this in construction, you know, Having done a lot of work on our house this past year, we did replace the roof we did the painting gutters, you know, did a lot of that stuff, right, which we had I are like contractors, it blew my mind. How many people didn't even return my call? And and the only thing I could guess and what I got some feedback, you know, one guy like returned my call like two weeks later he goes, Well, we're just so busy that you know, we can't really, you know, we can't really do much. And I'm like, Listen, I guess it's fine if your goal is to just have a lifestyle business and just kind of stay at that survival mode your whole life. Cool, if that's all you want. But I don't think you're based on what I've seen about the success of your company. That's not been your approach. Kurt, you return phone calls.

We certainly do our best. And to that extent, we also, you know, try to refer people to other people that might be able to help them like you know, we get a lot of phone calls about presidential and other things that we're just not not good at or cost effective and You know, sharing, you know, some friends, you know, business cards, hey, I met this person, you know, they seem to be legit do a great job, you know, here's what they do. And I've given certainly give considerably more business away than we ever take

just because we can only do so much. Yeah.

And so now we've kind of you know alluded to your success with with within the construction industry and so Portland Commercial Construction is on the web at PortlandCommercialConstruction.com and can you give us some any kind of indication about like how much business you do, your time, you know, I'm sorry, your team and kind of what you've created so far

that we specialize in mostly medical t eyes in that $300,000 range 300 to 500,000 thousand dollar range. We do about 100 projects a year though because we do maintenance and by the way, Kirk ti stands for tenant improvement.

What is that mean? So

to fit out Yeah, yeah. When, when you when you build an office instead of a, instead of an office building, it's typically empty, or it used to be an insurance office or a pharmacy, possibly. And so we're going to put offices in there exam rooms, sinks that that build out to make it the doctor's office that you go in and sit at the reception. So,

if you do you do a lot of T I's, a lot of tenant improvement.

We do 30 2025 ish, 30 Good, good size t eyes, just because we kind of specialize in what we're doing. But we do a lot of maintenance projects, a lot of five to $15,000 projects as well. They're significantly more profitable, but they're the way in the door. You know, people write phone calls, well, I need you to do this. Okay, well, that's, you know, we're happy to get that little bit of that stuff done. It fits into our schedule, and we know that every 10 years they're gonna be doing a remodel, or 10 improvement is on average. So we're building that client base.

Are you resting on the laurels of the work that you did? Networking you didn't at first? Yeah, I'm being silly here. But are you resting on your laurels from the networking you did in that first year? Or what do you do to keep the activity going in your business? Because I know you've been a little shy about your success, but you guys do good business?

Ah, no, we belong to a couple of organizations that are in our community that we continue to, to show up with every time that the county, the city that those three Metropolitan governments around here, look, every time they have an event where there we show up to the point where, well, when I show up, everybody knows who I am. They shake my hand I don't I don't give out nearly as many cards anymore, but we just are doing things to stay in the forefront of their mind. So they're, they're calling us and saying, Hey, we have this coming up. Are you are you gonna take a look at it for us? You know, where are you guys at? Are you too busy? You know, how's the market What's going on? And we've really become kind of a trusted ally in our community. And so October, November, I think I did two nights off, right? I didn't have events going on Wow, holidays. And that's kind of a crazy extreme. But on average over the year, I do two events a week, you know, happy hours or lunches.

So that's amazing, because Kurt, I think a lot of people might look at that, or they might see something coming up that they could participate in. And they say, I'm too busy. I need to be on the job, you know, I need to be out, you know, whatever, you know, involved in the operations, not just showing up at all these events. What is what's the, what's the math in your head that you have figured out? I mean, obviously, you know, kind of shared your story or your first year's activity, but how do you keep yourself from saying, No, no, no, I don't want to I should not be spending my time on site. I need to be out doing this or You're talking like evenings you like you probably want to be with your family.

Yeah, it's,

it's hard, because it really depends on what your goal for your business because if you go for your businesses to have a lifestyle and you know, have a nice summer boat and be able to take three weeks off in the summertime, then you probably don't want a lot of employees, you know, you want a lot of overhead, you wanna be able to slow that down. But if your goal is not to work every day, and you know, to be able to your office goes anywhere your phone goes, then you better be building a staff and a team and a culture that people can, people are gonna make decisions, you might as well you know, lead them down a path of decisions that you're going to be okay with. So, so that you can focus on the business element or the thing that you're good at, because we're not good at everything. finding those pieces that you enjoy doing is important to you. It's a lot of work. And so, for me, I used to love being in the field and seeing things built but but now I get to see you know people accomplishing stuff and proud of them. Heroes and solving problems and telling you what they took care of, you know, and, you know, our clients are going man you got, you know, telling me about, you know, our general Superintendent or other carpenters like, man, anytime you need a job, let me know, you know, that's that's a proud moment for me, including when they leave and they go, Hey, I want to go start my own thing you know, we've had three people leave and start their own company, you know, and that's awesome that you know that they're inspired enough to do that. But also, you know, like, I know how hard it is, man. It's rough. It's, it's be prepared. It's a lot. It takes a lot of grit to work, you know, to get through it.

Yeah, no kidding. Now, one final thing here is I know that based on your success, you've also had the opportunity to do a lot of mentoring in your community. And I gotta tell you, that's that's how a lot of my influence came about, like I I was, you know, I was happy just running savings Angel, you know, making great money, but I just believe that you know, it I think it feels to me to be almost selfish. Like when you learn how to do something to say, Well, I'm not going to share it with anybody else or kind of like your old boss, you know, with the other company. It's, you know, I don't want anyone to know what we're doing kind of things trade secrets. I, you know, it's like, I feel like you know, those ways of learning, right? There's learn knowledge, activity, knowledge, modeling knowledge and teaching knowledge, you know, when you become the teacher, and it just gets so internalized and, and I think we truly when we focus on making an impact in the world, I mean, how I mean, the rewards for ourselves are just so amazing. I but, but talk to me about why you make that a priority as well.

It's more of a passion. I mean, my brother actually asked me two years ago is like, what do you love construction so much? You've been doing it for so long. I didn't realize he was contemplating a career change at the time but it was Christmas time and says, What do you love about construction so much? And I think about it 10 minutes really to go through my hands. Like, I, I don't really like construction anymore. My passion I, I kind of care less about it. The thing I love the most that the company provides me is the ability or the opportunity to influence mentor and see other people grow. That's that was the thing that's like wow, that's what I really enjoy here. Yeah. And so taking the focus from you know, do I want to be growing at the construction company? How big do I want it to be? Where do I want it to be? Really my focus change to how do I exit out of that and get into really living my life the way I you know, Mike passionately, and so wonderful.

Well, Kurt, your website, Portland Commercial Construction guy, you're on the web at PortlandCommercialConstruction.com. And again, I know with your the mentoring that you've been able to do. I know you've been really building your own personal brand as well. So is there a great way that people can connect with you to kind of watch for that and and see, you know what, what sort of, you know, and I know you follow Bernie brown I know you I know you're looking at doing a lot of good in the world personally, what's the best way to connect with you or follow with follow your work in that regard?

The easiest way is probably Instagram Kurt McLaughlin Coaching

K U R T M C L A U G H L I N coaching, or the website KurtMcLaughlin.com is there. And oh, wow, contact information's on there, but

So it's um, Kurt McLaughlin. I'll just spell it K U R T M C L A U G H L I N or you could just go to UpMyInfluence. Look for this episode. And of course on that post, we'll have all of Kurt's links as well so you can connect. Kurt, I want to say thank you so much, and thank you for a very, very interesting to hear your story and to, you know, again that that first year sacrifice and, and, and again still today showing up and doing all that networking, you know, they can't take that away from you. They can't take away your relationship. They can't take away your authority and your name recognition. Now, you've you've invested too much into that no matter what happens, the economy and the economy will change. Still, you know, if it's possible to have a great outcome, no matter what the circumstances are, you're the man that's going to have that just because the investment you've made in all of those relationships. So thank you so much for joining us. Absolutely. Josh. Thank you.

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