Timothy Barnes started Barn Painting and Advertising in 2004 in East Berlin, Pennsylvania.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
We are barn and agriculture painters specializing in preservation. We are barn advertising specialist. Check out our beautiful barns at Barn Painting & Advertising
How did you come up with your business idea?
My wife and I love barns. Our last name is Barnes. In fact my wife's maiden name is Barnes. When we were dating we used to take pictures of barns in black and white and frame them. We did this to commemorate our experiences. We wanted to "Preserve America One Barn at a Time" for future generations.
We also knew that barn advertising was very popular in the early 1900's. We also knew we wanted to work together. We decided to start painting barns as a part time hobby. We would preserve America a few barns a year. We knew we wanted to offer barn advertising at some time in the future but this was not our core competency when we started.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was a flight nurse on a helicopter.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
We did operate from our home until recently. We are now moving to a beautiful space downtown East Berlin located in an old mill. The advantage to working from home is much lower over-head . I also found that both my wife and I could work longer hours with the office inside our home. We can take brief breaks and prepare meals or perform house duties. Our children are home with us and that means no child care after school and during the summer. In the beginning when you first start the business there is so much to do that having your business at home is convenient so when an idea or task comes to your mind you can follow through immediately.
The disadvantage to having your office at home is it is hard to separate family time from office time. It is easy to work 10-16 hour days without even realizing you didn't shave. The second disadvantage is you must set up alternate locations to interview employees, meet with prospects and vendors.
Do you own a business with family members? What do you think are the benefits and challenges to running a family owned business?
My wife Christine and I own our business together. When we decided to start a new business it was with the idea of working together. I have enjoyed working with my wife and sharing the daily struggles and successes with my best friend.
One of the benefits to working with your spouse is each day you look forward to going to work. You also know that the person you are with is as committed to the task at hand as you are and has your best interest in mind.
The challenges to working with your spouse is together you have to balance home and work. One directly affects the other. Any challenges or scheduling conflicts affects both partners equally. There is no one that is not as totally vested in both areas to pick up the slack at the office. Many times during the year one partner will handle work and one will handle home. Occasionally we think it would be nice to have someone else to rely on at work to handle critical issues.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
My wife and I started this company with our discretionary income. We only grew as much as we could afford to. Once our company began to generate income we only spent what the company could afford. This has paid off for us in spades. Our company has absolutely no subordinated debt. We have purchased equipment for the job site and office only when we had to. When we had to we paid cash. Therefore we have paid no interest payments or credit cards. We used an 800 phone service instead of installing phone lines. We buy all of our office supplies from Staples where we get money back for our purchases and empty ink cartridges. I also highly recommend talking to your vendors. Sometimes to get better pricing all you have to do is ask. If you give all of your business to one supplier and you make paying cash part of your pricing structure you can probably negotiate better pricing than your competitors.
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?
Our company utilizes social media. We have a presence on Facebook and twitter. One of our biggest contracts to date first contacted us on Facebook. We spend a good deal of time updating information on social mediums. We continue to utilize Linkedin and Jigsaw to make contact with prospects and build our data base.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Maintain sustainable growth and do as much of the work yourself as you can.
Good luck to you and your wife. It sounds like you have a great foundation for a growing business.