Editor’s note: Made in Tarrant is an occasional Q&A series on small businesses started in Tarrant County. Submit your business here.
DaVinci’s Design and Remodel, LLC
Who? Ralph Lahoud, 62, is the founder of DaVinci’s Design and Remodel, LLC.
When? Lahoud has more than 30 years of experience in the contracting industry. His current company was founded in 2001.
What? A general contracting company that specializes in residential work such as kitchens, bathrooms, painting, electrical, masonry, flooring, pergola and patio.
Ralph Lahoud is the founder of DaVinci’s Design and Remodel, LLC. He spoke with the Fort Worth Report’s Sandra Sadek about his business.
Sadek: Tell me a little bit about how you got started in the design and remodeling business as a contractor.
Lahoud: When I was 11 years old, my dad bought me a hammer and drill, the old-fashioned kind. I built cages for birds, and I would go catch birds live, put them in the cage and sell it to people in Lebanon. I didn’t realize that I had the construction in me.
I bought my first house, and I built my first patio cover. And my first patio cover leaked on me the first year, I built it so bad. A friend of mine came, and we had to take it all down, and he helped me rebuild it. That was before I started the business. He helped me rebuild it and while doing it, taught me to do it.
Then I went and started building. I was in my mid-30s. I built decks, chairs and patio covers. I was a one-man show.
In 2000, I had a big problem. I had back surgery. I hurt myself so bad because I was lifting all this heavy weight. And I lost everything. I lost the business, I lost everything. With my wife and two kids trying to figure out life, I had to rethink the construction business completely. About a year later, I got back in it. And that’s where I learned, ‘OK, I can’t do everything by myself.’ That’s when I started hiring people. And that’s when I did my first light switch at that time. That was my neighbor. She was like, ‘Can you change my light switch?’
Sadek: You have a business degree from Texas Christian University. How did that play a role in making your second run at a business successful?
Lahoud: It kind of helped me think common sense. And the business degree really helps you with how to manage, and how to organize. When you have a big project, how to be the puppet master. Knowing when to hire this guy. You have to learn who comes first, who comes second, and third. And that’s part of the business, the management degree — and then, of course, office work.
Sadek: As a successful business owner, what tips do you have to share with people?
Lahoud: First, work for someone for two years. Get your nose rubbed in the ground, in the dirt, and get mistreated for you to learn how to operate a business because customers are not merciful. I did work for two years for someone, and I got my nose dragged into the ground. I have to be humble enough to run a business. You cannot act like you’re it. It really kind of teaches you what you have to sacrifice.
So the reason you work for someone is you see how your managers treat you, how managers run things, and how owners take care of things. And then you can take the good from it and eliminate the bad. And that’s kind of what makes you a successful business owner.
Then, when you start your business, you have to put in a lot of time and effort, and maybe in the first year have money saved on the side to live. Because not everybody is lucky to make money right off the bat. And different businesses take different times. Some businesses run a little faster than others, and some are slower.
Start small, and get to know your client base well. Figure out what you want to do. That’s the key thing, you have to find something and don’t look at it as, ‘OK, there’s a million people doing that.’ Every business has a million people doing that. The difference is going to be you as a person, and how people see you and operate with you.
If you’re the business, you’re the face of the business. It’s key to build that trust and have people know who you are. This is from a lot of customers’ feedback to me. This is what I learned: Everybody is going to try to criticize you and give you advice. Take all of it, and then use what works best for you. Not every advice works for me. As a business owner, learn to accept help and advice from the people that work for you. Treat your people with respect.
Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @ssadek19.
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