Category: Personal

Lessons Learned: Contractors and Friendships

Warning: This post comes from fresh emotions of disbelief, frustration, anger, and disappointment. The identities of the parties involved have not been disclosed so that they can take full responsibility for destroying their own reputations. (they’ll know who they are)

If you have done any kind of research on becoming a real estate investor or have even simply considered having some work done on your own house, then you’ve heard the horror stories related to contractors. We’ve heard all of the stories about contractors abandoning projects, taking the money and running, or spending way over budget; but we simply didn’t have to worry about any of those issues. We have a contractor that makes promises they will deliver, someone that won’t leave us hanging, and someone that will grow with us and our business. We have a friend that is a contractor. It’s going to be the best business relationship ever and we are going to take over the rehabbing world!

Well, that was the plan…

We were in the process of building a dream team. Our contractor was highly motivated. His energy and motivation was contagious and inspirational. We couldn’t wait to settle on a house and begin the demo process. The realtor that we were working with was the contractor’s girlfriend. She was also a very driven person seeking to catapult her career to new heights. The ambition that they brought to the table was a sure win. The cool part was that they were working to build a brand together like a wannabe Chip and Joanna Gaines couple. They have the cute kid to exploit in marketing gimmicks and even bought chickens. The perfect family to compliment the perfect business partnership.

Things started out with a bang. There was a ton of commotion and activity around the rehab as old fixtures and debris was being removed from the house. We would get excited every time that I’d stop by the job site to check out the progress. We have to admit, seeing the result after demo was a bit overwhelming trying to imagine how everything would be put back together again. That worry quickly subsided because, heck, I’ve got the best team looking out for our interests. I’ve got faith in them and we all benefit when the job is complete; the realtor gets the listing and commissions and the contractor agreed to a percentage of the profits, so of course it’s in all of our best interests to get the house rehabbed and on the market as soon as possible.

Until it’s not…

Not long after the demo was complete, there seemed to be a distraction or two. There had been some exterior improvements that really screamed progress. A new roof and siding transformed the curb appeal of the house and created quite a bit of excitement around the neighborhood. We were excited about the new look and could see the potential. We couldn’t wait to see how the improvements inside would turn out. While we were excited about the progress of the rehab, the contractor was increasingly excited about a new house that he was about to build for him, his girlfriend, and the cute kid. The contractor assured me that this would not impact the progress of the rehab since he is a professional and capable of managing multiple projects. Yeah right.

It’s still very painful to reflect on how naive we were to expect things to get better. We would drive to the job site weeks on end without any signs of life or progress. Repeated calls to our contractor would go unanswered. When the calls would be answered, we would get a line of excuses, promises, and revised timelines to completion. We would cut our losses and verbally agree with our contractor that the new timeline is what it is and swallow our frustration. This process happened over, and over, and over, and over again…

Trying not to live with regrets…

We regret not firing our contractor. We regret this decision every single day that work drags on at the rehab. Our weakness was doing what we felt was the right thing in helping a friend. After all, he helped to open our eyes the opportunities and excitement of rehabbing. He had already invested time and energy in the project and we still wanted to give him the share that we had agreed to. We offered to help find sub contractors to complete the work and got lip service that he was working on it and that he will be there to finish the job. We started talking with other contractors to see if they could provide guidance on how to go about getting things finished without our contractor “friend”. Throughout this entire endeavor, we never ever considered abandoning our agreement to give him the negotiated percentage of profit. We continued to look out for his interest in the project that he abandoned. It’s like we cared more about his share than he did.

Gah!!!!!

So this post could go on and on about the specific details of frustration and disappointment that we are facing, but it makes us sick to think about how ignorant our contractor has been that we are trying to complete this deal with some kind of profit. This is a job that should have taken 6 months, but has missed the deadline by almost a year. The optimist in us thinks that at least there is a benefit from a capital gains tax perspective, if there’s even a profit.

In the end, the worst part is being disappointed by the so called friends that we thought we would build our dreams with. Their loss. They have turned into nothing more than shysters. If they continue down the path that they are on then they are destined to have a run in with karma and a few terms like fraud and embezzlement.

We shouldn’t even care anymore…

Honestly, we just want to move on and still make good on all of our promises. However, the contractor expects to underdeliver, break all promises, go over time, go over budget, steal, and then ask for more money… haha!!

Fortunately, we have not let this experience deter us from our real estate endeavors and we are already wrapping up our next project with a new contractor with much more success. Subscribe to our blog to get notifications on our future posts and learn about what we have done differently to ensure that we have chosen a honest contractor. We personally recommend Hawk Rock Construction or Five-Star Contracting which serve Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and the surrounding areas.

** Oh yeah. I forgot to mention the ending of the business relationship with the realtor. She completely forgot about us until it was time to list the property so that she could cash in on a commission. She was simply too busy with building her own house and self indulgence to pick up the phone, even once in over a year! Even after giving her a chance for redemption and trying to come up with an amicable resolution, she was arrogant and ignorant to the end. Which reminds me… where’s the buyer that you said that you had? Oh wait, never mind. Don’t care. You’re fired.

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Preamble: It All Begins With Your Parents

Like it or not, who you are to some extent begins with your parents. If that’s bad news to you, then the good news is that you are not your parents and you can control you own life. Take the good and learn from the bad.

My mother and father grew up in a fairly depressed area of Northern Pennsylvania. Long before they were born, the area was known for manufacturing and coal. That boon came and went and now people are simply trying to get by. My parents recognized that they did not have very many opportunities if they stayed, and they wanted more for their eventual family. So they decided to move away in search of better employment and quality of life. They headed to South Central Pennsylvania and settled in the suburbs just outside of the Harrisburg area. The rolling hills of Perry County was going to be their new homestead. My mother and father moved into a trailer sitting on the land where they would eventually build the home that I grew up in. At this time, you had to save a 50% downpayment to build a house and interest rates for loans were upwards of 15%. 

Both of my parents began their careers working for the State of Pennsylvania at the Liquor Control Board. My dad would go on to hold several different positions within the State Government before ultimately retiring. My mother had a break in her career to raise my brother, sister, and I then later returned to the Liquor Control Board where she ultimately retired.

My parents have three amazing children, of which I am the middle child. We were, what I considered, a pretty average middle class family. Both of my parents worked hard to provide the necessities and even the luxuries, like braces for our teeth and a private education in a Catholic School. We had a comfortable three bedroom ranch house with a huge yard to play in as kids. The only struggle was the one bathroom that the five of us had to share.

Previously I mentioned that my mother took a break in her career to raise the family, but in reality it wasn’t really a break. She worked even harder during that time and, looking back, my parents made a lot of sacrifices for the things that I took for granted growing up. My mother gave up her 8-4 office job to be at home for us when we got off of the bus and to volunteer at school functions. At night, after my dad would get home from work, she would head off to her part-time job working at the local pizza shop or Hill’s (the now defunct department store chain).

I don’t tell my parents often enough, but I have a lot of admiration for their hard work and dedication. Perhaps that’s were I get my work ethic and unyielding desire to achieve. I know that my childhood was far from rough in comparison to others out there. I believe that it is because my parents took the initiative to give my siblings and I opportunities that they didn’t have. Had they stayed in their hometown, I can’t imagine where I would be today.

We all come from somewhere. While my childhood was not filled with seemingly insurmountable adversity, I didn’t grow up with the proverbial silver spoon in my mouth. My parents were not business owners and their approach to finances was to simply save money in bank accounts and IRAs, which is what we are all told to do. We are told to do well in school, go to college, and get a good job working for someone else. Check, check, and check. I have done all of those things and I know that there is more out there…

Regardless of our upbringing, we can become whoever we want to be! The struggle that we all face is going against the grain. Surround yourself with people that add value to you life and share similar dreams and aspirations. That’s the purpose of this site. We can all help one another succeed and break through the barriers of norm that we are surrounded by.

Perry County Land.jpg

15 Acres of Land in Perry County that I own about 1 mile from where I grew up

My First Day As An Entrepreneur

Anxiety runs high on the first day of doing something new. Think back to the first day of school every year, moments before a competition, or your first day on a new job. You probably don’t sleep well as you lie awake in bed with countless, and often meaningless, scenarios of how the day will go running through your head. Let’s face it, starting something new is downright terrifying!

These feelings were not a part of my first day of entrepreneurship, however. It’s safe to say that I really didn’t know what I was starting. It just seemed to be a natural and happened organically. I didn’t ever consider putting the title of business or entrepreneurship on it until now. As I reflect back on how I was first introduced to a world of entrepreneurship, this moment is it.

The setting is sometime in the early to mid 90’s. I was a tall and fairly uncoordinated middle school aged kid. As you may recall in a previous post, I grew up in a rural area and attended Catholic School. This is important to note for a couple of reasons. One there wasn’t a lot to do when I was a kid. I didn’t grow up in a city or neighborhood where you could simply walk to a friend’s house or even ride your bike. My friends were generally a 15 minute drive, or more, away. This meant that my brother and sister would often be the only kids around to play with.

My brother is a little over 5 year older than I am. So by this time he was in high school and we didn’t really have a lot to relate to other than the Boy Scouts and the fact that we shared a bedroom growing up. I was always just a bit too far behind in age to be cool enough to be included with him and his friends. As I started high school, he was making his way off to college. Always just a step behind.

My sister is 2 years younger than I am. We had the complete opposite relationship than what I had with my brother, because my sister actually thought that I was cool. Rather than try to compete for my brother’s attention and try to keep up, I simply hung out with my sister more often. With that came, what I will call sacrifices, where I would be obligated to play doll house and My Little Pony. Embarrassingly, I had the only male My Little Pony, Texas Pete, so that I didn’t have to play a girl pony. This may seem like irrelevant information, but it will soon make sense, I promise.

Spending time with my younger sister introduced me to things that I would not have otherwise been interested in doing. My mom encouraged us to be creative and crafty. We had what we called an “arts and crafts cabinet” in the basement which was always fully stocked with construction paper, glue, popsicle sticks, wiggly eyeballs, etc… it had everything that you needed to come up with some pretty spectacular creations.

At one point we really got hooked on creating jewelry using those little plastic beads. We would test out the different threads that would be easy to thread through the beads yet durable enough so that they didn’t easily snap, which would leave beads scattered all over the floor. There would be shopping trips to the bead aisle at our local Ben Franklin Arts store, where we would look for the shiniest and most colorful beads. We even had containers with partitions that wouldn’t let your beads mix, unless you accidentally turned the container upside down which resulted in hours of sorting. This happened quite frequently.

I would be threading beads almost every chance that I had. The bus ride from our rural home to school ranged from 2 1/2 hours when I was in kindergarten to a little over an hour at this point in my life. The difference in ride time is that my mother complained to the school district enough to get dedicated bussing for the private schools “over the mountain.” Mom would always go to bat for us, and she still would. When I was in kindergarten, I would catch the bus at 5:15 in the morning and be driven all over the county. First one on and the last one off. I’m sure that there are those of you reading this that can relate!

discman.jpgThese bus rides were the perfect time to sit and make jewelry. This was before cell phones and the plethora of mobile entertainment devices. Granted there were Gameboys and Sega Game Gears, but those were the kind of luxuries that my parents didn’t want to spend their hard earned money on. The only portable device I had was a Walkman which was eventually upgraded to a Discman. A Discman was a portable CD player for those that don’t know what I am talking about. “What’s a CD,” you ask? Yikes. It is hard to believe that technology has evolved so quickly.

One day while making beaded jewelry on the bus, a girl asked me if I could make her a bracelet. I said yes, but she went on to say “I can pay you for it.” Suddenly, the inner monologue began playing out. I would have just given her a bracelet, but she is willing to pay me for it? If I can get a couple of dollars, I would be able to buy more beads and make even better jewelry, which I could turn around and sell for more money. This was all very exciting to me! Also, we weren’t really friends or anything so I said sure and we negotiated a price of a couple of dollars.


This continued for a while. I was making “custom” beaded jewelry on the bus and selling it to the other students. Eventually, I had saturated the limited market, so I began making keychains and other crafts. 


From crafts, I moved on to candy. My parents had a membership to one of those club stores where you can buy a huge bulk container full of candy for much less than you can buy pieces candy individually. I would have my parents pick up Airheads and Now and Laters in bulk. I had a silver metal tin container that I would fill with candy and take on the bus with me. I would sell the candy for ten cents each or three for a quarter. I would sell a few dollars worth everyday and the good news was that the demand was always there for more candy. I was the candyman through the remaining years of grade school and gave it up when I started riding the bus to high school. 


Even though these are examples at the tiniest level and no one would be able to support themselves with these activities, they got me excited for business and gave me a little bit of walking around money at a young age. It was in those very moments that I began to understand the very basic mechanics of business. I just didn’t know it at the time. 


I feel like I was fortunate to have accidentally fallen into this learning opportunity. I often wonder how we can teach children these lessons at a young age to plant the seeds of entrepreneurship. Give them the power to be creative and find opportunities to not only make money but be innovative in identifying needs.


Can you remember your first lesson in business? Was it organic or did you have a mentor? How are you using what you had learned through that experience in your life today?

This is it! Finally! – Introduction

Getting started on the journey as an entrepreneur can be difficult and so can starting a blog. This has been a long time coming, and I am excited to finally be putting this out into the world. Join me on my entrepreneurial journey and let me help you with yours!

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re making things more difficult than you need to? It’s like analysis paralysis, except worse. Worse because there is such a fog that you can’t even think of were to begin. This has been my story for this blog for years! I wanted to start, and did a few times, but became very fragmented about what I was trying to accomplish.

Head Shot

Bryan Donovan – Entreprenuer

In this moment, I finally have a moment of clarity on how I want to move forward. I am typing as quickly as possible so that I don’t lose this train of thought and end up back in the thick fog.

A couple of important bits of information to provide to create some context. I am employed by a major corporation and have been working in this corporate world for a little over 15 years as of writing this post. I currently own two profitable, but small businesses and co-own another small business. I am not at a point where I feel as though I have broken through the barriers to success.

With those bits said, this leads to my primary purpose of this blog. There are countless publications and books about the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and leaders. These successful people recount their struggles and journey to where they are today after the fact. Though their stories are empowering and inspirational, I believe that they are leaving out the most painful details of their journeys. This is probably inadvertent on their part because we all have a tendency to suppress our worst experiences. Think a failed relationship for example…

Anyway, my purpose for this blog is twofold. I want to document my journey so that I can capture those heart dropping lows and the heart stopping highs of making my way through the trials of successful business ownerships. The second purpose is to help other people along their journey. This is a public forum and I encourage questions, comments, thoughts, and celebrations! There are so many things that I have experienced and I want to hear about all of your experiences in business, ideas, and desires. I am here as a resource and I’m sure that there are plenty of other people that will also lend a hand.

So this is finally it! I can finally see clearly and I’m extremely excited about this journey and the roles that all of us will play. In case you didn’t notice, you’re already part of the team because you’re reading this.

The first thing that we need to do is just take one step forward. Mine was starting this blog and getting the first post published. Take a step by commenting below about one thing that you have done that is entrepreneurial. I’m excited to take this journey and I’m happy to have you here by my side!

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