Business taxes and financials are already tricky enough to navigate, but with loans and other financially related acts surfacing in a response to COVID-19, the financial waters are even harder to tread. Luckily, in this episode of the Capitalist Sage, Steven Gu founder and CEO of Gu and Company shares some of his professional insight. Join Karl Barham, Rico Figliolini, and GU as they discuss PPP loans, the Care Act, COVID-19 response, and much more.
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/stephen.koo.5682
“We went through a change a little bit. When we do the tax plan before pre-COVID-19, we always try to focus on how to save people money. But now we are looking, not just at saving people money, saving people tax, but also helping them to generate cash. Bringing the cash to your pocket right now.”Steven gu
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:49] – About Steven
[00:04:23] – Preparing for the Crisis
[00:07:06] – The Loan Process
[00:09:13] – Large Banks vs. Community Banks
[00:13:57] – Changing Laws
[00:24:09] – The Tax Benefit Buffet
[00:30:16] – Long Term Planning
[00:35:02] – Closing
Karl: [00:00:30] Welcome to the Capitalist Sage podcast. We’re here to bring you advice and tips from seasoned pros and experts to help you improve your business. I’m Carl Barham with Transworld business advisors, and my cohost is Rico Figliolini with Mighty Rockets, digital marketing, and the publisher of the Peachtree Corners Magazine. Hey Rico. How you doing today?
Rico: [00:00:47] Good Karl. Thank you.
Karl: [00:00:49] Why don’t we get started by introducing our sponsors?
Rico: [00:00:52] Sure. Our lead sponsor for this show, as well as the other family of podcasts that we do is Hargray Fiber, and just want to introduce them. They are a regional company that handles cable fiber, optic connections. Bandwidths large for small businesses, as well as enterprise sized businesses. Providing solutions for collaborative work, providing bandwidth that’s needed for teleworking and being able to provide solutions for businesses of all sizes, customized to what they need. And they’re not the cable company, I can say that they’re not Comcast, they’re not AT&T. They are actually in your community providing services to the community and they’re there to be able to come to your door when you need them. So check them out. That’s HargrayFiber.com, or you could go to Hargray.com/business. Thank you.
Karl: [00:01:45] Oh, that’s fabulous. It’s great to see businesses that are focused on the business community here in Peachtree Corners and surrounding areas. Today, I am so blessed to get to introduce everyone to Steven Gu, who is the founder and CEO of Gu and Company, a fractional CFO tax and business advisory firm that services small and medium sized businesses. Today, we’re here to talk about EIDL loans, PPP loans, the Care Act, COVID-19 response. Lots of people have been going through reopening now. They’ve secured loans from the government and from their banks and they need to know what’s next. So we figured we’d have a conversation about that today. Hey Steven, how are you doing today?
Steven: [00:02:35] I’m good. How are you Karl? Hey Rico.
Rico: [00:02:38] Hey Steven. I gotta say thank you by the way, because I personally use Steven to help me get my PPP loans. So thank you for helping me do that.
Steven: [00:02:47] No problem.
Karl: [00:02:49] Cool. Well, you know, Steven here on the Capitalist Sage, we’re here to try to help people understand different things they can do to help their business. And we’ve been working over the last several months in helping business owners with cashflow leads. And how to access these PPP loans. But before we talk a little bit more about that, why don’t, why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about why you do and how you got to do what you do today for so many business owners.
Steven: [00:03:19] Sure. Like you introduced me, you know, we normally what we do is really tax planning and that fractional CFO service, but during the COVID-19, we helped a lot of you know small, medium businesses really helping them to secure that EIDL or the PPP loan. And also there’s other financial resources available. So that’s our mission to help them to locate as a financial security, financial, to have them survive that COVID-19. And right now, we are at the second stage. So there are lots of business already called their PTP loans. So in a way, we are helping them how to plan the PPP loan, how to know how to use them, how to use a fund. So that as those money could be forgiven and also there’s other resources, other tax incentives, tax aids, and also you know, forecasting, budgeting, how to basically help them to survive and thrive during this COVID-19.
Karl: [00:04:23] You know, so many business owners when this started were caught and were surprised by the impact on people from a health standpoint. I remember, you were one of the first people starting to warn and advise of the impact of it. Tell me a little bit about how you were able to start seeing this coming. And some of the things you started learning that we needed to do when the crisis started.
Steven: [00:04:58] Right. Actually Karl, you’re one of the people sort of bombarded by me, you know, talking about a PPP for almost three months now. And you probably didn’t know, I think way back in, in March, around the middle of March. You know, you heard me talk about the idea or the talking, sometimes they don’t, they have no word for the PPP yet right? And then we started helping people get the idea, because know, when we have our cloud, we realize this COVID-19, this how bad it’s going to impact business. And we’d realize they are EID available. So we start to reach out to our clients, tell them one, you have to look at how much cash reserve that you have. And the two is like how to take advantage of all those financial aid available. That time is just a family, family first act. Like, so we started that and that time we went a platform, the idea was a website just crashed. At the time is the only, think it’s only a $6 billion. We would apply the website crashed all the time. We don’t really know where you get, it took us, like literally 12 hours to apply for one client. And it often would get done and then the website crashed multiple times. And then in April, early April, the CARES act came out and they added the 10K advanced payment, you can repress the 10K that’s where the 10k come from. It’s added by the CARES act. And then, because, I think as they probably lost it in beta, so they said, Hey, you know, whatever you submit on account, you have to reapply. And that then made is that the bit of the process extremely simple. Now you go there, you just need to spend less than five minutes. Just go submit your request of 10K. So I could, so before that, it’s very, very complicated. So that’s how it started. And at that time though, people, when we talk about a PVP, you know, if you’ve talked to other folks in your, nobody, nobody’s talking about that. But nowadays, if you go there and talk to other CPA, other advisors, probably they talk nothing but for PPP, but it’s a journey.
Karl: [00:07:06] There was a dynamic that happened in this, about getting to the front of the line. Those that had people that one, knew how to, knew the urgency of getting these funds and the necessity for cash in their business, along with how to do it, what documents and information
was going to be required. I noticed how those people with that finance support were able to get to the front of the line and get loans. When, when folks got through that, what were some of the things that, that you saw small business owners didn’t do properly that might have delayed their ability to get some of these funds? What were some of the challenges you saw in some of your early clients in getting funding?
Steven: [00:07:56] Well, first of all, you know, for funding, they typically wait. Let’s say, a typical people is going to screw these up is you know, they don’t have a sort of financial statement, right? For the business, right? And you know, some, some businesses, they don’t even issue a W2 and that they not pay for payroll tax, right? Those are screwed the most. Basically, those are document that the bank files when you file a QPP. And the other issue we also see is really, you know, the financial, it’s not a, not ready. And, you know, tax returns are screwed up and also they’re sort of, they can do to themselves, this thought of the bigger bank is going to help them. And they, they’re just keying in a number they saw just in the application form. And they eventually going to turn it down. We saw that multiple times people just put whatever number they think. And then eventually the back comes back to, Hey, this is not accurate. And you have to wait for another one. And then first of all, the money by now, you come to the last month and the other millions of people ahead of you. So we definitely see people screw up because of that.
Rico: [00:09:13] Let me ask you something, Steven, when you helped me out, actually it was. We will be, they were between legislation, right? The second time it was coming up. We had,actually had talked about putting together the package and, we were ahead of before the legislation passed. So we were doing it ahead of time, right? Hoping that knowing sort of 90% sure that legislation was going to pass. So we were ahead of the curve a little bit, but I had other the friends that were out there that were applying through banks. And what I realized is that you can’t, you know, at the time anyway, many banks did not want to deal with you unless you had an account with them. Or you might’ve had an account with them, but you weren’t big enough.
Steven: [00:10:02] Yeah.
Rico: [00:10:03] In essence, Chase bank, wouldn’t be able to do what you want that maybe a smaller bank could or regional bank. So that’s, that’s where I saw the advantages, right? Does that make sense? Is that what you saw during that time?
Steven: [00:10:17] That’s exactly. Because, you know, we were monitoring this CARES act way before they passed, right? You know we, we read the Congress version of the PPP act. We read the earlier version, right? So we sort of know what’s going on before Trump signed that into the law. And then before he signed it into the law, we have to, we’ll started communicate the ways that different bank offers SBA lending, right? And to our surprise, we thought the bank, were excited. It’s sort of, they’re going to make lots of money. We realize the bank is not a, it’s not a very interested, especially, bigger bank. That’s to know that they cannot make too much money out of this and they’re employees are like, I have to wear the masks, go to the bank and apply, document all these things. They are not incentivized at all. And then we realized, Oh, this
is going to cause a big problem, right? Because, and also they told us like, look, we’re going to take care of our prefered customers first. I mean, it makes sense. I mean, if I’m the business owner, I would take care of my you know, the important clients first. So that’s when we realized this way, would be like, you know, is this a web of chaos? Right? And the bigger bank does not necessarily give you the best service. And they don’t necessarily have your best interests in their mind. So that’s why, that’s when we tried to persuade people, try to tell people, let’s say look, if possible, you know always go to the community bank. A small bank that you have strongest relationship that they can take care of you. They can look at to return and look, look at your application, not necessarily the bigger banks. But at that time, lots of people do not trust us. And they’re like, Oh no, I’ve been dealing with Wells Fargo for how many years. I think first of all, we’re smarter than that, you know they try to game the system. They tried to get away from doing this. This is the first time the community bank really represented the meaning of community.
Karl: [00:12:21] You’ve highlighted a key lesson that a lot of successful business owners have learned is when the crisis hit, everyone ran to their safe place. But those that had built a relationship with their local community banker. And local community banks, they saw an advantage in this particular case to do that. And we always try to advise business owners to make sure they’re having relations. We’re not saying you shouldn’t do banking at the big banks. But you should also have a relationship with the community banks who’s able to pivot, move quicker. They know who you are. They get to understand what you need and be able to provide that service to you. But I think you highlighted something else that I wanted to make sure folks realize. The people that were able to get the loans and the funding first had payroll records. They had their financial statements ready. And I know a lot of people may wait til tax time to reconcile their financial statements if they have it. But if you ever need to go to a bank or a lender, all of those records are going to need to be done. And that just really shows as a business owner. There’s an element of the business of keeping up the financial records and your scorecard that’s important to be able to react quickly should the business environment pivot.
Steven: [00:13:55] Right.
Karl: [00:13:57] So now that we’ve gotten the loans and folks have gotten the funding. I’ve seen some news come out about more laws and more rules. And when it comes to, can you explain the difference between what originally people signed, everything got easy and they just signed something. But when they signed the first time, what were the terms of those loans that they got. Why didn’t they have to pay it back? What did they have to spend it on? And has there been any changes in that in recent weeks?
Steven: [00:14:29] Yes, great question. So this is the first time I, you know, I ever deal with that. So, so much uncertainties. You know, for the PPP application itself, the department of treasury and the SBA, they issued more than 20, like rulings and guidelines more than 20 times, right? And now after people get the money, they issued a new ruling that May 16. So they issued as
that people that got PPP forgiveness, the preparation for. And a few days later the department of treasury issued a regular issue to some guidance on how to calculate the forgiveness portion. It’s, the application, PPP forgiveness application form it’s 11 pages. And as a department of treasury guide is 26 pages. Okay. And then, two weeks later now we just had a PPP flexibility act. It changes lots of things. Lots of important things, a lot of forgiveness. So it’s, it keeps changing, keep changing. So, yeah, there’s a few, let’s talk about before change. Before they make the big, before the flexibility act, they passed the law, the requirements are, you know, the money you receive. 75% of the money received has to be used on payroll and then for the remaining you can only use multi-interest, rent, or utility. Only those three, okay? And also you are required to remain a payroll number, right? A head account let’s say a full time, full time equivalent, meaning full time. Or if you have part time, you have to convert the part time into full time. Okay, so FTE, full time. So you have to maintain those payroll numbers, okay? People, how many people you have, and then you also are required to maintain the payroll level. If your payroll is reduced to more than 25% compared to prior quarter, the forgiveness amount will be reduced accordingly. A secondary requirement. That’s third requirement, the fourth requirement is you have to restore your employee headcount by June 30th. And if you don’t, then the forgiveness portion will be reduced. That’s another law. Right now under the, under the flexibility act. The 75-25 split has been changed to 60-40 split, I’ll explain why, okay? That’s one big portion. And also, previously you have, you have eight weeks to use this PPP money, eight weeks. And then, now they extended to 24 weeks. So you have more, you have more time to, to use up this PVP money, okay? And previously you only have up until June 30th to rehire, to restore your employees. But now you have up until the end of the year, okay? And, and also previously, if your PPP law is not forgiven, you have to pay back. You have two years to pay back. And then now they extend to five years. Okay, you have five years to pay it back. Okay.
Karl: [00:18:20] Why do you think, why do you think they did, they made these changes? What was the concern? What were they trying to address that they saw happening?
Steven: [00:18:29] The biggest one, there was a few things. If you think about it, once people get the money, think of a restaurant, okay? Once they get PPP money, they cannot basically, they cannot use the money for the, well that can, but even if you got the money, you probably see lots of employees they refused to return back to work. Why is the conditionings not permitted, it’s still unsafe or the restaurant simply is not open yet, right? And the third problem is really the restaurant owners are now competing with unemployment benefits. In California, for example, California state pays the employee people for like $550 a week. And the federal government matched another $600. So that’s like the people, people got to like $4,400 a month tax free, just unplanned benefit. So they are not like, they don’t want to, I make it for your, for your PPP, how much you pay for them, for the people working is probably less than $4,400. So they’re like, I would rather just stay at home, watching Netflix. I don’t want to go back to work, right? That’s why. And then for other businesses, they are really not ready to go back to business yet, right? So that means really, yeah you help the employees, but they are not ready to help as an employer because the money you’ve got already doesn’t help you restore, reopen the business, right? And so that’s why they extended that, extended the time. So say, okay, you
don’t have to use it within eight weeks. You can use it within 24 weeks so you can decide, okay, I want to restore, I will ask the five people back first and then I’ll add more and more and more. Now it really makes sense now, right? And also I get previously, like if I want to use a PPP minus, so if my employee doesn’t want to come back, should I call the state to report them? If I report to that guy he’s not getting any benefit anymore. So it was putting the employer in a very odd situation, but now you don’t have to do that because now you have up until the end of the year to rehire all the people, right? So that’s, that’s the main, that’s the main concern. The other, there was also other people, like, again, they extended to rehire period back to, pushed it back to December. So the first period that’s kind of the same concern, like, Hey, If people, what if people don’t want to come back? Or what if you know, the condition is not ready to reopen yet. So really we give people more flexibility. And plus previously you only have eight weeks to pay, to use our money basically caused some issue because you got a 2.5 of your month to payroll that’s your PPP loan. And you’ve only got two months to use it. So you really have to think about what’s the way to use it right? I have to use it on something now. But now they give you more time. So really the policy is really want to make sure you know, almost everybody can get the money, be forgiven.
Rico: [00:21:45] It sounded like, it sounds like to me, the original policy was meant to be a shot into the economy to get it moving at a point where it’s stuck in the mud and it’s not going to move, right? I mean, people, customers are not coming back as quickly, right?
Steven: [00:22:02] Right.
Rico: [00:22:03] So you got that, and you’re right about unemployment. Now unemployment runs out that extended unemployment, I think in July.
Steven: [00:22:10] July 31st. Yeah.
Rico: [00:22:11] Right. So once that runs out, one of the restaurant owners I’ve spoken to, he’s like, you know, the problem is he says, is that they don’t want to work. Like you said, because maybe they’re getting more money.
Steven: [00:22:24] Yeah, exactly.
Rico: [00:22:25] By the time they come back. Some of these restaurants may not, some of them may not reopen anymore.
Steven: [00:22:30] Right.
Rico: [00:22:31] But we hope the majority will, and there won’t be as many jobs. So they’re looking at short term money. As, as versus looking at the long term, if they’re going to have the job three months from now or a month from now.
Steven: [00:22:44] Exactly. So that comes right down the mix, especially for tip workers. Like, you know, if I hired them back, for two months and then do I just fire them again, because we’re not ready? It’ll make no sense.
Rico: [00:22:55] Yeah. And then some companies who did we talk to that was, they had the cheese business, I think. And, essentially, Oh, you weren’t in that this was a different zoom podcast, but it was a cheese manufacturer, small business you had about 50 employees. She couldn’t let go of her employees. She had to use the money. Cause how can you retrain cheese manufacturers? If you will. It’s not a job…
Steven: [00:23:22] Right.
Karl: [00:23:24] They, folks once you let people go, they might find other jobs and other places and they won’t be able to bring them back. So those are some of the things that people have to pay attention to for the PPP. They’ve gotten some flexibility, some bandwidth. What about on the tax front? I know we would, they’ve got a delay to, a six month delay or one quarter delay, excuse me, for tax from April 15th. What’s the new current deadline for tax filing it? What does it mean for business owners? What do they have to pay attention to in filing their tax? Do they have to make sure it’s filed and pay by this new date? Or is it, or what do they need to worry about Steven?
Steven: [00:24:09] Well, they’re required, actually, I call that a buffet, I call that a tax benefit buffet, a COVID-19 tax benefit buffet coming in from a different acts. Coming from CARES act, coming from your Family First act. And maybe they tried to attempt to add more in under the Hero’s act, but it did not pass. So there are a lots of things, I think I summarized eleven of them. I cannot remember them all right now. But once there is, you know, basically the IRS extended everything. Whatever you do before, it’s all extended for six months. Plus, the majority of the returns or forms are extend to July the 31st. July 15th, sorry. So you have enough time and then you don’t have to pay. The payment obligation is also extended. So you don’t have to pay. And besides that they have many other important benefits available that is worth, worth doing some tax planning. Now I want to make sure people understand the difference between tax preparation and the tax planning. So the biggest problem, Karl, you and I talk almost every week on this and before COVID-19 I was, try to always educate that to folks. Tax preparation is really a cost. Something you have to do. It’s like you’ve got all your information for last year. You give it to your tax preparer, put it in the software and then send it to IS, right. It’s just to report information you have. Tax planning is really, you have to look at lots of legal intricate structure and locality or personal life insurance, retirement, look at text, no tax costs different than the CARES act, all those things, and then come up sporadically, typically it’s done before the end of the year. For example, under the Family First Act and the CARES, they have lots of stuff. For example, they have lots of benefit. You can use, you can take advantage. One simple articles, called section 139. Section 139 was drafted really for section nine, really for 911, what time, you know, lots of victims of 911. So they passed the law. Basically say if there are certain victims, their family or your employees that are impacted by that tragedy, you can pay your employees a
certain amount to really support a family, right? But the sentence was drafted as a national disaster. So if you’re paying your employee, because of national disaster, you can, the employer can pay a certain amount to the employee and the employer can deduct those expenses. An employee does not have to include that in their income. So it’s tax free for the employees. It’s almost like double dipping, right. But it is really for the tax, for the national disaster relief. So now we have another national disaster, COVID-19, so you can do the same. You can do the same for your employee, for example, you know Karl, literally I think a you and I both now with the kids at home, we really cannot work. So we can literally, we can pay the employee. You can hire a nanny for your employee to take care of their kids so they can work, right? Or you can pay for the internet service, so maybe computer or camera, if they are required to do that to work from virtual, right? Or if you have to buy certain, something to keep them safe. As long as those are necessary expense to help them to go through this thing. Those could have be tax deductible for the, for the employers, I mean, deductible for the employer and the tax free for the employee. That’s why. And there’s quite a few other things. For example, you can always, you can get the retention credit, right? You know, if you’re keeping employees, you can get a retention credit and you can defer your payroll tax for two years. So you know, those 15.3% you’d have to pay now. And QIP, that’s very important, but if you did some qualified improvement, you are allowed to write them off immediately, right? And also like if you have net operating loss in previous years and you can, you can just, they are allowing you to carry it back and then you can convert those net operating loss into cash now. So you can receive a check now. So we went through a change a little bit, when we do the tax plan before the, pre COVID-19, we always try to focus on how to save people money. But now we are not looking, not just at saving people money, saving people tax, but also helping them to generate cash. Bring the cash to your pocket right now, so.
Karl: [00:29:22] That’s a key thing that you highlighted a couple of great, great suggestions, but I know a lot of people are impacted with employees that have to work from home. At the same time, a lot of the childcare services that were traditionally available weren’t available or aren’t available. And so these are costs that people have to account for because of COVID-19. And if I understand you correctly, there might be opportunities where you can in addressing some of those things, there might be some tax advantages or tax things you need to understand and know that can be applied to help you and your business.
Steven: [00:30:05] Yeah. Huge advantages, especially the people involved in if they do, if they have some new manufacturing boards, they have some real estate warehouse related. There is more benefit out of that.
Karl: [00:30:16] So, you know, as you think about it, we we’ve started off by talking about, COVID-19 and all the loans that help push money into the economy. I’d like to ask you to maybe take out your crystal ball a little bit. And you’ve got a perspective on, you know, the future of both from you do a lot of business with international businesses that do business in China, North America, all over the world. What are you seeing and hearing, you know, over the next year, that business owners should be considering. How not, not so much how long this is
going to last, but just what should people start preparing for when it comes to cash? The financials of their business over the longer term?
Steven: [00:31:06] What they, I would say it’s hard to predict what are the future looks like, but I think the chances are, you know, maybe yeah we’re gonna reopen. You know, maybe some, maybe school is gonna reopen in September, but eventually the risk of a second wave of infection is very high. If you’re considering given lots of negative, if you see people on the, right now into the protests. Lots of, lots of crowds. I mean, not a lot of them wear the masks. I feel like almost like the second wave is becoming evitable. So those are, how does that impact the business? I think we needed to really consider what, we have to plan out what if the second wave is true, will come? And does the business have to shut down again. How do you plan, right? How much, you have to look at, you know what if your business just returns to only 90% or 50% or 20% and how much cash you have? What if they use up all the PPPs? What if there’s no more free money from the government, right? How much your burn rate you have? How much money you have in your bank and how much money you have before you use up all your critical or other loans? So that’s the thing I think, as a, the business to think about, I know you do, they have to really think about it. And right now we do, we have the client do some forecasting budgeting. They look at your cash, you know earn rate and do some prediction on how much revenue you can incur that, how much to recover the revenue loss during the lockdown. And in the future, how much they’re sort of factoring the possibility of second wave. Anyway, it’s really become the exercise of doing a, doing a forecasting budgeting and getting prepared.
Karl: [00:32:59] This is critical. We just experienced about 11 to 12 year expansion, economic expansion. So there’s a lot of business owners that came into the business over that period of time. And they didn’t have to focus on the financials, the cashflow of their business for the last 10 years, because they were growing consistently. It was predictable. When you enter into a period of uncertainty and we don’t know the probability of a second wave, or even other things that are impacting the economy happening over the next 24 months. But planning the financial scenarios, what cash you need, what lending or borrowing or equity injections is going to be needed, where you need to pivot your business. How much will that cost to do. If you need to remodel your restaurants to enable social distancing from its current floor plan, you might need a general contractor and other funding that. There are mechanisms to fund that, but you need a plan, financial plan for your business to be able to do that. And that’s where if you have the skill set and knowledge to manage the financial of your business, now’s the time to use it. If you don’t have that knowledge and skill, now’s the time to learn it or to reach out to people that can help you. Your business might depend on it over the next 24 months. So I think it’s wise advice that you describe the role of a CFO in your business, no matter their size. Because it’s looking forward on how to plan for the financial needs of your business versus rearward looking on what did you do last year and how much taxes you owe. So really appreciate you sharing some of those ideas and tips with us. How would people get in touch with you if they wanted to learn more about tax planning, COVID-19 financial planning and others.
Steven: [00:35:02] Well, if they’re already connect with you, you know, just send you an email, but I can also be reached by firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s my email. And I do either a one point, Karl and Rico, you probably agree with me on this. I call myself a war time, COVID-19 war time CFO. Really we have to plan ahead, but I think we will never return to what we were three months ago, or even maybe six months ago. We will never. Because look at, we have 38 million in unemployment. Think about that. Even if we add 1 million a month at an average of one million a month, that’s going to take 38 months. Probably we will never again, we will never return to what we used to be. So we really need to plan. We need to plan ahead.
Rico: [00:35:56] I agree with you that we need to plan ahead. I’m hoping that we do return at some point somewhere. It might take a year. It was that boom economy for the last 10 years, like Karl said, can be a bit tough to do that anytime soon, I’m sure.
Karl: [00:36:14] Or industries will change. I think, you know, we are able to adapt. That is one thing that both here in America and around the world, we adapt to changes. After 911 flying on planes were different, but they, the people flew again and people travel and new industries emerge. Uber is a post 911 industry that, that flourished and there’ll be others. For the business owners that are out there trying to navigate today. The goal is survival. But also start looking forward to how to change the nature of your business for what the future may look like. Those that are able to do that faster, they’re going to be more successful in the long run.
Rico: [00:37:02] Especially with businesses like Steven said that have to look at maybe a second wave coming. So just be prepared. If you’re going to have to close down again, if that’s what we have to do,
Steven: [00:37:13] Right. Again, not all the business were impacted all the same. Some are really, they probably could have, cannot survive. Some are just impacted a bit, they can bounce back. But some are, is just a beneficiary out of the COVID-19, the Ecommerce, you know, some health care. You, know, it’s different.
Karl: [00:37:31] Well, again, I’d like to thank Steven Gu. He is the founder and CEO of a Gu and Company, a fractional CFO tax and business advisory firm. You shared a lot of great information. For some people you know, this might highlight some opportunities where they can get more precise and efficient with how they run their business and whether they reach out to their accountant or anybody else, or reach out to you. It’s time for folks to really pay attention to this important aspect. If nothing else taught us a lesson, when the government had free money to give out those that knew what to do and how to do it, and those that had their books and records and good accurate business records, they got to the front of the line, they got the money quicker. And so should that happen again, people have a personal mission to look at their own situation and see if they can make some improvements. So they’re more ready for the next, the next time. Thank you very much. We’d like to thank everybody for tuning in to the Capitalist Sage podcast we’re continuing to have new and interesting guests come in and talk about things to help you improve your business. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business
Advisors, Atlanta Peachtree. And believe it or not, this has been a time where people have reevaluated what’s important in life and we have more qualified buyers and investors in businesses that you would think. People are looking to invest in different businesses. And we help them find the right business. If you’re a business owner and you decided that, you know, you want to move on to other things in your life. There is a process to help get your business sold so that you can do what’s next. And so feel free to contact myself, one of my agents. We’ll be able to help you with that. You can reach us at KBarham@TWorld.com or visit our website www.TWorld.com/AtlantaPeachtree. Rico, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you’ve got coming up?
Rico: [00:39:41] Sure. Before I get to that. Steven don’t don’t log off when we sign off, hang in there for a few minutes. And for those that need Steven Gu’s information, I’ll make sure it’s in the show notes also. So you can track back to his Facebook or LinkedIn pages, or certainly reach out to me or call. But you know, Peachtree Corners magazine. The newest issue is in the mailboxes. I got mine today, so hopefully everyone’s getting them their copy over the next few weeks. We’ve been fortunate to have a support of the city, local businesses continuing to advertise. So it’s a strong issue. This one’s about, stories that brighten our spirits. So a lot, a lot of people doing a lot of different things during COVID-19. People making, so Steven Shininess is our cover story, along with four other stories of people that have decided to do different things than what they were originally doing. So he’s 3D printing face masks. Howill Upchurch is a videographer, but he also creates guitars. So he was making guitars in his workshops. And there’s a bunch of people like that. Lots of stories. So pick it up. You could pick it up at, there’s still places that are carrying the publication that are able to do it in this COVID-19 environment. So check them out. Dunkin Donuts, Ingles, lots of restaurants that are opened for dining. You’ll see, you’ll see it there. Or go to living in PeachtreeCorners.com, you can find the digital edition there. Mighty Rockets, that’s what I do, social media, videography and all that. We’re still doing gangbusters, so there’s a lot of work out there for what I’m doing for companies. I need to get online, whether they’re doing a webinar or podcasts or other things, I’m busy doing that. So MightyRockets.com. You can email me Rico@mightyrockets.com and I’ll help you guys out.
Karl: [00:41:40] Well, thank you again, Steven for joining us today. And for everybody out there, stay strong. Keep pushing forward. Take care. Have a great day.
CMX CinéBistro Reopens. Popcorn time!
As if the holidays aren’t enough to look forward to, CMX CinéBistro at Peachtree Corners Town Center reopens on November 24! With precautionary measures in place and new policies implemented, CMX CinéBistro is excited to welcome you back from a safe distance.
The nostalgic experience of movie date nights, box office releases, the smell of movie theatre popcorn and the announcement to “sit back and enjoy the show” are all waiting for you. The lineup of movies you don’t want to miss include Let Him Go, Tenet, Freaky, War with Grandpa, Honest Thief, and Elf. CMX is offering new releases and holiday classics to make your return one to remember.
While you enjoy your movie, you can kick back with a classic meal or cocktail from CinéBistro’s new limited menu. As previews are shown, start with an appetizer such as the popcorn chicken or truffle tots. Once the movie begins, move on to your main course of a 14oz NY Strip featured meal or the house-made veggie burger paired with a mojito or beer on draft. As the movie comes to an end, end your night with bottomless traditional popcorn or fan-favorite movie candy.
Enjoy the magic of cinema with special savings! Come on Tuesdays to experience Tempting Tuesdays and save with $5 movie tickets and chef-crafted combos for $18. As a token of appreciation for all medical heroes, free movie tickets on Sundays are offered to all front-line workers. Can’t make it on Tuesdays or Sundays? Special prices for all weekdays are offered.
New age policies are in place such as guests 17 and under must be accompanied by a parent or guardian for R-rated films with ID required and children 12 and under must be accompanied by a parent or guardian at all times when visiting the theater. CMX CinéBistro is also offering private screenings to make your experience back feel as safe as possible. Bookings for a private screening for you and your loved ones to celebrate the latest occasion are available as part of CMX CinéBistro’s efforts to make you feel comfortable upon your return. You can begin booking now!
Source– Press Release by Peachtree Corners Town Center
City of Peachtree Corners Receives Silver Award for its Business Newsletter
The city of Peachtree Corners won a silver category award for its Peachtree Corners Business Newsletter project in the Magazine and Newsletter category of the International Economic Development Council’s 2020 Excellence in Economic Development Awards Program. The honor was presented recently at an awards ceremony during the IEDC Annual Conference.
IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. Thirty-five award categories honor organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban, and rural communities. Awards are judged by a diverse panel of economic and community developers from around the world, following a nomination process held earlier this year. IEDC received over 500 submissions from four countries.
The city of Peachtree Corners started a monthly business newsletter in April 2020 during the
COVID-19 crisis to establish 2-way communication with the business community. The publication is in its fifth month and has already increased communication between the business community and the city. It is sent via email to approximately 4,000 business people in the city. People have taken the opportunity to ask questions about a variety of topics from alcohol licenses to special events at the Town Center.
“These challenging times require extraordinary effort to support the business community,
especially small businesses,” said Mayor Mike Mason. “The Peachtree Corners’ Business Newsletter was developed to address the current crisis and the city’s critical concern for the local business community. Kudos to Economic Development Manager Jennifer Howard for creating a very timely and highly informative resource that, we believe, has contributed to the sustainability of the local economy.
The newsletter highlights job growth, company expansions, and new businesses coming to town. In his column, the mayor speaks directly to the businesses, providing data, and some reassurance that the local governments are working to assist them.
“The winners of IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development awards represent the very best of
economic development and exemplify the ingenuity, integrity, and leadership that our profession strives for each and every day,” said 2020 IEDC Board Chair and One Columbus CEO Kenny McDonald. “We’re honored to recognize the more than 100 communities whose marketing campaigns, projects and partnerships have measurably improved regional quality of life.”
Choosing, planning and Growing a Business, with Barry Adams, owner of Peachtree Awnings
What to consider when starting a business. How to choose the business for you. How to consider when planning your first three years of business. In this episode of the Capitalist Sage Podcast, Karl Barham and Rico Figliolini talk with Barry Adams, founder, and owner of Peachtree Awnings and Tennessee Awnings about his experience in the business world. Barry shares some insightful tips and tricks to help any small or large business owner through their journey through entrepreneurship.
Where to find the topic in the show – Timestamp:
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:01:58] – About Barry and Peachtree Awnings
[00:07:36] – Learning from Experience
[00:10:20] – Making Business Decisions
[00:12:26] – Impact of a Formal Education
[00:14:59] – Business Impact of COVID
[00:17:31] – How to Make Your Business Thrive
[00:23:08] – Making a Business Plan
[00:25:31] – Learning New Things
[00:30:19] – Looking to the Future
[00:32:44] – Innovations
[00:34:17] – Growing Through People
[00:36:55] – Helping the Community
[00:41:23] – Closing
Karl: [00:00:30] Welcome to the Capitalist Sage Podcast. We’re here to bring you advice and
tips from seasoned pros and experts to help you improve your business. I’m Karl Barham with
Transworld Business Advisors and my co-host is Rico Figliolini with Mighty Rockets Digital
Marketing and the publisher of the Peachtree Corners magazine. Hey Rico, how’re you doing
Rico: [00:00:49] Hey Karl. Pretty good, beautiful day. Thank God the power’s on versus last
week. Before we get into the show, let me introduce our lead sponsor Hargray Fiber. They’re a
great Southeast company that works in fiber optics and IT management working to make you a
business sound and be able to communicate with the rest of the world. Whether it’s, you’re at
home teleworking employees or in office, cause COVID is still going on, right? So many different
people are working it differently. And here in Peachtree Corners, they’re very involved. They’re
involved with Curiosity Lab that Peachtree Corners. They’re involved with the city. They’re really
in tune with the community and that’s how they are with every community they’re in. So unlike
the cable guy, these guys are here right in the community that they’re working in. If you need
them, they’re there for you. So any business, whether you’re small or enterprise size, they can
work the systems for you, provide the office tools that you can work with as well. So visit them at
HargrayFiber.com and find out a little bit more about our lead sponsor. We’re thankful for them.
Karl: [00:01:58] Sounds good. Well, thank you Rico for introducing our sponsor. Today’s guest is
Barry Adams, CEO, and founder of Peachtree Awnings. Local, small business that’s located
here in Gwinnett County and one of the business leaders in the community that we’re glad to
have as a guest with us today. Hey Barry, how are you doing?
Barry: [00:02:20] Great Karl. It’s good to be here.
Karl: [00:02:23] Good. Why don’t you introduce yourself a little bit? Tell a little bit about yourself
and what you do.
Barry: [00:02:29] Yeah. I’m Barry Adams the owner of Peachtree Awnings and Canopies I own
the local shop and also Tennessee Awnings up in Nashville service and middle Tennessee up
in the Nashville area. So we are a manufacturer of custom commercial and residential awnings
of all shapes and sizes. We serve the local Atlanta area, but we go outside of Atlanta too. So
we’ve got a pretty good reach. And we’ve been in business for 15 years. I started the company
in 2005. And then acquired an existing awning company in Nashville in 2012. So I’ve had that
shop up there in Nashville for eight years now, and 15 years here in Atlanta. So it’s been a labor
of love. I can tell you that any small business owner, I think, would say the same thing is that,
you know, you do it and you do it because you really are passionate about your product or your
service and whatever you do. You gotta dig in everyday in kind of the same way.
Karl: [00:03:40] So I’m curious, did you grow up in a small business family? What was, what did
you do before?
Barry: [00:03:46] Well, that’s great question, Karl. Actually, my grandfather had the
entrepreneurial spirit because I think he had four or five businesses by the time he was in his
mid forties. A couple of restaurants to his name, ended up having a landfill. And this is all in the
Southern California area. And so he definitely had the entrepreneurial spirit. You know, my
mother’s side, my grandfather on my mother’s side owned a grocery store in the Southern part
of Illinois. And so he was a, both a farmer and a grocer. And so I think I come by it naturally, the
Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. So it definitely was in my genes, I think, to be a small
Karl: [00:04:33] So when you were deciding to start off, what were you considering and how did
you come to that decision? What were some of the factors that you considered?
Barry: [00:04:40] Yeah, I was, it was 2005 and I was in my MBA program, executive MBA
program at Kennesaw state and I knew I wanted to start a business and wasn’t sure exactly
what I wanted to do. I was working with a business consultant that was pointing me in different
directions. I ended up buying, actually buying a franchise business. I got close with several
businesses. I looked at sign businesses. I really tried to give myself a lot of green space, a lot of
greenfields to look at a lot of different businesses. I looked at non-invasive skin procedures. I
looked at a lot of different things and got very close with sign businesses, but I wanted
something a little bit more differentiated. And so they said, how about awnings? And I had never
thought about awnings, never had really even looked at awnings. But I’m an engineer by
education. And so the more I looked at it, I said, I think I can, I think I could do this because you
design the product that you end up building and installing. And so it fit my skillset particularly
well. And so there in January of 2005, we kind of set sail having never built an awning or never
installed an awning. I bought into a franchise business and they educated me about how to build
awnings and how to install awnings. We climbed that learning curve very, very, very fast. So it
was really a challenging time, that first three years of being in business. Of course, the
recession started at like two double ’09. So shortly after that it was, you know, it was a little bit of
Rico: [00:06:27] Well, I’ve got to give a little testimonial shout out to Barry because I must have
been one of the first of the half dozen of regional clients that Barry had. And it was beautiful. I
think it was a summer. It was definitely a summer day. And you put in the awning that I still have
15 years later. Still working, retractable working, and I’m not a maintenance type of guy. So the
cables might be a little rusted and stuff and the fabric might be a little bit dull, but it’s working
fine 15 years later.
Barry: [00:07:04] I can’t tell you how much we appreciate that too Rico, because at that stage in
our career, we, you know, in our business development, I didn’t have any orders and I didn’t
have any customers. So you were, you know, every time I came back to the shop and I had an
order, you know, it was time for celebration really. Because we didn’t, we did not have any
customers at that time. And every time we added one to our, you know, to our stable of
customers, we were really excited. So great times. Thanks for that.
Karl: [00:07:36] So I’m curious about that first year. Is there anything that you’ve learned that if
you wish you knew someone told you about in that first two to three years, about business,
about being a small business owner that you’d pass on to someone else starting on?
Barry: [00:07:54] Well, yeah, a couple of things come to mind Karl, one of the things is, I think
you can plan to be big, but think small starting out. Think small. I bought used office furniture. I
bought used trucks. People want to go, a lot of times they want to, you know, want to buy, have
the biggest, best or newest anyway, the newest and best of everything. And I would say think
small, plan to be bigger, but think to start out think small. Because you can always scale it up
from there. Based on your success or your, you know, your volume. The other thing is of
course, be a planner and I can’t emphasize that enough on the small business side. Be a
planner and always be thinking about that next step that you want to take. It doesn’t have to be
five years out there, but it definitely has to be 12 to 18 months out there. And then think about
that next step. Think about it like you’re, you know, crossing a river, a very, very turbulent river
and you have to step across those rocks very carefully as you cross from one bank to the other
bank. Now, once you start to cross the river, you can’t go back to the other bank, right? You
know, that’s not an option. So, you know, I often say it’s not about making all the right decisions.
It’s about making the decisions that you make right. Once you make a decision. Don’t worry
about whether you, well, have I made rights, make it, try to make it right. You know, and you’re
not going to make every decision 100% right. But I can tell you that if you’re making eight,
seven, eight, nine decisions out of 10 or 80 out of a hundred or 90 out of a hundred correctly,
you’re going to be in rarified air, right? You’re going to be among those small business owners
that are really, really super successful. So it’s not about making all the right decisions and don’t
agonize over. Wow, you know, once you have the information that you have and frequently it’s
incomplete, right. And we don’t have the benefit of having the whole, all the puzzle pieces in
front of us. But once you’ve got enough information to make that, make the decision and then go
about making it right.
Karl: [00:10:20] It’s actually, I can talk about decision-making even at the beginning. What would
you advise people that are struggling with making decisions. To get it right or wrong. But you
know, a lot of folks can’t even make the decision to buy that business, start that business grow,
invest, make that hiring choice. How do you get through that?
Barry: [00:10:42] Yeah, it’s that, you’re right. That is probably the toughest decision because
you’re now, you may be leaving something that’s safe and secure. You may be leaving an
income that’s a known quantity. Which I was leaving something that was very insulated and
insular and embarking on something that’s very uncertain and very unknown. And that’s a very
scary thing. You know, I think it’s important to make sure, obviously that you’re wall capitalized,
you know, that you are not embarking on something that you can’t sustain through the most
difficult period of your business tenure or your business career. And you got to make it through
that first year years. And I can tell you factually that I did take a plug nickel out of my business
the first three years that I was in business. Now that’s a very, very difficult you’re like, well, how
did you do that? Well, make sure you’re well-capitalized and that you can sustain yourself. You
can get real skinny, you know, for a period of time, but you’ve got, you still have to put food on
your table. You still have to pay your mortgage. And so you have to from a personal standpoint,
make sure that you can sustain yourself through those first three years. And plan, really, almost
to the effect that you’re not maybe not going to take an income for that first three years. What
does that look like? Can you sustain yourself through that first three years without taking any
money out of your businesses? There’s a likelihood that you’re going to have to, anything that
you make, you’re going to have to plow back into the business, particularly in that first three year
period of time.
Karl: [00:12:26] That makes a lot of sense. And that’s good advice for folks. You mentioned that
you got an MBA, what effect and impact do you think that that had? A lot of small business
owners don’t get that formal business education. Do you think that’s impacted how you
approach your business?
Barry: [00:12:45] Well, first of all, you know getting my executive MBA at Kennesaw was
definitely a catalyst to me starting my business. I think the Genesis of me starting my business
began as I embarked on that program. And so it was definitely a catalyst for me. I think you
know, I pull some parts or pieces of my MBA program every day, sometimes unknowingly. You
know, but I draw on that experience. You know, I think that the best life experiences, combine
that kind of formal education that you got in the classroom and you can go back as far as you
want, with the practical knowledge that you gained when you’re in the field or when you’re
practicing. And that goes for everything from, the first job that you may have ever had in a fast
food restaurant or cutting lawns. And so you learned something when you were in the
classroom, but that’s formal education without practical experience is almost useless, right? It’s
very antiseptic. It’s very institutional. And so you’ve got to combine the formalized, the education
and instruction that you get with practical knowledge. If you only have practical knowledge, then
it had no frame, right? It had no real design to it and it had no organization. It didn’t step you
through things sequentially. So I always like to think that my best, you know, my best
experience comes from the formalized education that I got and then the practical things that I’m
learning out in the field or through the school of hard knocks.
Karl: [00:14:33] I agree. I notice that a lot of folks, and I meet different types of business owners,
the ones that have formal education. What I notice is they’ve got, they avoid some basic mistake
things that helps kind of guide them. But also they also feel more confident and have a handle
on unknowns being thrown at them. So take 2020.
Barry: [00:14:57] Right. You know, you’re right.
Karl: [00:14:59] You’re running the business, things are going good. And then, how soon did you
know something was happening related to coronavirus and so on. And when did you start
thinking about the possible impact on your business?
Barry: [00:15:13] Well, I think everybody, you know, kind of woke up in mid March and said, my
gosh, what’s, you know, what’s happening? What’s happening here? And it was very uncertain.
We wanted to protect our associate base. We want to protect our families. And then early on, I
guess I would say, you know, in the first couple of weeks in April, about 30 days after we’d
gotten into the Corona or pandemic environment that we. You know, I pulled the audience, I
pulled my associates and I found that they really wanted to work. I mean, of course they really
wanted to work because they knew that their livelihood and income was at risk if we were to
stop, you know, stop work for any reason. We were fortunate that we had projects, orders to fill.
And so we had work that needed to be done. And so I can’t say it was business as usual, but
the word that I kind of continue to use with my team and with the people that I talk to is balance,
you know. I try not to be fearful of the current environment in that we still have a job to do, and
we try to press forward. But neither can we be cavalier about the threats and the things that are
happening out in the marketplace. And so we have to have our head up all the time. Just like
you’re on a ball field, you have to have your head up and on a swivel sometimes to make sure
you’re not going to get hit broadside from somewhere. But nor can you be redisant or you can’t
be fearful or tentative. And so we’ve tried to strike that balance. We’ve tried to protect our
associate base when we go out to projects, certainly for sure residential projects. You know, we
mask up and we go, when we’re in people’s homes or around people’s homes, we make sure
that we’re taking the proper precautions. It’s not business as usual. But we’re pressed forward
and it’s not easy. But I think that it’s suited my associate population that people really, really
want to work. And we’ve been able to make a lot of progress this year and that’s not been easy,
Karl: [00:17:31] We noticed a lot of, this year, at the beginning we talked a lot about a bridge
plan. And it was just simply when this hit a lot of businesses. What do you do to get through this
and empower through and excel? And in the bridge plan, it talked about, you know, making sure
you knew what your break even was and reducing expenses. How do we figure out ways to
pivot and increase income with your business as well as how do you communicate and stay
contact with your customers? But the last two, G and E, was around get working. Like just get
out there and start, you know, when other people are wondering what to do the strong, they’re
gonna figure out a way to do that. And hopefully it leads you to excelling. When you understood
what was happening, what were some of the things you decided to do in your business to try to
not just survive this, but actually to thrive?
Barry: [00:18:23] Well, you know, we did talk, we moved, actually moved our shop in this
environment. We moved up to Lawrenceville. We moved our shop from Norcross to the
Lawrenceville. And so we, there was an opportunity there. The SBA has been helpful. Gave us
a little bit of tailwind. I always say it’s all about the hustle. You know, it’s all about the hustle. You
know, and, I like to think when other people are at home with their feet up on the coffee table,
I’m making that last sales call of the day. And my team is making that last sales call today or
Friday when some people are knocking off at three o’clock, you know, I’m going from whistle to
whistle, you know, and I’m going to go all the way to five o’clock in the evening. And, it’s all
about work and hard work and sweat equity. And the gritty and gutty people in this world
survive. And that’s, I’m a grinder and I just don’t know any other way around that. And so, and in
this environment, I think you can just need to, you need to retrench and look for opportunities.
I’ve tried to be an opportunist and that’s a hallmark, I think of my business career is just trying to
be an opportunist. And so when other people, other businesses may be retreating, you know,
that’s a great time to forge ahead because they may be either pulling back from a marketing
standpoint or a sales standpoint. And so going forward, really charging forward or finding that
pathway is really, really important.
Karl: [00:20:04] It’s interesting. As you said that, I was suggesting to some business associates,
they had strong businesses going in, that it was a time to double down and reinvest and there
were some simple things. It might be training people. If you were shut down for a month, what
training did you never have time to do before that you could implement? Marketing. What a
better time to go talk to more customers, communicate, launch campaigns cause those
customers are out there. But when everybody was quiet, looking at charts every day, you know,
what messages were they thinking about as far as, you know, ways to have shade in backyards
and different things like that. And who’s communicating to them through that. What are some
other things you see people that have really thrived through this and are really poised for
breaking out in the future?
Barry: [00:21:00] Yeah. And you brought up some great, great things, Karl. You know, training
and education and reinvesting equipment. Of course, if I go back in my business career now,
this is not, I say this is not the first difficult economic time that I’ve encountered in the lifespan of
my business. Because as I said earlier, 2009, 10 and 11, we were in the throws of a real, you
know, real recession. And so, again, while other people were pulling back on marketing dollars,
I never cut my marketing budget, not one dime. You know, when other people were looking to
reduce head count, we never reduced. We never reduced head count. Take those people and
see where they’re going to be best utilized in your business. Be a planner, I’d make a plan.
Every single, business year I do not go into the ensuing year without a business plan. And so
this time of year it is the heart of my business planning period. And so November, December,
when I put my plan together for 2021. So I will not go into the ensuing year without a business
plan. And once I make that plan, while I do make some adjustments, some small minor
adjustments and tweak it, the plan is the plan is the plan. And I don’t very much for my plan
when I embark on a direction and I will tweak it, but I won’t make wholesale changes. I will not
slash dollars. You know, if I had set those aside, there has to be a real catastrophic event for
me to change my direction, based on my plan. And so I try to stick to the plan that I’ve created
and we’ll make some adjustments, but the plan is the plan is the plan. And I think to the extent
that you’re able to really stick to that, and that’s a discipline, by the way. It’s really, you gotta
have the discipline to stick to your plan. Especially when things get a little bit Rocky.
Rico: [00:23:08] Can I ask you Barry, what, you know, just to get into the weeds a little bit, just
the meat of it, if you will. So this way, because people hear plans and they’re not sure what does
that mean? You know, what’s involved? What’s actually in the plan, let’s say for example. So
could you give an idea of what that, you know, two or three points, what that means as what’s in
a plan for you? Is it a sales goal? Is it a dollar amount? Is it adding a truck? What’s in a plan for
Karl: [00:23:34] If somebody were to look at your plan, how would you describe that?
Barry: [00:23:39] No question. I mean, I think it starts with you know, it really does start with your
marketing and sales planning conjunction. You’re either going to, you’re going to look for
geographic extensions. You’re going to look for product extensions. So that’s going to drive your
marketing. So I’m going to advertise, or I’m going to push this product forward with my sales
team or with my marketing dollars. And then, so out of that marketing plan that comes from your
strategic goals that I want to grow in this geographic area, I want to grow in this product group, I
wanna, you know, I want to reach these customers, this and then you create a, you know, out of
that kind of marketing plan comes your sales plan, you know? And so now you’ve got, you’ve
kind of fleshed that out with your team. You know, these people are going to produce this
amount, you know, in terms of selling or sales dollars. And then rolling down from that,
obviously your expense model. And for us I say there’s not a lot of moving parts and pieces. It’s
gotten bigger. At first there was not a lot of moving parts and pieces. There’s more than there
was, but your expense model flows out of that. And so then, you know, this is not a difficult
equation, right? You have sales and you have expenses and that produces profits. You know, I
think Bill Gates said that originally, you know, it’s like, let’s not overthink this. The sales
expenses, the bottom line is profits. And that’s what we’re, you know, that’s what we’re trying to
drive. And so, but it kind of starts out of your marketing ideas and where you want to go
strategically. And then you can decide, you know, what kind of revenue, what kind of volume
you’re going to create from there and what kind of expenses you’re going to take on.
Karl: [00:25:31] I’m curious in your industry, typically I sort of look at where to market. How do
you learn what’s going on in your industry, your market, how do you know what’s going to be
things that you need to react to or things where there’s opportunities? How do you as you and
your team learn things?
Barry: [00:25:51] Well, I think you gotta be in touch with your sales team. First of all, it was to
start out with, it was just me. And so I had to be head up all the time active in my community,
active in the business community, active in my trade association, looking for changes. You
know, I really do think about it as a business owners, like a ship and I’m in the wheel house and
you know, I’m in the wheelhouse and I’m guiding the ship or the captain has gotta be
responsible to be looking out there and seeing what kind of weather conditions are changing,
you know? What’s changing and the tack of the ship and that kind of thing. And so as a
business owner, I have to have my head up and I have to be aware of industry changes, market
conditions and market changes and opportunities for us to, you know, to make hay while the
sun shines. And so, as an example, like home improvement in this COVID environment has
fared very, very well. People were home for months at a time, and they were not spending
money on vacations and going out to eat. Theater and concerts and ball games. And so they
looked for opportunities to improve their homes. And so as a result, that part of our business
has as flourished in this environment. So, as the captain, you have to be head up, looking
around, you know, active in your community. So many people, I think so many business owners,
they get stuck with their head on the desk, you know. Head up off the desk and eyes forward
and see what’s going on and being very much in contact with what is going on around me.
Karl: [00:27:45] There must have been a point in your business when you were doing
everything. And for you to start being able to work on the business and do that and keep your
head up. There was a inflection point where that sort of happened. Can you tell us what that
was like and how does someone else know when that’s happening and how to navigate that?
Barry: [00:28:05] Yeah, that’s great. That’s great Karl cause it takes me back to like 2007, eight
and nine. And I was literally on the ladder. I was on the ladder installing. You know, I think that
first year of 2005, I know I did 110, 109 or 110 jobs. And I installed all hundred nine or a
hundred and ten in that year. And I was on those first three or four years, I was on the ladder
installing the stuff that I sold, you know. I think Rico, I think I installed your awning as well. But,
you know, at some point I think it was long about probably 2008 and nine. I said, I can’t run my
business from the top of the ladder. And so, there’s that continuum, right? It starts out, operator
there’s operator on one side and there’s owner on the other side. And there’s this continuum
from operator, owner operator to owner. So many small business owners get stuck at that
operator phase. They never even, they can never even push the needle toward owner operator,
right. They just get stuck in that operator phase. And around 2008, nine was like, I can’t run my
business from the top of the ladder. And so I started to add head count. I added a sales guy, I
added an installer. And so instead of three of us, there was now five of us. And those are, you
know, those are steps that you make and you’ve got your plan. You’re planning for it though in
your business plan, you’re still like, do you know what. I think by the end of this year, I’m going
to get to five, you know, by the end of 2009. And it was at five people, you know, and I realized,
you know, with a drill in my hand, you know, and screws and hanging an awning over my head,
I was like, I can’t. It worked for the first three years that I was in business, but then about eight,
nine, 10, I was like, I need more help. And then you make those steps, but I can tell you that
that was that adding those heads was a part of my plan for that year.
Karl: [00:30:19] But that’s an important insight that it did definitely be highlight the first part that,
that strikes the rings so true. Those first three years. Let’s make no illusion right? It’s work.
You’re an operator. You’re doing all those. If you are operating a small business, that comes
with the territory of it. But then you have to have a plan to move away. It doesn’t happen
magically. Like people didn’t just drop into your lap and they changed. The best, make a plan to
scale that and start shifting through that. I’m curious, what does the future look like now that
you’ve gone this far along? How far do you look out and how do you start to figure out, you
know, what do you want to do? And what do you want it to be in five years, 10 years?
Barry: [00:31:05] Right, yeah. Right. Well, even in this environment, we moved into a brand new
30,000 square foot facility in Lawrenceville, Georgia. A lot of our product now has shifted from
fabric linings, which is what people think about when they think about awnings and canopies.
Though a lot of our work now is actually metal. We do a lot of metal architectural canopies. We
serve the general contractor trade now. A lot more of our work is B to B and not business, B to
C business to consumer, but B to B. And so, you know, we’ve migrated a good bit in the 15
years we’ve been in business, but we’re a brand new 30,000 square foot facility. We’re going to
add powder coating. I won’t get into the weeds with that industrial process, but it’s a painting
process. We have a lot of our product, metal product is powder-coated. We’re going to start a
powder coating operation, here in Atlanta anyway, into 2021. So that’s going to be a big part of
our 2021 plan is a separate business unit, Peachtree Powder Coating. It’s complimentary, it
dovetails in with Peachtree Awnings and Canopies as well as the operation that we have up in
Tennessee Awnings. So, we’re going to have a real robust plan and I’m not going to, I’m not
planning to retreat in 2021. We’re going to keep forging ahead. This will be a product extension
as opposed to the geographic, you know, organic growth that we, you know, we’ve talked about.
Karl: [00:32:44] I’m curious about technology and how is technology impacting your business
and how do you, you know, how do you incorporate some new technologies? When people
think of awnings, has there been a lot of innovation that we’re not aware of that’s happening and
is there more to come?
Barry: [00:33:01] Not a lot of, you know, our product is a very, very old tried and true product. I
mean, you know, awnings and coverage, it goes back to the time when somebody, you know,
made an umbrella or threw a bare cloth over their head to protect themselves from the
elements. And so our product has been around for a very, very long time. As I said a lot of the
changes and a lot of changes in the products and the materials that we’re using in our products.
A lot of the product, fabric is still is used, still widely used and you’ll still see that product out in
the marketplace. But a lot of it is now architectural metals. There’s been a lot of changes though
on the shop floor, things that help us become more efficient. Job costing pieces of software
there’s been a lot of software, you know, we do a lot of rendering now to help people visualize
that awning or canopy on their home or business. So we’re utilizing rendering software on the
sales side, we’re using the software on the shop floor to help us be more efficient and that’s
going to help us, I think, in the next year to a couple of years.
Karl: [00:34:17] Well, one more question. When you see most businesses grow, there’s an
element that they can’t be ignored when it comes to people. And what’s constraints growth very
often as people. How do you manage through that dynamic and grow your business with
Barry: [00:34:36] Yeah. That’s, you know, recruiting and selecting, I think is really at the heart
lifeblood of just about every business. Not just small business, but every business. And so, I’ve
tried to always make a part of my plan the people plan, the recruiting and selecting being a large
part of that. We were fortunate when we moved up to Lawrenceville now. There you go, we’re
five minutes away from Gwinnett tech. You know, Gwinnett tech is a great source of fabricators,
welders, people with technical skills and expertise. And so what did I do? First thing, you know,
within three weeks of landing up there. I was on the phone with the people in their fabrication,
welding department. And we had the first, I say student graduate, start this week. You know,
and I have another one lined up that’s gonna start in three weeks, so right before Thanksgiving.
So, recruiting and selecting, extremely important, not just at small business, but every business.
And that’s proved to be very difficult in this environment.
Karl: [00:35:47] So specifically, how do you find the right people in your organization?
Barry: [00:35:54] I always will say that the best people in our company will continue to come
from other people in our company, they’re already our company. So quite frequently, I think the
best people in our company come from referrals from associates that are already working for us.
That’s a tough sell. People are doing their jobs and they, you know, but if you could help them
for information. This young man who came to us from Gwinnett tech came from one of the guys
who works for us, who is a student at Gwinnett tech. He helped recruit this guy, helped us
create that little pipeline now. And so that’s going to be very helpful for us. I mean, you know, we
use some of the traditional methods too, like Indeed.com just to give them a plug. We use
Indeed.com and we get a lot, you know, we have a funnel. But we, I still think that the best
people in our company come from other people already in our company.
Karl: [00:36:55] So one last thing I wanted to ask you about just in the context, I know you get
involved in the community a lot. And what role as a business leader, are there things that you’re
passionate about or things that you get involved with? Just to help the community in general.
Barry: [00:37:13] Yeah, I can’t stress enough the importance of being a good corporate citizen
and pay it forward. And I think that we have responsibility as business owners to give freely to
others what’s freely given to us as a baseline. And so, I always try to approach my, I say my
philanthropic efforts, my, you know, my nonprofit efforts, with that as a backdrop. And it’s
important that you pick two or three things that your people can get behind. It doesn’t matter
whether it’s, you know, toys for tots or the Atlanta community food bank or the local chamber,
which will funnel you into a number of non-profit areas. But pick two or three and make a
difference, you know. You might say, well, I’m a small business what difference can I make. But
you can. You can make a difference and you can make a difference at a level that’s really
grassroots. Whether it’s a church or a school, one of the things that’s near and dear to my heart
is a school called the special needs school of Gwinnett. My youngest daughter, Megan has got
special needs. And so up in Lawrenceville is the special needs school of Gwinnett. And they just
built a brand new school, we’re providing coverage of their playground equipment, because a lot
of the kids that go to school there, they take medicine that’s sun sensitive and that may be, you
know, an issue for them. And so we are providing cover for their playground equipment and
that’s something that we’re doing.
Karl: [00:38:59] Well, you know, I want to say, thank you. You being part of community. And
when I see you, you’re always willing to give time and you’ll mentor in other businesses. Your
involvement in the Southwest Gwinnett chamber over the years has been, if there was one
thing, if you look at like, Southwest Gwinnett, some of the business that you think, as a
collective, businesses can do better to help the community. Is there anything collectively that
comes to mind that they could be a bigger role in the community?
Barry: [00:39:29] You know, get involved. Yeah, it doesn’t matter. I know that the large Gwinnett
chamber can be a little bit intimidating. It’s a big, that’s a big organization, you know, and I’m a
member of the Gwinnett chamber of commerce, but I’m also a member of the Southwest
Gwinnett chamber as you pointed out. And you know, get involved. It’s, I have a saying, you
know, it’s never too late to become what you might’ve been. You know, and we’re not dogs and
these are tricks, you know, that’s what I like to say that at work, you know. So we have a
responsibility to our communities. Give, get involved. Don’t sit on the sideline and say I’m too
busy to give back to my community or to be involved or to be active. And so I started that at a
very early part in my business career to see and be seen. And that’s not easy when you’re, you
know, we’re already working 12 hour days. But I carve out that hour and a half for the first, you
know, the Southwest Gwinnett chambers first Friday, which is this week, you know. And so I’m
gonna always make time for those community activities and those organizations, which actually
help you become more visible in the community that you serve. Before you can be a big deal
outside of your community, you’ve gotta be a big deal inside your community. Or you have to
get a little feel inside of your community. And if you’re active and looking for those opportunities
to get involved, you know, look for your local chamber. Look for your, you know, look for church.
You know, here in Norcross, Norcross cooperative ministry, you know, there’s lots and lots of
places. Lots of places to get involved, and that’s gonna help your networking overall as well, so.
Karl: [00:41:23] Well, I want to thank you for that. I’m curious, so coming into the holiday
season, the end of the year, do you have much going on either professionally or personally, how
do you plan on closing out this year?
Barry: [00:41:35] Well, we, you know, the fourth quarter is typically our slowest quarter of the
year, but we’re still blessed to have a lot of project business, and a lot of orders to fill. We’re
winding down. I think, you know, the city of Atlanta looks for any reason to take a holiday or take
a break. And so the, you know, that block of time, you know, right around Thanksgiving is a nice
period of respite for everybody. Certainly the end of the year, you know, we think of December
as having one holiday, but in fact it almost has two holidays because you take Christmas and
than immediately is New Year’s a week after that. So that the city slows down a lot between
Christmas and New Year’s and we’ll probably close down that week between Christmas and
New Year’s. I like to give our associates that time off paid and give them a chance to rekindle,
you know, restrike and refresh, and spend time with their families.
Karl: [00:42:35] Amen, after 2020 folks could be ready for that. How do folks reach out to you if
they wanted to contact with more of you know, what you do, and what’s the best way to get in
touch with you?
Absolutely. Karl it’s, you know www.PeachtreeAwnings.com or www.TennesseeAwnings.com.
Barry: [00:43:01] Both companies have independent websites. You can find us on Facebook at
facebook.com/peachtreeawnings or /TennesseeAwnings. You’ll find that we have a social media
presence there and you can see lots of pictures of our current projects. You know, we’re
obviously, you can find us, call us up at our new location. It’s 770-409-8372.
Karl: [00:43:27] Well, I want to thank you so much for, you know, just carving out time to just
share with The Capitalist Sage. Barry Adams, founder and owner of Peachtree Awnings, and
Tennessee Awnings. And you’ll always see him at our local Southwest Gwinnett chamber
event. You know, stop by say hi, see him there. And I just want to thank you so much for
sharing some of the insight on your journey to entrepreneurship.
Barry: [00:43:54] Thanks, Karl. Thanks, Rico it’s good to be able to spend some time with you.
Karl: [00:44:00] We want to thank everybody on with the Capitalist Sage podcast today, we’re
continuing to bring you local business owners, local leaders, people in the community that
impact the business community and be a place. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business
Advisors of Atlanta Peachtree. Our business is available to consult with business owners,
whether you’re looking to improve and grow your business through acquisition, through
franchising, or you’re working on planning your exit strategy, finding someone that could take
the reins of the business into the future. Feel free to schedule a council with us. I can be
reached at KBarham@TWorld.com or www.TWorld.com/AtlantaPeachtree. Rico, what have you
got coming up?
Rico: [00:44:49] Sure. Peachtree Corners magazine, we’re working on the next issue and the
cover story is actually going to be faces of Peachtree Corners. So we’re working through a list of
people and students and educators that’ll be on that cover story. And like every other issue,
there’s going to be a bunch of things. So we’re covering a variety of things that you can look
forward to. You can find out more about Peachtree Corners and what we’re doing at
LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com. Follow us on social media. We’re really big on Instagram and
Facebook. Just look for the Peachtree Corners Magazine or Peachtree Corners Life and
Capitalist Sage, where you can find the podcast on Instagram as well as our website. So, you
know, go out and look for that. We also have Mighty Rockets, so we do a lot of digital marketing,
I’m the creative director for several different companies. I have lots of things I do. So if you’re
looking for video marketing, photography, content online, podcast production, I was engineering
today’s podcast. Feel free to reach out to me, go to MightyRockets.com. So it’s easy enough.
Karl: [00:46:00] Alright. Well, thank you everybody for tuning in for the Capitalist Sage podcast,
stay tuned for more episodes. Have a great day.
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