“At the end of the day it’s just about starting and not giving up.”
Leonardo (Leo) Moreno, the Owner of Leo’s Glass Windows and Doors is from Guatemala and moved to the US over 25 years ago. Leo had a lot of chances to make excuses for himself: English isn’t his first language, he never used a computer to set up a business, he worked many jobs where he was treated differently because the color of his skin. However, he persisted and grew his business into a 5 star Window and Glazing company, that serves over 100 clients in the Bay Area.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Leo and hear more about what drove his decision to start his business, what he has accomplished as a business owner, and what advice he would give aspiring entrepreneurs.
Below is the transcript of our interview.
Q: What drove you to start your business? What was the toughest part of starting?
A: I was tired of having a boss. I was mostly tired of working for someone else and making them rich. I had been in the industry for 16 years and never had a day off or taken a vacation when my bosses did. I wanted to create those opportunities for myself.
I didn’t know anything about computers, I didn’t even know what a PDF was. That was the toughest part, because it was hard to figure out where to even start. I was fortunate enough to get someone to help me understand the process of invoicing, advertising, and building my business.
Q: When you started, did you know you wanted to build a windows and glass company?
A: Yes. When I first got to the US, I picked up any job I could, from Landscaping, to Retail Stores Salesperson and finally found that I enjoyed Windows and Glass. I had been in the Windows and Glass industry for several years and mastered the craft, so I knew it was going to be the type of company I would start.
Q: Did you ever doubt yourself? Did you ever think about just going back to being an employee?
A: Never. The first two months were difficult because it was hard to get my first clients, but I had saved enough money to last for a year’s worth of expenses, so it never got to a point that I wanted to go back to being an employee. I was comfortable and knew I could make it.
Q: How did you get your first clients?
A: I asked friends for referrals. I also offered steep discounts for my service. When you’re new in the trade industry, people get skeptical and would rather go with a more experienced team. It is funny to look back now, clients used to talk down my price because I was so new, now my clients tip me even more than what I am charging because they know I am doing a great job for them. You just have to be persistent.
Q: It’s been 7 years since you started and had your first clients. What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
A: When I started my first goal was to just see $500,000 in my bank account. It sounded like a good place to start. I remember the first year I made I was doing well, then in year 2 I doubled what I was making, and by Year 3 I was well within my goal, and it kept going in the same direction year after year. Before I knew it I was putting an all cash offer down for my house, and have three trucks in my driveway. I have been able to vacation to the Bahamas, Paris, and Hawaii just in the last year and I know if I stayed at my prior jobs I would never have any of this. All of it is a huge accomplishment for me.
Q: What are some pieces of advice you would give anyone looking to start their business?
A: Don’t work with your heart, work with your mind. If you go into a client meeting and you are offering a service and you keep offering discounts to please them you will never get anywhere. You need to be smart about your negotiations and limit how much your heart comes into play when making business decisions.
Also, have at least 6 months of savings when you decide to start. I think it’s good to be able to survive in case you don’t make money right away so that you don’t feel the pressure of going back to your old job.
At the end of the day it’s just about starting and not giving up.
Leo isn’t slowing down and even though he has been through a lot since arriving to the US he is still pushing to grow his business.
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