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Recently, we interviewed Jarod Coffman, the 21-year-old YouTube creator, Instagram construction influencer, and lead framer of Coffman Construction. Jarod has 40,000 followers between his YouTube and Instagram accounts where he shares framing and carpentry tips as well as his latest home projects.
In this interview, Jarod shares tips for bidding on projects effectively, advice for young people entering the trades, his motivation for sharing construction information through engaging videos, and his charity work in Mexico building homes. Jarod is following in the footsteps of Larry Haun, a pioneer in carpentry education who shared his knowledge through videos and built homes through Habitat for Humanity into his 80s.
Below is the transcript of our interview with Jarod:
A Framer Since 14 Years Old
What led you to work in the construction business?
I grew up around construction because my dad started Coffman Construction when he was 18, with a specialty in framing. I started working with him at 14, doing steel stud framing and running a screw gun.
When I was 15, I went to a technical college for welding, but I still worked part-time with a friend and helped my dad with framing jobs. I decided to become a carpenter instead of pursuing welding, but I still finished welding school and got certified. Now, I do all of our welding when we have it. Overall, I’ve been around construction my whole life, and I’ve enjoyed working in the field since I was a teenager.
What made you interested in framing, in particular?
As a kid, I was fascinated by my dad’s stories of his construction work, which had an exciting and almost dangerous aspect to it. He would share how he could build better quality houses faster than a five-man crew with just one kid out of high school working for him.
This efficiency and problem-solving aspect of construction always intrigued me. When I started working with him at 14, it felt like living the dream, doing the things that I had always admired as a kid. The cool factor and the ability to think creatively to get a lot done with less work made me love construction even more.
Is your dad still active in the business?
My dad is still mostly in charge of the general contracting side of our construction business. He handles the estimating, bidding, and coordinating with subcontractors. My brother-in-law and I have taken over the framing side of things, doing bidding and estimating for framing custom homes and other framing projects.
Stories From The Job Site
What was your first experience running a jobsite?
Sure, I can summarize those paragraphs in first person. So, the first project I led was the second new construction project of my career. My dad wanted me to ease into it, so I was put with two other lead carpenters to build ten townhomes. However, within the first two weeks, one carpenter couldn’t work on the project and the other’s wife was kidnapped in Mexico, so he couldn’t work.
I was left with 20 guys and 10 townhomes to build at just 17 or 18 years old. It was a crazy situation, but we made it work and the buildings are still standing. It was definitely a thrown-into-the-deep-end kind of experience, but it ended up working out.
What did you learn from that project?
The biggest thing I learned was throwing myself into it is the best way to learn. I messed up a lot, but I’ve never learned more in such a short amount of time. I obsessed over the blueprints and figured out everything to relay the information to the carpenters. The biggest lesson was always double-checking everything and not being afraid to ask for help.
I asked random people on social media and my dad for help. The most important thing I learned was not to take anyone’s word for it and always double-check.
How did your brother-in-law, Landon, join the Coffman team?
A few years ago, my crew and I were building our first custom home when Covid started. We were fortunate to work with all of our best friends, including family members, so we were comfortable working together during quarantine. Construction was deemed essential in Colorado, so we continued working. The client was someone we had built homes for before, and he specifically requested that we build his house.
We started framing and the client’s nephew from California, who was also a framer, joined us after being shut down for two months due to Covid restrictions in California. He fit in right away and became a valuable part of our team, even taking on leadership roles. He ended up marrying my sister, and over the last year and a half, he and I have taken on more responsibility and are now running the entire framing side of the company.
Lessons for Operations Management
What are some of the key successes and challenges at Coffman Construction?
The biggest challenge in the construction industry is communication, especially when it comes to finances. As a company, we’ve had success and failures in this area. We learned that it’s important to talk about the financial side of the project upfront and not be afraid of it. By doing so, we can avoid getting screwed and ensure that we can offer options that work within the customer’s budget.
We’ve also learned that there are different tiers to construction materials and costs, and we can build houses that range from 700,000 to 4 million dollars. Being comfortable with the financial side of the project benefits both us and the customer, as we get what we need, and they get what they need.
How do you handle customer management during the process of building?
In my experience, being a good communicator is key to a successful trade between a contractor and a customer. It’s important to establish a fair trade where both parties benefit, and this can only happen through open and honest communication. I always try to be transparent with my customers and let them know if there’s a more efficient or cost-effective option available.
Sometimes customers may have unrealistic expectations, but through communication, we can find a solution that works for both parties. Being upfront and clear about the costs and time involved in a project is crucial to avoiding any misunderstandings or dissatisfaction from the customer.
Do you have any tips for hiring great contractors for your team?
I believe that anyone can become a good contractor or carpenter with enough time, but the biggest factor for me is loyalty and longevity. I usually talk to people who are interested in working with us and offer them a couple of trial days to see if they still want to stick around after that. After that, it’s usually a couple of months of unofficial trial, where we see if the person is a good fit for our team.
During this time, they can show their progress and their attitude towards work. We value attitude the most in our team. If someone has a good attitude and doesn’t complain, it shows that they can stick through it for a few months. In my opinion, the people I value the most on our team have the best attitude, regardless of their skill level. Having a good attitude can positively affect everyone else’s work, and it’s essential to have a positive and cooperative work environment.
Advice for Financial Management in Construction
What financial management tips would you give to construction business owners?
When I went to JLC last year, it was a huge learning experience for me and my partner Landon. We learned that there’s a lot more that goes into a project than just the physical work. We have to factor in things like renting equipment or buying new tools, and those costs need to be included in our bid. We used to only bid for labor and pay for everything else out of our own pocket, but now we’ve learned to include all costs in the bid.
We also learned that there’s a wide range of contractors in the construction industry, with varying levels of quality and clientele. We decided to set ourselves up for higher-end clients and started bidding higher, increasing our margin by 100% on some projects. We were worried that our prices might scare off potential clients, but we found that some clients were willing to pay our higher prices without question, while others were not a good fit for us anyway.
Do you have other tips for bidding on projects?
When I bid for a project, I don’t aim for the best-case scenario. Instead, I consider the worst-case scenario, but not to the extreme where something catastrophic could happen. For instance, if I think I can complete a project in one day, I might factor in an extra day or two, depending on the crew I have on the job site.
This approach helps me stay stress-free and also ensures that I have enough time to complete the project even if unexpected issues arise, which is common in construction projects. Moreover, it benefits the customer as they don’t have to worry about the project running over time, and it’s already factored into the initial bid. In summary, I bid for the worst-case scenario, not the best-case scenario.
What are the most essential tools you use for business and financial management?
I use Hammr, a relatively new software, for hours tracking and payroll. I’m actually still helping with its development. It’s all connected like a network, which is great compared to our old system where each person had an independent software on their phone that wasn’t connected to anyone else’s.
Hammr allows one of the leads to enter the project and everyone can access it. They’re also developing a payroll system, which we intend to use when it’s finished. For bidding and estimating, we still use paper which is old school, but I want to learn some different programs to streamline it. The business side of things runs through QuickBooks.
Advice for Other Young People in the Trades
What advice would you give to other young people interested in entering the trades?
In my opinion, it’s important to figure out which area of the trades you want to pursue and then try to get a job in that field as soon as possible. School programs and education can only take you so far and often lack real-world experience. I’ve seen that employees who start working in the trades at a young age tend to be much more skilled than those who have gone through a trade school program.
That being said, if you have the opportunity to attend a trade school and learn while also working in the field, it can be a valuable experience. Ultimately, working in the trades is a different kind of education where you learn from your employer and more experienced colleagues, and it can take around four years to become competent in the general tasks of your trade.
Why Jarod Created the Coffman Construction Social Media Channels
What got you interested in starting the Coffman Construction YouTube channel and Instagram account?
So, I started the Coffman construction channel as a hobby after watching a lot of framing content on YouTube. At first, my videos were pretty bad, but I never took them down. I was happy just to get six views or a comment. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I could monetize the channel, but we don’t make a lot of money yet. As I got better at editing and making a better product, more people started to like it. I became acquainted with other social media guys like Matt Panella and Tim Uhler, which was cool.
On the Instagram side, we never planned or structured it, but we started posting cool or funny things from work. Over time, we gained more followers and hit a thousand, which was crazy for us. Now we have 31.6 thousand followers and have had posts with several million views, including our biggest one with almost 38 million views.
Do you have a favorite video you’ve made?
I really enjoy editing videos and my favorite part is creating a montage of drone shots at the end of my videos. I usually put it to music and it’s really relaxing for me to watch and edit. Sometimes the montage is just 10 or 15 seconds, but I also have a video that’s basically a whole song of just drone shots. It’s called something like “20-year-olds build a mansion in four minutes” or something like that, and I really enjoy it because it’s just my favorite kind of footage for about five minutes.
Do customers find you through YouTube or Instagram?
Through Instagram, we’ve been able to find more customers and potential employees compared to YouTube. I’ve noticed that other contractors tend to reach out to us for hiring, and we also receive around three to four serious employment inquiries every month. It’s amazing because finding good people to work for our company has been a challenge, and by showcasing our job site and work environment on social media, we’re able to give people an idea of what it’s like to work with us.
This has resulted in people reaching out to us, expressing their interest in working with us. It’s also been helpful in finding potential clients because they can see our work and get to know us even before we start building a house for them. It eases a lot of tension and establishes a baseline of who we are and what our personalities are like.
Jarod’s Charity Work in Mexico and Plan for the Future
Can you tell me about your charity work in Mexico?
So my brother-in-law Landon’s dad is a pastor in California who leads a team to build houses in Tijuana every other year. I thought it would be cool to join and we decided to build two houses in a week instead of one. We used social media to get some companies to sponsor the project with tools, which we’ll leave behind for the organization to use throughout the year. It only costs $11,000 to build a house, which is achievable and a lot less than what we’re used to seeing here.
We want to continue to grow this project in the future by building more houses and getting more people and sponsors involved. It’s all volunteer time, but we need to pay for the materials and costs. I think it’s a great opportunity to help people and for sponsors to get their name on benevolence.
You’re only 21, what are your aspirations for the future for Coffman Construction and your work on social media?
So, I was first introduced to the world of construction on social media and discovered Larry Haun, who had a great teaching presence and was very humble about his expertise. I aspire to have a similar impact and teach others without being a know-it-all. Social media allows for learning from successful professionals with real-world experience.
As a business owner, I aim to be the best company to work for and pay employees what they’re worth while still providing competitive pricing to customers. My goal is to develop efficient systems and bring as many people as possible into them to create a happy and successful environment for everyone.
Can you tell me more about Larry Haun and his effect on you?
I discovered Larry Han on YouTube where he shared his construction expertise from old VHS tapes. Despite the outdated videos, his personality and teaching style stood out to me. He was humble, inviting, and a natural teacher. I found out later that he passed away in 2011 due to lung cancer but continued building houses for charities like Habitat for Humanity until his 80s. It was inspiring to see someone so dedicated to their craft and giving back to the community.
We hope you enjoyed this interview with Jarod Coffman.
If you have any questions about our interview series or want to recommend another leading entrepreneur in the trades to be interviewed, please email nicolas [at] northone.com.
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