Meet Tina Gleisner,
Teacher, Techie, Handywoman, Homeowner Advocate
Can you remember what career you wanted as a child? Was there someone special in your life that inspired you and became a role model for you? Did you wonder what you would wear to work? One of my favorite career stories is telling people I promoted myself from suits to sweatshirts, when I left corporate America and started a handyman business!
Have you made dramatic changes on your journey through life? I'm proud to be a boomer with years of experience. I've accomplished a lot, and made significant changes in my professional career. Born in New York City, I've bounced between coasts and lived in Tokyo for 3 years.
From my home on the NH seacoast. I'm continuing my journey of learning, sharing and guiding others to take charge of their lives … or at least their homes, which I believe can provide incredible support for the way we want to live.
My Corporate Journey Wearing Suits
Until you start a business, you don't realize how complicated our world has become. When you're an employee, your company provides you with an environment for work and the people too. So my story starts out like most in my boomer generation, when I finished college.
- My dreams as a child were about being a teacher, and one summer I ran a school on my back porch so no surprise that …
- My bachelor degree is in elementary education but the biggest lesson for me was there are TOO many rules, and it wasn't an environment where I'd thrive.
- Computers where just emerging (mainframes, not personal computers) so I stayed in school and got a masters in computer science (RPI), which makes me a certified geek.
- Next was my only job – an intrapreneur, inside IBM for 29 years. By taking on high risk projects with executive sponsorship, I had the freedom to create solutions at warp speed. I built global teams and delivered solutions from automated operations to video-on-demand, working in partnership with Hong Kong Telecom … before the Internet!
- Sadly I became a corporate casualty because of my age (over 50). IBM decided to retire me early and keep half my pension. More upsetting was losing my network, my friends I'd worked with for 10 and 20 years, because even today there's minimal communication outside the ivory towers.
Promoting Myself from Suits to Sweatshirts
At the time of my layoff, we were in the throes of a major home addition, adding 4 stories to the back of my 100 year old Victorian. All the business ideas I'd been considering got tossed out the window as I wasn't going to work with corporate clients so what and where?
It didn't take long to realize I loved houses, from buying and moving to making home improvements. My original business concept looked more like Angie's List, using my technology skills and homeowner experience (IBM is sometimes known as I've Been Moved, and we've owned more than 10 houses). When I took a franchise course, it led me to buying … a handyman franchise. And that's how I traded in my corporate suits for red sweatshirts, and thus my story about suits to sweatshirts was born!
Moving into a new industry meant there would be a steep learning curve which I looked forward to. What I never realized was how challenging running a small business can be, including marketing and sales.
Here's a peek inside my world as a business owner, which includes most contractors who work as solopreneurs. Homeowners might get angry when their calls aren't answered promptly, but most contractors work during the day and handle paperwork and return calls at night – it's a tough life.
- Creating your work environment – at home, an office or setting up your business on wheels like most contractors who work out of their van.
- Marketing to attract clients – which is more challenging online, as it's fragmented unlike the yellow pages which generated more than 30% of my leads (> 500 jobs) in 2005.
- Working with clients to learn what they want, what they need and deliver a solution that satisfies them – For example, they want to cover up a stain on their ceiling without replacing a roof that's beyond it's end of life. They're blame the contractor when the stain returns, and it's not fun explaining why after one call back, we won't make any more repairs.
- Hiring and managing employees – was challenging as my IBM management experience taught me to coach employees to achieve success, until I realized there weren't enough hours for coaching and resolving customer complaints.
Running a handyman business is operationally intense. You're always fighting fires – a technician that doesn't show up for work, a customer who overslept and your phone call wakes them up (won't ever forget that call), picking up pantry cabinets from Home Depot but they're damaged (took 4 orders, and then we had to drill the holes that were missing), and it never stops.
I'd also started a few other related businesses, and decided to sell my handyman business after 8 years, so I could focus on my passion for teaching women homeowners how to manage their homes, one project at a time. So my journey continues with the story behind Home Tips for Women.