About five years ago, G.A. Porter Construction (Big50 1993), in Dayton, Ohio, had a sales volume of $500,000 and a plan to grow the company to $1.5 million. To help make this happen, owner Gary Porter had assembled a team that included an office manager with a part-time assistant, a draftsperson, a production manager, and a sales person.

“I got caught up in the idea of growing,” Porter says. “And I finally asked myself ‘why?'” He realized that what he really wanted was a good balance of work and a personal life with time to do volunteer work, travel, and be with his wife.

Although he had formed this team, he did not actually want to surrender control of his jobs. “I like talking to customers. I like using my creativity to solve a problem,” he says. “As I put more people between me and the customer, I lost the ability to do that.”

He now keeps his sales volume at $350,000 — a size that allows him to be personally involved on the two to six jobs he has under construction at any given time. The systems he put in place to help his company grow also helped him downsize. “These systems give me the freedom to work 35 hours,” he says.

For office work, he has a part-time office manager. For the field, he supervises subcontractors who have worked with him for more than 20 years.

Porter now has time to volunteer for his local National Association of the Remodeling Industry chapter, a local city group that discusses race relations, and a men's group. During his journey to find balance, he has learned a few things:

  • How to say “no.” “I was an optimistic salesperson who always wanted people to like me,” Porter says. “It was as scary to say no to clients as it was to start charging for design meetings.”
  • How to present himself to customers as a professional. Like many remodelers, Porter began as a tradesman, and it took a while for him to build his business skills.
  • The importance of having a mentor. “They can reveal to you that there is a bigger picture,” he says.