In this episode of the Calvert County Lifestyle podcast i’m joined by handyman extraordinaire Michael Freeburger of Early Bird Home Services. We discuss:
- How Michael got into the handyman business
- Getting help from the SBTDC (called Department of Economic Development in show)
- Several home maintenance tips you do in just a few minutes that can save you money
Early Bird Home Services
Early Bird Home Services provides indoor and outdoor handyman services. You can visit the Early Bird Home Services website at EarlyBirdHomeServices.com or call Michael and his team at 301-440-2053.
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Full Audio Transcript:
Welcome to the YourCalvert.com, Calvert County Lifestyle Podcast. Episode number two. In this episode, I’m joined by Michael Freeburger, owner of Early Bird Home Services. If you listen all the way to the end of the interview, he gives you a couple tips on how to care for your home that will save you money in the long run
Before we get to the interview, I have a couple other things to cover. So this episode is episode number two. To get to the show notes for this episode, you can go to YourCalvert.com/2. Wow. It sure has been a snowy winter. I just finished clearing off my driveway from the latest storm.
I’m proud to announce that our show has now been approved in the iTunes catalog, which you can find at YourCalvert.com/Apple. That will redirect you to the iTunes page for the podcast. In addition, we’ve also been accepted into the Stitcher radio catalog as well. You can get to that by visiting YourCalvert.com/stitcher. That’s s-t-i-t-c-h-e-r. Stitcher. And that also will redirect you to the Stitcher page were you can subscribe as well. So those give you two options to subscribe to.
If you go that method, you’ll automatically be able to have the latest episode downloaded directly to your device. In addition, we are in the Microsoft catalog as well. I don’t have the URL for that, but we were approved in that and you can search for Your Calvert within the catalog and you’ll find us that way.
Next up, we have a voicemail that was left on our voicemail hotline. Later in the show, I’ll tell you how you can leave a voicemail too or give a shout out. Without further ado, here’s the latest comment that was left.
Hey Clif. It’s Karen Croll, Virtually With You. I just wanted to congratulate you on your first podcast. It sounds really great. What a great idea that you came up with. So good luck with everything and I hope it’s the continued success for you. Talk to you soon.
Today I had the pleasure of talking to Calvert County resident, Treasurer of the Bay Business Group, LeadShare of the Calvert County Chamber of Commerce, Member of the Year for 2013 and owner of Early Bird Home Services. Michael Freeburger. Welcome to the show. Michael, will you please take a few minutes to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background.
First off, thank you for inviting me. Early Bird Home Services was created back in 2011, June 1st. That was after being in the business of printing management for 32 years working for printers and doing a lot of scheduling. But out of the four publication printers that I’d worked for, three had decided to shut their doors for economic reasons. The last one was in 2011 in May. We got our 30 day notice and, at that point, I started being very progressive about pursuing a new occupation. At that time, I was working on weekends servicing retirees doing some basic yardwork and a few handy man chores around their homes. Just to have something to do on weekends and make a little extra cash. So, knowing that the printing business was going under and technologies moved it all too digital, I went to these seven retirees and asked if they thought they could support the business full time if I went forth with this as being my business. And all seven definitely back me up, gave me some leads, gave me some encouragement.
So then I went to Calvert’s economic development and pursued opening up Early Bird Home Services. June 1st, 2011, we did that. I had seven base customers to start the business with and after the first 12 months, we had 32. After two years, we had 68. And now that we’re 2 1/2 years old, we are now up to 108 customers.
So let me jump in there too and ask you. So it looks like you’re having year-over-year growth. That’s actually fantastic. What do you attribute to your success?
A lot of that is due to the networking. I’ve joined the Calvert Chamber of Commerce and the Bay Business Group and, through the networking and the Business After Hours and all the other functions that they provide, you get to expose yourself to other business owners and committee people. And the word-of-mouth has spread. The majority of this is not through hardcopy advertising. It’s all word-of-mouth and customers that have already had me at their homes.
Very interesting. So Michael, can you expand a little bit about your networking groups and your involvement in those networking groups for us?
The networking began in the fall of 2011. After the first two months of being in business, a lot of the clientele was coworkers from the last printing company I worked for. That got me off the ground and going but then, when August came around, things dried up quickly due to lack of being known out in the county and places other than that. I do service five counties. Southern Maryland, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel. But when August got there in 2011 and the phone wasn’t ringing and there was no inquiries, no work, I went and looked online for some possible part-time work and to supplement my endeavor.
So I went and worked for the Ark on a night shift. Ark of Southern Maryland. And I was basically a night shift person at one of the group homes here in Prince Frederick. So I did that for three months but I also went back to the economic development people and they said, you need to consider networking.
Join the Chamber of Commerce and other groups that mingle with other owners. Get yourself known to the community. So I did join the Chamber of Commerce and they have subcommittees and one of them is the LeadShare. So I jumped on that and attended the Lead Chair meetings. And that is basically a group of business people that exchange leads between themselves. That was very advantageous to do that. And at the same time, I’d heard about the Bay Business Group and joined it. And at this point now, that has been very profitable too with the connections because they have about 100 members. I am now the Treasurer for the Bay Business Group and that even helps even farther getting more exposure to other clientele. But as far as the LeadShare group, the leads that I’ve been able to exchange between the other owners, and vice versa, it has allowed me to win the Chambers Lead Chair Member of the Year for 2013 for giving the most leads in a calendar year. In addition to that, the Calvert County in 2013 had a contest for the best of Calvert County. And that came out in July of last year. And I won the Handyman of the Year for Calvert County and that was a surprise, being I only had like 80 clients at the time of the voting. That has helped tremendously. I picked up 14 new clients once that publication hit the homes in August.
I’d actually like to congratulate you personally on achieving the Calvert’s Best Award.
Well, thank you.
As well as being the Member of the Year for the Chamber of Commerce.
So Michael, now that you have over 100 clients, are you able to do all of this work by yourself?
Interesting question. Up until the fall of 2012, I was the sole worker and owner and administrator of the business. When I reached the 70 customer client mark, it was apparent that I needed some help. So I did recruit my first part-time helper. He was a senior in high school in Calvert County and through 2013, particularly after the exposure of the 2013 Handyman of the Year for Calvert County, when the phones began to ring off the hook, I have ended up recruiting seven additional helpers. And they’re all subcontractors. So it’s myself and eight other workers at this point servicing my clientele.
Wow. That’s amazing. And quite a lot of work to keep those schedules in check, I bet.
It can be challenging but it’s rewarding.
So as a handyman, what is the most common task you get asked to do by your clients?
The majority of the work that we do have right now is yard work. And that’s not cutting grass, necessarily. That’s doing what the grass cutter guys that zip in and zip out don’t do. It’s the mulching, the trimming the edging, the pruning, and the raking, and planting, and things like that that these other guys don’t do. That is the primary workload that we have April through October. These other off months are primarily inside work of painting, winterizing, caulking, and putting insulation in.
That’s actually very fascinating as far as the whole landscaping bit goes, that you do everything that the grass mowing people don’t do. It’s quite a little niche you have there. So next I’d like to, and I hope I’m not putting you on the spot here, but what’s the strangest task you have been asked to complete by one of your clients?
There’s probably been several. The one I can think of off the top of my head would be, a year ago, I had a client that sold a house, moved to Florida. The home inspector came in and made some observations. One of the things that he’d noted was, in the crawlspace under the house, there was some puddles of water of condensation that had formed under plastic. And there was some kind of growth of weeds or a tree root or something growing and the inspector made note of that on the form and the homeowner asked to have it cleaned up. So I got the call to go in and go into the crawlspace with two spotlights, a fan and a small shop vac to go in and suck up the water underneath the plastic. And attempted to move the growth that the inspector noted, my best guess is it was some kind of vine. It had no leaves because it had no sun. But it was three hours on the belly in a cold, damp surrounding with many insects hopping all around. That was not exactly the common job I’m looking for. But it was asked and I did it.
I’m sorry for you on that one there. Since you’re in so many people’s house, what’s one task that, you know, people or homeowners overlook that you think needs to be done and they should hire you for, or you point out to them that you think also needs to be done.
To me, that would be the combination of the dust and grime that collects on ceiling fans, the dirt and dust that collects on the ventilation system on the vents and the screens and the filters. But let’s not lose track of the clothes dryer vents. Many people don’t realize how much dust and lint collects in the hoses. And for a small fee, you can take the hose off, clean it out with a vacuum and a brush system, and reinstall it and avoid the potential of a fire in those hoses. It’s just a site that’s not thought of very often because it’s behind the machine and you don’t normally see it. To save money, if you clean your vents and change out your filters on a regular basis, that can be very economically smart.
Wow. That’s a fantastic tip. So call Michael to get that taken care of. So one final thing that I’d like to ask you here real quick, what do you love most about Calvert County or what’s your one favorite thing to do in the county?
Calvert County seems to be very unique. It’s somewhat setback, or layed-back, if you will, from most counties. Originally I grew up in Montgomery County and I’ve come to Calvert County for the school systems for my kids. But in general, Calvert County is of a slower pace, more pleasant people, much cleaner environment and there’s much to observe with the recreational parks, the nature places that you can visit, the beaches. You’ve got everything you could ask for except for the mountains. So it’s a nice little retreat. I enjoy going on a walk on the boardwalk’s.
Michael, before we finalize this interview here and close it on up, where do people go to find out more about you or to get your services? Where would you like to send them to?
They can check us out on our website, www.earlybirdhomeservices.com. We’ve got photo galleries, we’ve got a contact page, we’ve got services listed. You can either visit that and fill out the contact page or call me at 301-440-2053.
Michael, thanks so much for being on this interview today
One final note. In the show notes, we’ll have links to all of Michael’s contact information as well, so you’ll be able to easily go to the website. The show notes for this podcast are YourCalvert.com/2. That’s YourCalvert.com/2.
Michael, thanks so much for coming onto the show today and sharing those insights into your business, as well as those helpful tips for the community.
So Calvert County, make sure you change your air filters for your ventilation systems every month to every quarter, depending on your needs, and clean out those dryer vents.
Thanks for listening to the YourCalvert.com Calvert County Lifestyle Podcast. You can subscribe for free, this gives you all updates that Your Calvert does, at YourCalvert.com/go. That will take you to our out Why Subscribe page that lists out a bunch of reasons of why you should subscribe. Once you do that, you’ll get daily email updates from everything that we’ve released at the blog, including all podcast episodes as well, delivered directly to your inbox free of charge. If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast episodes only, you can do that via iTunes, Stitcher, Microsoft or the raw feed URL is listed on our website as well. So, to subscribe for iTunes, that link is YourCalvert.com/Apple. That will redirect you to the iTunes page where you can listen to our episodes there, as well as subscribe, so all future episodes are downloaded directly to your device. Next up is Stitcher. Stitcher Radio. You can go to YourCalvert.com/stitcher. That’s s-t-i-t-c-h-e-r. Stitcher. And that will redirect you to the Stitcher page where you can subscribe. In addition, we are also in the Microsoft catalog.
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