Jeff Caruso

Jeff Caruso

How to start your own company and succeed

Lots of people know a better way to get things done.

Not many have the guts to start their own companies and put that better way into practice.

What differentiates the entrepreneurs who succeed from those who don’t try? And what factors go into launching your own successful enterprise?

According to Jeff Caruso, one of the top 200 homebuilders in the United States and CEO of Caruso Homes, it all starts with passion and ideas.

When Jeff was growing up, his father served as president of a commercial real estate company. After working summers for his dad, Jeff went to construction school, got a master’s in real estate, and joined the family business.

That’s when he saw an opportunity.

“People were complaining about homebuilders, and I thought I had a better vision of how it should be done,” Jeff told us when we invited him to be our guest on The Cannonball Mindset.

Everybody was complaining about the price, the poor quality, and general process of building. Jeff thought he had come up with a better process.

“I got with my brother who was a CPA,” Jeff said, “and Dad gave us some seed money.”

Caruso Homes was off to the races.

What is the biggest quality an entrepreneur needs?

“I felt that I could come up with a better process, and to this day, we are still working on perfecting that.” – Jeff Caruso

Your passion fuels your enterprise.

“I got my values card,” Jeff said. “I wrote down my vision.”

And from there, Jeff and his brother laid out a step by step plan. Realizing they couldn’t plan the whole thing out, they began executing their strategy. Jeff’s brother was a born planner, and Jeff could make it happen.

But nothing happened over night. Building a company from the ground up required a crazy level of perseverance. As Jeff said, “Owning your own company is making a commitment like nothing else. It overrides everything.”

And he meant everything. Your spouse has to agree to be all in with you because if he or she isn’t, your idea will not work. Entrepreneurship takes everything you have.

“If you think you’re going to start a business because you don’t like the long hours you work,” Jeff warned us, “you’re making an incredibly bad move.”

Besides passion and commitment, an entrepreneur also needs money. At first, the cash flow is all one way – away from you. During that time, your biggest challenge is to figure out how you’re going get that first dollar coming back in with a steady flow of dollars behind it. That means you have to be prepared to start very small or know where your money’s coming from.

How do you persevere during tough times?
During the last recession, more than 50% of homebuilders closed their doors, but Caruso managed to keep the lights on. How?

Their strategy was simple: keep being the best company in town. They worked with their investors and never ran from call from the bank. They kept up the daily grind and held their goals and values in sight. Most important, they held onto their corporate integrity.

“When someone gets pushed into the corner, that’s when they make errors,” Jeff said. “Don’t do that.”

When you come out on the other side, your customers, subcontractors, and vendors will remember and respect the way you behaved during your difficult times.

How do you develop yourself as a leader?

“It’s really important to be a part of something bigger than what you’re in,” Jeff said.

For example, he’s the president of a homebuilders association in Maryland. The benefit is not just in the position he holds, however. It’s found in getting involved. He’s also a member of an urban land institute. Although that organization’s emphasis is different from Caruso Homes’, it may be more reflective of the future. Plus, it’s a great setting for sharing ideas. Finally, he’s part of a builders club of 20 non-competing builders who meet annually to compare their financials, problems, and activities and to learn from each other.

Physical fitness is also one of the most important things you can do. It not only ramps up your energy levels but it keeps you mentally sharp, too. Another good idea is listening to TED Talks. Don’t just listen to the ones you automatically agree with. Instead, find those where you can really learn something new and adjust your way of thinking.

To help your whole team improve, you can bring in coaches and have candid discussions. A good coach will challenge people not say what they want to hear.

“Owning your own company is making a commitment like nothing else. It overrides everything.” – Jeff Caruso

What’s the first step to owning a company?

Jeff recapped what he’d shared with us during the podcast.

    1. Find out what your values and goals are.
    1. Determine what size company you want to start out with.
    1. Understand it will take money to get started.
    1. Decide what type of commitment you are going to make.
  1. Think about who else you can get to join you.

As Jeff put it, “If you’re ready for some hard work, then this is something you might want to take on.”

To learn more about Jeff and his business, check out their website at www.carusohomes.com.

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