Leaving the comfort of the corporate world to start your own business can be terrifying, but with hard work and patience, entrepreneurs can overcome challenges to accomplish their goals. Eric Tolley, the founder of Pegasus Windows near Chicago, has overcome his share of obstacles throughout his decades as a window contractor.
Tolley started his first window contracting business in 2000 after leaving his job as a salesman to strike out on his own. “I was their number one salesman for years. I wasn’t building up any brand equity for myself. Everything I was doing went to them, you know, and they paid me what I thought was a very small percentage of the profits that they were gaining from me.”
This realization inspired Tolley to open his first business so he could earn a living according to his own standards.
Facing challenges along the way
In 2004 Tolley’s original business was named the Window and Door Magazine dealer of the year. Unfortunately, shortly after he was one of the many small business owners who felt the adverse effects of the 2008 recession. After recalibrating, he then opened Pegasus Windows in 2010.
One of Tolley’s toughest challenges is finding new clients, so he makes sure to go above and beyond since most of his clients come to him through direct referrals. Tolley believes putting clients first should be every business owner’s top priority.
Being able to meaningfully communicate with clients has always been important to him. Many of his clients only spoke Spanish, so Tolley started using the app Duolingo. Just a few years later at the age of 55, Tolley is now fluent in Spanish and able to communicate with a larger group of clients.
Tolley’s tips for small business success
To start with, Tolley advises not to worry so much. “My favorite quote to people who ask me what they should do is ‘follow your bliss’ by Joseph Campbell. Pick something that you’d do for free and make it into a career.”
That said, he still recalls losing sleep over starting his business at the beginning. “I didn’t sleep my first year. I actually Googled ‘Can you die from lack of sleep?’”
Tolley also encourages everyone to read books.“I read about 50 books a year, and you know, I don’t remember everything from those books, but I’ve got a rule that I learned one lesson from each book.” Tolley learns at least 50 new lessons each year, many of which his competitors do not.
“Do well by doing good.”
At this point it should come as no surprise that Tolley lives his life by his favorite motto: “Do well by doing good.” He likes to bring clients gifts like cookies after completing a job and often follows up a few months later.
“I worked with an elderly lady who wanted a garden window that goes in the kitchen above the sink. She went on to say, you know, ‘You can charge whoever you want.’ I was like, ‘No, I’m not gonna charge you whatever I want. I’m gonna charge you a fair price.’”
He believes that if he is good to people, then he will do well.
“So, I do the job, and you know a couple of months later I called. Her daughter answered and said, ‘She died, and one last thing she said was she wanted to thank you for the garden window.’ That took my breath away there a little bit.”
Pegasus Windows and SuretyBonds.com
SuretyBonds.com is no stranger to putting people first. Many small business owners struggle to understand what bonds they need and where to find them. Tolley has been using SuretyBonds.com for his Illinois contractor license bond needs for as long as he can remember.
“Every town is different…there are really tough licensing requirements.” No matter the requirement, SuretyBonds.com has been there to help Tolley with all of his bonding needs.
“I just appreciate the promptness mostly. We’re busy guys, so efficient and prompt service from our bond company is very important to us”.
SuretyBonds.com strives to Put People First in everything we do by recognizing the impact our clients, our employees, and our colleagues have on our company. We’re always rooting for our clients to succeed in their individual careers and business goals both big and small.