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Friday, Jan 27, 2023
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Stretching to Keep ‘Em Coming

When the going gets tough, the tough get going and in today’s business environment, they are sometimes going places they’ve never gone before. Business owners are finding that steep discounts, clearance sales and “we pay the sales tax” events might be effective in the short term, but are not a profitable way to continue bringing in new business. Take the North Hills Maaco auto body shop which had an advertisement in the Los Angeles Daily News that featured the headline, “Get Your Horse Trailer Painted!” “Definitely the economy makes people branch out and do whatever it takes to get business in,” said co-owner Wayne Hazel who opened the franchise operation back in August. In talking with other Maaco franchises, Hazel said the new motto is, “Paint anything anyone wants painted.” Other locations have told him they are putting their touch on everything from bedroom furniture to popcorn machines. Located centrally between the Chatsworth horse properties and the Burbank stables, Hazel reasoned that horse trailers might be a way to capture a new segment of business and he was right. “We just finished a really nice one,” he said, “we’re really proud of it and now we have fliers showing the before and after that we’re sending out to all the local stables in the greater L.A. area.” Hazel’s wife Mary Ellen added that to tout the broad range of services they offer beyond collision repair from headlight and windshield buffing to restoring classic cars she’s taken to just walking up and down the boulevards in the areas around the shop to let other businesses know they’re in the neighborhood. “Friday I walked up and down Glenoaks and on Saturday I was walking up Balboa knocking on doors If we can make it through this time, as things get better things we’ll be OK but it’s a lot of work trying to make it,” said Mary Ellen Hazel, who is also a professional nurse. She said she’s keeping her day job while they try to make a go of the automotive business. Real estate reaches With roofing material costs rising and competitors’ prices spiraling ever downward, Chatsworth business owner Mike Quiroga of Mike’s Roofing has found himself struggling to find ways to keep his people working. “We’re doing things like putting in gutters almost at cost,” said Quiroga who has been through several bad cycles before but says this one’s the worst so far. He has asked all of his employees to bring him any ideas they have for generating new business. “We’re talking to a couple of restaurants about offering discount dinners if someone buys a roof,” Quiroga went on, “or we’re thinking of giving customers a Costco gift card once they pay their bill.” He cautions that people should remember the 1987 film “Tin Men” that dramatized the exploits of unscrupulous aluminum siding salesmen who would do or say anything to get an order. “Watch out for people who give a good deal up front. Read the fine print,” said Quiroga. “People are not asking about how long you are in business, how good a company you are, they’re just looking for price. It is very difficult to attract business right now without the lies.” Down in Encino, commercial property owner Rickey Gelb has always looked for opportunities that might not seem to fit his basic business model of leasing and managing small business properties in the Valley. In addition to his office and industrial properties, Gelb also cites the Best Western Motel and Canoga Park Bowl, a Taco Bell in Granada Hills and a self-storage facility or two among his holdings. But when asked if he knew of any tenants that were stretching to bring in business, he responded that he himself was doing just that. “One thing we just started (on Jan. 1) is a company called WorkSpace Commercial Real Estate,” said Gelb. “We are now getting into selling buildings to other people.” He’s teamed up with two former DAUM Commercial employees from the now-closed Burbank office. Clark Prince and Brian Mausser said they didn’t move to the Los Angeles or Woodland Hills DAUM offices like some of the other brokers because they felt they didn’t really need the services of a larger firm. “I don’t think branding is that important anymore,” said Prince, 39. “I’m always out there canvassing and I have only had a few people ever be impressed and say, oh, wow, DAUM, they’re national.” Partner Mausser, 42, added, “Now, there are certainly some clients looking for companies with large service divisions but that’s not who our clients are. Not right now.” The 12 or so listings the team have signed up so far are primarily in Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena and are mostly with clients they have a history with. “We can help clients that Gelb couldn’t previously accommodate,” said Mausser, whether the reasons are because the clients need to be in a specific geographic submarket or want a size or type of space that Gelb doesn’t have in their portfolio. “He’s able to participate in finding them a location elsewhere and vice versa: As we’re going out and marketing other properties we may be able to bring tenants back to (Gelb) as well.” Back to basics Richard Angelo, who founded Santa Clarita-based commercial landscape firm Stay Green, Inc., said that while he’s working as hard as everyone else to retain and attract business, it’s all about the basics. In addition to hiring more sales people, the company has implemented a training initiative to make sure everyone can speak about the full range of services the company offers. “For example, our tree care department rather than just have their clients think all we do is trim and prune trees, we want to tell them we are a total solution provider and offer the client things like fertilizer programs and pesticide and disease programs.” But for the most part, Angelo said, Stay Green is just trying to keep their name in front of potential clients. “We’re trying to do more PR things, to get things in the paper about promotions, and that sort of thing,” said Angelo. “We’re also participating in organizations that our clients belong to and donate things and participate in committees and just try to be visible in this kind of a market.” On that note, Rickey Gelb stressed that hard work and attention to customer service may be the deciding factor in who makes it and who doesn’t. “We have found that tenants who answer the phones and are responsive are the ones that are not going out of business,” he said. “The ones who are always out to lunch or always in meetings are the ones who aren’t making their payments.”

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