I just started my business in January after having been in the industry for 10 years and got tired of doing 90% of the work for 10% of the profit. I made it all the way up to Service Manager at the last company so I got to see the inner workings on the office side. I have been doing good on my own. It is just me and a few guys I use here and there, no full time employees yet. I look for contract work from the bigger companies so I haven't had to focus on sales that much. The biggest problem I have seen in technicians is the "millennial effect" on hard work. Older techs who work hard did not want to learn the new IP based technology and the younger guys that grew up with computers do not want to work hard. I've interviewed and brought on 20 somethings at past companies that full well know what the jobs are going to entail (attics, extreme temp differences, endless cable pulls, etc.) and after a few weeks they would rather sit and play on their phones every chance they get and ask when they are getting promoted after a month. But on the flip side you send a 15 year install vet out to do a small 2 hour job that requires minor programming and they call you 6 hours later baffled by the web UI login screen. It is a constant balancing act trying to find the right attitude of willing to crawl through attics and able to do simple programming. Most of the time it ends up being two employees - one for install and one for programming. Or I am having to take time to do either one or both.
The benefits have definitely been a huge hurdle. With most of the bigger companies offering a take home vehicle and some of the common benefits it is hard to find good techs that won't even consider you unless you offer the same thing. Health insurance is out of the question for a small business. I can't even afford it for my own family (wife and I are both self employed/own businesses). When they quote you at $1-2k a month, it isn't just a "small amount" that you can adjust their starting pay by. As for pay scales, $10-12 for cable pullers and basic installers, $12-18 for minor experience, and $18-30 for experienced installers, leads, and service techs. I think that is pretty common for Texas. Add to each $5-15 burden rate for basic things like time off and the various insurances/licenses and it starts to get pretty expensive keeping someone on full time in an industry that sees more waves than a Hawaii beach. Most people that haven't ran a business forget about the burden rate part. They just see the $12/hour and think that's low for an installer. It is actually more like $16-$18. So at ~$65/install hour on bids, having two or three installers and a lead on site starts to eat away the profit if your techs can't do the job in the quoted hours.
On that note, I've had a fun time trying to figure out each techs actual install capabilities per hour so I can bid jobs properly. I came up as an installer so I know how an hour of work really equates to about 40 minutes of work when you factor in the multiple van visits, Facebook/Insta checks, text message responses, and smoke breaks to complain about the company/client/job. For some techs it is even less. Over time you can start to see the patterns that it takes Bob a full hour to install that one 20 minute camera and Smith can do it in 15 minutes. Luckily they kind of balance each other out and hopefully the quality of install is good, no one gets hurt on the job, and good attitudes prevail.
In the end I don't regret starting my own business. It's been a fun learning experience and I am always learning! Just look for someone that has the good outlook, is willing to get dirty when you need them too, and knows what "IP" means.
NOTICE: This comment was moved from an existing discussion: Business Owners, How Did You Grow Your Business? Who Were Your First Hires?