Small business week: When your office is your pickup truck

Courtney Symons
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What Michael Martin wishes he knew when starting his business

Before founding his own company, local handyman Michael Martin lived in his car for five months as he moved around trying to find work.

Michael Martin is the founder of Michael J. Martin Luxury Renovations.

The importance of a vehicle in his life continued when he founded Michael J. Martin Luxury Renovations and began working out of the back of his pickup truck.

The company has a showroom on Riverside Drive, but most things – tools, two-by-fours, plywood – get dumped in the back of his truck. Right now, it’s a beige 2012 Chevrolet Silverado.

“You’d never make it in the renovation business without a reliable truck,” Mr. Martin says.

Below, in his words, are a few other essentials for the trade – tidbits he says he wished he’d known when he started in the industry 25 years ago:


1) "First and foremost, pay the government. When I started out, I had several employees but I forgot to set money aside for taxes and WSIB (the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board). When you get audited, it catches up with you pretty quickly. Now, I take 20 per cent of every cheque that I get and move it into my government bank account and that covers everything."


2) "Make sure you have insurance for yourself and your business. I found out the hard way. Something went wrong on the job and I had to end up eating (the costs). If I’d had insurance, I would have been covered."


3) "Always check references for future employees. That’s a big one. People think they’re carpenters and they tell you they’re carpenters, but it doesn’t always work out that way."


4) "Only work for people that you kind of get along with. It’s not all about the money; you really have to be comfortable with who you’re working for. There’s some people you just don’t want to work with."


5) "Never quit. Have a passion for your job and make sure you enjoy it. I’ve still got a passion for (renovations) for some godforsaken reason."


6) "Excuse the language, but shit happens. Just deal with it."


7) "There’s no time in life to dwell on things. Fix it now. And if you can’t, just move on. In renovations, there’s something guaranteed to go wrong with every job."


8) "You get more bees with honey."


9) "Get a sport or a hobby. Sanity is everything. I play pickup hockey once a week and I like to fish."


10) "Just be yourself."

Organizations: Workplace Safety and Insurance Board

Geographic location: Riverside Drive

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