Rowing is life. Here are some of my thoughts.

Winterizing The Boat

Its getting cold and living close to the beach, I see people posting articles about winterizing their boats. This got me thinking, I haven’t seen anyone post anything about winterizing rowing shells, so I Googled “winterize rowing shells”. I found what appears to be an older USRowing Article on winterizing your boathouse top to bottom. It has some good recommendations, but there wasn’t much on actually winterizing your boats.

I realize that many of you have already packed away your gear for this winter, but if you haven’t, here are a few of Finish Line Shell Repair’s thoughts.

Here are a few of our quick thoughts and recommendations-

The Hull

◾Clean the boat bow to stern, inside and out.
◾Dish soap, water and some good scrubbing will do the trick.
◾Vespoli recommends using Bon Ami [find at your grocery store] to clean the wet-sanded area.
◾Check out Pocock’s article about keeping boats white: https://www.pocock.com/2015/06/tips-for-keeping-your-boats-white/
◾Inspect the hull for any issues. Now is a good time to address any dings/dents/punctures that you have been hiding with tape!

The Interior

If you store your boats outside:
◾Remove the seats and foot stretchers
◾Inspect them for issues:
◾Wheels – are they in good condition? No pitting or cracks?
◾Shoes and footboards:
◾Are they in decent shape?
◾Are all the screws that hold them to the footplate there?
◾Do you have all the hardware to hold the footboard into the boat?
◾Store the seats and foot stretchers.
◾We recommend storing them in a rubbermaid container [or something similar] that is big enough to hold each boats shoes and seats. This way each boats equipment is in one container and these pieces will be out of the elements during the off season.
◾If you store them in your trailer, make sure to throw a strap around the container and lid to make sure the lid doesn’t blow away!
◾Check the hardware that you don’t remove to make sure it is in good shape.
◾Tracks – Are they clean and smooth?
◾Foot-stretcher channels – Are they chipped or broken?
◾Check any steering mechanisms
◾fins/rudders
◾steering wire in 4+, 4x, and 2x/-

Riggers

◾Make sure you have all the nuts and bolts for the rigger attachments
◾Check oar locks and spacers
◾If you don’t have rigger bags-
◾Wrap your riggers with plastic wrap or bungees.

Finally

◾If you store your boats outside – CHECK YOUR STRAPS!
◾If you are in a climate that freezes, double check your straps.
◾Straps take a beating in the winter because they get wet [rain/snow] and then freeze at night and then warm during the day. This causes straps to expand and contract, and ultimately become fragile as the winter wears on.
◾If you start with an old strap, the risk of breaking will increase!

Newest Employee – Expanding the Reach

On November 1st we welcomed Danny Izguerro to the team.

He has spent the last 6 months with Van Dusen Racing Shells. Danny is from Chicago and has spent his rowing career with Lincoln Park Rowing. He will be spending the next few months with Sandy and Mike learning the ins and outs of boat repair, painting processes and major hull repairs. Beginning sometime this winter, he will be working with Baltimore Rowing Club and their youth program. We are excited about his skill set and what he will add to the team.

As we start to develop our team and grow in numbers we are going to expand our reach. This winter will be an exciting one for Finish Line. As we enter the start of our 5th year in business we are looking to service teams north of Boston, South of the Carolina’s and west of Chicago.

More updates and photos of our work and space will follow soon.

 

 

The New Space – size really matters

It’s been quite a year for Finish Line Shell Repair.

At the onset of 2016 we made a decision to expand and grow the business to new heights. This was right after a major legal battle with a US Manufacturer of racing shells and a very successful winter of repairing boats. I remember walking into 101 Gorman and looking at my father who was pinched between 2 boats. Shells were stacked on top of one another and the space seemed to keep getting smaller.

Dan and I took a look at a warehouse a mile down the road and knew instantly we needed the space. After more than 5 months of legal work and personal fundraising I made the decision to buy a 22,000 square foot warehouse in the heart of Southwest Baltimore.

The space is as long as a football field and rests on more than 1.5 acres of land. It is, quite literally, 4.5x larger than our original space at 101 Gorman Avenue.

Almost simultaneously – but in reality felt like an eternity – we were able to successfully sell off the old space to help pay for the down payment of the new facility. I’ve had the opportunity to buy and sell residential and commercial property for the last 5 years and this experience topped the cake. It was one of the most difficult business decisions I have ever had to make. A larger space requires more revenue and ultimately has more expenses. Were we ready? Are we even capable of surviving? These are questions that ran through my mind daily and continue to plague my dreams at night (I suppose you call them nightmares).

The transition was a bit of a nightmare. In the course of a few weeks we had to pack up one shop and move it into another without losing steam on the work we had to complete. Dan used to tell me “there is never a good time. So we just gotta do it.” I remember a very hot and humid day in June we tore down the paint booth and loaded a rental truck from Penske Truck Leasing 3x and drove everything over. We completed the mission in 4 hours! Following the bulk move we had to reassemble the booth. I forgot how hard it was assembling a booth.

Fast forward 2 months we are finally in a place where we see massive return on our efficiency. A relative of mine tells me all the time “you need the proper flow.” I think we are nearly there.

Boat comes in, moves down to Sandy for repair, moves through the shop to the prep deck, into paint, out into finishing and onto a trailer. We have air conditioning, a better booth, more space to utilize for future en-devours and a state-of-the-art compressor that keeps the lines clean and the guns moving.

I don’t know where we will be in a year but the ride has been incredible. You can see pictures of the shop on our facebook page.

Spring Season – 2016 Goals

It’s been quite awhile since I posted an update on Finish Line. So much has happened since our “year in review” blog post back in December. I talked about growing from adversity. I talked about building a company.

This year is ALL about growth and testing our limits.

We have lofty goals for 2016. We like to start every year with a list of goals to accomplish. I started this with Joe Ledvina – our second shop manager and a guy that really made a difference at Finish Line. We are thankful to have had him with us. We also like to differentiate between company and individual goals. This helps keep us on track and provide some kind of check/balance with one another.

Some of our goals:

Complete repair a day
No returns on repairs
Increase web traffic on Rep Racing Shells
Attend 20 regattas
Relocate to new facility
Expand Westward
Build on current partnerships

We are making strides as an organization and I love it. Each person is in charge of their own department and know what they need to do each day of the week.

All of the experiences (negative and positive) in 2015 have made this year a great one!

How America Was Built

In the 1960’s, the USA was up against a juggernaut called RUSSIA. To win a battle (not the war), they wanted to be the first country on the surface of the moon. None of this is new to you.

So, in an announcement to the world, the US declared they would reach the surface of the moon before the decade ran out. Before and during the announcement, they had NO IDEA how to accomplish that goal. Pretty baller, right? I mean. Think about that. They announced to the world they were going to accomplish a goal that was never done before – do something no man ever thought was possible and put a timeline on it.

Not to compare the Lunar landing to Finish Line – but that is exactly what we did.

In 2012, we spoke to 5 teams and promised 13 boats would be completed before March 1st. We did not have the resources, the building or the man power – let alone the knowledge – to complete such a task.

Fast forward to 2016.

We are doing the same thing. Setting goals without knowing how we will accomplish them. In fact – we are setting dates as well. Our new date: May 3rd, 2016.

More to come.

Year in Review – What a Year!

I’ve read somewhere that the hardest year an Entrepreneur has is their 3rd year. Maybe “they” are right.

This Christmas, I had a chance to reflect on the failures and successes of this year. I also thought about the wild moments and the hard ones. I would have to say that this year was the “learning” year for me. It was also the “wear the big boy pants.”

Below is a list of events or things that have happened to Finish Line:

  1. Secured an agreement with Hudson Boatworks to be their Official Repair Facility in the USA.
  2. Original founder Dan Reardon sells his shares to Dan Schenk.
  3. Joe Ledvina, long time shop manager, moves on to a new job in Atlanta.
  4. Hire a new full time painter, Mike.
  5. Invest in the Scherwin Williams paint matching system – big investment.
  6. Purchase new ventilation system for the roof.
  7. Hire CJ Bown.
  8. Sued by Vespoli – largest US manufacturer of racing shells.
  9. Sold more than 10 used racing shells.
  10. Traveled more than 40,000 miles.
  11. Had more than 15 tires slashed/ruined on our trailer and truck.
  12. Had more than 3 employees leave.
  13. Surpassed Year 2 revenue before July 2015.
  14. Created the new company Rep Racing Shells.

It was a wild ride. We now created a system and a team that I feel confident about. We are growing and continue to adapt to the changing environment. If 2015 was my learning year – I hope 2016 is my GROWTH year.

 

An Expensive Life Lesson

I try to rank life experiences – easiest to hardest – and from June to September of this year a legal battle with Vespoli, USA made the top of the list.

I continue to write and comment about the growth of Finish Line. Each day I spend my morning and night focused on the same question “how do I build Finish Line Shell Repair to be the biggest and best shell repair company in the country?” While I was working with a local club team in Maryland I met with CJ Bown at a regatta in Philadelphia. We discussed boat sale opportunities, repairs and general rowing related topics. I made the comment “wouldn’t it be wild if you worked with me at Finish Line?”

The comment weighed on both of our minds for a while. I remember seeing him a week later. He asked me how serious I was.

He is one of the only people in my universe that I can talk about rowing, Finish Line, boats, repairs and anything under the rowing sun without getting bored or tired. He is also someone I trust (just like I trust Dan Schenk). As an entrepreneur and business owner I am always striving to find the right team.

Once he submitted his two week notice, CJ was immediately told by his former employee that he was violating a non-compete clause in his employment agreement by going to work at Finish Line, and that Vespoli would use any means necessary to enforce the restrictions in CJ’s non-compete.

Soon after, Vespoli’s legal counsel warned Finish Line that it too would be held accountable if it went ahead in bringing CJ into Finish Line. I remember being asked by my father “is this something you want to go through? Do you trust CJ enough? Do you think this is the right move for the company? For your family? If you lose, this will create a ripple effect I don’t think you will bounce back from.”

I knew it would be a risk.  But I considered what the papers Vespoli sent me, sought counsel of friends and lawyers, and most of all – I considered my gut reaction about what was right for Finish Line.  I had tunnel vision. I knew what I needed to do.

Fast forward 4 months – we went through several depositions, countless hours reading documents, losing sleep every night, constant headaches, vomiting, and more than 16 hours in a court room in the middle of downtown Baltimore. Result?

We won.

What did I learn? What did FINISH LINE learn?

Following your gut is important in this world. If you second guess decisions you will never succeed. I learned that people, when trusted and supported, can do amazing things. I learned that lawyers win no matter the result.  I learned the rowing community is a lot smaller than I thought.  This dispute was a net negative for the rowing community.  Even among competitors, our marketplace is close-knit and for the most part, collegial.  We need to stay out of court and do our business in boathouses and on race courses – where all of us belong together.

Throughout those four months everything and everyone in my life was affected. My friendships got harder. Time with family was suffered greatly. I remember feeling like it was my fault. I remember having a short temper with anyone who came in contact with me. I remember complaining! The worst thing you can do is COMPLAIN! No one wants to hear your troubles – they have enough on their own.

Now that the lawsuit is behind us we are taking steps to improve the company, our general business processes, communication with current and future customers and communication among employees. I learned the importance of proper record-keeping and documentation and the importance of keeping track of E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.

What I’ve Learned – running a business for 3 years

I spend a large portion of my free time reading from the perspective of the Entrepreneur and the CEO of Fortune 300-500 companies. Below is my HONEST AND REAL list of what it is like to be an Entrepreneur. Enjoy!

  • Running a business sucks – I mean really sucks. Starting a business is awesome.
  • Being in charge is harder than you think.
  • If things get bad – they can get worse. If things are good – they can get better.
  • Everything costs double what you think it will.
  • Everything takes 10x longer than you think it will.
  • Only your mother will think you are perfect and have the best ideas.
  • In lawsuits, the only winner is the lawyer. Try to avoid them (lawsuits, not lawyers. They are nice people outside the courtroom)
  • You will learn the definition of “grinding” in the first month. If things are easy, I suggest re evaluating your current situation.
  • There is never a good time to leave something or a commitment.
  • Having partners is a challenge. Treat it like a marriage – because it is. You will see him/her more than you see your significant other.
  • If you think you aren’t “ready” – you are. Trust yourself.
  • Understanding money in and money out (cash flow) is paramount. Don’t let this run your life.
  • You will get sick. You will throw up. You will cry. You will feel the world collapsing. Let it. It’s part of the fun.
  • Try to be a part of your industry – beyond a business owner. Stay connected to the root and the pulse.
  • In the service business, the customer is (usually) right. In today’s world you have to stick to your guns – even as a business owner.
  • 90% of your problem comes from 10% of your business.
  • Starting a business is the easy part. Growing the business is the hard part. So just start the damn thing and see where it takes you.
  • Tell people your ideas. Don’t keep them to yourself. Don’t be afraid to show people what you create – 99% of the world are too lazy to steal your idea.
  • 80% of your inner thoughts are negative. Do your best to stay positive in hard times.
  • Talk about your feelings. Don’t be an idiot and think you can solve them on your own. YOU CAN’T!

Featuring Rowing Coaches Around the US

At the middle of September, CJ had the idea to feature local and national coaches on our Facebook page. I was a bit apprehensive at first. I didn’t think people would want to read about other coaches. Boy was I wrong!

We are seeing a big uptick in our social media presence and we are seeing constant growth in our followers.

How does it work?

We started out by asking 4 simple questions to coaches we knew. We then asked them to “nominate” a coach they are close with for the following week. So far we have featured coaches from the DC, VA, Midwest, Northeast and Philadelphia regions. It continues to grow and the response is fantastic.

We will continue to do this campaign and in 2016 have some great ideas for more like it.

Adversity is an old wooden ship

Oh wait – Diversity is an old wooden ship. Right? Thank you, Will Ferrell for that gem.

So many GREAT entrepreneurs have the ability to overcome adversity. Problems arrive on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. The folks that can overcome powerful odds against them, are the ones that succeed. Having a great team and support system always helps. But the truth is, it comes from within. No one can ever have sympathy or empathy for an entrepreneur going through struggles.

Recently, Finish Line Shell Repair went through a serious ordeal that caused me to have sleepless nights, a depleting bank account and the inability to have FUN at anything. I felt alone. I spoke to about a dozen people that experienced similar events but they could never truly relate. I heard one person say “luck has you beat?” Man, did that really strike a chord! It’s true. I thought for so many weeks that it was all bad luck. That I was in this situation because luck was against me and there was nothing I could do about it. When that gets planted in the head of an entrepreneur – you better walk away because he/she will COMPLAIN COMPLAIN COMPLAIN. They won’t listen to a word you say and won’t accept any advice…because no advice in the world can help BAD LUCK.

Luck wasn’t the problem. I wasn’t seeing the problem as reality. I was seeing it as a disaster.

I looked up the definition of Adversity and there wasn’t a single word in that definition that I did not feel. Pain. Suffering. Disaster. Misery. It was terrible.

I was probably the last person you wanted to spend time with. One of my biggest strengths, I have found through this tough time, is my ability to get through the difficult times and laugh adversity in the face. Was it easy? No. Did the employees at Finish Line want to strangle me? Absolutely. I attempted to keep my cool as best as possible and in the end we forged ahead and became a stronger company. I became a stronger man.

The best leaders are the ones that can keep their cool in the face of adversity. They are the ones that when the shit hits the fan, they maintain their posture, their control and face the problem instead of cowering away. It’s so easy to be on the bottom – it doesn’t take any effort any drive. But it calls on everything in you to be on top – you have to harness your WILL and say “I am going to challenge myself! I am going to make it!”

We made it.