In Conversation with Inna Tuler of Maintco Corp
Describe your business in a few words?
Maintco Corp is a premier full-service general contractor in the retail, food service and commercial property industries.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
Trust in myself and my husband, and an opportunity to make more for my family. The partnership with my husband was such that there was open discussion and business decisions based on calculated strategies. We weighed the risk versus reward to move the business forward.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
After having an early career as a concert pianist prior to moving to the United States, I made a life change when I took a position as an apartment building (Property Management) manager and later as a rental consultant in a leasing office. My success in the leasing position grew into an opportunity as a property supervisor for several, and later, over 40 apartment complexes. This experience and growth provided an opportunity to grow my responsibilities and led to becoming a licensed realtor. I then stepped in to assist my late husband in the construction business. From there on the business grew and transformed into the current Maintco Corp.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I have always been drawn to leadership and progress. The discipline needed to be a concert pianist assisted me in moving forward through several stages of boldness, perseverance, and hard work, leading to the current, always in action, entrepreneurial activity.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
The marketing strategy for Maintco Corp was based on doing the job right the first time, and building relationships. Word of mouth and continuous communication with current and potential customers. Referrals and expanding services based on the customer’s needs was a large part of growth and revenue strategy.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
The construction business is always full of challenges and opportunities. The service industry is based on extremes. One particular situation that was a definite learning opportunity was in the aftermath of major rains within the Los Angeles basin. The heavy rains left us with over 100 service calls in a 24 hour period, all of an urgent nature. As a result we made it standard procedure to check the 10-day weather forecasts on a daily basis and schedule technician coverage to allow for a better response.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
There are several individual situations of which I am extremely proud, however, I believe I am most proud of the development of personnel. We have built a system whereby our personnel are given opportunities to grow and expand their knowledge and skill set. Most of our service technicians have been cross trained and certified on multiple trades or pieces of equipment. This is a situation that allows for Maintco to better serve the client, for the client to have confidence in Maintco and thus grow our revenue and for the technician to feel pride for their accomplishments.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
“Tell me what I need to know about you?” “what do you know about Maintco?” and “where do you see yourself 5 years from now?”
I feel the best tip I can share is to make the interview an honest and open conversation about what we need and what the interviewee is capable of providing. Culture is a big deal and we will many times hire for culture and talent and train or retrain for additional trades. I want my people to feel and know that they belong.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Internally, Maintco set definite safety protocols for our building as well as for our field personnel, following CDC guidelines, to keep us as safe as possible. Our customers in the retail and food service industries have been impacted through local and state mandates on proper ways to serve their customers.
Although Maintco has been providing save and clean locations for our customers for decades, as a response to the COVID Pandemic, we established programs using all Health Department and CDC requirements to assist our customers in retail, food service, office spaces, schools, and medical facilities to re-open and remain open safely. We have been able to effectively complete our program to sanitize and disinfect the entire facility space, leaving the area free from viral and bacterial pathogens. We also provide Plexi-shield safe spaces, hands free fixtures, high tech air sample and testing systems and all required signage for safe spaces.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Maintco has developed a strong reputation as a service provider who understands the needs of the customer. Categories of facility and construction service are constant. The difference is in what the current environment and marketplace requires. Using newest technology and a constant finger on the pulse of our customers allows us to continue to quickly respond to changes in the marketplace. Staying on top of the newest changes in our customer’s use of technology also allows Maintco to stay relevant to our target customers. I foresee steady and strong growth, establishing even stronger presence on the farther territories of CA/The West, North, South and East. We will be launching a “Disaster Response” department that will specialize, among many, in providing emergency power, water damage control, earthquake emergency and retrofits.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
It is important to stay vigilant and aware of the status of current conditions and the out of the box opportunities these circumstances bring. Being able to move swiftly to understand and respond to market conditions, lockdowns, and all other of our customers’ needs, is important. Being the source of information to our customers is important as well.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
I know now how difficult it is to find great people, let alone hire them. The difference between hoping to build a great culture from people you haven’t met and having a personal network of the best people is the key for success. It’s all about people at the end of the day. Also, mistakes and competition are healthy. At first both are scary but I learned to embrace them, learn from it and grow stronger and better.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Staying grounded means that we focus on remaining calm and connected to who we are as a company in the face of uncertainty. We function within the external chaos that is our business, but are controlled by our values, purpose and vision,
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Work/life balance is an extremely important part of our industry. The facility and construction services environment can be overwhelming at times. Finding a balance is encouraged by my entire management team. Staying grounded in both work and life is the key. The team atmosphere we encourage allows for support from the top down and between departments allowing for stress to not become overwhelming. We listen to our teams and use their insights to improve old patterns of work to improve and set new directions.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I have a varied set of interests and accomplishments. From being a concert pianist to co-hosting, “Tough and Tender”, with Body Builder/Actor Ric Drasin. I have been very active in running about 60 half-marathons and distance bicycle events. I sit on several Board of Directors for non-profit organizations and myself am a member of VISTAGE and WPO.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
The 5 P’s – Perfect Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Time management reduces stress, being organized in the planned daily tasks needed helps reduce errors and missed deadlines. Promote and maintain a strong line of communication. And never miss a workout in the morning.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Moving from idea/concept to successful business and sharing that success with the team that makes it possible. It means building a legacy for next generations.