Friday, January 29, 2016

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Business spotlight - A Plus Diesel Sales - By Eric Colby

When it comes to turning a hobby into your business, there are two schools of thought. On the one side, people say that as soon as you need to make money with the hobby, it takes out the fun.

Then there are 26-year-old business partners Andrew Coppersmith and Andy Lane, the co-owners of A Plus Diesel Sales. They specialize in customizing Chevrolet and GMC trucks powered by Duramax diesel engines and the company is gaining a reputation nationwide for its immaculately detailed pickups.
“We’re not just car salesmen,” said Coppersmith. “We’re huge diesel truck enthusiasts.”

The company recently moved to 8 Storm Drive behind the Ice Cream Dugout in Windham into a 3,720 square foot facility that will let the growing venture continue to evolve. 

The new facility is a far cry from when Coppersmith started working on cars and trucks in his garage in 2010. He was trained in auto body work and at age 21, he had his license to sell automobiles. He tried his hand with a Honda Civic.

“A guy asked me if I changed the timing belt and I said I’m done selling these because I don’t know enough about them,” recalled Coppersmith. “But I know about Duramaxs so I started dabbling in that.”
He sold a few trucks and was doing auto body work out of a shop next to Raymond Service Center in Raymond. His brother got involved and they sold a few trucks together. Andrew Coppersmith had stayed in touch with Lane who graduated from the University of Maine at Orono with a degree in construction management and was working in that business down in Massachusetts.

Lane was selling recreational vehicles on the side on Craigslist and doing well at it, so he told Coppersmith to give him a Duramax to sell.

“He started selling them faster than I could find them so I made him an offer,” laughed Coppersmith. “I said, ‘Get up here, we need you now’.”

Lane returned to Maine just under two years ago and the company moved to a shop on Route 26 in Gray. It was there Coppersmith learned the auto body trade at The 1 Collision Center under the watchful eye of owner Junior Locke. A Plus leased the facility until the continued growth of the business forced the move to Windham.

A highlight of the new shop is the 27-foot by 14-foot Garmat semi down draft spray booth. Coppersmith and his crew use all Spies Hecker paint exclusively.

Of course any successful business has key employees. Joshua Tubbs has been with Coppersmith since he started A Plus Auto Body and he makes sure the shop runs smoothly. David White researches and finds the trucks for the company to buy. A Plus has bought trucks from seemingly every state in the union.

“You go to a used car dealer and see the $4,995 car and it has a scratch or dent, they leave it,” said Coppersmith. “We fix every dent, every scratch, bumpers, dents, windows, everything you can think of.” Every truck is also detailed by Detail Maine in Windham and to give the trucks a custom look, A Plus Diesel Sales puts on a legal lift kit and custom rims and tires. 

Since Lane and Coppersmith teamed up, they’ve sold about 600 trucks to states as far away as Kentucky and Michigan. They’ve never paid for advertising and have used social media to promote the company. They have about 5,000 followers on Facebook and Lane is planning to do more with Instagram.
For the future, Coppersmith and Lane say they would like to get into selling aftermarket tires, wheels and accessories. They would also like to build a custom truck and raffle it off to a customer, similar to the TV show Diesel Brothers on the Discovery Channel.

With all those ideas, obviously the company is growing and the proverbial sky appears to be the limit. For now, the partners are focusing on building their business and selling more custom trucks. 

“The biggest thing is for us to have a good platform to sell,” said Lane. “We’re selling trucks that we can honestly say are dependable, high-quality vehicles.”

Friday, January 22, 2016

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Firsts - Starting a business is like the rest of life - By Robert Leonard

Starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur (for the first time) is not about taking one step at a time, it's about getting beyond the firsts - maybe many first or even a series of first (purposely left singular).  The advice here is when you encounter a first, don't consider the task, consider it as a first - you have done 100s of firsts before.

Think about what scares us in life - it's not the doing of something over and over, it's about doing those things for the first time.  But those firsts are more than scary, they also become our most revered and treasured memories. Think about it - here are some examples of our firsts.

  • First day of school - elementary, JHS, HS, college
  • First date, first dance, first girlfriend/boyfriend, first kiss, first time
  • First love, first child
  • First job, first sales call, first rejection, first sale
        • (Celebration of the first $Dollar$ pinned or framed on the wall)
  • First business, first hire, first office
What's common here?  It's the word first. When we are afraid or scared, it's because it's your first time. It is not about being insurmountable or impossible - it's just that we have never done it or been there before.

Remember, your first time at anything has an unknown element to it - the unknowns, by their very nature, at a minimum, cause us hesitation - at the most, cause us fear. 

Any venture, any opportunity, any challenge, and much of life is about doing, and getting beyond, your firsts.

We celebrate firsts. We reminisce of firsts.

"When was the last time you did something for the first time." ~ John C. Maxwell

"What makes the Biggest Difference in ones chance of success - Doing It"  ~rel

Business spotlight - Tax Prep - By Michelle Libby

Crystal Rogers has a passion for helping people. And she does this by helping people prepare their taxes. It’s that time of year and people are gathering their W-2s and other paperwork  to put together tax returns for the 2015 tax year.

Rogers at Tax Prep wants to help take the stress off people by helping them complete their taxes. “I’m convenient for people who are busy,” Rogers said.

She got into the field by reviewing tax returns and finding errors. “I saw we were paying a lot of money for taxes and there were mistakes,” she said. “I offer thorough service and convenience.”

Tax Prep is located in Rogers’ office at her financial advising business at 23 Bridgton Road, Suite 1 in Westbrook. She does most of the work out of her home, but is able to meet people in a location convenient for them.

“I’m looking to help people out. I don’t charge by the hour. I have set fees,” Rogers said. She prides herself on having low fees but producing quality work. When she is hired to do taxes, she will call to give an overview of where the client is. She will go over it with them after it is sent and the refund is on the way. All taxes are filed electronically, meaning that her clients get their refunds faster.

“People get refunds back pretty quickly,” she said.

Getting taxes done local provides the opportunity for job creation and more personal attention by someone who is invested in what she is doing. Rogers prides herself on her attention to detail. If there is ever an issue, she will be there to support her clients.

Rogers does taxes for individuals, families and small businesses. She can issue 1099s and complete Schedule Cs. She can also file extensions and do estimated taxes. She can pretty much do it all. The only thing she does not do is taxes for corporations.

“I’m looking to help anyone who spends too much getting their taxes done. If you’re paying more than $250, you’re paying too much,” she said.

Of course, the prices depend on what form people need filed and for standard returns are much less than that.

One of the conveniences Rogers provides is drop off service. Clients are able to drop off their paperwork at any time in a lock box at her Bridgton Road location. People are welcome to stop in or call first to speak with her. Items people should collect for their Rogers are social security number, W-2s, alimony, childcare expenses, contribution to retirement accounts, medical savings accounts, and a list for itemized deductions.  

Rogers has taken training and takes online continuing education courses to keep up with the changes in tax laws. She is certified with the IRS and has had a background check done.

“I’m affordable, accommodating and looking to help people out with great customer service,” she said.

One of the deductions people forget about is the donations they make to places like Goodwill. Get a receipt for your donations, Rogers said.

She said on business returns, people should not forget to claim mileage on their vehicle when it is used for business. “They should be,” she said.

Rogers also reviews previous year’s returns for free for her clients. Additionally, she wants to be a resource for anyone unsure and so she offers free tax advice for those who ask.

She does this work because she likes people,” she said. “I like to tell people they’re getting a big refund!”

As for the future of Tax Prep, Rogers would like to serve more local people. “I’d like to grow and help as many people as I can,” she said.

She can be found on Facebook under Tax Prep Westbrook. For more information or to arrange a meeting, call Tax Prep at 838-9181.

She also welcomes you to start by emailing her at: <

Friday, January 15, 2016

January 15, 2016 - Business

My three predictions for business 2016-2020 - "My Crystal Ball" - By Robert Leonard
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Business Spotlight - FirstLight Home Care - By Michelle Libby

For 15 years, husband and wife team Carol Larkin and Peter Gartland took care of their aging parents. When their parents all passed within a year of one another, the couple was lost. “It was like reverse empty nest syndrome,” said Larkin. It was then they realized their passion for caring for the elderly and the desire to provide “stable, supportive care in their home,” she said. “We saw the need and missed working in the elderly population.”  

They joined with FirstLight Home Care, a national company, to help keep seniors stay in their own homes in the Casco and Windham area. They have been in business for five years and just opened a new office in Windham near Seacoast Adventure Park.  

Koda the security dog. 
With approximately 50 employees, who are mostly older people with life experience and a calling for this type of work, FirstLight Home Care is able to cover four regions from Portland to Yarmouth, Brunswick to Lisbon Falls, Norway to North Conway, the west side of Sebago Lake including Standish and Gorham and into Windham and Raymond.  

“We cover 3,500 square miles,” said Gartland. “We help anyone who needs help living at home.” Some clients might have brain injuries and some are older and need end of life care. They help those and anyone in between.  

The caregivers provide assisted living in the person’s own home. They can provide transportation, meal planning and preparation, help with errands, personal care and activities of daily living, case management, appointment management, general household chores as needed.  

“We are always looking for people that have the caregiver heart,” said Larkin.  

The average age of their caregivers is 58. Many have in home care experience. They have CNAs one-on-one experience, nurses, PSS or empty nesters. “They are people looking for something meaningful to do,” Gartland said. The company provides the trainings to its employees on everything from Dementia to fire safety. There is a 90 day probationary period for employees.  

Gartland is the president of the company and does much of the financial end of the business, while Larkin does more of the marketing, networking and scheduling. Both of them meet every client that the company works with. When someone calls to start care, Gartland and Larkin go to the home to meet the family and client, ask questions and devise a care plan. Some people only need help two hours a week and others need it 24 hours a day help, said Gartland. “It gives us the chance to see the environment and make an assessment on which staff member would be a good match,” said Larkin. “We want to make the environment as safe as possible for the caregiver and the client,” she added. There are times when they will have a housekeeper go to the house first with Gartland to make the environment safe for all involved.  

When a caregiver starts with a new client someone, whether it’s Gartland or Larkin or another caregiver who has worked with the client, goes with the new person to help introduce them.  

“It’s our philosophy to never send a caregiver to a house without an introduction,” said Larkin. It’s an easy way to get to know the person and the care plan.  

There are other companies out there who do the same type of work, however the personal touches and care that FirstLight Home Care implements makes them stand out. They have a 24-7 hotline for caregivers and clients. The phone will be answered by Gartland, Larkin, Jessie Mullen, client care director, or Norma Roberts, who is the senior care giver and administrative assistant.  

Being part of a national company helps when it comes to licensing and trainings, Gartland said. Gartland and Larkin’s FirstLight Home Care is licensed in New Hampshire, but does not need to be licensed in Maine. All of their employees have had background checks and are insured and bonded.   

FirstLight Home Care also has been named to best in home care for the last four years in an independent survey. “Our caregivers are the reason for that,” Gartland said.  

“When the owner of the company show up, it says we’re passionate about the business and care,” said Larkin.   
FirstLight Home Care works with the VA and Veterans. They also work in managed care facilities around the area as additional helpers for clients. If a family calls from the hospital on Friday and needs care for a parent that day, FirstLight Home Care will work with them until a plan is created.  

www.firstlighthomecare.comThe goal is to keep clients and all seniors living independently. Gartland admits that they are also a resource for the community when it comes to issues seniors face, or placements in nursing homes.  

For more information about FirstLight Home Care, visit or call 627-1125.

My Three Predictions for Business 2016-2020 - "My Crystal Ball" - By Robert Leonard

Prediction one - Business to itself will flourish and grow over the next five years going from good to great. The markets, which have been growing slowly over the last few years, will continue to grow except that they will be accelerating. For the last five years we have been in a "replacement" market. This market has become the norm for our society today. We, in general, have not been buying products because we wanted them, but because we needed them - "our old one broke down". In the next five years, business and market growth will accelerate as there is a pent up demand for the "I Wants" rather than "I Needs". This points to good times.

Prediction two - Financial instrument marketers will become more aggressive with the offering of more aggressive products. Aggressive investment capital was stifled for several years for two reasons, the media told us of impending doom and the investment /tax rules were in flux - we like to invest where we know the rules. Today, there is still huge pent up capital "waiting on the sidelines", but looking, for a place to flow. In the next 5 years it will flow, possibly like it has never flowed in the past and probably not peaking for 20 years - yes, a 20-year boom. This points to good times.

Prediction three - Business and life are being redefined by our dreams and desires. In the past, it has always been about security and consistency, which came with stress and vulnerability. We will see more people stepping out (even if they are forced out) taking on the world satisfying their own entrepreneurial desires and wants setting their own destinies. This will create jobs, wealth, and be a major part of our future and the economy. This points to good times.

So where are all these opportunities - examples please?
  • Convenience Services
    • Landscaping
    • Food Prep and Delivery
    • Child Care
  • Financial Services
    • More people today are at least concerned about their future
  • Specialty Manufacturing.
    • Anything that can be made and shipped inexpensively and/or regonally  There are even boutique steel manufactures
Entrepreneurism will not only be the future, but the thing to be. 

"A True Entrepreneur does not think they can, they just don't know why they can't" ~rel

Follow us on Twitter @T4Leonard and @WindhamEagle.

Friday, January 8, 2016

January 8, 2016 - Business

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Business Spotlight - G&K Motors - By Michelle Libby

G&K Motors is a jack of all trades when it comes to auto repair and towing. From towing small cars to large dump trucks to tune ups and alignments, they are ready to serve clients from Portland to Naples and beyond. With 18 years in the business, George and Karyn Varney have kept G&K Motors competitive and priced right for their customers.  

“We offer quick, quality, honesty repairs,” said Karyn. “We fix the car right and at a reasonable price. We hope they will give us the opportunity to be their local mechanic for towing and repairs.”  

Towing has become a large part of G&K’s business. When one passes by an accident, it’s a good bet that one of G&K’s fourteen trucks will be called there to collect the cars. The shop is AAA affiliated and a premiere partner for Windham and Standish, and is one of the first companies on scene when a AAA member calls about roadside assistance. Six of G&K’s drivers have been with the company for 10 years or more.  

They offer a 24/7 hotline for towing with live, local dispatchers who answer the phone. All of their employees are local as well, said Karyn. The radio dispatch system they use keeps track of all the calls and drivers. This week, they rolled out tablets in the tow trucks thanks to AAA. This will lower the wait time for calls, getting the drivers to a disabled car quicker, said George. The tablets are loaded with maps and information that help the driver meet the needs of the customer.  

“Our drivers all have uniforms, all have phones and tablets,” said Karyn. They’re not like the tow drivers of old.  

G&K are known for having the best tires rate in town. Not only do they put the tires on, but they have an alignment machine, something most place don’t have and have to sub-contract it out, to make sure that the job is done right. Quotes for tires can be ordered online line at the G&K website.

“We have the best prices in town on tires,” George said. “Ninety percent of the time if someone has a quote I can usually meet that price.”

G&K are members of the AAA battery program and have most makes and models in stock. With two service vehicles, they can do free battery testing. They also have discounts for AAA members.

George has worked on vehicles since he was just out of high school, Karyn said. With five bays and 10 employees, G&K Motors can handle all service and repairs and all state inspections for cars, RVs, trailers and trucks. The only work they do not do is bodywork and heavy machinery.  The mechanics are ASE certified meaning that they have passed state tests covering the work they are doing. G&K offers free estimates and competitive prices. They want people to give them the opportunity to beat competitors’ prices. They are used to working with customers on fixed incomes.
“George always works with customers to make sure they are aware of what work will be done and he even gives them rides home if they need it,” said Karyn. “Let us meet or beat any quote.”  

“We fix everything, but a broken heart,” said George with a laugh.  

With children of their own, Karyn and George also sponsor local kids’ sports teams like baseball and basketball. They are both involved in the Towing and Recovery Association of Maine, George as a director and Karyn as the secretary. The company is a member of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, like participating in the Summerfest parade and the Rotary’s fishing derby.   

G&K Motors’ garage is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and they offer 24-hour towing. For more on G&K Motors or to get a tire quote, visit