Matt Michalak is no stranger to fixing things around the house. He got plenty of practice growing up in a 100-year-old farmhouse in Michigan.
“We had remodeled everything and then started over, so I learned a lot about fixing things early on,” he said.
Now the Olathe resident spends his days fixing other people’s problems through his company, Handyworks. The 3-year-old home maintenance company serves customers primarily in Olathe, Prairie Village, Lenexa, Overland Park and Shawnee.
Q: How would you describe your business?
“We like to take the first five or 10 things that are driving you crazy in your home and take care of them in one visit,” Michalak said.
Handyworks does a little bit everything, but the company specializes in drywall, electrical and plumbing repairs, wood rot repairs and gutter cleaning.
Michalak does some remodeling work and snow removal — he’ll even put up your holiday lights. He operates that part of his business at blueelves.com and uses a separate telephone number.
Q: How does the job process work?
“I do a handyman inspection where I am looking for problems and taking care of as many of them as I can in one stop,” he said.
Michalak provides an estimate on the spot.
While there are many repairs Michalak can do, he’s mindful of what he can’t do.
“I know when to say when it’s beyond me,” Michalak said. “I’ve grown a pretty good network of other service providers I can refer people to...I can pull them in for the customer or, if they want to manage it themselves, I can give them a name.”
Q: How did you start Handyworks and why?
Michalak earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Kettering University (formerly General Motors Institute) in Flint, Mich.
He put himself through college by working for a housing management company in nearby Ann Arbor adding to his home repairs skills. Michalak worked in the automotive industry and commuted back and forth to Kansas City while dating his future wife. He finally moved to this area, got married and worked in the HVAC sector at an area company. Then things changed at his employer.
“After the second layoff, I tried something else and it didn’t work out…but I worked for a friend of mine doing handyman stuff and spent about four months with him when he said, ‘You’re going to do it for me or for yourself’ and decided to go out on my own.”
Q: How did you set up the business?
“I didn’t go to the bank, I didn’t prepare a business plan,” Michalak said. “I just went out and started knocking on doors.” He started Handyworks just two weeks after his twins were born.
Over the years, Michalak had collected lots of tools so he loaded them up in the family minivan and started looking for business. He started with residential window cleaning.
“I started getting customers by knocking on doors…then people asked me to do their Christmas lights,” he said. “Over the winter no one wanted to have me clean their windows so I made the turn to handyman work.”
In the spring of his first year in business, Michalak bought a retired ambulance for his work vehicle. Not only is the ambulance functional, but it has proven to be a hit with clients.
Michalak does most of the work himself although he does have someone who occasionally helps out. He also has an office manager who works remotely scheduling jobs and handling the books.
Q: How does your engineering background help with your business?
“Because of that background I can look at you home in a holistic way,” Michalak said. “What that means to you as a homeowner is if someone is looking to finish a basement I want to look at pipes and make sure they are working appropriately making sure those systems don’t have a weak spot.”
Michalak thinks of himself as a generalist with a twist.
“I know codes and I can tell when something isn’t right and call the expert,” he said.
Q: What challenges do you face?:
Handyworks’ business has been so good that Michalak wants to hire a technician to join him.
Another challenge is saying no to incoming business.
“I am finally getting to a place where I am willing to do that,” he said. “I get asked to do all kinds of things — everything from building garden planters and installing pet doors.”
Ruth Bigus: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a nutshell
COMPANY: Handyworks LLC
ADDRESS: Home-based in Olathe
PHONE: (913) 732-3355
WEB SITE: www.handyworks.me