February 11, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In this increasingly corporate world of ours, it is somehow comforting to know that the age-old tradition of the neighborly, “one man and a truck” model of handyman services has not yet completely gone the way of rotary dial phones, 8-track tapes, and Polaroid cameras. Jeff Toma of Accountable Construction is one such lone wolf, something of a folksy jack-of-all-trades when it comes to everything from quick fixes to remodels.

Being a Hero

“It’s not unusual to troubleshoot a problem over the phone,” Toma says. “I might get a ‘Hey, my microwave is dead’ call, and that can often be nothing more than an opportunity to explain to a homeowner how the reset button on an electrical outlet works. I’m happy to help whenever and however I can.”

 Digging Deeper

“Identifying and diagnosing more complicated problems takes time. I’ll charge a fee for that in some cases, but I just lump it in with the job total when the homeowner gives me the green light to proceed.”

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 Scheduling

“Being your own boss doesn’t mean that I have a calendar that is a wide-open, drop-everything thing in terms of availability. Thursday mornings, for example, are out. That’s when I have a standing appointment at Pat’s. She’s in her 70s. We drink coffee. We chat. She’s like family. Eventually I’ll get to work on her to-do list.”

Tipping

“The general rule about tipping is that you don’t tip the business owner himself; you tip his people. But I don’t have ‘people.’ I have bills. I’ll rarely turn down such a genuine offer of gratitude. It makes me feel kind of proud, especially after a tough or messy job.”

 The Power of Dreams

“This is going to sound crazy, but I sometimes come up with fixes in my dreams. I might go to bed bothered by some difficult or tricky problem that I just can’t quite work through, and the answer will come in a dream. Weird.”

Self-Awareness

“I don’t suffer from MAS (Male Answer Syndrome). I know what I know, and I know what I don’t know. I don’t try to be somebody I’m not when it comes to my abilities.”

Appropriate Topics of Conversation

“Fishing. Any and all kinds of fishing. I got it bad. You don’t want to get me started.”

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