I have a $700,000 a year bricklaying business. I'm doing okay financially, but I feel like a slave to the business. If I don't keep at it 110 percent all the time, my business will stop. What can I do?
It's painfully ironic that you probably started your business to create freedom and independence and its now taking away the very things it was meant to give you.
How'd this happen? Simple. Most contractors build their shiny new businesses on their own trade skills. Plumbers become plumbing contractors, electricians become electrical contractors, etc., which was perfectly natural and necessary in the early days.
But owning the business isn't just about sweating pipes and pulling wire. There's all that other stuff: finding new business, doing estimates, ordering materials, getting the truck fixed, hiring employees, doing the books, checking the work, handling callbacks, fighting fires, making decisions, etc. And these things creep into the nights and weekends. Again, there's usually little choice about this in the early days.
But the owner-dependent model that works in the beginning has a dark side that will bite you later on unless you keep your eyes open.
In simplest terms, if your business depends on you to do its day-to-day operational stuff, growing your business will inevitably mean more work and hours for you. It just can't happen any other way. Most contractors hit the wall at about $1 million. That's the point where there just aren't any more hours to do anything else.
The key to making your business work for you is to make it not depend on you. That means:
- Getting results through other people by delegating tasks and power to your employees
- Having strong, tested, documented processes that produce consistent results
- Having the courage to let go of your need to personally control every detail and learn a new role as leader and owner.
"Yeah, but..." #1: "Doing it myself is the only way to be sure that it's all done right, right?"
Nope. It's one way to do it, but absolutely the least efficient. I know you're brilliant, but if YOU learned how to do all these things, other people can learn them as well.
"Yeah, but..." #2: "I can't afford to hire a bookkeeper (file clerk/foreman/estimator/salesperson)."
Nope. If you don't hire (or contract out) routine tasks and instead do them yourself, you've got your business's priciest, scarcest resource doing routine tasks. An owner is a very unaffordable file clerk.
"Yeah, but..." #3: "This all sounds really complicated and hard and overwhelming."
Nope. We've been teaching people this stuff for more than thirteen years and have yet to find a contractor who couldn't make this transition once it was laid out in doable pieces. You know how your customers look at a project and think it's a huge, scary thing, but you know it's a piece of cake because you completely understand the process and have done it a zillion times? Same thing here.
Owning a contracting business doesn't have to mean eighty hour weeks and stressing out about keeping a million balls in the air. You deserve better and it's not hard to put the systems and structure in place that will let you sit on the bridge and steer the ship instead of being chained to an oar.
Construction Business Owner, June 2006