Dear Jayme:

My business has been doing about $1.5 million for several years. I know there’s a lot more room to grow, but frankly, I don’t know if I’m capable of running a bigger operation. I don’t want to mess up everything I’ve built so far. Should I just sit tight or take the plunge? 



Dear Carlos:

If you’re happy with your business, your income and the life it currently gives you and your family, there’s no particular reason to go through the expansion process. You own the joint. so it’s entirely up to you. That’s the first question you should answer.

If you decide to move on up, both you and your business will need some sprucing up to insure success as the place expands.

All businesses have step-functions in their growth, meaning you create an infrastructure that allows for easy growth to a point, but then you must create more infrastructures to, as they say, take your business to the next level. The process repeats itself later on.

It’s common for contractors to feel this as they reach the $1 to $2 million range. You’re no longer a startup but not yet a big business, and it seems like a wide canyon to cross.

You’re sensing that the management skills that worked so far won’t work at the next level, and you’re exactly right: To run a contracting business above a million or two means the owner needs stronger management and leadership skills than most contractors have picked up along the way.

From here on, your focus needs to be more on things like strategic planning, systems development, delegation, organizational development, leadership and role modeling and less on day-to-day operations. These skills aren’t any harder to master than the trade skills you’ve already mastered, they’re just different. This is the stuff we teach contractors every day, and over the past ten years, I’ve yet to see a million dollar contractor who wasn’t able to master them. Unwilling sometimes but never incapable.

So the question isn’t whether you’re capable of running a larger business, but whether you’re willing to move out of (or expand) your comfort zone and learn the skills that make you a strong manager and leader.

Now, lest I mislead you into thinking that learning some management skills is all you need to move to the next level, let me clarify. Yes, the skills are required, but they’re only part of the infrastructure you’ll need. Trucks, tools, money, crews, office staff, computers, warehouses and who knows what else are also part of a step-up.

But to make it work at the next level, you can’t manage all this yourself or both your head and your business will explode. To grow the business you, have to develop yourself into a true manager and leader. But when you’re done, it’s like learning to ride a bike: It becomes second nature, and you’ll look back and wonder how you could have been concerned about learning.

Many thanks for reading this year, and my very best wishes for the holidays.