What are you building and why?
Keep your original goals in mind as you grow.
If you strip all the ego and fluff from the picture there is only one real reason most people start their own businesses. Sure, you want to make more money and yes you want to be your own boss, but the “real” reason most start their own company is to make provision for their family. Before we talk about the “what and why” a bit more, let’s look at the company’s history.
The first 2-3 years were really tough. There are long hours and major cash-flow issues. Those first few years cause “running a business” issues to pop up that you were never aware of while you were working for someone else. In the old days you finished the shift and simply went home without giving a thought toward the company until you showed up for work the next morning.
Not anymore. Now you’re working 50-70 hours a week and when you do get home it’s difficult, if not impossible, to turn it off. If you’re not physically at the office, you are at least thinking about it, right? The kids are young and yes, they miss seeing you, but you’re working really hard to make provision for the family. Everyone understands that, right?
Well congratulations, you made it through those first few years. A pat on the back really is due because less than 50% of startup companies make it as far as you have.
Years 3 to 6
Now you have a real office, someone to answer the phone and a couple of techs in the field. Chances are your wife has moved from part time to full time to make sure the bills are paid and invoicing goes out on time. You are only working in the field when one of the techs doesn’t show up or when things are really busy.
You are still working the same number of hours but now you are doing more sales, to keep everyone else busy. Being the owner is becoming more about finding work and getting the repair or installation completed properly and in a timely manner.
A few serious “business” issues are now beginning to surface. Cash flow isn’t just an issue, it’s a major issue, especially since you started doing a few of those larger commercial jobs — ones that don’t pay for 30, 60 or more days.
Finding skilled techs to take care of your growing sales is also a lot harder than you expected. Oh, and one other thing is happening. Your sales are increasing while profits seem to be deceasing. There just never seems to be much money in the checkbook. But hey, the company is growing and the profits will come, right?
Side note: Your wife is getting a bit nervous about cash flow and she misses being with the kids. It’s been a long time since just the two of you went on a date night, and yes, the family will take a vacation, someday. You have missed a lot of the children’s activities and maybe there is chance that Billy really did understand why you couldn’t make the game or even his birthday party. Those pesky customers keep calling with emergencies so you “had” to go, right?
Again, it was hard but you made it through.
Years 7 to 10
These are a bit different. The company continues to grow (as well as the family) and you are now not only making a profit but you are actually seeing some of it in the checkbook! You’ve made the transition from the field into the office and you are now working on the business rather than in it. You have a full-time office manager and/or a bookkeeper/accountant on staff.
All that debt you accumulated those first years is in the process of being paid off. The company is finally doing what you originally envisioned. The needs of your family are now being met and systems are being put in place so you don’t have to work as many hours as you did in the past — but you are!
You paid the price and in many ways you have arrived. However, in most cases there was a price that was paid that had nothing to do with the company. How is your relationship with your wife? When was the last time you went to Billy’s ball game or Suzy’s piano recital? How long has it been since you took a family vacation, if ever?
Now let’s talk about the title of this article: What are you building and why?
When is enough, enough?
If we are not really careful, in today’s world our business becomes our life. It’s not! Yes, it’s a big part of your life, but there is more to life than working 50-70 hours a week. Flashback. Do you remember why you started the business in the first place? If I am remembering properly it was to make provision for your family. OK, you have accomplished that so now what is important? Do you really need more money?
There is nothing wrong with wanting to build the business beyond the “meeting your needs” stage, but what are your short and long-term goals? Do you want to spend more time with the family, if so, do it. Do you want to give back to the community? If so, great, how are you going to accomplish that? Do you want to bless your employees? What needs to be put into place to make that happen?
The point is this: Once our basic family needs are met, why are we still working 50-70 hours a week? Growth and increased profitability are of little value if it’s not helping you accomplish a specific purpose. Like I mentioned earlier, what are you building and why? My suggestion would be to ask yourself that question, then spend some time answering it. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to discuss that question with your spouse as well!
One last thought. If you really want to know what is important to you, ask yourself one simple question: “Where do I spend my time and where do I spend my money?” The honest answer to that question can be very revealing! RJ 2.0