“I hate my business!”
That’s what I hear periodically when I talk with Contractors. And to me that is sad. But, I get it.
For many, the business they started didn’t turn out the way they planned when they took that big leap and typically left a secure paying job as an employee to go for the brass ring as an owner. It seemed like it would be easier.
The most common complaints I hear are:
- “This business is making me go broke. I have to keep putting in my own hard-earned savings, borrowed money or what I had hoped would be my retirement money to keep things going and nothing positive seems to happen.”
- “I work all day and when I get home there’s more work to do. Things like billing, returning calls, putting together bids and a whole lot more than I realized. The day never ends.”
- “I can’t do at 60 years of age what I did when I was 50 years old let alone what I did in my 20s, 30s and 40s. So, what do I do now?”
- “I can’t stop working or there’s no business. Heaven forbid I get hurt or sick. It’s scary.”
- “My employees are infuriating. They act like they’re the owner and I’m their employee.”
Yes, business can be hard. But, it doesn’t have to be.
The goal of business is that it serves you, not that you serve it. Easy to say and understand. I bet many of you thought this would be the case but have found it not necessarily so.
I was what I consider to be a lucky Contractor years ago. I say that because I was making money while I was dealing with the stressors that business brings. And I know I was lucky because mentors came into my life and showed me that unless I changed nothing at work was going to change for the better. The good news is I was ready for the message because I could already see the path I was on would likely have made me a “Dead rich guy” and that was not my goal.
What changes did I make at my own company and then help other Contractors do the same to make their business into one they could be thankful for?
I learned the falsehoods and the truths:
Falsehood #1: “Only I can do it right”
Truth #1: That’s not true and even if I felt that way it meant the business would always be reliant on me to keep making things happen. It was an ego thing. I liked being the “super hero” who made the difference. Until I let that idea go, I couldn’t do what was necessary. And that is train others to do things and empower them to do projects. This is where learning the Steps of Delegation comes in.
Falsehood #2: “There are no good employees out there so there’s no one to help me”
Truth #2: There are no good employees because I hadn’t spent any real effort to really change the staffing process. It was me and not them. What I learned is if I put the effort into proactively recruiting, hiring, orienting, training and retaining I could make real the promise of a “Career and not just a Job”. And that this meant there were loads of people out there who wanted to join my organization.
Falsehood #3: “Why don’t my employees do what I want the way I want?”
Truth #3: I had always been hoping they’d read my mind and know what I wanted them to do. After all, I was crazy busy with things of my own to do: how was I supposed to stop and show them what I wanted? It was all wrong and continued to be so until I learned that it was me who hadn’t empowered them with manuals, training centers and ongoing well-run meetings. Once I changed this, they miraculously did more of what I wanted and less of what I didn’t want. Go figure.
Falsehood #4: “Why isn’t there much more money at the end of all this hard work?”
Truth #4: We never counted the money. What I mean is we didn’t do any real financial work. We were content to work hard and hoped the money would follow. Sometimes it did and sometimes it didn’t. We relied on the accountants to come in at the end of the year and either tell us we had bonus money coming or we’d not be drawing a salary for a month of two. Stupid! It wasn’t until I learned the importance of doing real-world accounting and budgeting as the only path to arrive at the right selling price could I learn that doing the work for the right money for the right customer was the best way to ensure that there would be more money at the end of the hard work.
Falsehood #5: “My employees are only interested in what’s in it for them”
Truth #5: I blamed my employees for standing at my door and holding me hostage for a raise in their pay. I blamed them for things I thought they should be doing but they never agreed to. I blamed them for being selfish. That is until I tried sitting in their chair and viewed things from their perspective and not just mine. I was the one who never defined how and when they got a raise in pay so I forced them to come to me and seek a raise like they were kids asking their parent for a raise in their allowance. I changed that by creating a Salary Ladder that was tied to the Organizational Chart so they knew when there was a raise and what it was based upon and then I made it my mission to help them climb the ladder.
Looking back is a lot easier. I guess that’s why they say hindsight is 20/20. But what I learned and have shown other Contractors is that you can have a business that you’re excited to wake up to and go to work at each day. I learned that the challenges can be handled and you too can be thankful for your business and what it does for your customers, your staff and you.