By Steven Knight, creator of solutions and opportunities at Mosaic Home Services Ltd. — Building Canada’s Largest Home Improvement Franchise Network.
There is a large group of entrepreneurs in the home-improvement sector who have grown successful businesses by being the “jack-of-all-trades.” They’ll fix your deck, repair your window, paint your house and help you move. These are fantastic, hard-working and dedicated people who are trying to make a difference in the lives of their families.
Let’s look at Kathy, the woman who pulled herself up by her bootstraps to create one of Calgary’s most successful carpet cleaning companies. Kathy has been in business for five years. The first three were incredibly stressful — Kathy struggled to find recurring customers, staffing was a constant struggle and oftentimes she found herself operating the carpet cleaning machine rather than looking for new customers.
But, that’s all part of owning your own business, right?
Between years three and five, running Kathy’s business got easier. She found, and managed to retain, some fantastic team members who make her customers absolutely rave. People are starting to recognize her company name, and the phone is ringing on its own — the work is easier to find.
But this growth starts to create a whole world of headaches of their own kind.
In order for Kathy to grow from a startup to a successful small business, she had to depend on her ability to adapt, overcome and work her tail off all hours of the day. She had to find the customer, do the job, get paid, do the accounting, do maintenance on the equipment, talk to the suppliers, manage the staff and so on.
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When she starts to hit the next hurdle in her growth it’s natural for her to jump back into the fight-or-flight reaction of “I’ll just do it all again.” But, this is where most entrepreneurs struggle and burn out and, ultimately, it leads to the demise of their businesses. If you want to grow the business, you can’t do it all yourself.
You’re killing your ability to sell the business.
Why did Kathy get into business in the first place? Maybe it was to support her family. Maybe she always wanted to be her own boss. Maybe no one was hiring. We may never know why she started, but we know that every entrepreneur who starts a business dreams of the day that they exit it with some kind of payday. An unfortunate reality that every entrepreneur needs to face is that no one will pay you what you want for your business if that business depends on you every moment.
You aren’t good at everything, so stop cheating yourself out of profit.
As the business grows it will require a wide variety of skills from the entrepreneur operating it. Some days Kathy needs to be a customer service expert, calmly explaining to her customers that the carpet is going to look different when she’s done. Why? Because it’s clean now. Other days she needs to be a sales guru, hunting down new untapped markets through the art of the cold call.
While most entrepreneurs have a very wide range of skills, it’s almost impossible for them to have all of the skills they need to scale properly and with profit. Recognize what you’re good at and what you love to do, then go do it. Delegate the rest to people who love to do the things you don’t.
You will never scale; there just aren’t enough hours in a day.
Let’s say Kathy was a unicorn — she was incredible at everything. And let’s say she had 12 hours a day to get everything done. Kathy would likely get an amazing amount of work done, but she would continue to tread water. Her business would never truly grow because she would become the bottleneck.
You’re not allowing yourself to enjoy the lifestyle the business should be allowing you to have.
No one starts their business dreaming of owning a job. But oftentimes in the home improvement sector, entrepreneurs end up doing exactly that — they become slaves to their business. If Kathy dives headfirst into trying to be good at everything it will be incredibly hard to pull herself back out, and she’ll wind up owning a job. Kathy wants to take holidays, see her kids grow up and take an hour off in the middle of the day to do something for herself — she can’t do that if she’s trying to do everything herself.
One of the most fundamental skills to growing a small business is effective delegation — but more than that, entrepreneurs need to realize that it’s okay to not be great at everything. It’s okay to not be the person who does it all. It’s okay to rely on people who have different skills than you. When you release yourself to these ideas and put proper checks and balances in place to make sure the business is succeeding, it’s amazing how fast your small business will scale.