So...What Do You Really Want?

January 18, 2010
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Just what do you want out of life? This is a tougher question than you might think. Many people are content to fall into – and then stay in – what has been correctly called a “comfortable routine.”

Now, there is nothing wrong in keeping with an enjoyable and productive lifestyle…if this lifestyle is what you truly want!

The problem, however, is so many carpet cleaners sort of “accidentally fell into” this industry. I know; I more or less slid into carpet cleaning because I was basically unemployable in the corporate world!

This lack of long-range business planning may have worked for your start-up years. After all, did you ever dream you would be making the sort of money you are now? But not focusing on the “What do I want out of life?” question now means you may never achieve your true potential either in your business or your life. Your priorities, ambitions and goals should be chosen based on your upbringing, your values, your beliefs and the wishes of your family; all subjects outside the scope of this column.

So let’s focus on how your business can function as a path to these chosen life goals. Or in other words, how you can achieve the financial freedom to live the rest of your life as you choose!

The tragedy here is far too many carpet cleaners “settle” for so much less than what this industry can provide. This is so sad, simply because a carpet-cleaning business can be taken to any level of profitability the owner desires if he or she:
  • Wants to have more growth/profit, and
  • Is capable of managing this growth
Make no mistake about it. Growth in this business usually means hiring employees, and adding more people inevitably brings more problems. Therefore, many carpet cleaners decide to stay as an owner-operator merrily working away solo on the truck.

This is great if he or she recognizes the problems with this chosen lifestyle and takes steps to prevent them. For example, all owner-operators should ask themselves questions like:

“What would happen to my family if I am T-boned by a teenager speeding through a red light at 60 MPH and I wind up in traction for 10 weeks? What if I die from my injuries?”
“What will I do if I slip a disc and can’t push a scrub wand for three weeks?”
“Will I have enough financial assets to comfortably retire and maintain my current lifestyle?”
“Am I happy and fulfilled at my current level of business success?”

If your current business model let’s you give positive responses to these questions, congratulations! You have found something very precious indeed: a “comfort zone” in life where you are successfully providing for your family’s current and future needs and you are happy at the same time.

However, in talking with thousands of carpet cleaners over the years, I find many suffer from a nagging unease that they could – or should – be doing more with their business.

If you feel the same way, your challenge is threefold. You must:
  1. Determine what the “more” is for you
  2. Decide how to get there, and
  3. “Git ‘er done!”
Of course, these three steps are much easier to write down than to fulfill. And yet, they can and must be performed if you want to get the most out of your business and your life. After all, if you don’t focus on this stuff who will?

Ask yourself these questions:

Where is My Own "Sweet Spot" in Business?

Tennis pros talk about the “sweet spot” – that perfect area in the racket face that gives you maximum control and a perfect return. You know it when you find it because it just plain feels great when you hit a ball in the sweet spot.

Think about where your company will give you the least amount of problems with the greatest return. Yes, both of these variables can be graphed out, and they will intersect at your very own business sweet spot.

Grow your business to this very personal level and life will be good! My guess is, you can think of friends or competitors who have grown beyond this sweet spot and are suffering accordingly.

How Can I Keep More of What I Make?

Not to argue with Ben Franklin, but remember that a dollar saved is much more than a dollar earned. Depending on your overhead, when you shave a dollar off your expenses, that is very likely 8 or 10 dollars you don’t have earn pushing a wand!

By focusing on working more efficiently and/or living a bit more frugally, you may be able to postpone or even avoid the challenges growth inevitably brings.

Am I Just Trading Dollars?

No matter what size you are now, it is far too easy to fill your day up with low-profit work. Sure, you are staying busy, but at what price?

Every hour you waste on low-profit – or even worse, no-profit – work will drag you down financially and emotionally. And yet, most carpet cleaners don’t even have a clue on what their break-even point is or what the true cost of running their business is per truck hour!

More importantly, your biggest business “expense” is not measured in dollars and cents. Instead, the true cost of low-profit work can be discovered by asking…

What is My "Greatest and Best Use" in My Business?

Every minute/hour/day you waste doing anything that does not:
  1. Substantially improve the future of your business or
  2. Make you or your family happy, is a tragedy.
One of my favorite sayings is, “Time is the only resource you can’t buy more of.” And so it is, both in the short-term, business-building mode and, of course, in your life.

For a truly thought-provoking session, go to and fill out a simple online form that asks for your age, height, weight, smoking, etc. It will give you the statistical date of your pending death, plus it keeps counting down the days/minutes/seconds you have left!

If this doesn’t focus you on the value of time, nothing will! So treasure and spend the time you have left wisely. So how can you get the maximum bang for your buck with your business time?

Do I Have an On-Going Action Plan?

Assuming you are a well-read and motivated (read: “scared!”) entrepreneur, the problem is not in knowing what you should be doing. Instead, it is that you know far too much, and can too easily fall victim to “paralysis by analysis.”

SFS instructor Chuck Violand says, “Luck favors a body in motion.” I agree with Chuck to a point. Motion alone may just mean wasted resources. Instead, by developing and following your own Action Plan, you will organize this motion into a cohesive and focused plan of attack.

Starting right now, record every single random business thought you have as it occurs. Hopefully, your first list item should be “Build Action Plan”!

You can use a smart phone to enter your data or just carry a simple pocket notebook. The secret here is to immediately record every idea you have in a general “To-do at some point in the future” list.

Now, you will organize some, but likely never all, of these ideas into an Action Plan in your computer. Line out the next six months into weeks with a separate Action Item for each week. Now start plugging these ideas into your Action Plan. That’s right- for this to work you will need 26 ideas!

If you don’t have 26 “things to do,” you better re-read some ICS back issues or peruse the Bulletin Board at

This list is just a start. You will find it to be a constantly changing document due to your shifting business priorities. That is why you will be constantly cutting and pasting new items in to your Action Plan.

The important thing is you will now be holding yourself accountable to meet these weekly deadlines. I love the word “accountability,” and not just for your employees. One of the biggest problems all solo entrepreneurs face is there is no one (including themselves) holding them accountable.

Far too many carpet cleaners drift through life content with a middle-class lifestyle and a marginal retirement. And yet, if you don’t hold yourself accountable with the questions (and the Action Plan) listed here, who will? After all, it is your life!

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