- THE MAGAZINE
No one likes being a victim. Wrong place, wrong time...it happens! However, the real tragedies are becoming victims of our own lack of planning, complacency or just plain stupidity.
“…because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all. For man also does not know his time …”
– Eccl. 9:12
No one likes being a victim. Some disasters are unforeseen: earthquakes, tidal waves, the latest terrorist incident or less dramatically a drunk driver running a red light at 80 mph. Wrong place, wrong time – it happens! However, the real tragedies are becoming victims of our own lack of planning/complacency/ignorance and/or just plain stupidity! So sad…
For example, “saving” three minutes this summer cost me six weeks in a cast, a $5,000 insurance deductible and a pretty ticked off wife! (If you’re into numbers, that’s $1,666 per minute.) Here’s the short version of my very own totally avoidable Personal Disaster:
After a frustrating day on the computer (Yep – hard as it may be to believe, sometimes the words just don’t flow!) I thought I’d do a little project in my home workshop. So I got all set up to cut a 2-inch steel post up near the ceiling: step ladder, 4” grinder, safety glasses, hearing protectors, etc. Gloves? Nah, won’t need ‘em. So I climbed up on the ladder, cut almost through the post and then should have reset the ladder to finish the job. But it would have taken several minutes to clear out the junk below so I just leaned out and bang! The grinder stuck in the cut, kicked back and fell to the floor. Oh no – my grinder! Then I looked down and saw my blood spurting 6 inches out from my right hand every time my heart beat! Whoa – this wasn’t just a Band-aid cut!
Of course I was alone in the house- where’s my wallet, cell phone, car keys? (Ever tried to dial a new smartphone left handed as you desperately drive through the city to the emergency room?) And by the way, how come my right thumb doesn’t work anymore? Three hours later I learned I’d sliced though my extensor tendon and was scheduled for surgery the next day. But I didn’t really care, since I was wafting along on morphine and Percocet! So what does all this have to do with “To Your Success”? The next day, as Sioux was driving me to surgery, I saw my old competitor from 20 years ago still out working. It made me reflect: What would I have done if I was still on the truck and, with no notice, could not run a wand for at least six weeks?
What about you? Do you have a personal “Disaster Plan”?
Remember, it just takes one stupid and mindless decision. Or, to channel Bob Dylan, it can just be “a simple twist of fate”! Like a whacked out teenager that T-bones your cleaning van at 60 mph? Or, less dramatically, spraining (or breaking) your ankle tripping over your vacuum hoses! Or how about a slipped disk from moving that overloaded dresser? This stuff can and does happen, each and every day.
The carpet cleaning industry is dominated by the “lone wolf” owner-operator working solo. There is nothing wrong with this worry-free lifestyle; in fact, there were days when I desperately longed for the simple life of being back on the truck working alone!
Remember though that while living on the edge financially is never smart it can be fatal for a lone wolf! So owner-operators especially need to focus on their personal Disaster Plan. (Or even better, live and work safely to avoid becoming “your own victim” in the first place!)
Seriously, right now, reflect on what would happen if you personally couldn’t work for four, eight, twelve weeks or longer. Where would you and your family be if you suffer a career-ending injury? And now for the ugliest question: how would your loved ones fare financially if you die?
Don’t forget, time marches on. In fact, most 50-year-old carpet cleaners tell me that their cleaning wand doesn’t look quite as appealing as it did 30 years ago! Too many carpet cleaners are forced into the slow motion disaster of a forced retirement! So just how are you preparing for your Golden Years? (Hopefully not by trusting in Social Security!)
If you don’t like the above Personal Disaster scenarios then puhleeease get moving! Do it today! For instance…
Do You Have a Liquid Emergency Fund?
Most experts say you need six months of living expenses stashed away in easily accessible savings. Can’t do it? Then how about three months? One month? Anything? (You should also look into disability insurance and please don’t live in denial by not having life insurance!)
Note: Financial experts say that the average American is only three pay checks away from being homeless. Existing hand-to-mouth is never a wise lifestyle. But a self-employed solo entrepreneur without fall-back savings is living in a very dangerous spot. Of course, even with emergency funds you are still going to have clients calling, so…
Develop a Mutual Network of “Strategic Partners”
These can be reliable and honest competitors (is there such a thing?) that will handle your work while you are laid up and give you a percentage. Or maybe some friends you have pre-trained to handle your essential jobs, anything to keep some cash flow coming in and, even more importantly, preserve your client relationships while you are off work. Even better, make sure you never have to call on your Strategic Partners by starting to…
Take Care of Yourself!
Get regular non-work aerobic exercise and do weight-training to strengthen critical muscles. Hiring a personal trainer to help you set up an exercise and weight routine may be one of the best investments you ever make. Eat right, drink lots of fluids (non-alcoholic, of course!) and start packing a healthy lunch. Also, be sure to …
Focus on working more efficiently to get more done without “lurching” through the job. (Running invariably means instant accidents!) Never make a trip to and from the van with your hands empty. Organize your van in order of items used most often.
And don’t forget that this slowing down concept applies to driving. Even if your truckmount survives the accident, your career might not! Even with being super careful any one-person operation is inevitably exposed to the unexpected. So carefully consider if you should …
Work Toward “Achieving Critical Mass”
Wikipedia defines Critical Mass as “the smallest amount of material needed for a sustained nuclear chain reaction.” So think how large your business would need to be “sustain itself” without your daily presence. Should you attempt to grow your company to critical mass size?
Only you can answer after carefully considering your business skills and comfort zone along with your family circumstances and life goals. If you can successfully grow (not everyone can) owning a critical mass business that will hum along without you may be the ultimate Personal Disaster Plan.
Another great advantage of a critical mass business? The sale of your “hands off” company should help provide for your retirement. But even with a very valuable company, you should have a …
Long-term Personal Investment Plan (PIP)
Carpet cleaners (OK, almost all Americans) have all the “toys” but very little long-term savings. Before the Great Recession, the myth was that your home would be a constantly appreciating asset and/or Social Security would always be there. Now we know better on both counts!
Note: Right no, today, tell your bank to automatically “sweep” a set percentage of all your deposits into a separate investment PIP account. 5% is good, 8% would be even better; any regular dedicated amount is better than nothing. For more information check out my Special Report: “Cleaning Up: Building Personal Wealth in the Cleaning Industry”. Download it for free at http://tiny.cc/SFS911.
However, no matter how much savings you have, please …
Keep your hoses under control and maintain a clean work area in general. Lift correctly, use sliders and seriously think about hiring an assistant to help. And above all else, move that ladder and handle a grinder correctly! That spinning disk not only cuts steel but can also slice through flesh, tendons, arteries and bone! It is no fun “becoming your own victim.”
Trust me on this one!