Carpet Cleaning Business Management

Avoid Complacency While Captaining Your Ship

April 1, 2012
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We have all heard the phrase “a comfortable routine.” And yes, there is no question that we are all creatures of habit. This productive routine can be a great thing. After all, all human beings function better following a predictable path through life.





“There is a very fine line between confidence and complacency.”  – Dave McGinnis

 

We have all heard the phrase “a comfortable routine.” And yes, there is no question that we are all creatures of habit. This productive routine can be a great thing. After all, all human beings function better following a predictable path through life.

But this comfortable and even boring routine can change in a heartbeat into a tragic abyss if you fall into deadly complacency. For example, we may never know what truly caused the recent Costa Concordia disaster off the Italian coast. However, almost all tragic shipwrecks are at least partially caused by complacency on the part of the crew.

So how about yourself as the “captain” of your business ship? Trust me - while it may not be as dramatic as ripping a 100-yard gash in a $450-million dollar ocean liner, complacency can slowly doom your business. So a few thoughts on avoiding the slow sinking of your cleaning or restoration business:

 

Know where you are at all times:

A disoriented captain means shipwreck is looming. In business, you may be blithely sailing toward bankruptcy simply because you don’t recognize the early warning signals. (Or even worse, you may not even know what to look for!) Business and economic conditions today are sailing along at an ever-increasing pace. Your old monthly financial reporting sequence simply isn’t enough anymore. Therefore, I urge you to download this free weekly financial flash report at http://tiny.cc/SFSwr. Be sure to fill this out every single week. (In my company I wanted the previous week’s report on my desk by Tuesday morning - no excuses!) Then be sure to pour over your numbers and take corrective action.

 

Anticipate the route ahead:

Sure, it is tough to see ahead even one month in business, much less a year or more. But making small business course corrections now can save you big money and problems later. (Plus the more you grow the harder it will be to quickly change course.) For example, are you focusing right now on your next seasonal marketing campaign? Or is your long-range goal to increase your regular commercial carpet cleaning contracts? If so, are you planting the seeds now with a regular commercial marketing route? And if you anticipate hiring another employee down the road, are you searching for that gem of a person right now? 

 

Build a good team at the helm: 

Even if you are an owner-operator, you need capable people helping you steer your ship. So enlist the services of a proactive accountant, marketing and web expert, and yes, even a much-scorned attorney! The need to have a lawyer review your contract templates, and especially your written hiring and firing procedures, is simply a sad fact of life today. A good captain recognizes that he can’t be an expert in all fields. So he delegates and trusts his chosen specialists. (One of your best marketing investments will likely be hiring a website/SEO professional experienced in promoting residential services. I find many carpet cleaners are far behind the Internet marketing curve.) Note: Remember that many of these different professionals will be delighted to trade their services for carpet cleaning! You’ll avoid out-of-pocket expenses, showcase your work and create great word-of-mouth advertising among the movers and shakers in your community.



Don’t build a bigger ship than you are capable of captaining:

The bigger the business, the more challenging it is avoiding shipwreck, especially when you add employees working outside of your immediate control. So constantly be asking yourself if you are: (a) comfortable, (b) happy and (c) in control of your business ship. Remember, as an entrepreneur you have the gift of choosing your business lifestyle. I constantly remind my students to search for the sweet spot in their personal life/business complexity by asking: “When was the last time you woke up and couldn’t wait to get to work? And at the end of the day/month/year, do you feel a deep sense of gratitude and satisfaction?” If not, (no sin in this) then you have the advantage of being able to dial down the size of your business. Can’t do that with an ocean liner!

 

Hold yourself as the captain accountable:

Check off mentally how many of these points apply to you: I started my business because (1) I wanted to be my own boss, (2) I don’t like being micro-managed, (3) given my lack of formal education/experience I was unemployable in the formal sector and (4) I don’t like answering to anyone. So did you check off all four? (I did!) And yes, this joy of complete entrepreneurial freedom can be a wonderful thing! However, the total and unquestioned authority a ship captain enjoys can easily become a dangerous double-edged sword. Sure, the power of being to make instant changes in your company can be intoxicating. But this complete lack of immediate accountability also means you can fritter away hours/days/weeks while your business is heading for disaster. For example, assuming you plan to captain a bigger business ship, it’s very likely your highest and best use is not pushing a cleaning wand around a greasy restaurant carpet at 3 a.m. I find too many carpet cleaners are hiding out on the truck simply because they are in their comfort zone actually cleaning carpets. Now if you want to spend your life “on the truck” as an owner-operator, so be it! But make the decision and plan your life course accordingly. Caution: So have you decided to stay small and enjoy the care-free life of an owner-operator? (If so, many of your big cleaning company brethren will at times envy you!) But do remember that the sale of your small, owner-operated business is most likely not going to give you much to retire on. That’s OK, just charge a lot now, invest prudently and never depend on Social Security! (See “anticipate the route ahead” above.)

 

“Only the paranoid survive”:

Andrew Grove of Intel Corporation famously uttered these words many years ago. My guess is when you were captaining your new start-up cleaning operation, you had a very real sense of urgency! But as the years go by, you can easily lose that fine-tuned alertness that comes from running scared. So please, rustle up that fire in the belly again and dump complacency! Hopefully before your business slides into a slow-motion ship wreck! 

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