Ask Steve

Ask Steve: With Business Thriving, Should I Stay Small or Expand?

Should you build a bigger business based on employees or stay small as an owner-operator?

Hey Steve,

I’ve only been in business for three years and feel like I’m at a branch in the road. Your thoughts would be appreciated. Up till now I have been an owner-operator. But now I’m looking down the road and being solo on the truck with an aging body doesn’t look like too much fun!

So I’m considering expanding over the next year. I’ll hopefully hire a full-time helper first and see what happens. If it works out, I’ll train him to take the truck out as a technician and hire him another helper. Then I’ll buy an overflow truck and I can make up the difference on heavy days until I feel I have enough work to hire another team.

If this past year is any indication of my future success, I think I’m in good shape. If anyone told me I’d be this far along in my business three years ago, I would have never believed them. Now I have to focus on keeping up with the workflow and not making too many mistakes or poor decisions along the way. This is exciting stuff but I could sure use some guidance!

-Nervous in Nevada


Dear Nervous,

I’m “nervous” but excited for you too! One of the great parts of my job is vicariously enjoying the success of people I’ve helped!

My favorite saying is, “This can be a great industry if you do it right!” So congratulations on looking for help/guidance/resources/etc. So what to do? (There are so many different “business roads” for you to choose in this industry.)

But right now your choice comes down to two routes since you are at a big “Y” in the road. Should you build a bigger business based on employees or stay small as an owner-operator? Yes or no? The correct answer? It all depends!

You can choose the “big company/lots of employees road” and make more money, enjoy prestige, security and have the gratification of helping a lot of families along the way. And of course you get to enjoy all the “toys” of success!

But even better, if you “do it right” with a large company, you might just discover the elusive “personal freedom.” This is where your business achieves “critical mass” - an extremely profitable organization that hums along with you… or without you. And if you do this, it’s very likely your company will sell for big bucks to fund your comfortable retirement!

Of course, building a business should be about more than just piling up tons of money. True, the big company route can be extremely gratifying emotionally. It can be a true joy to build a team of quality people that will help you find success as you also help them achieve their dreams. Or dealing with employees can be hell on earth!

So maybe that is why many people choose the “small owner-operator road” and enjoy the freedom and lack of worries that not having employees gives them. Many carpet cleaners rank a worry-free, low-stress lifestyle far above achieving a huge net worth. And this “less is more” casual lifestyle approach can’t be faulted.

Big or small, with some adjustments either way, can give you a great life. But here’s the problem, Nervous. All too often carpet cleaners wind up on the dangerous and frustrating “road in between” business model.

The “road in between” is where you hire employees (with all the potential problems and dangers that they present) but continue to run your business in the carefree (some might say careless!) manner of an owner-operator. This is a difficult and potentially financially devastating business model!

Write me at for a “business map” for carpet cleaners. Just put “business map” on the subject line.

So Nervous, think carefully of where your sweet spot in life is - the place in business where you will wake up and can’t wait to get out of bed and joyfully attack the day ahead. (However, bear in mind this sweet spot can most definitely be a moving target!) Once you’ve defined your long range goals, write me back and let’s get there together! 

NOTE: Steve and ICS want to consult for you! For a personal reply write Steve HERE with your questions, problems, struggles and challenges! Your help is on the way!

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