- THE MAGAZINE
Failing is never fun. And it is just so tragic to see a hard-working carpet cleaner “crash and burn.” The financial (and emotional) shrapnel of a business imploding can destroy all involved, especially the family.
However, remember that the saddest business disaster is when the owner doesn’t even realize they are failing. Yep, you can flame out even if you own an apparently successful ongoing business that has been operating for years. And the personal emotional and financial costs can be staggering!
Now in my last two “Crash and Burn” (see Part I in the May ICS and Part II in the June/July issue) columns I shared the three most common mistakes that lead to business (and personal) failure:
1. Ignorance of the true cost of doing business/failure to analyze your financial reports: Few of us love analyzing our numbers. And yet, you have to focus on your financials. Plus the second big mistake is…
2. Not focusing on what is coming down the pipeline: Financial reports inevitably are ancient history. My solution? Obsessing over your weekly Flash Report that tells you what happened last week/month/year and what is lurking downstream next week/month/year! And the third reason for failure is…
3. Fear of charging what is needed to survive and prosper: This is by far the biggest sin of the average carpet cleaner! Our industry is consumed with this self-destructive race to the bottom as in, “Who can make it cheaper!”
All three of the above burning out mistakes share one common denominator- lack of money! And yet to avoid the crash and burn phenomenon in your life, you must focus on something much more important than money. It’s what I call “the Four F’s”: Family, faith, friends and fun.
Here’s the deal: Many carpet cleaners get so wrapped up in making money/growing their company that they totally ignore the Four F’s! So sure - outwardly they may appear to be a successful individual. But inside their personal lives, these hard-working entrepreneurs are often struggling emotionally/mentally and/or spiritually!
How do you avoid and/or get out of this tough spot in life? Start with my five business vs. lifestyle questions:
1. Am I making virtually “obscene profits?” Yes, I know. We aren’t focusing on money in this article. But even so, you deserve to be richly compensated for your hard work and the sacrifices of running a small business. Plus money is an essential tool that can bring you the elusive joys of personal freedom.
2. Is my body keeping up with the physical demands of carpet cleaning? This can be a physically tough job. So don’t keep pushing that wand beyond what you physically can bear.
3. Is my business allowing me to grow emotionally, mentally and spiritually? I liked cleaning carpets. And I loved owning my own company. But spending 24/7 focused on business can stunt your growth in these other important areas.
4. Is my family on board with me being in this business? It is not all about you. And yes, over my last 40-plus years in this industry, I’ve seen way too many marriages and families fall apart at least partially due to the stress of being in business.
5. Am I still having fun? Life is too short to not look forward to each and every day. I honestly think this question is the most important one!
Now if you can give a resounding “yes” to all five of the above questions, then I say “Congratulations!” Few people ever reach this level of personal success! But what if you are waffling on one or more of these lifestyle questions? Time to get to work or you too may flame out! For example…
1. Buy time: Ask yourself, “What is my ‘highest and best use” today in my business?” Then focus on these priorities and delegate the other stuff. (If you are serious about growing your company, you probably should delegate out pushing that cleaning wand!)
2. Speaking of “time,” set firm limits: Sure, as a small entrepreneur you need to be flexible and work with your client’s schedules. But cheering your kid on in a soccer game or attending your daughter’s PTA meeting are way more important than business. So this means you must …
3. Learn to gently say “no”: Book your personal time off on your schedule. And then when a customer needs work done during this “sacred time” just reply, “Sorry, Mrs. Jones, I am booked solid for that date. However, I can fit you in on either …” Most customers will be reasonable and work with your schedule. But for those who won’t…
4. Develop strategic partners: So you have said “no” to a customer’s request. Congratulations! But now don’t just cut them adrift in the sea of your competitors. Instead, develop a relationship with other quality cleaners where you cover for each other. This includes a firm promise to do quality work but not steal other’s customers on future cleanings. However, even better than strategic partners is a business that will run with you… or without you! So strongly…
5. Consider adding employees: Yes, I well know that employees can be a pain in the rear. (Don’t ask me how I learned this!) But if you are ever going to achieve the personal freedom of having cash flow in while you are enjoying the more important things in life (remember the “Four F’s?”) you will need to hire employees. But first, a warning…
6. The stakes go up dramatically with a bigger company: Sure, you can run your business out of your hip pocket as an owner-operator. (Not recommended, but you can do it!) But a larger company with employees must have a business infrastructure with written procedures, systems and policies in place. Without this business infrastructure, your company will be totally in chaos which is a great way to crash and burn!
7. Develop commercial “toll booth” accounts: I loved working for my residential customers. For many I became a trusted part of their family. These close personal relationships were extremely gratifying. But residential carpet cleaning is some of the hardest money in this industry. You are constantly under the gun to keep the calls coming in for consistent cash flow and every new home is a minefield. Instead, imagine building monthly commercial routes of 5 or 6 hours where you hire part-time workers to service your contract accounts on a rotating weekly basis. Now this drama-free cash comes in routinely and while you are home enjoying that great family time!
8. Charge more: Yep, I need to beat you up on this one more time! Simply put, the vast majority of carpet cleaners do not remotely charge enough to cover the true cost of running their business. (Not to mention failing to make the “obscene profits” I promote in my first lifestyle question above!) So now you have an extremely profitable company that almost runs on auto-pilot! Here is the most important part of avoiding the crash and burn phenomenon…
9. When you are off, you are off: That’s right -force yourself to stop thinking/ planning/ obsessing about business once you have clocked out. (Yes, this includes checking texts and e-mails!) Now I know as an entrepreneur you work more than an 8-hour day. But when you dedicate time (see No.2 above) to your family, focus on enjoying the moment! Love and appreciate these special, never-to-be-repeated times and you won’t just avoid the crash and burn phenomenon, but you will be a truly successful person!
For a complete manual on how to sell, price, staff and produce these Commercial Cleaning Maintenance Routes just write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll e-mail you a copy- free!