ICS Magazine

From Almost Broke to a Robust Business

January 5, 2011


  What is the difference between having a job and having a business? You can sell a business, but you can’t sell a job. Many a carpet cleaner has learned how to create a job for himself, but very few have turned it into a real thriving business. Why is that?

While out on last year’s “Making a Difference Tour,” I always asked our audience the question, “How many of you have a written sales goal for the year?” Every single time, less than five percent of the hands went up. I found that to be amazing, yet very telling.  

People Don't Plan

Even the simplest thing, such as a yearly sales goal, is never done. Real businesses plan, and they spend lots of time at it. As a rule of thumb, ten percent of your time should be spent planning. Businesses need to know where they are and where they are going. Our sales manager spends all every Friday reporting on her week and planning her next week. Then she and I review the plan and make adjustments to it. True, she is not seeing any contacts, but this single day of planning makes Monday through Thursday far more efficient.

I have a friend who owns a graphic arts business and does all the work himself. His situation, and countless others’, is no different than the one-truck operator. Is it possible to hire employees and grow the business? Of course! What does it take to do that? It takes planning with specific goals, strategies and timetables and then the ability to implement those ideas. There has been many a great article written in ICS about planning, so rather than go into a long discourse here on goal setting, etc., take a look at one of those articles, or get a book that tells you how to successfully do planning for your business.

Robust Businesses Know Their Numbers

People with jobs go by the seat of their pants, whereas robust businesses know exactly where they stand. Which one are you? With all of today’s bookkeeping software on the market anyone can get their numbers under control, understandable and useful. Have someone reliable input the information, and then work with your CPA or bookkeeper to give you your Income Statement and Balance Sheet.

Not All Jobs Are Bad

You may be reading this and thinking, “Hey, I like being a one-truck operation!” To that notion, I say, “Great.” You can have a fabulous life operating this way, but it does take a special person to pull it off successfully. You will need to have great discipline in putting money aside, setting high prices and having a good back-up system.

If you are going to do all the work yourself, you will need to put enough money aside each month to enable yourself to retire at age 55-60. The physical requirements for running a carpet cleaning business will make it very difficult to work past this age. Putting money aside each month is certainly possible, but takes a tremendous amount of discipline. You will be doing all the work yourself, so that will justify higher prices; just make sure you don’t waver in this regard.

You need to have a life, take time off and have a fill-in when you are unable to work, so you’ll need a backup. When I was a one-truck operation I took plenty of time off. I trained a man who owned a pressure washing business to do the cleaning and, when I was off, I would give him 50 percent of all sales. I did not make any money when he filled in, but my customers were taken care of and he loved to work for me.

Business Owners are Leaders

Nothing is more important than an ability to lead others and that takes a positive attitude along with a desire for personal growth. Being able to successfully hire, train, coach and yes, sometimes fire employees is paramount to having a great business.

Does that describe you? If not, you have two choices. Be the disciplined one-truck operator mentioned previously or acquire the characteristics I just described.

The Successful Business Owner Knows Four Critical Things

The successful business owner:
  • Always has a written plan for all aspects of the business. He has daily, weekly, monthly, ninety-day, yearly and five year goals written down. Additionally, all these goals are specific and measurable. 
  • Knows that what gets measured gets done, and what gets rewarded gets done again.
  • Knows that his employees are good and great performers (there are no low performers) and they know what their tasks are. They know how their performance impacts the company’s bottom line and they know how their performance is measured.
  • Knows that he is willing to try new ideas and his success is measured by how many things are attempted every year. These ideas are then reported, analyzed and acted upon.
  The wonderful thing about owning your own carpet cleaning/ restoration business is that you are the boss, the king or queen. You get to make the decision whether you want a job or a business. Don’t delay, make that crucial decision and then get to work on whichever path you choose and enjoy the journey.