AS I MENTALLY review some outstandingly successful contractor startups that I have known, one trait seems to stand out more than any other. These new businesses were typically born as the child of an unhappy relationship between a medium-sized contractor and his single most intelligent and hard-working top employee.
This column is more intended as a reminder to successful business owners who are starting to harden into stone rather than as a checklist for someone who is fed up with his current employer. Perhaps, it will serve as a wakeup call for both groups.
I can remember outstanding people who were actually forced out of a contracting business by owners or heirs who were dependent on these individuals but unwilling to admit their significant worth, respect their insights or properly reward their contribution.
Another characteristic stands out. These valuable employees had ideas to expand and improve the business that employed them but were frustrated by an owner satisfied with the status quo and who rejected the expansion ideas of his right-hand employee.
Frustrated, these top people moved on, did the things they wanted to do (actually pleaded to do) for their former employers. These special employees ended up being successful far beyond the dreams or realities of their former employers. Quite often they were successful with their own firm because they eliminated all the inadequacies they had tried to correct in their former employment! (You all may want to read that last statement again.)
Let’s pretend that you are one of these frustrated top guns who has been forced to quit a good job that has turned sour and feel it necessary to start your own business. You leave with an accumulation of business insight that has been learned the hard way and probably learned in an atmosphere where your judgment was not respected and your contributions not rewarded.
Your personal promise to yourself and your family was to start and run a business exactly the way you tried to get your former employer to operate. Your unique advantage is that you have all these important operating “do’s and don’ts” and none of the baggage of a business suffering from the advanced years, ill health, artery hardening or neglect of the owner.
Since you were forced to start this new business rather than it being the result of a long-term plan, you are probably under-financed. You do, however, start with two important and valuable assets.
First, you have earned a reputation with the wholesalers with whom you have dealt. They recognize your competence and trust you and, let me assure you, this is just like real money in the bank.
Second, you have a positive vision of what a proper business should look like and what it should do. As a result, you have complete control over the fact that every employee you hire will understand your vision and accept it. An added asset is, of course, that you do not have an assortment of disillusioned employees sometimes found in mature companies.
From the start, you, the founder, will work to find and hire quality team members, selecting them one by one, to share your dream and to contribute to its reality. It is your resolve to build a proper business rather than to look as though you are an out-of-work jackleg looking for day work.
The following are some of the fundamentals you will embrace in your business transition. Understand that there are many more details than this, but these represent the most important bedrock beginnings.
You will have a proper business name that, ideally, conveys a positive impression of the services and products you wish to sell, rather than Joe Jackleg Plumbing & Heating.
You will have a business telephone with a distinctive business number and, however small, a Yellow Pages listing. This business phone will always be answered in a proper businesslike manner and during business hours never tied up with personal calls or an Internet connection. By businesslike, I mean in a clear, unhurried voice stating the name of your business, the name of the person who is answering the phone and a polite question such as, “How can I help you?” Let me assure you, this has more positive impact than a stressful voice yelling, “Yeah, what do you want?”
You will avoid the strong temptation to raid the cookie jar, soliciting neither your former employer’s customers for business or former co-workers to join you. If you have done a proper business startup, both these important opportunities will flow to you quite naturally and without guilt or justifiable censure.
Next month I intend give you a short checklist for your startup that should be of interest to all readers as a reminder profile for your existing business.
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