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Is running a contracting business still fun?

June 22, 2015
You guys-'n-gals are in a premium labor market! if you're not enjoying yourself, not feeling the passion, then you should modify your goals or get out of the entrepreneurial game, period. There's absolutely no shame in admitting that you don't want what you thought business was, and right now you're in command.

If you're a smaller company owner that reads my stuff, you may remember I ended my last oh-so-incredible article with the seemingly throwaway blurb, “… if you ain't havin' fun, remember — the guy down the street might just be lookin' for a high-paid manager.”

That really wasn't a throwaway line because for every three or four folks leaving our contracting industry only one is entering. Whew! You guys-'n-gals are in a premium labor market! In fact, if you've attempted to hire an experienced tech, electrician, or plumber lately, you already know that this fact is ... well, a fact! If you want to add employees, your company must become training/learning centers; and, if you've read my last couple articles, I've explained how easy that can be, even for small one-, two-, or three-man outfits.

Do you even want to be a businessperson? How would you know?

—Ed O'Connell

How-some-ever, if you're not enjoying yourself, not feeling the passion — especially when faced with problems of hiring and firing — then you should modify your goals or get out of the entrepreneurial game, period. Add unease — even fear — with following what your numbers are telling you, then you're really in a pickle.

Do you even want to be a businessperson? How would you know? Check off all you love; I really want to understand and actually do:

() Marketing;

() Bookkeeping;

() Managing;

() Educating;

() Leadership;

() Human Resources;

() Purchasing;

() Selling;

() Call-taking;

() Dispatching;

() Estimating;

() Customer Relations;

() Accounting;

() Web-designing ... and then go out and install a toilet, A/C unit, or electrical panel?

If you haven't checked most of these, you're in trouble.

Let's talk about fun. Fun = passion and excitement. Passion comes two ways: What you do excites you, makes you passionate; or you bring passion and excitement to any form of enterprise you embark on. The first defines a technician — you have fun stickin' stuff together. The second is an entrepreneur — you enjoy any piece of work that’s part of making your dream a reality.

There is an in-between area, however, and if you have the smarts to understand that you were born in the right place, at the right time, with the right skill-set, then your future is secured!

The first in-between area is to create a small company — basically a job you love — and farm out almost everything you dislike. Maybe you can coerce your wife to do the business side of your business. (Just don't be surprised if her ambition is bigger 'n yours!)

Or maybe you've been smart enough to go Flat Rate and make enough money to hire an office person, then pay 'em well enough so you don't have to hire a new one every few weeks. A “business coach,” focusing on helping the small outfit, can show the specifics of this. I have successfully, and inexpensively, coached many small business owners, but, if not me, check other sources, like SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). Google 'em, they're mostly free, and enjoy the snot out of helping others. The only drawback is that very few of them understand technicians who have been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. I mean, do you not want to make money? If you do, you must unnerstan’ business! I'm willing to bet most folks reading this right now don't know how much money they want to make! As an aside, be careful of “consultants” unless you can afford one. A business coach is entirely different than a consultant. (Call or email me if you don't know the diff.)

The other “in-between” choice is to call it quits and go to work for someone else. There's never been a better time for this in our respective industries. Right now every outfit is looking for you. There's absolutely no shame in admitting that you don't want what you thought business was, and right now you're in command. Hell, pick out a beautiful part of the country to move to and negotiate hiring and moving bonuses. Make a real future for your family helping, and possibly partnering up with, someone who appreciates real talent. Make your trade skills work for you.

Be honest with yourself and your loved ones or y’all will end up defeated, poor, miserable, and — possibly worse than death — mediocre. Life's so much easier if you follow, or create, your passion!

Best,

Ol’ Ed

Ed O'Connell is the founder emeritus of O'Connell Plumbing Inc. He is the subcontracting business coach for smaller contractors and a Service Round Table Coach. He can be reached in Auburn, California, at home/office: 530/878-5273 or at [email protected].

About the Author

Ed O'Connell | Business Coach

Ed O'Connell is the founder emeritus of O'Connell Plumbing Inc. He is the subcontracting business coach for smaller contractors and a Service Round Table Coach. He can be reached in Auburn, California, at home/office: 530/878-5273 or at [email protected].

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