“Start a business,” they said, “It’ll be fun,” they said….
When a tile installer decides that they would like to start a business, all too often they find themselves burnt out in a surprisingly short amount of time. Many talented tile installers find themselves having to close their businesses down after a few years, others will hang on to their business year after year after year despite never being able to show a profit, or create a schedule that makes them happy to be a business owner.
Why do so many contractors end up going out of business or worse yet (in my opinion) create an everlasting Job for themselves that demands more of them than they would demand of their employees, and yet pays similar wages? Simply put, they’ve failed to build a Sustainable Business.
I want to give you a couple of thoughts on building personal sustainability as well as business sustainability. This will look different for everyone, only you know what you are capable of, but the point to living and working sustainably is so that you can enjoy your life and work and avoid burnout! We will discuss 6 main points;
- Stick to your Vision, Play the Long Game
- Monitor your cash flow
- Know your values and never compromise them
- Outsource as much as possible
- Get your team engaged with your sustainable vision
- Know your why, why do you want to be a business owner?
A large key to sustainability is Mindset, you have to be firm in your commitment to living a sustainable lifestyle. Instead of thinking “I’ve got to work 7 days a week for as long as I can” Think “It’s MY responsibility as a business owner to keep myself and my company from burning out.” This small change in mindset seems simple, yet implementing this line of thinking into your business can mean the difference between success and failure.
1. Stick to your Vision, Play the Long game
Be careful of trading short-term gains for long-term success.
It’s easy to get distracted. Easy money is hard to pass up, but if you find yourself constantly squeezing in smaller jobs in between your larger jobs you’re going to create a habit of showing up tired and not 100% prepared for the large jobs that you want and need.
Often learning to say NO to the wrong client is more important than saying Yes to everyone, after all, you simply cannot say Yes to everyone.
2. Monitor your cash flow
I know and understand the feeling of ratcheting up your lifestyle when business is good. But do your best to fight the urge to buy ALL the toys you want as soon as you can get approved and make the payments. You’re setting yourself up for potential disaster.
The time will come when your business might need some cash input to grow or sustain itself during a slow period. It can be difficult to ratchet your lifestyle down. Having a healthy buffer of cash can afford you to slow down or even stop if you need to.
3. Know Your Values and Never Compromise Them
Values set the tone for the vision, company culture, people you want to attract and hire, and day-to-day operations. It’s the Values that Build Great Companies, attracting both better clients as well as better employees.
For example; When I started my tile contractor business, I had planned on using the very best materials ALL the Time. I had read about Sean McCloud and how he only uses Laticrete Spectralock epoxy grout. I wanted to be like that. One of the first showers I built was Mud Floated, Kerdi Waterproofed with a linear drain, and Spectralock Epoxy Grout. I also wanted the best installers to work for me.
I got distracted with “easy money” and I compromised for a time, taking on work that didn’t fit my Values and Vision for my company. This resulted in my caving and using materials that were subpar and hiring help that I was not proud of. I eventually got back on track about a year later, but the mistakes that were made along the way negatively impacted my companies reputation.
4. Stop doing everything!
This is a hard pill to swallow for Tile Contractors. Our work is a finish product and often our clients expect the owner to be the one installing the tile, (or at least We feel they do). We desire the very best outcome and often have trust issues when it comes to cutting our apprentice loose to install tile or even grout without supervision.
The problem is that doing everything is the opposite of sustainability… and it leads to burnout. So you’re going to have to figure out just what you can outsource now and do it from the beginning!
For example, could you hire someone to design and build you a new website? You should certainly be hiring a professional bookkeeper and CPA correct? Outsourcing to the professional will cost you money upfront, but in return, you will gain time, time to sell more tile work and install it! After all, your chosen profession is ‘Tile Contractor’ not ‘website designer/ bookkeeper/ CPA, right?
Once you get into the pattern of outsourcing as much as possible, you will start to immediately see the benefits, you should be able to free up enough time to train your apprentice, getting them to the point where eventually you will be comfortable with them working unsupervised.
5. Get your team engaged in your sustainability Vision
Find ways to get all team members personally engaged and motivated in your day-to-day sustainability vision. Show them what’s in it for them. As they engage and get excited about the business and their growth plan inside your company you will begin to trust and delegate more and more to them.
Take time to reflect on why you left your mentor and struck out on your own. The goal is to stop that cycle! Offer them what you would have wanted to continue working as an employee! Have those conversations with your team one on one as well as in a group setting.
For example; I started taking my tile installation crew out to breakfast once a month to talk about the companies growth, values, and vision. They loved it and were excited to be a part of the company vision.
6. Know your why
Why do you want to be a business owner? It’s easy to quickly answer this question with an answer like “I want more money” I’m challenging you to dig deeper, money is a tool, what do you plan on doing with that tool? Asking that question will lead you to your real why, and surprisingly many will find that they are closer to their why than they thought!
Once you know your why you can keep yourself in check, asking yourself, “Is my business getting me closer to my why or further away?”
Leaders who know their why have an easier time keeping the business alive and making sound decisions. With Clarity, everything flows. Knowing your why is the key to building a business that suits you and your lifestyle, which will grow into something you can sustainably build and manage for years to come.
Yes being a small business owner contactor can be fun and enjoyable, but only if it is sustainably built! I hope reading this blog post has given you something to think about and you can benefit from reading and applying the advice given, but don’t stop there! Continue to search for information and resources for your business, if you would like to hear my recent podcast on sustainability, you can watch it here or listen here. Make sure to subscribe to the Podcast as new episodes come out weekly on Tuesdays.
Until next time, Stay Profitable Tile Friends!