Getting a Life

In a recent remodeler peer-group meeting, several expressed thoughts on how tough it is to be successful today. Many talked about regrouping their business, looking for ways to become more profitable or simply gaining better control of their lives, their time. Who can’t relate to that?

The remodelers in the meeting fell into two groups. All had been in business for five years or more, but one group appeared to be sustainable over the long haul. The other group was in business, but tenuously. The companies in this latter group would otherwise fall apart if not for the sheer force-of-will of the owner. These owners are the individuals who tend to be on every jobsite each day, managing the books at night and making it to the next payroll. The group was stressed out. And by-and-large, this was also the group that was spending all of their time away from home, either at the office or in the field. One guy said he was “a year past burnout” and his kids weren’t talking to him anymore.

That last part got me. If ever there is a reason for succeeding in business and doing whatever it takes to make money, it’s for your kids. The trick is to succeed in business so you have time to enjoy your kids and to know them before they are grown and living on their own. This column has never been a forum for the soft and squishy feelings we get when we think about our families. But this is an exception.

Occasionally, entrepreneurs and business owners need to step back and examine their business for possible changes that would allow them to rest, recharge and get a life. I am sure that the guy who said his kids aren’t talking to him anymore is trying his best to get his business running on its own, so he can focus on the bigger picture. Being involved in one of the many excellent remodeling industry peer groups is a great way to get started on that track.

One of the truly great advantages of owning and running a small business is that you can design it anyway you want. Lots of entrepreneurs are focused on making their company bigger — more revenue, more jobs, more employees. But growth is not the only measure of success. From observation, I would say that control and profit are the best measures of success for most remodelers — the ability to control the size of your jobs, control the quality of their outcomes and to control your profit margins, as you plan a three-month vacation with your family. If it sounds impossible, it is not. This industry is chock-full of truly individuals who have gained control of their life and their future because that is what matters most to them. And who can argue with that? Not me.