Mike and his wife Lynn started their business about 10 years ago. They're doing well now, but that wasn't the case early on. For the first 7 years things were tough! Mike had two full-time employees, worked 60 -70 hours a week himself and Lynn helped on nights and weekends, when her other job allowed. But even with all the work, they were not thriving as they hoped, only working hard to survive. This is their story ...
Mike’s background was sales. He loved selling, but hated the way sales worked in the corporate world – the back biting, angle playing, and disingenuousness of peers. Mike decided that owning his own company would provide the opportunity to do what he loved, call his own shots, and not have to deal with all the stuff that he hated.
He and Lynn found a local paper shredding business and took the leap. In the beginning, it was great. Mike was doing what he loved. He enjoyed interacting with prospects, closing the sale and growing his very own business.
But like many owners, Mike soon realized there was tons of other responsibilities beyond just selling that had to be taken care of. Things like billing, scheduling, truck maintenance, quarterly taxes, office expenses, etc. – these were all new to him.
Mike is a can-do kind of guy. So, he jumped in and worked to figure it as he went. It was stressful, but Mike told himself that all this was just part of it owning a business.
Soon, Mike was working 12 to 14-hour days. But many of those hours were spent on things outside of selling, things that he didn’t love. He put in an hour or so of prep for the day before being at the office at 7am. Once there, we would direct and launch his two employees. After that, he would handle anything left over from the previous day. And then finally, he would be able to make sales calls.
But often, he was interrupted by customer service issues, employee questions/problems and vendors calling on him. There was a lot to handle. And what weighed on him the most, was how much of it was outside of doing what he loved. Maybe you can relate?
Years went by, and Mike continued doing everything – paperwork, billing, scheduling, paying bills, making sales calls, handling employee issue, taking vendor calls. He worked this way for nearly 7 years, trying different things, but never getting the results and relief that he was looking for. Understandably so, Mike was burned out, but felt locked into the business.
He wasn’t doing what he loved most but knew that he couldn’t work anymore hours than he already was working. Selling the business wasn’t an option, he wouldn’t get what he wanted for it. He didn’t have the extra money to hire more people. Quitting wasn’t an option. He felt stuck. So, he began to look around for other options. That’s when we met.
I recall Lynn, Mike’s wife, telling me during our first meeting, that if I could help Mike slow down and take a vacation that they would do anything that I asked of them. I committed that I could. So, we went to work on Mike and his business.
I vividly remember in the early days of working with Mike, we almost couldn’t have a conversation because his phone rang virtually all the time. I asked him about it and suddenly, his phone became his clarion bell - it was symbolic of the load and demand he was under. It helped him realized fully that things had to change.
Not to let the cat out of the bag, but Mike took his first time off 6 months after we started working together. Six months after that, he took a week off, the first vacation that he had taken in 8 years. Eight years! Image the work, effort and energy that he put in for 8 years. If anyone deserved a vacation it was Mike!
We made a number of changes. We repositioned his company and connected his offering to what his customers (business owners) valued and saw as impactful. We formalized his sales process. We increased his pricing structure. We organized and streamlined the processes of how his team was organized, communicated and executed their daily responsibilities. We created a communication processes and norms between him and his employees and them with one another. We restructured and delegated many of his responsibility. One that before took Mike 25 hours a week, now it takes only about 2 hours.
The lynchpin for all the changes was the vision and mission statement that we developed. They were the foundation and guiding light that we connected all the business improvements to, so that his company represented the value and norms that were important to he and Lynn. We also worked on the blind spots that were unknowingly holding Mike back from the business and personally success that he desired.
Today, Mike’s life is less hectic. He is claimer, happier and more successful – personally and professionally. His business has grown by double digits for the past three years. And our meetings are hardly ever interrupted by his phone ringing.
Maybe you can relate to Mike’s story. Maybe the business of your business has taken over your life and is keeping you from doing the things that you love. Maybe you’re living now, like Mike was then? Ask yourself, does your phone constantly ring? Is there a steady stream of people throughout the day and evening asking you to handle, look into or take care of something for them? Do you have employee problems? Service issues? Sales problems? Is there no time to breathe, think or just be?
If this is your world, don’t be like Mike. Don’t wait unnecessarily and put yourself through that hell. I remember asking Mike once, why he wait so long to get help. He said sheepishly, I thought it would get better if I just kept working.
The reality is … things don’t just magically improve. If you’re struggling in your business, just surviving instead of thriving, and not able to do the things that you really love doing. Then, don’t put off getting help any longer. If you do, you’re just putting your business and those that rely on you at undue risk. Your business doesn’t have to rob you of your freedom and quality of life.