I have been asked many times if I thought owner-operators were really entrepreneurs. My answer is always: “They had sure better be.” This question goes to the heart of the issue of whether or not a company will succeed.
The owners of most startup cleaning companies are embarking on their first attempt at running a business. A critical factor in determining success will be their ability to shift their thinking from that of an employee to that of an entrepreneur. Failure to make this adjustment will seal the fate of the company.
Employees have been conditioned to be good at performing a limited number of functions for a business. The larger the company, the narrower the focus of most employees.
For a short time, I worked on an assembly line manufacturing printers for cash registers. My job was to assemble seven tiny pieces to produce a small unit of the printer. I was highly skilled at my task. But, even with all of the technical skill I had acquired, there was no way I could run a manufacturing plant. I was well aware that I did not have the management, financial, marketing and operations skills needed to run the company.
In a small service company where a massive portion of the employee time and energy is spent performing a particular service, the other vital functions of running the company can easily be overlooked. It is common for people looking from an employee’s perspective to assume that learning the primary service skill is the most important objective for success. They see those other functions that make up a business, such as finance and marketing, as less important.
An entrepreneur, on the other hand, understands the importance of all major functions of a business. If any one aspect of a company is not operating well, the success of the entire enterprise could be at risk.
In the hierarchy of your company’s activities, the roles of strategy, marketing and business administration rank right beside the day-to-day operations of cleaning carpet. These other aspects of a company may not require as much time as performing the cleaning, but they are just as vital.
Entrepreneurial owners take responsibility to ensure all business functions are working well.
Contracting it out
The administrative parts of my cleaning business were always challenging for me. Data entry, bookkeeping, tax preparation and sending out thank you cards were tasks I did not enjoy. I was capable of doing them, but they never seemed to get done in a timely manner when they were left up to me.
However, just because I am responsible for making sure these tasks are completed does not mean I must personally do them all. I found people I could outsource these tasks to. Understand that I am not suggesting hiring an employee. Each of these small jobs can be hired out to other small companies.
The end result was that the work got done in a timely manner, at a higher level than if I had done it personally and at a relatively low price. I was then free to focus on cleaning for and interacting with customers.
Overseeing the whole business
The running of a business can be broken down into four divisions:
1. The executive/strategy division oversees the focus and direction of the company. This division selects the target market, services offered, pricing, budgeting, size and goals of the company.
2. The operations division is the part of the business that provides the service that generates revenue. This division includes equipment, tools, supplies, labor, maintenance and training.
3. The business administration division is responsible for scheduling, collections, accounts payable, data entry, follow-up mailings and financial reports.
4. The marketing division is there to ensure that there are enough profitable customers to make money. This would include company branding, advertising, maintaining the website and creating marketing materials.
An entrepreneurial owner makes sure that the work of all of these divisions gets done.
Evaluate your entrepreneurial effectiveness
There are some important questions you should ask yourself when analyzing your effectiveness in the role of owner-operator. Consider the following:
· Are you ensuring all important parts of your company are working smoothly?
· Do you take time monthly to review the work and progress of each division?
· Do any of these jobs need to be hired out?
· Do you need to learn more about any of these responsibilities?
Take the time to honestly evaluate how you are doing in these areas.
Owner-operators must be entrepreneurs
I enjoyed my 30 years of hands-on cleaning. I was good at what I did and enjoyed the professional relationship I developed with my clients. Most of my time was spent in the operations division of the business.
Even though I was a one-man business for most of my cleaning career, there was not a doubt as to whether I was an entrepreneur. I knew the importance of all parts of my company. Strategy, planning and creativity went into all of the divisions.
In order to succeed, you must take ultimate responsibility for all of the aspects of your company. If you do not ensure those jobs get done, who will? Success requires that you are good at more than getting dirt out of a carpet. You must grow beyond the specialized thinking of an employee and become a big-picture entrepreneur.
Steve Marsh is the creator of the Be Competition Free Marketing Program. He is a 40-year veteran of the carpet cleaning industry, an instructor and a Senior Carpet Inspector. Marsh is a marketing and business consultant who helps owners build their companies to attract higher quality customers. For more information, visit www.BeCompetitionFree.com.