By Bill Prosch

Many of us started in the trades as laborers. Then, because we were good technicians, we were promoted to lead technician. Eventually, being a great lead technician led to becoming a project manager. At some point, we concluded (in our own minds) that we could do everything better than the boss, so we started our own company.

What often comes next? Allow me to explain by using a fictional story.

Imagine sitting in a rowboat off the coast of California. You know you want to go somewhere, so you grab an oar and start paddling. You have always been determined and disciplined when helping to row someone else’s boat and were very good at it. Now is your time, and you know there is something better out there than where you currently are.

After rowing for a while, you realize you’re not getting anywhere. Being the determined and disciplined person you are, you decide to row even harder. You put both hands on the oar, dig deeper, and pull harder than ever before. Still, it feels like you are going in circles.

You have always been the type of person who takes responsibility for your actions. In your mind, success or failure comes down to you. You determine that the problem must be that you are not rowing hard enough or long enough, so you buckle down and start earlier each day and row long into the evening. Yet, each sunrise reveals that you have gone nowhere, despite all the effort you’ve expended. That is when a friend suggests that you might get somewhere if you tried both oars instead of just one oar used constantly from the same side of the boat. You give it a go, and when the sun comes up you notice that the shore you have seen every morning is now a long way off. Hooray! Now you’re getting somewhere. With renewed resolve, you row and row, moving farther and farther away from where you started. That is progress, right?

After rowing for some time, you determine that while your efforts have moved you far from where you started, you have no idea where you are and no idea where you’re going. Something needs to change. There must be a way to do this differently.

Row with vision

Instead of rowing aimlessly, let us assume you have clearly defined where you want to go—Catalina Island, which is twenty-two miles west off the coast of California. On a clear day, you can even see Catalina from where you are. Twenty-two miles is a long way to go in a rowboat, but you are up for the challenge. Even better, you know why you want to go to Catalina. You want to retire there and reap all the rewards that living on the island will afford you.

So, you set about your rowing in an entirely different way. You still have the same rowboat, along with the same discipline and determination as in the first example, but this time you are armed with a vision of where you ultimately want to be. That vision, along with your determination and discipline, help you to understand that you are not going to take one single stroke that fails to get you closer to your goal of reaching Catalina. You know it will not be easy. Wind, currents, fog, and storms will occasionally knock you off course, but you never lose sight of your vision. Sometimes it seems that you will never get there, but you persist, constantly adjusting to keep yourself on course until that goal is firmly within your grasp.

We can continue this example for page upon page, but by now, I am certain you get the point. So many of us who start a business never have a clear vision of what we truly want, nor do we know why we want it. A clear vision, fueled by an understanding of why the goal is so important to us, can be the entire difference between success and failure. Visions lead to goals. Goals lead to plans. Plans lead to actions and allow us to measure our progress.

This all may sound abstract, but too many of us work extremely hard and never move any closer to our dreams. You have no doubt heard the saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” If you are working and working but never getting closer to what you want, simply stop. Immediately.

Working harder at doing the same thing will not give you a different or better result. It may be time to look at your vision, your goals, and your plans. If you have failed to understand your vision, determine your goals, and create plans designed to attain those goals, then perhaps that is where the problem truly lies. Adding those components will certainly help you to correct your course. And who knows? If you get those things in line, that twenty-two miles to Catalina may just be the start. Hawaii is only another couple thousand miles.

There is a moral to this story. You are never going to get what you want out of your business or life unless you have both oars in the water. (Sorry; I couldn’t help myself!)

Bill Prosch, CR, is a Business Development Adviser for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly-respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Prosch is a leading expert in operations and a Certified Restorer. He has a deep understanding of entrepreneurial challenges having owned and operated a successful restoration company for more than 30 years. Through Violand, he works with companies to develop their people and their profits. To reach him, visit or call (800)360-3513.