What Kind of Business Does Janet Have?

Janet slid breathlessly into the chair opposite Susan. Susan smiled and slid a steaming mug across to her.

“I don’t get it, Susan. A few weeks ago we were on a path to an effortless business. This week, it seems like one step forward, two back.”

“Take a breath, honey. You are making progress, you are shaking things up. That means you are fighting inertia, habit, fear of change and you are learning as you go. That’s a tall order and it will take longer than a few weeks. What would you say is your biggest challenge right now.”

Janet sipped at her mug and looked far away. She seemed to be sifting ideas to see which were the most pressing. “There are a few things and they seem to be fundamental, like how we work with our homeowners – how we present ourselves and how we maintain safety measures and even how we lay out our gear. I feel like I should have all this figured out, but it feels like it’s about time that I finally figure this out.”

Susan beamed at her.”Look at you, looking at your business, not just doing it. Too many business owners are too busy doing the work of the business, they don’t think about how what they are doing projects the right image to customers, staff, even regulatory bodies.”

“You’re right, I guess it really is working.”

“That doesn’t seem like that big a problem. Certainly not hard to work through.”

“No, no, the biggest problem is that we have so much work on that we need a new crew. I’m not sure how to find them or how to train them. Michelle and Maggie have been with me for ages. They are very keen and I can count on them to think things through and do the right things. That’s why I’m thinking about how we do things, so I can figure out how to train people if I bring on a new crew.”

“If? You have more work than you can do, why wouldn’t you bring on a new crew?”

“We could just turn down work. I like the size of our business. We are making pretty good money, we are working comfortably, why change things?”

“Those are big questions, Janet. What kind of business are you making? What do you want to have happen at the end?” Janet’s blank look told Susan this was a discussion they needed to have.

“You have to know how you want it to end in order to make it that way.”

“I’m so focused on getting things working, I haven’t thought too much about later. I can’t imagine doing anything but this.”

“You want to be climbing on roofs and chasing people for cheques in 20 years?”

“Well, no. I guess I figured that after 20 years I’d have things working smoothly. I’d just be doing estimates and managing the jobs.”

“What about travel, family, enjoying life?” This question was greeted by another blank stare. Susan knew that many people who start businesses do it to share their skills and gifts with the world in the way they want to do it. They focus on doing the work, rather than on building a business.

“Your roofing business can be whatever you want it to be. It can be a way for you to make a living, in essence a job that you control. It can be a way for you to give to the world; it can be a separate entity you build that doesn’t need your input, yet pays you; or it can be your legacy. You need to do some imagining about what you want to do when you grow up. You can make this into whatever you want it to be. You just have to decide.”

Janet stared out the window, her coffee forgotten. “A whole world of possibility just opened before my eyes. How do I do that while my days are full of just keeping things going and above water.”

“The best advice I give people, is to start every day by spending the first hour on the fun projects.”

“Fun projects?”

“You know the ones that get shoved to the back burner ready for when you get a bit of time and can work on them. Everyone has them. If you had an extra week, what would you work on?”

“A training program for new crews. Hmm. I guess that means I do intend to build this into a business that can run without me.”

“Spend the first hour every day working on it.”

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