Be Careful About Short Table Legs

Supporting and balancing your business.

Have you ever felt like your business and/or your life were out of balance? It’s a little like a three legged table with a short leg, it can get wobbly.

I know I have felt this way and sometimes still do. You have probably heard the saying ‘feast or famine’ when talking about the building industry. This refers to the common problem of either having way too much to do. Or worrying about how you are going to pay the bills if you don’t get some work soon. Sometimes this is caused by situations beyond our control. The economy, the weather or some other external force. I think more often than not this ‘out of balance business’ is like a table with a short leg.

Most of us that are self-employed, started out by learning our trade as an apprentice while working for someone else. I know that is how I started. The problem with this is that while I learned how to build a building I wasn’t taught how to build a company. After years of struggling and learning things the hard way and paying the expensive tuition to the ‘school of hard knocks’, I am getting closer to graduating.

One thing that I learned is that my business is a lot like a three legged table. When each of the legs are the same length, it helps provide a level sturdy platform for my company to sit on. When any one or two of them is short the table starts leaning and begins to tip over. If it tips too far the company will slid off. It’s not good when the company slides onto the floor.

My three table legs are:

1 – Sales/marketing – Searching for and finding customers that you can help by providing your service and/or product through word of mouth, advertising and awareness. Meeting with potential customers, determining what they want/need and preparation of estimates, proposals and contracts.

2 – Production – Organizing, scheduling and maintaining the project or product. Determining who and what the specific people and parts that are needed and making sure they fit. Maintaining communication between all parties involved.

3 – Administration/finance – The preparation documents needed to communicate, track and record all aspects of the business. The filling out and filing of income, expense, banking and tax papers. This leg is one of the easiest to get short and when it does can really cause the table to lean.

The table top is the big picture planning and organizing. It’s what connects the three separate legs. It’s easy to give too much attention to one or two legs and forget the others. To get so focused on the production of a project that we forget to follow up on a new customer. To get so into preparing proposals that we forget to invoice. To work so diligently on tracking expenses that we don’t leave enough time for working on the project.

There is no perfect answer to keep the table from ever leaning. The most important thing is to realize that it can happen and work to keep the table balanced.

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