Our house cleaning service here in Kansas City has been open for nearly a year now!
We are by no means experts, but here are just a few of the things Michael and I have learned in the short time that Sunflower Maids has been open:
1. You can’t short-cut growth.
We all want to be an expert right away. But being an expert requires gaining experience, and gaining experience can only come from actually “doing the stuff”, as John Wimber used to say.
You have to actively get your feet wet, make mistakes, learn, and then try again to grow.
Remember that painfully awkward time in all of our lives, commonly known as being a “teenager”? Well, it was a necessary part of you becoming an adult. Unless you’re Tom Hanks and were lucky enough to wish yourself straight into adulthood, the rest of us (and our blessed parents) had to agonize through the hormonal puberty hell that is adolescence in order to become adult human beings.
It’s no different when you’re running a business. You will look like a complete idiot sometimes, and you will make really poor life choices. You will have to read ALL THE BOOKS and listen to ALL THE LECTURES. You will make several pathetic attempts at trying to be “cool” and marketing yourself. You will think you finally know it all and thoroughly annoy the other business owners who have been at it longer than you. You will get really passionate about certain pointless things and be “that” obnoxious guy at networking brunches… and then (thank God) you will grow out of it.
That’s the nature of growth and there’s no way around it. Don’t fight it. Nothing is going to be perfect right away, so don’t bother with trying to take short cuts. Embrace the growing pains, the hideous website designs, and the amateur copywriting.
You’re learning, and learning = growing. You’ll find yourself and eventually move on from the awkward business-adolescent stage into business-adulthood. Which brings me to my next point….
2. Get used to making mistakes. And learn to make them quickly.
As the adage goes, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” You will make costly and embarrassing mistakes. Some of those mistakes will end up costing you a lot of money, while plenty others will cost you precious time and customers.
What you do have control over is choosing whether to recognize and fix those mistakes quickly, or to drag them out unnecessarily. Learn to read the signs when something isn’t working out, and CUT. THE. ROPE.
Shortly after starting Sunflower Maids, Michael and I made a mistake that wound up costing us several thousand dollars. Yup, we were off to a textbook-definition rookie start. We were “baby” business owners with no experience in operating an actual cleaning company (and still are!) and realized too late that it wasn’t going to be cost-effective for us to hire our own cleaning teams and continually furnish them with the necessary supplies. Thankfully we recognized our flub-up quickly, cut our losses, and were able to make back what we lost after deciding to work with self-employed contractors.
But if we had continued pouring all of our resources into hiring our own employees and attempting to maintain all of the supplies, we would have been well on our way to not just loosing our new business, but eventually our life’s savings.
No matter how successful you may get, making mistakes will be the ever-present equalizer in your business, keeping you in check. Just don’t wallow in self-pity or continue to waste precious resources waiting for things to change on their own. Fix them quickly and keep moving on. Further up and further in, friends!
3. Running a business is not for everybody, and there’s no shame in that. So do what’s right for you.
Everyone thinks the grass is greener on the entrepreneur side of the fence. It sure sounds nice to be your own boss, doesn’t it? But just like going to college, running a business isn’t for everybody.
And that’s totes okay.
We know of several other people who have also tried starting online cleaning services, but didn’t like it or felt like it wasn’t quite what they wanted to do. Some folks have been at it for a long time or have tried multiple different online businesses before finally throwing in the towel. In the end, they just decided they didn’t like owning an online business and preferred doing what they were before.
There’s no shame in trying to start your own business and discovering that it it isn’t right for you.
I mean, how many times does a college student change their major before they graduate (IF they even graduate at all)? I think, officially, approximately a million times.
It can take a while and a lot of trial and error to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. Actually, if anyone is completely sure of what they want to do with the rest of their life, please call me “ASAP, as possible”.
For the rest of yous, give yourself a little grace and shake it off.
If after all you’ve tried, you still come to the conclusion that working as a cashier at Micky D’s makes you happy, then keep doing what you’re doing. The world needs more people who are at peace with life and enjoy what they’re doing for a living.
And if you still think running a business is for you but haven’t found your niche yet, keep looking! Your dream company may not be what the world calls “successful”, but if it makes you feel good, go for it!**
**(Except like if you’re a hitman for the mafia or a human trafficker. Even if those jobs could make you feel legitimately good, you shouldn’t do them! Duh!)
4. It helps to have both a manager personality AND an entrepreneur personality at the helm.
Let’s talk for a moment about the differences between managers (structure-oriented, planners) and entrepreneurs (risk-takers, visionaries).
Managers get a bad wrap, don’t they? Always whipping everyone into shape with their rules and structure! Never letting anyone have any of that out-of-control, dangerous fun! They’re obsessed with silly things like budgeting, alphabetizing alphabets, and highlighters. It’s almost intolerable.
I know and can say all those things because I mostly wear the manager pants in my marriage.
Michael on the other hand, has the imagination of a 6 year old on steroids. He is a true entrepreneur through in through.
And his enthusiasm is infectious. If he believed the earth was flat, twenty minutes in the same room with him would convince you to burn all your science books and set off on a fantastic voyage in search of the edge of the world.
So when he brought up his idea for Sunflower Maids, each of our personalities responded accordingly. My foot immediately wanted to slam the breaks and talk business plans. He was already doing wheelies and leaving skid marks down the street.
But there is a book Michael read recently called, The E-Myth Revisited, that explains how a business actually requires both managers AND entrepreneurs (along with an additional personality type) to be successful:
- The Entrepreneur: The author, Michael E. Gerber, describes the Entrepreneur as one who lives in the future. They inspire and have big vision. They are dreamers and always full of ideas. (Or if you like, Church folks can think of Entrepreneurs as apostles or “vision casters”)
- The Manager: The Manager creates method where there is madness. The Entrepreneur focuses on the future, the Manager thinks about past. Managers are interested in planning, strategizing and making the abstract into a practical reality.
- The Technician: The Technician doesn’t want control and he doesn’t want to lead. But he DOES want to focus on the hands-on aspect of a business. Technicians excel at task-oriented activities and are happy to run the day-to-day operations.
According to Gerber:
“Defining the business is entrepreneurial work, doing the hands-on work is technical work, and the managerial work is the bridge between the two. Creating and maintaining a successful business requires the contributions of all three roles.”
It’s truly unfortunate that we paint managers in such a negative light, when their role in a business is just as crucial as the entrepreneur’s or the technician’s role.
In all honesty, I’ve found that I’m kind of a blend of the manager/technician and Michael is a blend of the entrepreneur and manager. Which is just about perfect for running the type of business that we have.
In any case, it’s been interesting to see each of our personalities operate within the context of running a business as well as our marriage. And it explains so much. Like, guys srsly. SO MUCH.
5. Don’t be threatened by another person’s success. Instead, cheer them on and find ways to learn from them.
A mindset of power and security isn’t threatened by another person’s success. A mindset of fear and poverty, on the other hand, will always find ways to cheapen the success of others or blacken their character.
Your first instinct when you meet a competitor is to feel threatened by them. Your self-preservation kicks in and tells you they’re the enemy.
But the better way is to seek their benefit and encourage them on the road ahead. I mean, I honestly cannot think of a good reason to NOT be generous in supporting your fellow business owners. If there is anything that can be a hinderance to your success, it’s jealousy.
The bottom line is we’re all learning and figuring out this stuff together and everyone benefits when we share our experiences. Be transparent. Spill the beans on your screw ups. Talk about what’s working for you and what isn’t. Encourage and support your peers and competitors. You never know when you might need their help someday.
I’m a firm believer that you can only keep what you give away. So give away what you’ve learned.
Pass along the knowledge that was given to you. Help all the other young bucks out there, because you were a young buck too once (and we’re those young bucks now). And don’t worry that it’s somehow putting you at a disadvantage.
So there you have it. Just a few of the many things Michael and I have learned about ourselves and our business over the past year.