When Being Busy Isn’t Always Good Business

Don’t automatically be in a hurry to grow your business. Taking your time could benefit your company even more.

When Being Busy Isn’t Always Good Business

Jamie Hunter and technician Andy Shearman set up PolyPortables units at a special event.

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Sometimes in the portable sanitation industry it can seem like blasphemy to say that busy is a bad thing. But most business owners agree that there is a difference between “good busy” and “too busy.”

You have heard the conversation around supply houses that goes something like:

“You guys busy?”

“Oh yeah! We are so busy we could hire 50 more people and still have too much work to do.”

But if you ask any veteran business owner who has decades of experience, they will usually agree that being too busy can at times be a detriment.

Inexperienced business owners

Many new business owners brag about how busy they are and will talk about how they just don’t have enough time in the day. They run around from job to job, selling more and more, working six to seven days a week, and hiring more employees to get more work done.

They tend to focus on the amount of work they have coming in, and they love the fact that they are working their butts off. It is a great feeling to be busy and a source of pride when talking about how busy the new business is. So why then do many of these companies not make it past the first few years? They forget the magic word — profit.

They get so caught up in the hustle of tackling job after job that they stop paying attention to everything else. They are focused on outdoing the competition and jacking up the numbers on the sales report. They will take any work that comes their way. At some point, two things happen: They don’t get paid on a job (or get severely delayed payments), or they start to question their pricing when they don’t make a profit.

The entire point of being in business is to make a profit. Occasionally during a bid-type project, you will see the “uh oh” look when they realize their price is half of everyone else’s. They realize that the high sales number is meaningless if you aren’t turning a profit. There is no point banging your head against the wall and hustling seven days a week, 11 hours a day if you aren’t making any real money. The owner, technicians, helpers, laborers and office staff are fatigued and have been run into the ground; and worse yet, the money is scarce.

The beginning of the end

Naturally once these companies realize that they are not charging enough, the initial reaction is to cut costs. But they can’t charge what the “big boys” charge because the company is marketed as the cheaper alternative. They can’t cut labor or material costs, so they cut things like professional services, lawyers, insurance coverage, and accountants. Now not only are they working twice as hard, but they are doing their own accounting and operating at too high of risk with their cut-rate insurance coverage. 

They start to take low-margin, high-volume work to keep everyone busy. Now the office staff is overworked, underpaid, and making mistakes because of the large volume of calls, callbacks and loose ends. The technicians are overworked, underpaid and piling up the mistakes because they are in such a hurry. And the owner is overworked, with no profit to take home and no personal life. This is not why he got in business.

The value of taking your time

Take advice from the more experienced business owners. You might have a great attitude and want to go out there and light the world on fire, but experience has shown that slow and steady wins this race.

A well-run business will make a large percentage profit on lower sales than a mismanaged business with extremely high sales. Be fiscally conservative and calm in your decision-making process. Try not to make large purchases on a whim.

The advantage always goes to the company that is out to be in business for a very long time and make reasonable profits — outfits that have the strength to turn down sketchy, high-risk projects and focus on the quality of work itself.

Focusing on slow and steady growth, making reasonable profits, and doing work that is quality and lasts a lifetime is the proven way to make a great living for you and your family.

About the Author

Anthony Pacilla is a registered master plumber for McVehil Plumbing in Washington, Pennsylvania. He has 23 years' experience in the plumbing and HVAC trades, and has a bachelor’s in business and economics from Thiel College.


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