3 hints on how to safely “captain” a larger cleaning/restoration business …

Well, all you landlubbers will be relieved!  Yes, I’ve almost milked dry my sailing analogy to your cleaning/restoration business.  (Now that is a seriously mixed up metaphor!)  But bear with me just a few minutes longer because I’m going to continue to focus (just like I did in my last post) on you as the captain of your business “ship”.  Let’s talk about that difficult time when you as the skipper are transitioning from one size boat (company) to another (usually larger) ship or business model.

small-to-larger-restoration-cleaning-operationAs you might imagine, the most important changes go beyond issues dealing with the wind in the sails or the crew on the boat. Instead, these decisions have to do with what’s going on inside the head of the captain which means YOU! Here are three areas to pay particular attention to as you prepare yourself to skipper a larger vessel in your cleaning/restoration marketplace:

1. Take risks and make mistakes. Most of us grew up in an environment that discouraged us from making mistakes. My guess is you were encouraged to get A’s in school. And how did you get A’s? By not making mistakes! If you worked in a large company, did you ever get promoted by suggesting some brilliant-but-risky idea? Probably not. You likely got promoted by playing it safe and not making mistakes. Understandably, you probably brought this play-it-safe strategy to running your cleaning business. The problem is you can’t grow a business by playing it safe and by just not making mistakes.

Over the long term, trying to run your business by not making mistakes might be the biggest mistake of all. So, rather than fearing mistakes, you should embrace them. Rather than trying to avoid them, you should learn from them and move on. Sure it’s scary. But nobody ever sailed to new worlds by playing it safe and never leaving the security of dry land.

2. Develop the needed skills. Think for a moment about the different skill sets needed to be the skipper of a small sailboat, the captain of a medium-sized racing yacht or the commodore of a tall-masted ship. Most of these skills (especially once you move off the small sailboat) have very little to do with raising and lowering the sails.

Instead your new “bigger boat” tactics are focused on making sound decisions, having the courage to navigate uncharted seas, acting with self-discipline, communicating with your crew and managing conflict, just to name a few. Usually these skills are acquired over a lifetime of combining real-life experiences (the school of hard knocks) along with formal training. The same holds true for you as you grow your business.

Your ability to lead an increasingly larger company has much, much more to do with you making good business decisions and knowing how to motivate, lead and manage your people than it does with your technical skills as a carpet cleaner. Dr. Daniel Goleman drives home this point in his book Primal Leadership when he writes that “80 to 90 percent of the competencies that distinguish outstanding from average [business] leaders” are leadership skills!

3. Ask the right questions. As we grow our businesses and move from one boat to a larger one, the fundamental questions you should ask yourself change. Now, rather than simply asking, “How can I sail faster?” you also need to ask, “Where am I sailing to?” Or even before this you must determine, “Where do I want to sail to?”  It’s the skipper’s job to chart the course for his boat. It’s the crew’s job to sail it there. Without a well-defined sense of where you are going, your cleaning company will just drift without purpose…like a ship without a rudder.

Even the fastest boat in the water will eventually stall or sail in circles if the captain piloting it isn’t up to the job. Part of your job as captain of your growing boat is to make sure you’re always ready for the ever-changing challenges you’ll face.  With resources such as this website and of course SFS training, you have a huge head start over your competition!

As I have been writing I’ve seen this essential business subject of developing your skills and knowledge as your cleaning/restoration company grows deserves just a few more comments.  So I’ll put my thoughts in order and get back to you.  Meanwhile fair winds and safe sailing to you!

(Next in series: A few thoughts on successfully skippering your carpet cleaning venture …)

Chuck Violand (more about Chuck)
SFS Instructor
CEO Violand Management Associates

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