After 15 years as a “Lone Wolf” carpet cleaner, should I expand?

Good morning, Steve,

I’m writing with what many would call a “happy problem”.  I have my ducks in a row to double my business next year.  I’ve been a one man show for about 15 years with occasional helpers when needed. So Steve, should I grow bigger just because I can and have the opportunity? I am still unsure if this is a goal I really want to make for myself. Your guidance is appreciated as always.

Pondering My Future in Portland

Well, Pondering, my first thought is to congratulate you for your choice of city.  Sioux and I love Portland and if it wasn’t for the volunteer work we are involved in here in the Dominican Republic I think it is very likely you and I might be neighbors!  (Don’t worry- I wouldn’t be new competition!) But I digress …

You are right to be grateful.  Given the current tough economy, isn’t it great that you have “options”? Of course, with these at times bewildering choices comes a degree of stress! I know you recognize no one really can answer your question above on growth. It’s up to you. But some thoughts:

First and above all else, NEVER, ever let anyone define your own success for you or allow yourself to feel inferior because you made a conscious decision to not “get big”. It is a smart man (or woman) who has the insight to realize they have neither the “fire in the belly” or possibly the management skills to develop and run a large business.

Your business should exist to support your definition of success … and nothing more.

However, remember that all things being equal a large business will sell for more than a small one. You don’t say how old you are.  But very likely an owner operated cleaning company is not going to sell for enough to fund a comfortable retirement. (And you should reflect on what will happily provide an income if you as a “lone wolf” get sick/injured or just want to take a long vacation.)

BUT, on the other hand please don’t let the desire to cash out big force you into living a harried life for many years that you don’t really enjoy. Life is waaaay too short. There are many alternatives that will allow a solo operator to still enjoy his or her Golden Years in a comfortable manner.  (In fact, I list them out in my Lone Wolf Special Report which you can download for free.)

Thoughtfully submitted,


P.S. Bottom line, Pondering? If you are unsure, maybe you should wait a bit and reflect more. I call it “creative procrastination”. I have great faith in our sub-conscious musings. Sometimes your answer just takes a while to percolate to the top. In the meantime you can be working getting those profits up by focusing on your “up-sells”. Those profits will be needed whether you have a one man shop or three hundred employees.

P.P.S. My Special Report, “Cleaning Up: Building Personal Wealth in the Cleaning Industry” explores the whole big vs. small question in great detail. (Including a lot of information on how to increase your net worth OUTSIDE of your cleaning business. NO ONE should have all their eggs in one basket, I don’t care how big it is!)

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