Friday, March 28, 2014

My go to, "Nick, you knock yourself out." Read Part 8 of my business journey.

Now I confess, I'm writing this from memory because I had no intention of ever revisiting these times for any reason. So, at this point the pool seasons kind of blend in for few years. Basically though, I kept paying our debts, making payroll and all the tax payments that go with running a reputable business, being thankful that I had found Don and he was working out so well, learning from Don more than any one source about pools, sharing the profits with my partner, accepting that I basically am running the company in spite of my partner rather than with the help of my partner, and feeling blessed and fortunate and smart for owning a profitable small business. I was now seeing first hand, capitalism. I liked it.

Summers began to get pretty stressful. We were making good money, I had taken to driving around to all our pools in a random fashion to keep our young employees on their toes as best I could. I pretty much isolated my partner and took over the entire operation. If you know me, you know I am confident but I am not full of myself. I was in fact, running the show. All the while splitting the profits 50/50. Now, in a perfect world, I could solve the employee/hiring/training/ dilemma. I asked old Don one day if he had any retired, semi-retired, friends who might want to work cleaning a couple of pools,  a couple of days a week. Sure enough, he did have a friend. I hired, Nick, and as I write this he is still working for me. I realized very quickly that Nick, though he was overweight and out of shape, understood the concept of daily maintenance, working smarter not harder, calling me to report repairs necessary that he didn't do and making minor repairs himself and just letting me know what he did. At first I had him get everything approved by me. The routine, because I'm a simple guy,, was Nick would go to Home Depot, buy whatever he needed, make the repair, send me the receipts, I reimburse him for his Home Depot purchase, I pay him for his time, I don't make anything on the Home Depot purchases because I would be adding on to the retail and I just don't operate that way. I have said this to Mike recently quite a lot. I have always "left some money on the table" before I get greedy. It's worked well for my credibility, which as we all know, is the most precious commodity to the customer. Because this is a blog, I am omitting a number of steps it took to get to this place. Suffice to say, in a service business, employees will make or break you. After writing that, I realized that could be said about all businesses! That being said, I also made a little money in my hourly charge after I paid Nick and paid all the required taxes. I could have done some things to make more money, I suppose, but at that time, I was just realizing that I actually do have the ability to organized and run a small business profitably. I may not have said this enough. No one was more surprised than I. And, part of my never being greedy was because as a teacher, with no real business education, I actually felt guilty charging what I was. Sure, I read all the articles about what my time is worth, and expertise, blah, blah.. I was afraid someone, somehow, would figure out I didn't have the slightest amount of confidence that this would succeed, that I seemed to have all the answers. Wow, I'm just writing randomly here. If this were a book, I would have this edited, But it's not. So, things just started to become clear to me. My original vision of how this would look a few years into it, was nowhere close. I started thinking I was going to do my thing, and Jerry, would do his. I mean, I was hoping we would make a little money like some of our other teacher friends that were out there madly aerating lawns after work for $25.00.

From that vision, I started seeing things differently. Mike tells me a lot, I'm great at explaining, and putting a plan in place, keeping all informed of status, and executing. This is so simple. I had read about this in the many books I read as mentioned earlier. Axioms are true for a reason. I already saw that we had found a need and began filling it with quality service. Haha, the hilarious part is I can't begin to tell you how our young adults were still doing a better job than our competitors. I knew I could improve. I had to. There were lots of emergency things that would come up and I would panic having to deal with them, all the while slowly, silently, seething that I was splitting the profits.

Then I realized I can make money having Nick and good old Don do the work that came up. Duh! With that, the next axiom has to do with yes, a pyramid, but not the Amway kind of crap. No, this axiom is the basic concept that I can make that repair myself, and pocket all the money...if you see where I'm heading here, you see the premise that is yes, I could do that. Or, I could spend my time getting more business, and making more by increasing volume. Yes, I may only make $20.00 only their labor, but if I have Nick and Don and more, I could have five guys, making me collectively $100.00 an hour. A point I valued watching my teacher friends, aerate, mow, house paint, for $25.00 an hour. I'll say it again, I felt guilty for some reason learning what I was learning and fearing it would explode at some point due to some idiotic thing I did. With this plan I completely changed my plan of attack. I went about looking for more Nicks to replace the young adults. I worried, for good reason, about our young adults getting up early enough to service the pool before the swimmers showed up. With Nick, one of the first things he said the day I met him at a McDonalds, was, "I know you said I should be at my first pool by 6:00 am in order to be done with the other 2/3 pools on my route by our 10:00 am open pool time. But, could I get to my first pool like 5:00 am?" I remember my answer, it has become my go to. I said, "Nick, you knock yourself out. If you want to be done by 9:00 that works for me." Here's the punch line...Then Nick says, "I realized some times because my pools are so close to each other, I can leave one pool filling while I run to another one to get the equipment out instead of watching the pool fill. And, if I need to make any repairs, I will likely have them done before opening." Is there a Double Duh???? Heck, that is not the conversation I would have with a 20 year old! It would have been more along the lines of, "Well, I didn't get home til late last night, then I forgot I needed to get gas in my car, and my mom made me drop my brother off at his friend's, but I was only done an hour later than I should have been.
Yup, only an hour.

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