From tradesperson to trade business owner, 3 recommendations to help you succeed

You’re not ‘just a tradie’. You’re now a trade business owner. The trouble is, nobody has taught you to think like a business owner, have they? At TAFE, you learned the theory and started to put it into practice. Then your first boss taught you how to turn that early experience into a professional skillset. Now you dream of finally getting off the tools, but unlike before, you’re flying blind when it comes to finding the right pathways to success.

In this article, we speak with trade business owner and educator, Andy Smith, about how to transition from being a tradesman to a businessman and everything in between. We’ll start by covering what it takes to step away from being entrenched in the nuts and bolts of your trade business when you’re still a tradie. We’ll also uncover tactics for staying off the tools and focusing solely on being a successful business owner.

If you’re making the transition from tradie to trade business owner, here are Andy’s top three things to consider on your path to becoming a better businessman.


Consideration #1:

Are you the only one who understands the systems or structure of your business?

You started as a one-man show, running each job personally, and knowing every customer by name. As your trade business has grown, you remained in touch with what’s happening because you’ve stayed working side-by-side with your growing team. You were always on-hand to answer questions, solve any problems, and get everything done the way it should be. Now, you need to fill the hole created by you stepping back to run your business at an operational level.

You quickly work out that ground operations aren’t progressing as they should — and it’s holding your business back. Your tradies are in the field and representing your trade business every day with no direction or vision guiding how they should perform. For the sake of success, you need to set up a strong governing foundation for your trade business before you move to full-time management. This gives you and your employees a means of operating to a set regime, rather than the minute-by-minute directions of the person in charge.

“When you transition from being a tradie to a trade business owner, you’ll quickly feel like you’re losing control unless you set up a business model to formalise your vision for your trade business,” says Andy. “You’ll never achieve the flexibility and freedom you want without these systems and structures in place and this is a major oversight for many tradies who want to get off the tools.”

Consideration # 2:

Are you ready to miss the comradery of working in the field?

There’s a culture of mateship that exists among tradies of any profession. You’re often on the road together all day, completing jobs that are tough and physically demanding. The more you work together with a team, the greater the sense of accomplishment you all share and this can lead to some very strong interpersonal bonds. You also get through the hard times together, like dealing with difficult customers, spending long hours battling traffic, and working through days that seem to stretch on forever. These are things you’re no doubt thinking you’ll miss when you’re off the tools.

According to Andy, it’s for reasons like these that being a trade business owner can sometimes be a bit lonely. You’ve gone from being ‘amongst it’ with your team to sitting behind a desk in an office all day. For many tradies making the transition to trade business owner, that office will commonly be set up at home. While this scenario is often a welcome change in the beginning, in Andy’s experience it can end up feeling dull and even boring over time.

To help fight these feelings of alienation, Andy suggests staying connected with regular structured meetings to keep up to date with how your team is going. Use these opportunities to stay current with what they’re up to outside of work and gather useful feedback on how things on the ground can be improved. If done right, you’ll have no trouble continuing to promote a culture of mateship in your workplace, even if you’re not with your team every day.

Consideration #3:

Are you being held back by a ‘just a tradie’ mindset?

You know your stuff on the tools, but you’re still learning the ins and outs of being a trade business owner. Throughout this process, it’s important not to get stuck in the mindset of downplaying your potential, as you’ll quickly find this can make leading with confidence very difficult. In reality, you’re an entrepreneur, not ‘just a tradie’, and it can take some adjustment to permanently shift to this new mindset. Always remember that no matter what, your team is relying on you for inspiration, guidance, leadership (and of course a paycheque), so believe in yourself and don’t let them down.

For Andy, the transition from tradie to trade business owner had a few hiccups and it’s okay if yours does too. Take this personal anecdote from Andy himself as an example. In the beginning, he’d wear his ‘tradie’ uniform to the office every day. The thought behind this was that he’d attend any last-minute jobs and be ready to save his tradies if something went wrong on site. The logic was sound, but these excursions left Andy with less time to run his business. With a simple change of clothes, Andy quite literally changed the expectations he had for himself and the expectations that others placed on him.

“I decided to come to the office wearing suit pants and a collared shirt, rather than my tradie gear. The way I presented myself with the team and in meetings reflected my role as a businessman,” he says. “I wasn’t expected to get the boys out of sticky situations anymore, they understood where I needed to be spending my time and energy. My new uniform served to visually represent my shift in mindset.”

But sometimes getting off the tools isn’t as simple as changing your wardrobe, and a little bit of support in making the transition from tradie to trade business owner could make all the difference. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, get in touch and BOOK A GAME PLAN CALL with Andy to get on the right track to success.

Andy Smith is a fellow trade business owner and co-founder of Lifestyle Tradie, a membership and community for tradies in business.

Written by Lifestyle Tradie

Lifestyle Tradie is an award-winning membership and community for trade business owners who want to make more profit and fast-track financial freedom.