Business Growth

Entrepreneur, Manager, Technician – Juggling the three hats of trade business

Think back to when you first started your trade business. Try to remember the excitement you felt at the prospect of one day running an operation that funds your dream lifestyle.

Now flash forward to today and look where you're at. You're probably tired, stressed and ready to laugh at anyone with the audacity to suggest that you should take a bit of time off for yourself.

Because you can't.

You've got a big job tender in the works, you're periodically checking in at the office, and your field team will struggle without the extra pair of hands.

They told you when you started that running a business means wearing many hats, and boy were they right. But you soldier on regardless.

Because who else is going to wear the three hats required to run a successful trade business?

You may not think of running a trade business as a constant wardrobe swap, but the reality is that you need to be an Entrepreneur, a Manager and a Technician all rolled into one. That's the wisdom of renowned business author Michael E. Gerber speaking, whose business-building knowledge rings particularly true for trade business owners. Gerber states that the entrepreneur plays the role of growing the business by innovating and seeking out new opportunities. The manager holds down the fort by running the day-to-day operations, and the technician provides the service that brings in revenue and keeps customers returning.

It sounds easy enough to fill each role, right? You've worked hard up until this point, and all it's going to take to get over the workload you're facing is a bit more hard work and dedication.

Except there's no end in sight. You're as busy today as you were yesterday, and the late nights pushing paper or early mornings setting up your team for the day ahead aren't going to change that.

When your business reaches a specific size, it signals the need to change things up. It's not a question of if but when. Because no matter how skilled you are or how late you stay up on a Thursday night, you can only keep your head above water for so long when work is piling up.

Still not convinced that it's time to hand over a hat?

Think about other professionals in your sector who don't own the business they work for. Are they expected to make upper-level financial decisions in the morning, then jump in the truck and head off to the job site to check up on their team? No, and once your business hits that size limit, you'll quickly see why it's important to pare back your role within it and focus your attention where it's needed most.

After so much time spent building your business, it will be tough to hand over the reins. You know every intricate detail from sales and marketing to payroll and procurement, and the thought of trying to teach someone even a third of your job probably seems impossible.

But the reality is that you can't continue the way you are, and your customers are one of the reasons why.

Your valued clients are one of the primary reasons why it's impossible to balance the three roles. According to Gerber, each role views customers slightly differently, and it's essential to keep your wires uncrossed when meeting client needs and providing the top-quality service your company is known for.

When viewed in the context of a trade business, Gerber's work highlights how the three roles view customers in the following way:

- Entrepreneurs see customers as an opportunity that creates revenue

- Managers see customers as a commodity that needs managing

- Technicians see customers as a task that needs completing

There are similarities between how each role views a customer. But, as Gerber's work points out, "common assumptions, expectations and even technical expertise can get in the way of meeting customer needs and running a successful business".

Entrepreneurs who aren't focused on innovating and growing their customer base will see their profitability dip. A manager who can't find enough time to plan and run their operations efficiently will see a drop in incoming work. A technician who isn't focused on getting jobs done will face unhappy customers.

Accept it. You can't do everything, no matter how skilled you are.

There's an unspoken rule amongst many trade business owners that if you can't handle the workload, it's your fault for not being good enough or not working hard enough.

This mindset is fundamentally untrue, but that doesn't stop many trade business owners from feeling like handing over some of the responsibility of running their business means they are a failure.

Don't be drawn in by this falsehood! If anything, the ability to digitise a system or hand it over to an employee to manage is a strength, not a weakness. You're successful enough that you can have someone or something else handle some of the hard work for you and skilled enough to make sure the job is done just as well as if you did it.

And what's the alternative? Continue as you are now, stressed and tired, wondering how many days off you can expect at the end of the year while secretly knowing that you'll spend more of it working than you will with family and friends?

It's time to hand over a hat. Now you just need to figure out which is the best to pass off.

When starting your trade business, you probably found it easy to step into all three roles and keep them all ticking over nicely. However, as a trade business grows, the need to delegate the technician and manager roles increases alongside the growing complexity of the operation.

Suppose you don't hit the brakes and look for a way to pass off some of the workload, whether it be by hiring an employee or automating a process. In that case, you'll probably end up in a similar situation to the one famously quoted by Gerber, who said, "most small business owners work in their business rather than on their business".

By reducing time spent being a technician and a manager, you instantly have more time to work 'on' your business and ensure it can meet any challenges on the horizon.

But how do you get there after so long?

Luckily, you can travel down plenty of avenues to reduce your overall workload and eventually shed both the technician and manager roles.

You don't necessarily have to hire either. A virtual assistant can take on the admin tasks that keep you up at night. At the same time, a more comprehensive job management platform can streamline your operations, schedule jobs, and manage your team in the field.

If you opt to put a human in the role, you have just as many options. You could bring someone up or hire externally. Be sure to give them the necessary guidance and mentoring to help them thrive in the role.

And make sure that once you hand off a hat, you don't try to take it back.

Every substantial change to the structure of a trade business will cause teething problems, and shedding some of your workload will be no different. Under no circumstances, however, should you call it quits and try to return to the way things were before.

Stick it out and give your business time to adapt after making a change, as you won't know if it's successful until the dust settles and everyone (yourself included) has had time to see what things are like when the boss has a lot more free time on their hands.

What you do with that free time, whether it's building your business or taking a weekend off to enjoy life, that's for you to decide.

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