The Australian Small Business Blog

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Married to the Business - Should we just get jobs?

Last month, we met Lyn and Mike, who are married and together run a house building business. Mike is a highly skilled builder, certified by the Building Commission, and Lyn runs the office.

Every week Lyn has a pile of invoices to pay. Not to mention making payroll for their staff, and then from what’s left they draw their own wages. Sometimes there is nothing left.

When she discusses this with Mike, he just says “I can’t work any harder” and while she knows this is true, she believes that Mike needs to prioritise more, and be less on call to everyone else. Some days he gets nothing done that contributes to their cashflow.

Lyn gets frustrated in that even though they have been operating for seven years, nothing seems to improve. During this time they have learned a lot, and they have many happy clients. They have no great problems finding the next job, even though sometimes, they don’t know where it will come from, something always seems to turn up. Even so, at the end of the month, at the end of the year, there is not enough left for them.

Looking at the future and their growing family, Lyn feels trapped by the business. The business is going nowhere, something even Mike admits this when he looks at their bank account at the end of each month.

After one particularly difficult project, where payments have been delayed due to milestones not being reached as a result of construction problems on site and cost blow-outs, they decided to discuss the future of the business.

Did the business have a future? Should we try and find jobs? Lyn could probably get work as an office manager, and Mike could probably find work as a supervisor for another contractor, and had already been contacted by another builder going through growing pains.

Years ago, Mike had worked for another builder, but in the end had become frustrated by some of the decisions that were made and the builder’s lack of organisation. When he saw an opportunity, between projects where there was little work, he decided to set up his own business and had decided at that time that he never wanted to work for anyone else again. With what he knew now, even the builder in growing pains had a lot of issues to address, and Mike would be expected to fix them..... for someone else.

Mike also looked ahead to see his future working for someone else, and realised that 10 years from now, there was no guarantee that this builder would still be around, or if he was, would still want to employ him. He had seen enough failures in the industry and the very reason he started their business, was that he wanted to be in control and not dependent of the poor decisions of others.

Lyn, on the other hand, could not see how they could go on like this. Their cupboard, while not bare was definitely not going to be restocked any time soon. The only way forward she could see was that she would get a job, and Mike could continue to run the business himself.

Mike was shocked that Lyn would think of abandoning their business like this, but realised that they were running out of alternatives. “What would it take” Mike asked “for you to continue to help me in our business?”

Lyn thought for a moment and said “I need to see a plan. I need to see that you know how to turn this around into something that will support our family at least as well as a job. Doing what we are doing now is not a plan I can accept.”

Mike looked crushed. “I don’t have a plan” he finally admitted. “I don’t know what to do next”. Lyn touched his arm and gently said “We need to get advice”.

Over the coming months, I will look more closely at the special issues facing Lyn and Mike, and other couples who are married to the business.

If you are married to the business, please tell your story in the comments below or visit our Facebook page or website.

May Your Business this Year be - As You Plan It.

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success and Price: How You Can Charge More Without Losing Sales.

Married to the Business - Should we just get Jobs?

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Anonymous said...

In the importing/wholesaling industry I work in most business owners work 50 to 100 hours a week, risk large amounts of money, and get paid half the rate per hour that they pay their staff.

Anonymous said...

After paying all expenses like import taxes, venue, payroll, energy bills etc, our retail prices become too high to be acceptable and profitable. I am not surprised by your half-the-rate story especially when shopping on net becomes more and more popular and economical. In other words, we are dying... slowly!

Duffy Rico said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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