Like any business, remodeling involves risk. It doesn't take a lot of money to get started, but once you're up and running, you have a lot of skin in the game. The problems that take you down can accumulate slowly over a period of months or even years, or they can hit you all at once, seemingly overnight. Most of you will never see it coming.
The three remodelers in this month's cover story didn't. What strikes you as you read their stories is that their situations were not extraordinary. All three had run their businesses successfully for years until they did something — or failed to do something — that ultimately led to their undoing.
Mostly, their flawed decisions seemed to make sense at the time. One decided to switch to a new market, another finally got around to delegating authority, and the third took on a business partner. Nothing out of the ordinary here. The fact that these straightforward business decisions backfired, sometimes spectacularly, is reason enough for all of us to take a second look at how and why we make the decisions we make, and how we need to change our processes to keep from running into the kind of trouble these three faced.
At the root of it is change. Without change, our businesses would go stagnant. But changing too much or too fast, or making too many changes at once, can easily lead to disaster. Here are some of the lessons I learned from these three remarkable stories.
Bigger isn't always better. Most remodelers place entirely too much emphasis on landing big jobs, securing big backlogs, taking in big annual revenues. Growing bigger isn't a problem in and of itself, but it can be if you grow too much too fast. Most of the remodelers I talk to who do jobs at both ends of the scale make more money with less stress at the smaller end. Growth is essential, but it should be incremental.
The grass isn't always greener. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Whenever something looks easier, whether it's a different customer niche, a new geographic territory, or different type of job, it's probably because you don't yet know enough about it. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try new things, but don't commit until you have an answer for the worst that could happen.
Go with your gut. Remodelers have great intuition, but we have a hard time acting on our hunches. If you're having second thoughts about a customer, an employee, a sub, or some other part of your business, deal with it now.
It may turn out to be nothing. But it may be that you know more than you think.