A Bigger Business is Not Necessarily Better

Nov. 6, 2015
What if you’re satisfied with the current size of your business? Maybe, you’ve found your comfort zone. Maybe, you prefer knowing each of your employees personally and the details of their lives.

Owning and managing a company can seem like the job that never ceases. Many contractors own the business, sell its products and services, schedule employees, order equipment, price the jobs, hire, reprimand, watch the dollars, determine the marketing and even physically work on jobs. Even when you finally go home for the day, the pressures of the day and what is waiting for tomorrow are still with you.  

For women business owners, going home presents the second job of the day — managing the children, figuring out meals, car-pooling, sports practices, the dentist appointments and back-to-school shots not to mention elderly parents needing more and more help. I know men are helping more than in my generation, but the bulk of the responsibility still falls on the woman.

So the answer seems obvious: grow your business. The logic sounds right. The larger your business is, the more people you have both in the field and the office to help with all the tasks necessary to run a successful, profitable contracting business.

But logic may not be the only criteria that should be applied to the incessant advice that bigger is always better. What if you’re satisfied with the current size of your business? Maybe, you’ve found your comfort zone. Maybe, you prefer knowing each of your employees personally and the details of their lives. Maybe, you like having a personal relationship with many of your customers. Maybe, you feel more in control with 4 or 5 employees rather than 20 or 30. Maybe, you’re satisfied with the standard of living that you are able to provide for your family and your employees.  

According to a study conducted by economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahneman from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, money does influence day to day happiness — up to about $75,000 a year.

“The lower a person’s annual income falls below that benchmark, the unhappier he or she feels. But no matter how much more than $75,000 people make, they don’t report any greater degree of happiness.”  

The study did not find that making more than $75,000 had a negative effect.  In fact, it suggests that life satisfaction did increase with money, but day-to-day happiness did not increase with incomes above $75,000. Why? The study indicated that at the $75,000 level people had enough money to take care of their immediate responsibilities and still have discretionary income to spend and the time to spend with family and friends.

Owners often say, “I haven’t taken a vacation in years.  Or, “I can’t remember the last time I took a day off.” If this is you, perhaps it is time to assess what is important in your life and your business. It is possible to be very successful and extremely miserable.

If this is you:
1. It is time to step back and to create a very detailed picture of what you want out of your business and your life; create a vision for both.
2. Do what you are good at and what makes you happy.
If you enjoying be the salesperson, do the selling in your company.  If you enjoy creating the marketing, do it.  
3. Delegate or outsource what you can. Even companies with 4 or 5 employees have the ability to delegate certain tasks. Your best technician can mentor and train your other employees. Your CSR/dispatcher, can design marketing programs. Outsource what no one has time for.
4. Keep your perspective. Don’t let others (especially employees) draw you into imaginary dramas. Most of the situations that occur in business are not life or death even though they may be presented to you in that way.  
5. Talk about it with your support group. If you don’t have one, create one. A group of other business owners, mentors, business coaches, etc. that listen and help you find your way again.
6. Smile and laugh often.

My point is, that life is a balancing act. Some owners do a better job of balancing a $750,000 business and enjoying the other aspects of their lives while other owners require much larger companies.    

As owner Rory Krueger of Krueger Geothermal Systems of Springfield, Missouri recently said, “It is so true that people tell you that your business must don’t. We have been happier this year than the last four or five simply because we have been in that sweet spot of busy but not too busy, good cash flow albeit tight at times (keeping us on our toes) and by these things happening we can focus on building gross and net profits.”

‘Money can’t buy me happiness.’ But as the song by Chris Janson says ‘It can buy me a boat and a truck to pull it.’”

Focus on what you enjoy doing in your company and hire or delegate/outsource the rest.  And when people tell you that your business must grow! My answer is: Not So! if you are happy being where you are!  Life is so much more than a BIG business.

About the Author

Vicki LaPlant | Consultant

Vicki LaPlant was a trainer and consultant to HVAC contractors for more than three decades, and was also a marketing professional for Lennox Industries. Now retired after a stellar career, Vicki would help people work better together for greater success. Vicki was a longtime Contracting editorial advisory board member. She is a wonderful person.