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Old 05-02-2001, 06:54 PM
CSRA Landscaping CSRA Landscaping is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Beech Island, SC
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You guys that have businesses that can survive with or without you, where did you begin? Did you start the way I did, with cheap equipment, half of which was borrowed? Or did you finance it from your own savings, with premium equipment? Did you go to school for it, or were you trained in any way? Or did you just jump in feet first, like some have done? What did you do right? What do you most regret? What helped the growth of your business the most? What stabilized it?
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Old 05-02-2001, 09:41 PM
John Allin John Allin is offline
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Location: Erie, PA
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I got into the biz not because I wanted to work out of doors, but because I wanted a business to "manage". I never intended to cut grass for more than a couple years (meaning, myself out in the field actually doing the work). I was lucky enough to work (prior to this) at a place where the owner was very open about how he ran his business - and I learned alot from him. I also have a degree in Business Management, which helped with knowing some basics about business (financial statements, accounting, marketing, sales, etc.).

I started out renting all my equipment.... no capital necessary. Then purchased the equipment as I could put money away. My wife supported us for 5 years before we took money for ourselves (and she quit her job to come work for me full time). We reinvested all profits into the business for the first 5 years.

I learned to delegate and trust others to do their jobs.

I learned (from ALCA members) to run the business "by the numbers". I let others worry about quality as part of their jobs, and I worried about numbers and "managing" it as a business.

I deeply regret agonizing over firing a bad employee. I have gotten much better at it. I regret trying to "work" with problem employees for way too long before cutting them loose.

I learned to trust my instincts as I strongly believe that most of us who have the gumption to go out and start from scratch have an inate sense of what "feels right". Unfortunately, we have a tendency to second guess our 'feelings' and that often leads to indecision and procrastination (which is bad business). I have learned that if it feels bad, it probably is. And if I fight that instinctive feeling, I am usually sorry I didn't do what felt right.

I have learned not to dwell on mistakes that I (and my people) make. It isn't worth the agrivation. We all make mistakes. Some are more expensive than others, but if we don't allow people to make mistakes we will surely go insane second guessing every decision that our people make. But... they MUST learn from that mistake. If it is made more than twice by the same person, they cannot learn from mistakes and should work elsewhere.

Have someone to 'bounce' things, ideas, thoughts off of. Someone you can trust. It may be your wife, it may be your father, it may be your mother. Who knows. But we all need someone to "talk to". And listen to them.

Learn that your attorney and your accountant work for YOU. No matter what advice they give you, they are not there every day in the trenches with you. YOUR butt is on the line, no matter what the advice. Make your own decisions.

And... have fun at it. If it's not fun, get out. It won't be fun every day, but if it isn't fun 75% of the time, it's time to work for someone else.

Finally... trust YOURSELF. Only YOU know if what you are doing is right for you.

I eventually learned that I should pay my people more than competitors in my market, and then demand more of them because of it. I still operate by that edict.

[Edited by John Allin on 05-02-2001 at 08:46 PM]
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Old 05-03-2001, 01:55 PM
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Location: Stratham,NH
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I have a degree in business administration, but I would have learned more about being in business from a 15 minute conversation with John. Good writing John. I started because I thought I could do it better than the guys I was working for. I quickly learned that self employment isn't really about good craftsmanship, it's about good business. What I learned in school taught me to be a cog in a large machine. It didn't teach me much at all about self employment.
I started with a one ton dump truck and some hand tools. One important thing I did have was a lot of good contacts and a reputation as a good craftsman among those contacts. Perserverance has helped a lot. I have dealt with a lot of obstacles, and sometimes I still feel like quitting, but the plan is really starting to roll now (6 years in). Now a big portion of my job is to help my guys figure out how to overcome all the obstacles we encounter daily.
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