I’ve been discussing with clients lately about scaling/growing their companies, and they fear that it will just be more stressful and possibly put a damper on their lifestyle and personal freedom. What I know to be true, however, is that it definitely doesn’t have to be this way. Owning or operating a large company isn’t harder than owning or operating a small company; it’s all about how it’s structured and perceived.

Have you ever talked to a two-truck owner who is stressed out beyond belief and struggling to find time to spend with their family and friends, let alone dream about taking a vacation? Conversely, have you ever talked to a 100-truck owner who seems to really have a handle on their company, takes regular vacations, and loves life? I can assure you, both of those situations exist, along with lots of other variations.

Take a moment to think about your company and what causes the most stress. Keep in mind that most stress is brought on ourselves by how we view a situation. Now, I’m not going to go too deep here and I do understand sometimes things happen which are beyond our control, but for the most part (in business, especially) our stresses are triggered by things that are fixable, and it has nothing to do with company size. 

Here’s a quick story for you. In 2007, the Lovely Christy and I embarked on a six-month motorhome trip across the beautiful U.S.A. My goal was to completely avoid setting foot in the PHC company I owned in Western Colorado, while maintaining a healthy, highly profitable, market-dominant business. Was I a little worried about the outcome? Absolutely. Did my peers and mentors think I was crazy to “test” the company like that? Of course. But I had a hunch: I had a feeling that a company which was structured correctly (built with systematization, growth and profitability in mind) would allow me to travel and have minimal amounts of stress about the company while doing so.

I was not completely removed from what was happening while I was gone; I still (virtually) attended management meetings, kept an eye on all important KPI’s, and had to coach team members through the occasional challenges, but I accomplished my goal. I am using my story as an example to show you it is possible to scale a company and maintain a great life, regardless of market or company size; you just need to set your intention and build the business with a strong foundation.

I’ve lost count over the years of how many in-home service contractors have heard my story and want to know how they can build a company that serves their lives better. The answer to this question is different for every individual based on their personal goals, but I can give you some guidelines that will help move you in the right direction.

 

System and reporting

When a client tells me they are stressed, the first thing I do is take a look at their systems and reporting (reports, by the way, are also a set of systems). Without proper systems in place to set standards for the company, you will always be running around trying to figure out who is doing what, confused about how you’re ever going to grow the business. Equally, without correct reporting, how are you going to hold anyone accountable to results? Get your reporting in line, and get your financials in line. If you don’t know how to do that, never be afraid to reach out to a coach or someone who can help set you up for success so you can focus on the KPI’s that matter.

Even though we sometimes resist it, technology can be your best friend in the systematization and reporting realm. Now you can be at your kid’s soccer game, getting alerts on your phone and looking at numbers. (Note: I’m not recommending you don’t watch the soccer game; I don’t want to cause any family arguments here). You can see patterns better than ever, find holes in systems and structure easier, and run reports for just about any combination of items you can imagine! It’s pretty amazing that you can streamline tasks or identify a weak spot in the business by entering and comparing data.

 

Leadership, training and having the right people in the right seats

After setting up the correct systems and reporting structure, a big part of what allowed me to physically leave my company for six consecutive months was having capable leaders in place. Now, before you say “I could never do that in my business,” you would be surprised what a properly trained leader with accountability tied to their position is capable of doing. This might take some time to build, but I can tell you it’s worth the time and effort to invest in your top team members.

It’s also essential to evaluate your entire team to ensure they are working in a position that fits their personal competencies in the best way. Having the wrong people in the wrong seat will move you in the wrong direction every time. I made the mistake (once, and learned my lesson) of promoting my best CSR into a management position. She was flattered, but it turned out she was perfectly happy being a great CSR, and didn’t have the desire or skills to manage other CSR’s effectively. Make sure you are not putting great people in the wrong positions.

 

Don't do it alone

As contractors, it’s easy to feel like we are on an island sometimes. The truth is: We aren’t. There are great communities of people who have done what you want to do, and those are the individuals you need to surround yourself with. Set your ego aside and go find those strategic advisers who will challenge you, be real with you, and share their own victories and challenges.

I highly recommend having a board of directors for your company. This might sound like a fancy, corporate term that only large businesses have, but you can call it whatever you want. Call it a “Board of Mentors” for all I care, just don’t try to do it alone. These people don’t need to have a share of your company or anything like that, but you need objective opinions (outside of your close friends and family, because it’s hard for them to be truly objective) and people who will be honest with you. You can also bring in third party coaches and consultants; just make sure you are open and honest with whomever you choose.

Building, owning and leading a large company does not have to be more stressful than owning a small one; in fact, I have a mentor who firmly believes owning a large company is much easier than a small one (which I agree with, if you are following the guidelines above). My final piece of advice on this topic is to have clarity around your endgame and growth plan. Then, get your systems, leadership and peer group solidified, and you will be an unstoppable force, regardless of the current size of your company.