Last month we looked at some of the advantages of owning a bigger business. Naturally you can review that list to understand some of what you miss by staying small. We will look at additional problems and frustrations of a one-man company in this article, but first I want to share this growth success story of “zero employees to 60 in six years.”

Chick Antolchick learned the plumbing trade in the U.S. Air Force. His initial thought was to establish a small plumbing company that allowed him freedom in making his own decisions and paid at least what he could make in wages elsewhere. (Many of our readers can relate to that.)

In July 1999, he founded and licensed Royal Flush Plumbing Services of Bay County, Fla. A full-time, one man and one woman “roll of the dice” venture was launched on Aug. 16, 1999. At the time, Chick's focus was on service work for Panama City Beach area restaurants, real estate rental properties, and homeowner's houses.

He started the business with little more than a very capable wife and a $600 mini van, $2,200 in sewer equipment and $800 in truck stock and tools. Sales for August through December 1999 were $25,015.38, with expenses of $10,040.87. Much of the remaining “profit” was reinvested back into the business in the form of tools and equipment.

In early 2000, Chick hired his first employee. Several lucrative contracts were soon awarded to Royal Flush and the business continued to grow at an unheard of pace.

Consistent increases in overall sales transformed Royal Flush Plumbing Services of Northwest Florida Inc. into a plumbing contractor with 60 employees in the Bay and Walton County areas. Its work has been featured in local publications that focus on custom homes and the company's trucks were displayed on the front cover of PM magazine.

Chick's 12 Management Tips

I certainly could not guarantee that any small contractor can or will grow as fast as Chick's business, but I can assure you that subscribing to and practicing his management philosophies will turn your dreams into reality.

1. Provide the necessary training to allow your employees the opportunity to improve their knowledge of the plumbing trade, along with the rewards that come with such training. I like Chick's statement: “We would rather train you and take the chance that you will leave, rather than not train you and take the chance that you will stay!”

2. Maintain a professional attitude while completing plumbing tasks for your customer. Remember that your customers are the people who pay you to pay your employees to do a quality job.

3. All managers and supervisors must be trained and committed to provide a work environment and leadership which unites employees and generates enthusiasm for the company and its products and services that you offer your customers.

4. Manage expenses and profits for the continuing growth and improvement of services that you offer your customers.

5. Continue recruiting and selecting highly capable and innovative employees.

6. Participate in trade association conventions and seminars to broaden your range of services and the scope of work skills that you offer your customers.

7. Use consultants and trade magazines to prevent your business from becoming stagnant.

8. Reflect a positive image in the community by giving back to the same people who have allowed you to be successful. Encourage your employees to consider giving their time or other contributions to the charities of their choice.

9. Offer flex-time options to meet each individual employee's personal situation and desires.

10. Paint and decorate your company vehicles to advertise your services, attract customers and potential employees.

11. Provide attractive uniforms to project a proud and professional image of your workforce.

12. The best employees are always searching for the best job in town. Make that your business!

Pluses And Minuses Of One-Man Shops

I hope Chick's success story will assure you that we live in a great land of unlimited opportunity. You may not wish to grow or expand your business, and that is your privilege. We have millions of one-man shops, operating throughout the United States and Canada, with these distinct advantages:

1. You have total control of quality workmanship when you do it yourself.

2. Likewise with courtesy, cleanliness and good customer relations that create critical repeats and referrals.

3. You need not worry about motivation or productivity.

4. You have no weekly payroll with health benefits, tax deductions, worker's compensation, etc.

5. Your vehicle insurance and liability are less expensive.

6. Your capital investment and overhead for tools, equipment, office, shop and warehouse are much lower.

7. You spend none of your valuable time recruiting, hiring, training or disciplining employees.

8. You can work as much or as little as you choose.

9. You are not exposed to excessive legal action or penalties for unfair labor practices, discrimination, sexual harassment, etc.

10. You are fortunate to work for the very best boss in this industry!

We did not cover all of the pluses, but you should also consider the minuses:

1. There is no weekly paycheck for you. Your only income is what's left after all of the bills are paid.

2. No work, no pay. If you are sick, injured in an accident, take a vacation, or have no jobs or backlog, your cup runneth under.

3. Your chances for survival are slim. Small Business Administration statistics show that 90 percent of fledgling entrepreneurs go broke in the first three years.

4. It is time-consuming and frustrating trying to fulfill your responsibilities for a “three-legged stool”:

    Estimating and sales - you have to get a job.
    Accounting and finances - you must pay for it when it happens and collect for it when it's complete. You also must pay rent, taxes, licenses, insurance, etc.
    Production - you must do the work.

5. A one-man shop has little potential for attracting large projects or jobs that must be completed on a tight schedule.

6. You have no one to delegate menial tasks to that must be performed. How much is your time worth when you are digging ditches, unloading and handling materials, chopping holes, etc.?

7. You are not training your replacement. You lose the gratifying experience of giving something back to our great industry in which you made a living.

Here again, we did not cover all of the negative aspects of running a one-man business, but this should give you some valuable food for thought.

Join Paul at our "Innovative Thinking 2006: Hiring-Training-Retention" conference,

June 12-13 at the Emerald Pointe Resort, just outside of Atlanta. He'll be discussing this hot industry topic on June 12, 12:15 p.m. Visit to register.