The best business advice I ever received..
..was from one of my grunt employees. And I'd like to share this with you all. Maybe it can help someone else.
I guess it was about sixteen or seventeen years ago I hired a college kid as a "helper" position for the summer. He was OK I guess. I mean he showed up on time and did what he was instructed. At the end of summer he thanked me for the summer employment. He also noted it took a certain kind of person to enjoy surveying..and he was NOT one of those people. He told me clearing line, slamming hubs and walking and sweating in the heat were no fun for him. I asked him in what field he planned on majoring. He shrugged and said something like "business".
About three years later I ran into him one summer morning at a convenience store. He was close to graduating but had his eye on a master's degree. He was also looking for summer work. I offered to hire him as a field hand again. He said no. He was into business management and had a few offers along those lines. We parted.
A few weeks later he called me up. All his offers had fallen through. He was needing some income and offered to come back to work in the field. I told him to drop by my office and we'd talk.
He dropped by at lunch. I was busy trying to get my billing together. We got to talking about the software I was using. Admittedly it did a whole lot more than just keep track of time and billing, but I didn't have the time to take to learn it. After about a half hour discussion I realized this young man could help me out a lot...but not in the field.
I hired him to set up my bookkeeping and time sheets. He did a bang-up job and seemed to like it. Being a small office his desk was close to mine and within a month he had picked up on a lot my conversations with clients. He had actually started looking at my business from the management end of things. At first he was reluctant to critique the operation but I was fascinated with his input.
He told me what little business model I had was not healthy. His opinion was all I did was provide a service to my clients. I told him that was exactly what I did. He went on to explain I wasn't really in business for me, but for my clients. Over a period of a few weeks he got me to understand minimizing liability, the importance of a cash flow, managing employees and assets and ultimately providing a profit for the organization.
I had to admit I was running my outfit just like all the other places I had ever worked. You know, set up an office, buy some gear, hire some guys, survey something and then send out an invoice. He made me realize there is so much more to it than just that.
He asked me what kind of jobs cost the least to complete and provided the biggest return on investment with the least amount of exposure to liability. I had to admit I had no specific idea so I let him pour over a couple of years of my work.
He came up with a few different scenarios. One that stuck with me was preparing RW documents. His suggestion was to focus in those areas and see if I could cultivate a client base.
He eventually got his MBA and went to work on the coast for someone big. It took a while but I eventually got in with a couple of municipalities and utility companies and started providing RW services. The last 15 years have worked out great. It took a summer hired hand to convince me it's OK to be in the surveying business primarily to make money.
After all those years I wished I had started sooner! The best advice I ever got was from someone that couldn't stand to survey. 😉
sound advice for sure. I needed to hear this - thank you for sharing
Listening is different from hearing. You listened. Good for you.
Some good advice. I need to look at my operation to make sure I am making enough to protect my liability.
Thanks for the story.
Once upon a time, in a parallel universe, I had the similar experience well more like an epiphany. My brother-in-law and myself formed a competition BBQ team and competed within the KCBS (Kansas City BBQ Society). We loved to cook, drink beer together, and thought we cooked some good stuff. Well, for the first three years or so we couldn't break into the top 25% of the winning teams. At one competition we chatted with a very "large" judge who had been scoring teams for years. He talked for about 30 mins. on what he thought good BBQ should taste like, what it should look like and explained to us that you only get one bite to get their attention.
Then it hit us...All these years we had been cooking BBQ they way we liked it. We took a new approach the next season. We cooked BBQ they way he described. Very sweet, and I mean sweet like candy with a light red hue - not too dark. We finished in the top 10 teams nationwide for a few years in a row and realized all you have to do is cook the style that will win and not what you like.