Seven vehicles on the road. Ten electricians in the field. One business owner working overtime, all the time...
Such was the norm for L&L Electrical, a versatile electrical services company in Campbelltown, Victoria, and proud owner John Libroaperto.
Proud and successful owner he was, yes – but at a hefty cost in a most valuable currency: time.
Was starting work before the sun was up and finishing well after it was down the only way to be successful? Must business owners wipe the concept of a holiday or even time-off from their memory? John found himself questioning his methods.
But what did he need to change?
Since his electrical business took off, John spent much of his time on the day-to-day activities – working on the tools, with clients, and so on – rather than focussing on how he could manage the growth of his company and become more profitable.
He was spending too much time working in the business, rather than working on the business.
This meant he had to work the long hours to get everything done, and often the higher level business essentials, like setting growth strategies, were neglected.
So, while John seemed a business owner on paper, in reality he was self-employed.
And, until he made the transition from self-employed to business owner, John and his business’ growth would continue to struggle.
John had to be the change.
Self-employed or business owner?
So what’s the difference, exactly? Put simply, a business owner owns the company but isn’t involved in the day-to-day activities.
They’ll set strategies, put plans in motion, drive the culture, hire, train and manage. They won’t install powerpoints.
A person who is self-employed, on the other hand, owns the company but will undertake daily tasks as the primary or sole operator of their company.
They’re simultaneously the business owner and the employee, and must take action to push their products and services while taking care of everything else: tax, insurance, setting their rates and so on.
If you’re looking to grow your business, increase your customer base, and start earning more, then being a true business owner is the best avenue to having both a successful business – and a life.
But when’s the right time to make the transition?
For those who are self-employed, it may come as a surprise that, most often, you won’t have to look for the right time to make the transition to business owner. It’ll show itself to you.
It’ll probably be in your face, in front of your tired eyes, weighing down your exhausted shoulders. It’s that feeling of being overwhelmed and overworked by your business; as your client base grows and grows, you’re finding it hard to keep up.
Like John had to, you might start work at 4.30 a.m. and not finish until the following morning. Like John couldn’t, you too can’t even dream about taking a holiday. Maybe, like it was for John, your existing systems for managing an increasing number of staff and clients have gotten out of control (John’s was a colour-coded whiteboard used to coordinate jobs which became confusing as his team grew).
And, like John, you’ll realise you need to make a change to how things are done; to keep running your business before it runs you into the ground.
1. Build great teams
The path from being self-employed to a business owner is paved with great teams.
Great teams work together productively and autonomously, enabling you as the business owner to step off the tools and dedicate more time to working on your business as you should.
Having great teams is crucial to any business’ success, but particularly so in the field service industry, where teams are mobile.
You have to be confident that your teams will keep connected, productive and efficient even when you’re managing them from afar. You have to trust they’ll uphold your business’ reputation in all interaction with your customers, as repeat business and referrals depends on it. With this confidence, you won’t constantly feel the need to check in.
Teams can make or break a business. As John says, ‘If you can’t work in a team, nothing works.’
But it does take great leadership to build great teams.
At L&L Electrical, John has fostered a strong team culture through informal relationships with his staff.
He’s found that by forging friendships with his team over weekly games of foosball or ping pong, he’s able to really find out what’s going on in the field and offer his guidance.
He also keeps his field staff in the loop with office operations to give them context and an understanding of the business as a whole.
These unorthodox measures give him confidence in his team and allows him to focus on the larger scale of things.
2. Integrate better systems
Having great teams is only part of the equation. You also need efficient systems.
Cloud-based job management systems help business owners be business owners through:
- Greater visibility across the business and accurate, up-to-date job reporting
- Features for quoting, scheduling, invoicing and more to help automate and streamline day-to-day processes and save administration time
- Enhanced connectivity with field mobility solutions to keep field staff connected with the office in real time
- and much more.
John’s got simPRO in place in his business. With the job management software and with a great team, he’s free to focus on what’s important to him.
‘The simPRO system helped us to grow, and definitely helped me personally to grow. I needed to understand that I’m not a self-employee; I’m a business owner now,’ he said.
Read more about John Libroaperto's experiences with simPRO.