Going it Alone

A one-man show has different challenges than a big company, but the goals remain the same

When I get a company name passed along to me as a suggestion for a Cleaner profile, I call the owner for a quick chat to find out more about their business. I like to hear about how they started out, what kind of jobs the company is doing and how things are going.

When I call a company that is a one-man operation, sometimes the owner will say something like, “Well it’s just me; I don’t know if anyone will be interested in hearing my story.”

Don’t misunderstand — they are proud of their companies, but humbly think a one-man show isn’t that interesting.

I disagree. I’ve had some great chats with solo operators. Sometimes I have to call back after hours because they’re too busy to talk with me during the workday, which is understandable, but they never have a shortage of jobs to talk about once we connect.

I think the drain cleaner or plumber who pays their dues with another company or two and then decides to go out on their own makes a great story; and if they remain a one-man show for a while, or even forever, that’s no knock on them.  There are a ton of reasons to not expand, or at least to wait to hire. Sometimes it’s timing, or profits need to be set aside for equipment purchases, or their standards are just so high, they want to take care of every job themselves to know it’s done right.

When you are the only one who works for your business, everything falls on you: your company’s reputation, marketing yourself, answering calls, explaining the technology to customers, booking jobs, and maybe even the bookkeeping is all on your plate. It’s definitely not easy.

I’m not downplaying the difficulties on the other side of the coin. Large operations have other challenges. Keeping track of employees, trucks and equipment isn’t something a sole proprietor has to worry about. But whether you have 50 employees or none, running a business is a huge responsibility.

When those solo operators wonder if anyone is interested in their stories, I hope your response as a reader is, “Of course!” Maybe you were once that guy, and now have several crews out there working for you, or you are that guy now and like to hear about another entrepreneur out in the trenches with you. Maybe you’re currently someone’s employee who feels ready to go out on your own and can take inspiration from the guys who have made that happen.

Whatever your position or the size of your company, I hope you make the most of it. A small operation can offer things a big company can’t, and vice versa. But wherever you are today, the goal remains the same: providing great service for your customers and earning a profit. That can be done at any size.

I hope you enjoy this month’s issue. 


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