Working On Your Business: Getting Off the Truck, Part 1

Getting Off The Truck To Work On Your Business, Not In It

Getting Off the Truck, Part I

A truck is a tool that is prized, sought after, and serves many roles in a small business—especially a small business involved in the trades. Not only does it function as transportation but often as an office, a conference room, a dining room, and a limo on date nights. It is frequently a thing of great pride for its owner.

For the owner of a company doing business in the trades, they’re no doubt familiar with the expression “getting off the truck.” In its simplest form this means they can’t continue being the only one doing the work or they won’t be able to grow the business. At some point they will run out of hours in the day, or the adrenaline to keep working, or they may have a loved one who shows them the wisdom of spending more time away from the job.

Some owners literally need to get out of the truck and start working on their business rather than just in it if they want their business to grow. But this doesn’t diminish the fact that approximately 80% of all small businesses in North America have owners who made a conscious decision to be “solopreneurs”—solo operators with no employees. There’s nothing wrong with this, but even so, there is still value in getting out of (not off) the truck.

Think through how you obtain new customers, the dedication that it takes to create quotes, or the enjoyment that you receive from going into a supply house and buying a new tool. For the “solopreneur,” consider the rest of this discussion as one that could create focus in your business for you to work more efficiently on the items mentioned above but less overall, with the same if not better profit at the end of the work week.

Being “on the truck” is frequently a necessary part of the job for a business owner, especially in the early years when a fledgling company has neither enough business nor enough cash to support employees. The rub is that owners learn to make a living by being on the truck, and while it may have been hard and maybe they almost lost the game a few times, they made it.

Being off the truck is really just a euphemism for the owner leaving the role they’re currently playing in the business and moving into the next role—the one they should be playing as their business grows. They become the one that their employees depend on to give direction, gain more business, and help them develop their careers.

For those who have been in the position of being a solo operator, consider for a moment what may have been your first truck. The make, model, and year didn’t matter; that tool was a work of art! It was the absolute perfect machine for what you needed to do in a day’s work. It was built over time with care, passion, and likely included everything that an entrepreneur could think of using in a day.

With the first job, you bought a cover for the bed, so you didn’t need to worry about your equipment during the 15 minutes you were in the store. With the second job, you made the interior more comfortable, because you were in your “office” a good bit of the time. Eventually, you built it out so you could spend more time creating invoices and making phone calls to prospective customers. Maybe you added some shelves to the bed of the truck to organize your equipment and tools. Every piece that you added came with the thought to “use the right tool for the right job.”

Eventually, you started to think about how nice it would be to have a service body on the back of the truck and you probably started to window shop for them, looking at every one that passed you on the road and thinking, “I bet that’s a nice tool to have.”

And so it was that with your first extremely profitable job you sold your absolutely perfect work of art to another person starting their own business, and you moved to a more efficient tool: a truck with more capacity, capability, and a shiny not-yet-scratched service body.

As you created the business around you—buying the tools, obtaining customers, and completing the work—it likely required maximum physical effort and minimal mental effort because you knew what you were doing. Yes, there was a learning curve every time you used a new tool, and sometimes the work was difficult to produce the first time you did something differently, but you learned and you grew your skills.

Ultimately, if you want to grow your company, you must put down the tools you’re familiar with and pick up a new one that’s less familiar. Welcome to “getting off the truck.”

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