Meet Up: Getting together is good for business.

Running a small business can be a lonesome job.  Getting together with other business owners in your area is a good way to help you stay connected.  Have you heard of Meetup.com?  The website is a hub for people who like to get together old-school, meaning in person.  Some groups are purely social; but many are business or interest related.  I did a quick search for Meetup groups in my area and found more than a hundred.  At the top of the list is Small Biz Breakfast-eaters, a group of business owners who get together once a month for – what else? – breakfast!  The point is to get similar people together in a relaxed environment to share ideas, challenges, and solutions. Why join a meetup group? Because you don’t want to run your business inside a vacuum.  Who better to talk to about the challenges and joys of running a small business than others in the same situation?  Perhaps you’re thinking about running a newspaper ad; talk to others and see if anyone’s had success with a newspaper campaign.  You’ll meet people that you can bounce ideas off of and people you can learn from.  Being part of a community is essential to maintaining a healthy perspective on your business and your life. How do I find a group? Meetup.com is one place.  You can also find groups through Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Twitter.  The PDCA and other trade organizations have local chapters and regular get-togethers. I can’t find a group I’m interested in. No problem.  Start your own! Getting together with other business owners can help you...

Don’t Let a Toxic Employee Damage Your Business

Most of you reading this blog work for or run a small business.  You know that small businesses have unique challenges that large corporations don’t – cash flow, taxes, insurance, employees, family (those last 2 often overlap).  We were at a cook out last weekend and it struck me that many of our friends and family work for small businesses.  Although the companies are very different, the kinds of problems that they have are very similar. My brother-in-law told us about a problem he has at work (the company he works for has about 10 employees).  Employees do some pretty specialized tasks, so once they’re trained, there isn’t a lot of turnover.  Here’s the problem: one of the employees is creating a toxic environment.  Employee X calls out “sick” at least once a week (often more), he’s good at looking busy but doesn’t actually get much done, and because he’s the only one who does certain tasks, he feels like his job is safe (meaning he’s arrogant).  My brother-in-law and his coworkers are finding it hard to be motivated at work knowing that this guy isn’t working and isn’t getting fired or even reprimanded.  He also knows that the boss is hesitant to fire Employee X for 2 reasons: he needs someone to do the tasks Employee X is trained to do and he doesn’t want to pay unemployment for the guy. At a large corporation, this behavior wouldn’t be tolerated.  But in a small business, where everyone is an important part of the team, and where losing an employee (even a toxic one) means a LOT more work for everyone...

The Perks and Challenges of Commercial Painting

Commercial jobs are a completely different animal from residential (though painting is still painting, right?).  Let’s look at the challenges and the perks to commercial jobs and you’ll see what we’re talking about. COMMERCIAL – The Challenges Lowest Price Wins In a commercial situation, the bidding process is more competitive and the winning bid usually comes down to price.  It’s really important to know your costs and estimate accurately.  Ask questions before submitting a bid – if something is missing your bid might be thrown out. Commercial-grade Products You have to use the right product for the job, and if you’re not as familiar with commercial-grade products, that can extend the length of your job.  Plan in advance by adding extra time to your estimate or training your crew. Cash-flow and Other Costs Commercial work usually requires bonding and specific insurance (extra costs).  You also may not get to set the terms of payment.  Plan ahead so you’re covered for up to 90 days – until you get paid. Must Communicate Well For most commercial jobs, you’ll be dealing with a general contractor.  You need to communicate with the GC to keep your part of the job running smoothly. People are working here You and your crew will need to jostle with other trade-workers if you’re working in new construction or a renovation project.  Otherwise, you’ll probably be working around the commercial business’ actual employees who are trying to get their own work done.  Be conscientious and efficient so you disturb them as little as possible. COMMERCIAL – Perks You don’t have to make lots of decisions about materials/colors/process....