Migrated from Blogger – original post dated December 29, 2007

There are times when everything seems to be crowding in and there are no easy answers. Times when you feel pulled in twenty different directions at once, with an ever-increasing list of problems and concerns vying for your undivided attention.

Yesterday was one of those days. At one point I just wanted to bash my head into the wall repeatedly. The phone kept ringing, my toddler was insisting that my lap was the only place she wanted to be, and I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out who was going where for next week’s cleaning schedule for my housecleaning company. And while it didn’t seem like the best use of my time at the moment, I left toddler and ringing phone in the hands of my capable husband and zoomed off to a client’s house for a quality assurance check.

In point of fact, it was the best use of my time that I could have made. Stressed out as I was, when I reached the client’s house and met with the client, reviewed areas of concern and told her I would just fix the missed areas while I was there—as I settled into the cleaning zone for those short few minutes I had time to think. It was time away from phones (I had even mistakenly left my cell phone behind), family distractions, and the siren lure of my Inbox and computer. No emails to check, no calls to take, no one asking me questions or pulling on my leg and whining for attention.

In the space of a few quiet moments—well maybe not that quiet, I did run the vacuum and was dripping from exertion by the time I was done—I realized I was being short-sighted in my business tactics.

Early on, when there was no money, or very little of it, I did it all. I worked all the cleanings by myself. I designed the website, despite no experience in web design. I trained my staff, in spite the fact that I’m no great shakes at training. I have handled purchases, financials, customer relations, sales, recruiting, management, and anything else you can think of.

Some of it I’m excellent at. I know business, what makes clients happy and what doesn’t, how to define my niche, how to provide a service for a reasonable price, and how to keep the books. When I do cleanings, my clients are deliriously happy. But I don’t do cleanings anymore (see references to toddler above) unless the situation demands it and I am lacking in management capability or time to get out there and train.

As I did a quick vacuum and mop at the client’s house today I had time to really think about what I wanted. Did I want a business that was cobbled together, barely efficient, and full of half-trained staff and clients who were running out of patience? Or did I want a business that was a powerhouse of cleaners, with an efficient manager who could do quality checks and training and ensure that the staff was cleaning homes in the manner that the clients both expected and deserved?

Despite having a record month for December I knew that the former option was simply no longer viable or acceptable. I needed to find a manager or fold up the business…it wasn’t fair to my clients or my staff to keep hobbling along. It also wasn’t fair to my spouse, my toddler or me to be so stressed out, so often. If you aren’t good at something, recognize it. If you know you aren’t going to get better, acknowledge it and then adapt.

So I adapted. I decided to cut my income in half and hire a manager. Someone who can train personnel, do quality checks on others, and eventually even help me expand to the Northland (north of Kansas City). My reasoning was that if I have happy clients and well-trained staff, the business can expand exponentially—rewarding my efforts many times over. As I told my mother, “I have to look at the long-term and make a decision NOW on how this business will continue into the future. If I continue to just try and patch things, and if I am continually am distracted by the little stuff, things will never improve and the company will stay small.”

I have learned so much in the past two plus years of running this business. The hardest lesson by far was the one I learned yesterday…think small and you stay small, think big and you will grow big. But along the way, you had better know your limits.