Being your own boss — a dream or a nightmare?

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Terry Sage of Trades Coaching New Zealand

They talk about the “Business Dream” — work for yourself, be your own boss, flexible hours, get off the tools and let the team do the work, blah blah blah. Oh yeah, and earn a fortune.

All sound good? Of course it does, it’s the dream, right? For many it’s a dream that comes true, but there are an awful lot of levels of this success.

There is one part of the dream that comes up time and time again as a major headache factor though. Actually, there are several and they normally appear in this order: staff, cashflow, staff, paperwork, staff, clients, chasing money and the list goes on. Unfortunately.

I am not for one minute suggesting the “Business Dream” is actually a nightmare — far from it. But there are, on occasions, possibly just a few sleepless nights.

So let’s look at the headache that, for some, is more like a migraine.

Staff. They can be your biggest asset or your biggest liability. If you want to grow, staff are essential. If you are spending more time running around after your staff than you are your clients then there’s a problem.

Then there are all the perks they want — vehicle, phone, fuel card, tool allowance, six weeks’ holiday, extra days off in the busy times, I sneezed this morning so will take three days off — and this list never ends either.

In real life we can manage all the perks — and it is that word manage that is the key. You, yes you, it’s your job as the owner to “manage” your team.

Step one is to balance on the line between being overly friendly with them or being the ultimate dictator. My advice is don’t be the dictator but be the leader. Don’t be their bestie but respect them with a hint of a friendly smile.

I will tell you now, this is no easy task. For most of us it is far easier being best mates with the gang than being the boss. Fact is, if you’re too friendly they will walk all over you. Ring any bells?

The managing bit comes down to just having several tools, including communication, house rules, communication, job descriptions, communication, expectations, and to be fair with them in all aspects of the job. Oh yeah, and communicate with them.

It seems like I am exaggerating the talking part, right? You will be shocked at how many owners have trouble talking to their staff or, more correctly, talking to them as their boss.

There is one other issue with staff, and this, in the past few years, has become by far the biggest problem — “where have all the staff gone?”

They say it’s a seller’s market in the housing game. Well, these days it’s certainly an employee’s market in the building game. When we have a good one we tend to do whatever is needed to keep them.

When we have a bad one we are getting scared to let them go as we don’t know where the replacement will come from.

And that is the problem right there — where do they come from? They will only come from another company and that company is in the same boat as you — they’re bending over backwards to keep the good ones. Which means it’s the substandard ones on the transfer list, and asking for the big fees.

Is there an answer? Not a quick one, that’s for sure — at least not while the so-called boom is on anyway.

We need more apprentices, that’s not rocket science is it? If every building company took on an apprentice or two, what a difference that would make in three or four years.

If we all managed our staff well, I promise it would make a difference on so many levels.

Then there is the controversial question of bringing in migrant workers. But that’s a column for another day . . .