Most of us have entered the pool industry as "technicians" rather than businessmen. By that I mean we primarily began as either a "sales designer or manager", or a "construction super or service manager" who felt we could do the job as well as others. So in what Michael Gerber, (author of The E-Myth), calls an "entrepreneurial seizure", we became pool business owners. Specifically, we did not attend business school, do not hold MBA's, and are not professional "businessmen", but are instead "technicians".
So back to the original question..., which is more important?
The answer is they are both equally important.
The challenge we face is this..., we spent years learning our trade, but we now enter into business and just assume knowing the trade is enough. In reality we should be spending equal time mastering business skills if we are to have even a hope of real success.
But there's a catch. How do you effectively learn all the elements of business and still do the work of a technician? It's a little like the cart before the horse isn't it.
In reality, it is much easier for an experienced businessman to own and run a successful pool business than it is for a technician. You see a businessman already knows he doesn't know anything about pools, so he hires talent, people with the right skills, to get the job done. He calculated the initial capital need going in, and is building a business that runs profitably.
The technician generally, and wrongfully assumes he knows the business side, when in fact he is a technician. Had he realized the importance, he could have just as easily hired the necessary talent, talent like, a CPA, an attorney, an experienced and knowledgeable bookkeeper, a professional business manager, and an HR person. Not all of these need be "employees", as some of them can be "outsourced", but all of the elements are needed.
These skills took equal time and experience to develop, and do not come naturally or "instinctively" but to a very few.
So how does a "technician" get his business "back on track"? The answer is much easier than the application, and it requires a basis in understanding the fundamentals before you proceed. Without an understanding of the fundamentals, you will not know the type of talent or help you need.
There are four distinct categories of information important to this discussion. They are: "what you know", "what you think you know", "what you know you don't know", "what you don't know you don't know". The two categories that get us into the most trouble are the areas of, "what we think we know", (subtitled "arrogance"), and what we don't know we don't know. The third category, what we know we don't know, can be equally damaging if you are not taking immediate action to discover and learn those things, or to hire someone who already knows them.
There is a silver lining to this cloud.
There is talent out there who have the skills, and can get it done, but you have to be willing to seek help.
I have talked with hundreds of pool business owners all across America, and there is extreme frustration out there. Many, if not most have decided to remain "small", so they can "give their customers high quality and personal service". When questioned, the truth is they tried to grow at some time in the past and the business almost killed them. So they retracted, became small, small enough that they could control all the elements themselves, and they felt safe there.
In reality they forfeited safety the moment they decided to remain "small" and "in control".
A ship in the harbor seems safe, protected from the wind and the waves, but a ship in the harbor never performs the task it was built to do. Then one day, along comes a terrible storm, and the extreme wind and waves breech the protection of the harbor and "swamp" the ship, or drive her to the shore, and she is lost.
A business is likewise meant to grow. The moment it stops growing it begins to die. It may seem "safe" to remain small, but due to the lack of diversification, of market region and or product line, the "small" business is highly vulnerable to the first storm that comes. One thing that is for sure, though it may be quiet for a time, a "storm always comes.
It is time to rethink, plan, reengage, and get focused on "growth". It's time to learn what you need to know, hire the right talent, and "get out of the harbor".
I would love to hear from you about what you think, and about the challenges you are facing right now.
This time around I'm hanging tight and trying real hard to keep my arms around it all till I've worked out a few bugs. Been busy building the capital to afford to put the infrastructure in place. Last year I put a budget in place, sought help from a business mentor, and we've been budgeting, marketing, advertising, changing our processes, even training an upcoming young man to learn the trade and step up to this business. Am now currently working on putting another piece (software) in place, and turning this place upside down so as to shake out the inefficiencies in everything. We're now into the last 1/4 of the year and by Jan 01, 2009 we're going to be able to grow because we've planned and prepared to. I'm so excited I can hardly stand to sit here and type this. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what this PGN is all about. I also hope to be able to contribute as this takes shape.