Ask a Pro September/October 2021October 15th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs
By Mike Burke
You hang up the phone after telling a potential customer you’re booked three weeks out and glance at the long list of missed calls you need to return. You’ve worked 12 hours already today—talking on the phone, selling jobs while you tint car after car and replying to emails while your helper pulls one car out and replaces it with the next. You know there’s a pile of bills waiting at home to be paid while you eat your reheated plate of dinner. If only there were a few more hours in the day. You don’t want to spend your life this way, but everything is so uncertain and you need to strike while the iron is hot.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.
Learn to Say No
I operated this way for many years, saying yes when I should have said no and then working 16-hour days to get it all done so I wouldn’t ruin my reputation or get poor Google reviews. Like so many small business owners, I had so much pride in what I do, and what I’d built, I couldn’t trust anyone else to do the job. But a few years ago, an injury forced me to slow down a lot. And when I did, everything didn’t fall apart. I learned to trust my team to do their jobs, and also realized how much more productive I am when not burnt out.
Burnout is real. You and your family both suffer when there’s no off switch. Not only are you always tired and stressed, but it’s harder to plan strategically for the future. If a chef is always in the kitchen cooking under pressure, he’s never planning the next recipe or menu.
One of my locations in Texas closes Sunday and Monday. I was skeptical at first because Sunstoppers has always been open six days a week, but closing that extra day has been the best thing for that shop from a morale and business perspective. The numbers don’t lie. You get more productivity and a better attitude out of a well-rested employee. That extra day off is worth its weight in gold.
I talk to many tint shop owners every week, and I hear the same story from so many: there’s been such an increase in demand over the past two years, we feel like we need to rise to meet it. But the pressure is causing our relationships with customers to suffer and quenches our desire to do a quality job or even come to work at all.
Shut It Down
My recommendation is to turn your phone off periodically and to limit social media periodically. Close the store for an hour, go sit and eat lunch at a restaurant once a week, and then return to work refreshed. Force yourself to leave work on time a couple of nights a week and go home and cook dinner. Play in a recreational sports league. Give yourself something to look forward to outside of work. You’ll start to realize that if you miss a few calls or social media posts, life—and business—will go on. If you have more work than you can do, raise your prices. If you’re still too busy, raise your prices again.
Finally, don’t be afraid to call others to ask for help or even just bounce ideas around. There are plenty of people in the industry willing to help if you just ask. Whether you need a mentor, training, help with a big job or just a fresh perspective, there are people willing to offer advice. I learn something from every person I mentor.
And remember—it’s okay to say no.
Mike Burke has been in the window film industry for 33 years. His company, Sun Stoppers, has over 50 locations in 19 states, and offers residential and commercial tint and decorative film services as well as automotive tint, paint protection and ceramic coatings. If you have a question for Mike to tackle in a future column, email him at email@example.com.
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