The Cornerman by Chris West
by Chris West
March 23rd, 2022

Scaling Your Business

Congratulations, you started a business! This is exciting for many, yet daunting as you now control your own destiny. The initial months or years of operation are spent wearing many hats. An owner-operator is a salesperson, installer, porter, janitor, and accountant.

It’s fulfilling and empowering, but it can also leave many owners burnt out from working 80-hour weeks without reaping substantial income. During my travels and shop visits, I saw similarities in owners who had scaled in size to where they had the freedom (and pay) to enjoy the benefits of working on—not in—the business. Growing your business is challenging, but following these steps and committing to that first employee will get you off and running.

Business growth is a step-by-step process.

1: Hire Your First Employee as Soon as Possible. In our industry, there are two positions (one if someone can do both) I think each owner should aim to hire immediately; the installation assistant and the sales/front assistant. When first starting, the owner is typically the installer. It is tough to be mid-install and tend to a customer at the front.

The assistant positions are generally entry-level positions with lower wages. If it is a front salesperson, they can be commissioned based on their sales and essentially pay for themselves. I remember finding a candidate that could do both—a hard-working, younger car enthusiast that loved detailing his vehicle and going to car shows but charismatic and educated enough to talk to customers and do basic vehicle check-in duties. My production immediately increased as I had someone to prep cars, take trash out, and converse with customers.

2: Outsource What Isn’t Your Forte. I remember trying to make my website and save $2,000. I then studied how to do my taxes, accounting, and social media. I watched videos on Google algorithms, and learned photoshop and Adobe Illustrator to make my menus. Although this might have saved money, I wasted time and energy that could have been spent installing or having a better work-life balance and doing activities I enjoyed. Instead, I was installing 60 hours a week, spending another 20 hours on things I was not proficient at. Sure, a solid do-it-yourself guy can tint or paint-protect his car. But even the greatest do-it-yourself installs aren’t as good as when we do them; it’s what we do. Have professionals do what they are good at and hone in on what you are good at.

3: Train Installers From Within. Shops inevitably need more installers with growth and sales milestones. I have always liked training from within. We might luck out and get that fantastic installer that moves to our area and has no desire to pursue his own gig, but I find this is rare. Veteran installers leaving other shops can come with bad habits and attitudes. I like to use the assistant position to vet who is worth spending the time and money on training. This position enables us to see who has a work ethic, meshes with the team, and has the moral values you seek. This also gives the assistants something to work towards—an installer position with better pay and prestige.

4: Learn to Let Go. It is difficult for owner-operators to let go, especially those with Type A personalities. We are used to doing things our way. But if we hire the right people, we have to empower them to do their job. They won’t sell or install exactly the way you do, but if we have happy customers and generate profits, something is getting done right. Have procedures, training, and expectations clearly outlined for employees and then let them do the job you hired them for.

You can’t do it all yourself and you can’t clone yourself; let your employees shine.

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