The days grow shorter, it’s only 5:30 and the darkness is all but settled on the driveway. A crisp chill is in the air & it reminds our determined entrepreneur that another harsh period of time is upon him and his precariously perched business. Unable to see through his own shadow he fumbles in the pocket door of his truck for the socket wrench he keeps stashed for just this occasion, which unfortunately comes all too often. He knows every square inch of his truck by heart and easily finds his tool without aid of his trusty mini mag lite. He sees his wife’s silhouette in the light of the garage door and knows dinner awaits him but he has to fix the pull rope on his rig or tomorrows promise of a decent payday will be all but a bust. With little room to work it’s all he can do not to cuss out loud and throw his wrench across the yard as he smacks his knuckles for the 3rd time against the cold aluminum frame of his rig. ….
“ Daddy” comes a small voice from somewhere around his bumper, “you need to come in and eat so you’ll be strong enough to kill all those big bugs.” An uncontrollable smile cracks across his face and as he straightens up his stiff back he says with a disguised groan……“Oooooh…k little buddy, let’s go in and eat, besides, I gotta tell you about this HUGE rat I saw today—OH, OH, there he is”……the boy screams with excitement and runs away laughing uncontrollably as proud papa gives chase.
Our aspiring tycoon swoops up his boy and the two chuckle and giggle all the way inside. In passing, the dim garage light illuminates fully across his wife’s face, he can’t help but notice the worried look on the rock of the household. It is the 30th of the month, the mortgage and a slew of other bills are due in two days and there is no way (at least on paper) that they all can be paid.
The garage door closes & darkness swallows up the feeble light across his modest home. It’s going to be another long cold winter.
Long Cold Months
The winter this year has been relentless. Bitter cold days have all but shut down any insect activity and except for the few rodent jobs, incoming calls have been few. But out going calls have also been relentless. Our owner has been busy burning up the phones canvassing for any work he can get. Anything to keep their family afloat and his dream alive. He knows that commercial work knows no season and he uses the skills he learned while at the big box company to his advantage. His wife also pitches in and while he’s out on inspections, she too uses his script lining up appointments and has gotten quite adept at it. She’s actually more of a bull dog than he and he’s amazed that she’s able to use her dainty voice to get certain people to agree to an estimate that he couldn’t even get to the phone. The bitter cold reality of business is constantly at their door, bills, demands, decisions and the daily care of their modest but demanding customer list. But, as a team they both stave off it chilling effects. Yet at times, too many times, it’s been just barely.
However through all the obstacles and no matter how hard the cold howling winds blew our fledgling owner has had an unquenchable dream. A goal to rise above the naysayers and doubters and take his business to the next level and beyond. He’s studied all of his competitors in town, read every small business book and web site. He’s taken so many steps (the ones he could afford) and slowly and craftily tried to set it up so that his next move would be flawless & secure. He even bought a small decal which he keeps in his top desk drawer. A ‘visual’ reminder that all the guru’s seem to suggest as a good idea. A goal that he could see, a piece of his dream that he could touch. Well, it was visual alright, but that’s about all he did with it for many years. He’s often pulled it out and set it on his desk top as he made his onslaught of calls or stared out the home office window dreaming of the day when his business would take that next big step.
Yes, for quite some time it’s all been in place, everything’s set and ready to go but he just couldn’t bring himself to that most important leap of faith….to pull the trigger. He’s wanted to, he knows it’s the next step but fear of the unknown and the thought of stepping out on yet another thin ledge has caused no small amount of doubt, worry and fear. And fear kept him for so long from pulling out that sticker and putting it to use. The sticker?….. a simple, non de script #2.
To most it would seem such a simple milestone, one that didn’t deserve much fan fare nor all this endless planning and fret. However, this decal represented so much more and would go on a new hires truck and with it rode all the dreams and aspirations he’s had for years, it was the single most important piece of equipment of his business to date.
First light hasn’t even cracked the morning skies & our CEO is filling truck # 2’s rig with water and the proper mix. It’s his old truck, the one that he started this grand adventure with. For the last 7 years it’s been his apartment on wheels, his office, his friend. It’s taken him through the thickest woods when his GPS led him astray, down the worst God forsaken roads in driving rain storms and where no tow truck could ever reach if he got stuck. He’s used it as an extension for his 6 foot ladder to reach bees high in a peak and logged over 150,000 miles of chasing his dream behind its wheel. He’s always kept the logo simple but today he’s unveiled its newest sticker. In the darkness with no one to witness this achievement, he peels back the wax paper on the corner of the tail gate hoping that the cold morning air won’t keep the glue from holding. Truck #2 is now official. It’s a day he has long hoped for.
Financially, it’s been a massive burden over the last two months as he has painstakingly trained his first tech. The state only requires a few days training and he knows every other company in town churns guys in and out like a revolving door. But he could never afford to do this. Not when his clientele has given him so much trust-not when his very existence depended so much on each and everyone of them. He knows there is so much more to show this rookie but paying two guys to do the work of one has stretched him to his limits….today’s the day.
Though every guru book he’s read warned against micro managing–he can’t help himself–his mind fills with dread about a million things that could go wrong. As his new hires head lights turn into the yard, our employer quickly grabs the daily route sheet and is so eager to give his insight so his rookie can have a successful day. He painstakingly goes over each account and reminds him of the smallest details like a mother hen. A shot of cold morning air with the crack of the suns first light interrupts his last minute instructions and he knows it’s time to let him go. As truck # 2’s tail lights disappear in the distance, he turns his attention to tightening that last bolt on the rope assembly of truck # 1.
Meanwhile truck # 2 has been quietly zipping across town from job to job. It comes home each night like it has done for years. Only now, with a new driver. The new tech has been little to no trouble at all. He’s even managed to sell a few jobs but more importantly he’s been able to gain the confidence of most all of the route. People seem to like him and except for a few cancellations-(which he knew no matter what, he’d have at least a few)- he’s kept everybody in tact. Our owner is quietly pleased that he took the time to show the new man the ropes and even more convinced it was the right thing to do even though it wasn’t the cheapest. Truck # 2 is holding its own.
In more ways than one our entrepreneurs dream is moving ahead. With warmer weather, unsolicited jobs are coming in. Although the onslaught of winter calls wasn’t exactly a boondoggle, it and his established route with truck # 2 was enough to pull them through. Bills still come in with ‘Urgent Action Required’ stamped in red ink on the envelope-but not nearly as often. Truck # 1 (our owner) is also putting in many a long day with actual services rather than with a phone and his script. Meanwhile truck # 2 is tearing up the roads and the days, although longer, don’t seem to offer enough time to get it all done. Each new job comes with the challenge of fitting in the time to get it done. Truck # 2 hasn’t been this busy in quite some time.
The Heat Of The Summer
Our owner has been patient, steadfast and wise. Still, he’s a little disappointed because he’s seen some colleagues who’ve started at about the same time he did but already risen to greater heights. (some even started long after him and were rock stars) However he’s seen many more who crashed and burned and who are now disillusioned with the dream of business ownership. He’s watched as the big companies churned out huge routes at the expense of many employees and customers and marvels how nothing seems to stop them. National companies who overnight bought off local firms and then suddenly, their logo was zipping all across town. His Town. Many times he’s been behind truck # 152 or truck # 12. He could only imagine what that would be like and he had to swallow hard to keep the green eyed monster of envy from rising up and casting its dark shadow upon his dream. He’s so tempted now to pull the trigger on the next step of his grand plan of company growth. 5 days a week are barely enough time to answer every service call and truck # 2 is bursting at the seams.
Still, his small team is efficient, everything always gets done and somehow there is at least a little time to spare. Even took his boy and truck #2’s driver fishing last week, that was truly rewarding.
Our owner is up and ready for another full day when his wife calls him back to the house. “Jim has folded up shop” she exclaims with alarm, “he sold out and he’ll be working a route again. Rumor is he had to sell for pennies on the dollar just to get out of some pretty hefty debt.” Her eyes were filled with panic as if this great tragedy had happened to them. Although she rarely voices her fears, our owner knows this is her one great dread, a nightmare she can’t shake. She struggled through the start up years, worked a second shift and pitched in the whole way just to make this thing work. She was quite content when truck #2 was just a dream, a conversation piece at the dinner table. She was satisfied with a single truck and the company was able to hold it’s own plus some and her husband was it’s sole driver. She never complained or voiced it, but she hated the idea of a new hire. That the money was just starting to get good but her mans dream of a larger company called him to yet another cliffs edge. And now… now that #2 is doing so well and he wants to talk about truck #3? She of course never said this at all but our owner could see it in her eyes, especially in light that a local hero has just taken a pretty big fall.
It is yet another casualty of a small operator to add to this years list. Jim was a good guy and he had a pretty sweet business- at least on the surface. His company seemed to boom overnight and he went from 2 trucks to 7 like nothing.
The two would sometimes meet for lunch, Jim always bought. Our relentless owner would bend his ear non stop for advice. Yearning for that secret, that hidden formula of “how to” grow his business. Jim would just slowly crack a thin sly smile, with his large gold chain bracelet dragging heavily across the table as he leaned back. “ It’s all about hustle, making deals and selling everyday my man! It’s all about who ya know!” Jim could go on and on talking about his business but he preferred to talk about his new boat or his lift kit he just had put on his new truck….yeah, he was proud of that.
Although our owner listened intently, there was really nothing new in what Jim would say. No real nuggets of gold or sage advice. The things that Jim did, he did too. Just somehow, Jim made it work, had that midas touch and success seem to come so easily for him. He always admired Jim and was amazed at his operation so this news came as quite a shock. Jim would never be happy going back on the route- he often bragged that he had basically retired 5 years ago and wouldn’t even know how to mix up a B&G for fleas anymore. Perhaps now, Jim would be the one seeking advice.
The Shortest Days Seem The Longest
Our owner wanted so badly to pull the trigger on the growth of his company, to take that next leap. Others had done it with less and made it work but he had certain goals in mind, benchmarks to meet. It was his worst fear to end up like Jim or one of the many others who he’s seen crash and burn. Besides, the days were getting short again, soon the phone would once again grow quiet and he just couldn’t put his wife through another long cold winter filled with worry and doubt. He would just have to be patient, put every detail in place that he could and when the time was right and everything lined up- perhaps then, he could make that jump again.
The days were extremely cold that year but it’s the sun dipping below the horizon at 5:30 that most displeased our owner. It’s difficult enough getting around in the dark and servicing rodent stations or doing exclusion work but it also was just about enough to freeze his fingers off.
But it wasn’t until around Christmas time that our business man found some time to do some year end closing of the books. It was then that he came to realize something strange. He had been so busy he really didn’t take time to notice. Gone were all the pink colored receipts with “past due” stamped across the page. No more warning notices from the mortgage company. Just as pleasing was his business bank account was somehow solidly in the black. This started him thinking and he also realized that he rarely saw truck #2 anymore. Besides growing in trust of his tech and allowing him to take the truck home everyday, #2 was now a full fledged route and often times ran later than #1.And, looking at his numbers it came to him that his commercial route (route #1) was almost chock full. “How can this be?” he thought to himself. Had he become so detached that he wasn’t even paying attention? Or was it that his focus and drive to reach his goals had never been so centered, so close and so real that he knew it was just a matter of time.
He also noticed that his lovely wife was not so full of fear these days, her doubts were turned into a kind of quiet confidence. That now instead of dinner conversations about bills and maybe holding back and lets just make do– she too, was looking forward, engaged in planning their next move and made an extra special effort in motivating her man. A slow but unstoppable smile came across our CEO’s face, caused by this clearest picture he now had in focus and the realization that the entire team was now on board. He knew he could now execute yet another big step in his master plan. He decided to tell his wife on New Years day.
Christmas morning came and our couple was roused out of bed from there’s sons loud shrieks of excitement and his his olympic style jump onto the bed. It was one of the best Christmases our owner could remember as his son ripped through the many many gifts that were just for him. Nothing overboard mind you, but far better than what they had been able to do in the past. In addition, none of what was under the tree was still owed on and that was the great Christmas gift this couple had promised each other.
Then, as the ripping of paper had come to an end and their son was busy sorting through his many toys. Our owners wife handed her husband a small envelope with a bow on it. He smiled and said, “Honey, we said nothing for each other, remember?” She simply put her hand on his and said, “This is for all of us and it only cost .50 cents, open it.” Puzzled, he gently tore the top of the envelope, reached inside and pulled out a small nondescript decal. It was a simple number with nothing else inside. It was a #3.