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Do you feel like your business is running you into the ground?

Do you feel like you always have to be at the shop just to make sure the business functions properly?

Do you think it’s just impossible to get away and relax?

If you find yourself answering ‘Yes’ to these questions, then you should consider this question:  Are you a fabricator or are you a business owner?

What’s the difference?  You own a countertop fab shop, so that makes you a fabricator, right?  You own a countertop fabrication business, so that makes you a business owner, right?  Does that mean that you are both?  Not necessarily.

If you mainly think of yourself as a fabricator, then you are likely spending the majority of your day either selling or templating or repairing machines or buying slabs or any of the dozens of activities required for your business to function.  A fabricator spends most of his/her time working in some daily function of the business – just like any other employee.

If you mainly think of yourself as a business owner, then you are spending your time analyzing data to determine which markets perform the best for you or which customers are more profitable for you.  You are designing effective training programs.  You are meeting with other business owners (both in this business and others from outside this business) so you can learn from each other.  A business owner spends most of his/her time finding ways to improve how the business is run and looking into the future.

Fabricators generally can’t get away from their businesses.  They are the long pole in the tent – when they leave, the tent collapses.

Business owners work toward setting their businesses up so that they can get away when needed – either for personal downtime or for improving their business skills or for getting involved in improving the industry.

Fabricators never seem to be able to get away from the business.  Employees are able to disconnect over the weekend and recharge.  Employees can take a vacation and not have to still be ‘on call’ to handle business issues.  Someone who owns a fab shop and considers himself/herself to be a fabricator has the worst of both worlds.  They are busier than any other employee and they have all the responsibility for running the business.  To make matters worse, they can never get totally away from the business – they are always ‘on call’.

So, how does a fabricator become a business owner – how do you make that seemingly insurmountable shift?

Here is a simple 3 step plan that will get you there.

Step 1:  Set goals for your business.  Where do you want your business to be at the end of 2022 and the end of 2023?  Be specific about the sales levels and the net profit numbers you want to achieve.

Step 2:  List the obstacles keeping you from hitting those goals.  Then select one obstacle – only one.  Plan for how you will tackle that obstacle – list specific actions and put dates on when those actions will be completed.  Determine what impact eliminating that obstacle will have and when you can have that obstacle eliminated.  Note that eliminating an obstacle may not get you all the way to reaching your goal.  That’s fine.  Once an obstacle is eliminated, select another, and tackle it.

Step 3:  Set aside one hour per week – same time, same place – and execute your plan for eliminating that obstacle.  After you have done this for one month, increase your time to 2 hours per week – you can do these hours separately or together.  For month 3, go to 3 hours.  Repeat until your business can function without you being there all day every day.

As you work through these simple steps, you will find that you don’t have all the answers to the questions that will inevitably pop up.  Fortunately, there are lots of great resources you can refer to.

Networking with other business owners can be tremendously helpful.  Check out local business groups as well as the many countertop industry groups.  There are several good podcasts that are specific to the industry (Fab Lab, Fabricators Coach, Countertop Success) – but seek out others that are outside the industry as well.

The more you act like a business owner, the more you will become a student of business ownership.  While peer-to-peer learning within various business groups is great, you will want the invaluable advice that comes from great books.  Here are four to get you started.

The E-Myth Revisited by Gerber – This one will help you shift your mindset from being a fabricator to being a business owner.  Since it uses a fictitious business to tell a story, it reads like a novel and is easy to follow.  This is probably the single most recommended book on business ownership.

Rhythm by Thean, Traction by Wickman, and The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Covey – all offer specific tools, management structures, and management processes for helping you gain control of your business.  These are critical as you start to design how your business operates.

Throughout this transition you will get ample opportunity to practice what is called intellectual humility – the mindset that you don’t have all the answers and, therefore, still have a lot to learn.  Maintaining that mindset will be important for your success.  It is the sweet spot between confidence and competence.

Pro Tip:  One key to successfully making this transition is to focus on building business processes that are independent of the people who execute them.  A good example is having a good training program and documented procedures for your CAM/CAM position(s) so any competent person could learn them as opposed to relying on one person who is a ‘savant’ at CAD/CAM work – and who has no documented procedures because it is all in his/her head.  If this key part of your fabrication process can only be executed by one person in your business, then that person can essentially hold you hostage to their whims.  The stress from worrying about this situation is the stuff heart attacks are made of.

As an added motivation to switch from being a fabricator to being a business owner, consider this:  Your business is running exactly the way you have designed it to run.  All the problems you struggle with are a direct result of how you have designed your business to run.  Can’t get away for some quality downtime?  It’s because you designed your business to depend on you.  Can’t find time to really solve problems in the business so they stay solved?  You guessed it – your business was designed to prevent that.

If you want to redesign how your business runs and need help figuring out how to make that happen, call me for a free custom assessment. I’ll help you get started by identifying some specific items you can tackle today.

You deserve to have a business that makes you money, but also allows you time to enjoy it. Contact the author at Ed@FabricatorsCoach.Com or call 864-328-6231.

This article was published in the October 2022 Issue of the Slippery Rock Gazette, find it at: