When Christopher Hanson started his moving company, Anoka-based Great Home Movers, five years ago, he thought he knew what he was getting into. After all, he’d spent much of his 20s doing furniture delivery and was very familiar with the ins and outs of what the job entailed.
However, he quickly learned that owning a moving company was very different from simply working in the industry – and a lot more complicated.
“I was kind of naive and I thought I’d just be moving furniture because that’s such a functional piece of the business,” Hanson said. “And I’m very much the type of person who wants to get his hands dirty and be there on the shop floor. It’s difficult to let go of that mindset.”
In time, though, Hanson realized that if he wanted to find long-term success, he had to take a step back from the hands-on work of moving furniture and shift his focus to growing his business.
“Most people who start their own companies want to have some kind of freedom, either financial freedom or freedom with their schedule,” Hanson said. “But if you’re trying to do everything, you’re never going to be able to leave work, you’re going to be tied to your job and you’re ultimately going to struggle.”
Starting Your Own Business
This was just one of the many lessons Hanson learned in launching Great Home Movers – lessons that can’t be taught in business school or through online tutorials. If you’re thinking about going out on your own, here are a few of Hanson’s recommendations to help you start your business off on the right foot:
- Block time on your calendar – and stick to it: Random responsibilities can and will pop up, but extra time will never magically appear. By taking deliberate ownership of your schedule, you’re making a commitment to keeping yourself focused on what’s really important – moving your business forward.
- Delegate: Don’t feel like you have to do everything on your own. Hanson has found that by outsourcing things like administrative and bookkeeping tasks, he’s able to focus more of his attention on expanding his business. “All the time you’re spending thinking about these things and filling out paperwork – you’re just basically standing in place,” he said. Can’t take on full-time help immediately? That’s OK – simply bringing someone on for a few hours a week to tackle menial but time-consuming tasks can make a huge difference.
- Build camaraderie with your team: Even if you’re not directly involved with the day-to-day operations of your business, it’s important to stay connected with your team. Hanson holds regular meetings and check-ins with his employees where they can talk about their goals and any challenges they’re facing. During these meetings, he also provides updates on how the company is doing – something that he firmly believes lends a lot of credibility. “This way, people don’t think you’re just sitting up in your office and playing on your phone while they’re working,” he said. Additionally, he likes to get everyone together for a monthly social activity so they can have fun and build relationships outside of work.
- Lead by example: If someone calls in sick or needs extra assistance tackling a moving job, Hanson is always willing to pitch in. This not only demonstrates strong leadership skills, it also shows his employees that they can count on him in a bind. If you’re looking to retain your best talent, leading by example is a great way to start.
- Lean on your network: Hanson recommends talking with other small business owners in your network and picking their brains about their first few years in business. While you may not be able to avoid every mistake, being aware of potential pitfalls can go a long way in helping you get past them should they occur.
- Know your worth: When you’re just starting out, it can be tempting to offer discounts to attract more business, especially during the slow season. However, Hanson has learned that chasing customers who are solely focused on getting the best deal can often backfire as those people often turn out to be difficult to deal with. Plus, he found that he was leaving full-paying jobs on the table in an attempt to service the ones he’d taken on at a lower rate. “Even though you may have moments when you feel like you’re not going to make it and you’re worried you’re going to have to shut down, you have to protect your margins,” he said. “You don’t want to be fighting for the bottom customer. I know I never want to feel that way again.”
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