Above the Line, Below the Line
Many remodeling companies have experienced a great deal of growth in the last few years. Due to a economy strengthening, most companies have experienced an increase in job size, sales volume, and number of employees. With this increase in activity has come all the related responsibility and demands that accompany bigger jobs and all the people and details it takes to make them happen. Four or five years ago, was your business much smaller? Did life seem easier then? If your business has grown, and you now find yourself with more jobs, bigger jobs, and more employees, your role as the owner of a successful and profitable remodeling company has changed just as dramatically as your company.
Do you remember what it was like when your business was you, and you were chief cook and bottle washer? It was a different time then. If your business has grown, you are playing in a much different game. Because of this growth, there are new employees in your game, and you have asked them to bring their time, talent, and energy so that your game will be successful. You’re no longer chief cook and bottle washer. Your role has changed. It’s now up to you, as the owner, to make sure this game is successful. If your business is to thrive, you are going to need new skills. You will need to learn and understand the way a business works, the dynamics of business-cash flow, growth, and in a sense, “the rules of business.” When you choose to start a small business, you unknowingly choose to play in a significantly larger game than any you’ve played before.
The role of the owner in a growing company becomes a strategic one. I refer to it as “above the line-below the line” thinking and behavior.
Above the line: Strategic
The role of the owner: coaching, leading, managing, and delegating. This is where the vision of the company comes from. Above the line, you are working “on the business.”
Below the line: Operational
The role of employees: to manifest the vision of the owner. What has to be done to complete the work that’s been sold? Who needs to be involved? Below the line, you are working “in the business.”
As an owner, if you are working below the line, there is a big cost your company may be paying. If you’re working in your business in a variety of different roles, there is something much more important that’s not being done. That is the strategic work, the entrepreneurial work that will lead your company forward. No one else can do this strategic thinking and planning. You are the captain of the ship.
Effective systems will give you the time to learn the skills you will need. Business systems will allow you to document your expectations so that you, the owner, can step away from day-to-day operations. Good systems dictate that the job functions in day-to-day business will be performed the way you want them to be performed.
Likewise, having good systems is liberating and empowering for your staff. Clearly written expectations make performing job duties clearer and easily understood. They remove confusion. They enhance performance by providing a written account of what’s expected and more importantly, how your staff is expected to execute what’s expected of them. They free your staff from relying on you. They free you from being relied upon. They empower your staff to seek out the answers and solutions to their challenges and problems. And they provide you with the time to gain the strategic skills you so urgently need.