Wearing all the hats

Thursday, January 7, 2010 , Posted by Johnny Fuery at 1:11 AM

Originally Published 2007-05-16 19:40:16

One thing I've been struck with in my entrepreneurial endeavors over the years is that sooner or later I end up taking out the trash. Literally.

Now, I'm a bit of a lazy guy when it comes to this sort of thing. I'd rather write TPS Reports every day than do construction work, for instance, but in the landlord game, I've painted more than my share of ceilings, installed dozens of venetian-style blinds and new doorknobs, and bought a lot more lightbulbs than the average, well, anybody.

The past couple of nights, for instance, I found myself changing some electric receptacles. There were also several hours whre I was on my hands and knees painting baseboards. It's actually not bad work -- painting doesn't really count as construction, and it was, um, thrilling to swap out two outlets. I say "thrilling" because I didn't bother to kill the circuit before swapping. Hey, you want to work at night, you got fly by the seat of your pants sometimes!

Now, I did save $700 or so by sacrificing sleep for the first half of this week, but I did this mostly because I was lazy and scatterbrained last week (I'm not sure that one or the other was causal) and the scheduling with my usual labor crew didn't work out.

Actually, I was so scatterbrained I just forgot to make the calls. Don't tell anyone, ok?

Part of me just wanted to do the work and save the money, I think. I didn't really have the time, but I knew I could make the time if I had to. The funny thing is, the place in question is the house I've owned the longest, and so I was intimately familiar with the place -- I think I painted it the last time it needed it, along with swapping the kitchen and laundry appliances, spackling every wall in the place three times over, installing new faucets, etc. There was a little bit of pride as I painted those baseboards, because my painting skills have gotten better, my patience has gotten less exhaustible, and, most of all, that house is one of my babies. There's a lot of me in that place. It was lightly spiritual experience, like cooking or gardening can be.

There are some lessons here, as always.

  1. Take pride in your product, its quality, and the value your efforts add. It shows throughout -- your customers will believe often simply because you do, especially if you can passionately and articulately backup your product's value.

  2. Sometimes, through your own oversight, unforeseen circumstances, bad luck, or even your own hidden desire to get "back to basics" on occasion, you will end up doing the work that should be outsourced. As I alluded to above, you'll end up taking out the trash sometimes.

  3. Do get "back to basics" on occasion. The experience of choosing to work can be spiritual. It's also a different type of gratification and is a catalyst for appreciation. Employees notice it, too, and respect you for it. 

  4. (For landlords and do-it-yourself types) Don't by that Home Depot Behr paint! How many professionals do you see in the paint section at Home Depot at 7:30 in the morning? Go on, check it out -- Home Depot is a slammin' busy place at that time of day, and there isn't a single housewife in the whole crowd. Everyone's got a tool belt and a sense of urgency. And the paint department is DEAD DEAD DEAD. Behr paint is thin, often requires a second coat, and doesn't stick to your brush. Bleah! Don't be penny-wise and pound foolish on your materials -- get the good stuff and save yourself some work. Not to mention all of the paint spots on your carpet.

  5. Don't go overboard. As my post yesterday on the 5 ways to make money touched upon, you must get out of the time-for-money trade in order to actually build wealth. I basically billed myself out at $50 an hour over the last three days -- not a shabby rate, but I was still an employee, even if it was for my own business. As a general rule, despite the four previous points, it would have been better to outsource that work and spent my time making rain (i.e., growing my business).

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