In 1975, actor Roy Scheider delivered one of the most memorable lines in movie history when he said: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” The phrase—first uttered by Scheider’s character, Chief Martin Brody, in Jaws—has grown a life of its own in the 40+ years since audiences first heard it. Today, its meaning spans well beyond Brody’s attempt at thwarting the man-eating shark’s thirst for carnage. It’s now a euphemism for a situation where someone is ill-equipped or unprepared to handle what’s in front of them.
If you own a small business and you’re feeling overworked and understaffed, let us first congratulate you. Finding that level of success isn’t easy, and many fail before encountering the problem you have. Also, it may cause damage to the long-term health of your business if you don’t consider when it’s time to hire a bigger team. Here are three ways to know when it’s time for that proverbial bigger boat.
You can’t grow beyond your current customer base
As a business owner, few feelings are sweeter than a new order coming in or a service booked. And the only thing better than that new order is two new orders. The sweetness can start to sour if you find that your current operation limits how many of those orders you fill. For instance, if you have a lawn maintenance company and your crew of three workers can handle 10 lawns each week, that’s a great start.
But what happens when the neighbor of one of those 10 stops you to say they admire your work and would love for you to take on their lawn? Can your current crew of three manage an additional lawn or will you have to turn down the new work? If it’s a pinch to handle 11 lawns, they definitely can’t handle 15. You should consider what the revenue looks like for each new lawn you would add. Also, figure out what your expenditures might be in terms of salary and new equipment needed. There’s a fine line between growing to say you’re growing and growing to be more profitable.
To read more about improving your customer relations and retention for your business, click here.
You find yourself burnt out because of workload
For as stressful as owning your business is, it can be equally as liberating. Traditional employees rarely have the flexibility that someone who has their business has. That means if you have a doctor’s appointment on a Wednesday at 2 p.m., there’s no one to ask but yourself if you can afford to miss work. The flip side of that flexibility is that as the business owner, you’ll wear the brunt of the pressure around the success of the business.
Businesses like lawn care, plumbing or even a hairdresser, choosing not to work means you probably don’t get paid. As a result, small business owners will often take on too much to drive the company to success. But if you find that the incremental work you’ve added to your plate is burning you out, it’s time to evaluate if adding an employee or new equipment might help alleviate some of that burden.
Let’s think about the types of tools that a hairdresser might use. If your 10-year-old blow dryer takes 30 minutes to adequately dry a customer’s hair, you might consider spending money on a new, more efficient model. If you see five customers in a day and can cut your drying time in half with new equipment, that gets you more than an hour of found-time each day. You can use the time on yourself and spend time with your family.
You want to expand your offerings
It’s not unusual to make homemade jam out of a kitchen and turn a profit by selling it at local farmers’ markets. But when you aspire to make different flavored jams, or you want to take your product to retail stores, your home’s kitchen probably won’t cut it.
It’s times like this that small businesses will look at expanding their physical footprint so that they can expand their product line. If stacking products in your garage is no longer feasible, a warehouse might add to your monthly expenditures, but it gives you the freedom to scale as needed.
All businesses have growing pains
The types of scenarios we talked about here are completely normal blips on the radar of most small businesses. The key is to analyze each situation and examine if it’s the right time to grow. If you fit into one of these three buckets, it might just be time for that bigger boat.