Sara was worried. It was 9:00 pm and dinner was beyond cold. Lanny almost never stayed out this late. Was he stuck somewhere? Did his equipment break down again? It would’ve been nice to get a call at some point. Sara knew that a call would’ve just resulted in another fight about why Lanny wasn’t home yet. And, even Sara didn’t want that.
Lanny started mowing lawns for spending money in High School. He seemed to make enough to make a living out of it. Lanny opted not to go to college like most of his friends. He wanted to continue to make money at landscaping… and avoid the huge debt most of his friends got from borrowing money for higher education. When he was in High School, he was able to make $20,000 in a single summer with his lawn mower and a beat up pickup truck. When he and Sara got married, life seemed pretty easy. They both had jobs and were making $70,000 per year between the two of them.
But now Sara was pregnant with their first child. In eight months, Sara’s $30,000 income would go away, and Lanny was feeling the pressure to make up the difference.
Sara heard the rumble of Lanny’s diesel entering the driveway, and was relieved he made it home okay. That night, Sara told Lanny that she knew of a business coach that may be able to help him work fewer hours. Lanny claimed he didn’t have time for a business coach because of his long work hours. But even Lanny knew he needed help. After doing a web search that evening, he set up a free consultation with a guy named Coach Russ. Lanny delayed a few of his yards the next day to do the meeting, so he hoped it would be worth it.
Lanny entered Russ’s office in his work clothes and was clearly ready for another day of yard work. Russ provided a clear contrast to Lanny in his business attire. Lanny thought, ‘how can this white collar guy know anything about my business?’
Russ was friendly and after the small talk, asked Lanny, “So, what brings you into my office today?”
Lanny was not one to beat around the bush, “I’m working my ass off and need to make more money to support my new family once my wife stops working.”
Russ loved Lanny’s direct approach. After learning more about Lanny’s landscaping business, it was obvious that Lanny was working quite hard as the solo employee.
Russ asked, “Lanny. I want you to suspend any negative thoughts and tell me exactly what you’d like your landscaping business to be like 3-years from now.”
Lanny smiled, “Well, I want to make a hell of a lot of money and not work at all. How’s that?”
“That’s a great start. I want you to tell me how you got to this place of making a hell of a lot of money without working.”
“I don’t think that’s possible. I gotta do somethin.”
“It’s your choice. What do you want to do?”
Lanny didn’t understand. In his world, you got paid for what you did. And if he was to make enough money to support his new family, that meant that he’d have to work twice as hard as what he had when both Sara and him were earning a living. How on earth could he increase his income, and work less? It just wasn’t possible.
Russ could see the confusion on Lanny’s face and decided to help him out, “You know that many business owners have learned how to delegate their work to others and dramatically reduce their personal work load. How do you think they do this?”
Lanny responded, “Well, Russ. I’m not rich like them. So I can’t afford to hire a bunch of workers.”
“This may surprise you, but most business owners didn’t start out rich. They figured out how to gain wealth by leveraging their ability to lead teams of people. How could that work for you?”
“I tried to hire a helper this year and it was a disaster. He showed up to work when he wanted and he was more trouble than if I just did the work on my own.”
“How have other landscape companies grown?”
“Like I said… they got money… and I don’t.”
“What if I gave you $100,000 right now? What would you do with that money?”
“I’d probably save it for my family. It would come in handy when we have our kid.”
“Interesting! When I asked why other landscapers have it easy, you claim that it was because they have money. But, when I offer to give you money, you decide to put the money away and continue to work hard.”
Lanny said, “There’s no use hiring people that don’t do the work I need them to do. Why not just keep the money in the bank and take it easy?”
Coach Russ had his share of challenging business owners, but Lanny seemed to be a special case. He didn’t seem like he even wanted to grow his business; or understood anything about investment.
Russ offered, “Lanny, I like your direct approach… and I love your work ethic. In order for you to reduce the amount of time you work and increase your income, you’ll have to develop a Business Owner’s Mindset.”
Lanny looked puzzled, “A what?”
“You’re thinking like a worker. You think that the only way you can make money is by spending your time doing the work. You hired a guy that didn’t work out; and you think that all workers are bad. Or you fail to understand your role in your worker’s failure. You fail to see the success of your competitors as genuine. Instead, you think they had more money than you. The truth of the matter is that your competitors likely started just like you, but decided to grow their business in a way that reduced their workload and increased their income. The same opportunity exists for you, Lanny… but you have to see it.”
Lanny was stunned. Russ seemed like such a nice guy, but it now sounded like Russ was insulting him, “Look, I work hard and want the best for my family. I don’t have to take this shit.”
Russ ignored the anger, “You have all of the ability of any of these landscape owners. And you have the ability to spend more time with your future family. You can realize your dream of ‘making a hell of a lot of money and not working at all’. What would you say if I could help you get there?”
“I’d say you’re full of it.”
“Fair enough. What if I make you a business proposition? You work with me every other week. I’ll charge you $500 per month and will guarantee that you’ll get my fee back in added income and will progress toward your goal of spending more time with your family and make enough money to make up for Sara’s lost income. If you don’t make progress after changing your mindset, then you can fire me and get your money back.”
Lanny said, “Sure! What do I have to lose?”
Over the next few months, Lanny met with Russ every other week. At first, Lanny failed to do the homework that Russ was giving him, but learned that doing his homework was getting him closer to the goal of spending less time in his business and making more money.
During the winter, Sara was getting more and more pregnant; and Lanny was working with Russ to create a business plan for the upcoming landscaping season. Lanny felt like he wasn’t earning more than he had before during the off season, but the way he thought about money and work was changing. He started to understand that he could make double what he had made the year before, if he hired others to do the work for him. It seemed like Coach Russ had done something magical with the numbers. How could that be? How could you work less and make more money?
The landscaping season was upon him, and Sara had quit her job. Lanny had saved up enough to buy some new mowers and had marketed his new and improved business that winter. He even had a line of credit with his bank to pay workers when customers were a little slow in paying. It was finally time to execute the plan that he and Russ had put together for his upcoming landscaping season. If things worked the way they’d planned, he would complete the landscaping season with double last year’s income.
Lanny grew his business to three crews that summer and added equipment like he was a real business owner. Emile, Sara and Lanny’s daughter, was born at the end of landscaping season, and Lanny was able to spend three solid days with Sara and his new baby after the birth. A year before, such a break would have been impossible.
Russ felt some tears well up when he read the Christmas card he got from Lanny.
I want to thank you so much for showing me a different future for myself and my family. Sara, Emile and I are enjoying a great Christmas this year… one that I never thought I could afford; mainly because of your work with me. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Merry Christmas!
After the note, there was a sloppy written entry that said, “PS – Sara wrote this, ’cause I suck at writing.”
As a business coach, I help my business owner clients change their mindset in a way that allows them the freedom and profitability they have always hoped for, but never thought possible. If you’d like to develop a successful business mindset, I urge you to sign up for the free Business Success Wheel exercise below to see how you can grow yourself as a successful business owner.
Note from the Author
My name is Jeff Schuster. I am a certified Life and Business Coach serving small business owners, corporate executives and others who want to transition from “expert” to “entrepreneur”. I have been a small business owner for most of my 30-years in the workplace. I grew an energy efficiency and renewable energy engineering and construction company from nothing to over $10-million/year and sold it in 2013. I now help other business owners make amazing progress toward their own dreams of business ownership independence and success.
As a long-time small business owner, I know how hard it is to create the business of your dreams while struggling with the financial realities of attracting prospects, converting those prospects into high-paying customers, and making money for you and your family. My biggest mistake in my past was not seeking the advice of wise counsel sooner than I did. I don’t want you to make the same mistake. I help my clients see exactly what they need to work on in their business by doing the Business Wheel Exercise. If you’d like to try it out, sign up to the right. It’s completely free.