Since becoming a small business owner I have tried to do business with other small business owners. I appreciate the fact that these people are bringing their business ideas to life, and I know how difficult it can be to compete with the big businesses — plus, I like the relationship that can be built with a small business owner.
Most small business owners don’t have as much money for marketing and advertising and depend a lot on their past jobs and word of mouth to get new business. When we moved from California to Georgia, I asked around and got great contacts for people who took care of odd and small jobs like lawn care, painting, sprinkler work, and so forth.
I decided that I would use smaller companies to do things around the house that we weren’t going to do. We went with one of the small pool cleaning companies, hired a one-man lawncare business because he was not only enthusiastic but he stated how hard he was trying to pick up business in our area and how difficult it was to compete with the bigger companies, and we got rates on having our porches painted and our house pressure washed by the smaller companies around town.
Then the reality of home ownership and all that it entails sank in — about the time the monthly bills hit our box.
Owning a house is not cheap. We were spoiled in some respects when we rented our home in California, as our landlord handled all of the bigger projects: painting the house, fixing the leaks and breaks, hiring someone for lawn care, having someone fix the sprinklers or trim the palm trees each year.
Here, we are paying for it all ourselves.
This means, of course, that we are spending a great deal of money on home repairs and monthly expenses. As time has rolled along and we have become more familiar with our home, and we’ve gotten the big projects out of the way, we’re realizing we can take over some of these smaller projects ourselves.
And you know what that means: letting go of some really wonderful people.
It began with the pool company. Once I learned I could get my water tested and a prinout made of all the things that needed to be done to keep the pool chemically correct, we called the pool company and let them know we no longer needed their services. This saved quite a bit of money each month, as the weekly calls on their own were $35 – not to mention chemical costs.
The lawn guy was next. The cost to mow our lawn for one month was about the same as purchasing our own mower. In the winter, it only had to be done a few times a month; now it is weekly, which of course doubled our expense and made us head to Sears and purchase our very first lawn mower, which husband dutifully tested out yesterday on our lawn. (It looks great, by the way). In one and a half months, the money we put into the mower will pay for itself.
This call was the hardest for me to make. I didn’t feel bad when I told the pool company, because I’m sure they have more than enough accounts to keep them busy and afloat.
The lawn guy, on the other hand, broke my heart. He’d been prompt and good and I knew that the money we would be taking away from his pocket each month would hurt him on a personal level. Of course, when we realized what it would save our family each month, it really wasn’t a choice. Still, it was a tough call to make.
I know that all around the country, these harder times are putting the smaller business owners in a bind. The guys who mow our lawns and do the jobs that we don’t want to do or don’t have time to do are suffering because in all reality we can do these jobs – and we may need to, in order to save money.
When the times get better, I’m wondering if we will go back to relying on other people to help us out. The time that it takes to do the lawn maintenance costs us time away from our family on the weekend, which is always hard. But right now the money is important – I just wish it didn’t have to hurt the small business owners in the process.
Have you had to let go of some wonderful workers to cut back on expenses?