Unfortunately, in seasonal businesses we hope to work as much as we can when we can -- as the old farming saying says, “Make hay while the sun shines.” The balance of making money -- not only for your current season's overhead but building enough to cover for the winter -- is a huge challenge. And so is the work-life balance.
The work-life balance is not only something to be well aware of for our crews but for ourselves as owners. I observe many of my #LowBid competitors who appear to be operating on the volume method. This method is more about doing as much work in any given time, with very little if any profit margin, in hopes that the volume of work will eventually pay off.
Others, like myself, would rather see a higher dollar per job, however this usually means less volume. For me, it was creating that work-life balance for our company. I've written before of treating our workers with respect, and this is one huge way to create an environment that might encourage them to stay around season after season. (Let's not forget about our own personal sanity!)
I've watched my competitors on the volume method and their guys appear beat, trucks get trashed, and quality goes down. I have a hard time seeing how the volume method in our industry can work for the long term. As I have observed, while guys like the paychecks, the work becomes taxing on them, and burn-out rapidly sets in. This not only creates issues as quality might be affected, but everyone has a breaking point. One day a worker might hit theirs and then they unexpectedly quit.
We schedule our work not on the volume method, but to be as effective as possible while still trying to create and maintain that enjoyable environment -- and prevent burnout. We strive for two days off a week, holidays off, and will schedule lighter days after longer bigger days or projects. That doesn’t always happen, but just the fact we try makes a huge difference to our people. Our retention rate among returning crews is huge.
Ultimately we are in business to make money, and like I first said “Make hay while the sun shines.” It is a delicate balance to make sure the business needs are met. After all, without the business, none of us would have jobs. But by keeping the work-life balance in check, I feel that you can prevent burnout not only of your guys, but of yourself. Keeping a work-life balance helps keep quality up, maintenance down, and most importantly keeps your entrepreneurial drive alive.
Time is not the only component of the work-life balance. I feel it’s also important to have that break on your days off. Go to the lake, go enjoy a BBQ with family or friends, just relax and disconnect from work as much as possible. Many people that know me, know I’m just as tethered to my cell phone as anyone. But truth be told, I have tried to set boundaries to help me disconnect on the days off -- and hey, it's working! My general stress level has been reduced significantly, my enjoyment with work has increased, and I think my people think I’m much more enjoyable to be around.
My advice, for those of you working on the volume method, see if you can get out of the rat race and increase your profits by working smarter, not harder. See if it helps retain your crews, keeps your equipment in better shape, creates better quality work for your customers, and gives you peace of mind. It's a gamble I would take.