I can quite honestly say that being a small-town business owner is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done……and it is an every-day process.
I’ve been acting in this capacity for 13 years now. That is pretty much 1/3 of my life. (Give me a minute….I’ve gotta sit back and take that in….)
A third of my life I have been hard at work, 5-6 days a week, for 8-15, even 18-20 hours on occasion, each day. Then there is the time that I’m not at work. My body may sleep, drive, enjoy outdoor activities, watching movies, and other non-work activities, but my mind doesn’t transition away easily. Jobs, due dates, machinery needing to be replaced, employee struggles, maintenance, pricing, complaints, capital inflow and outflow…..and the list goes on and on. My business continues to be an active performer on my mind stage each and every day of the year. Yes, different acts of the play call for different characters, but work is always center stage.
So when I am asked to provide pricing on the different jobs I am called to fulfill for my customers, I struggle to know what value I can put on that job. It is easy to find the cost of supplies, machines, utilities, even employee wages. But when it comes to my time, my efforts, …..me….. how to I place a value on me?
Recently I was asked to revise some pricing on a few products that were going through some changes for our largest client. That is what made this question surface. As I worked on the figures, I couldn’t help reflect on the impact their projects have on me, personally.
Currently they are using a system that tries to predict what their usage will be. They then place large orders, multiple pages worth, at a single time. Usually I am allowed a couple of weeks to fulfill the order and deliver it over to their facility so their team can get to work assembling their product.
Sometimes, I am asked to rush portions of that job because of a more urgent need. I have been happy to do that for them because I see the value in keeping that partnership. I mean, their jobs account for over 1/3 of our gross sales. It makes sense to bend over backwards and meet the demands and needs they have.
Because of the attention needed on these jobs to ensure the final quality of the job, I often save the job until I can give it my full and uninterrupted attention. I’d love to say that since my press sits in the far corner of the shop I can simply attend to the other jobs needing my attention and start on these VIP jobs as soon as the others are completed, but that would only work if I were an employee who’s duties were limited to specific jobs.
Because of my capacity as the owner/boss/manager/maintenance/HR rep….you get the piont, there are days where the interruptions are constant. I find myself setting down the business phone, only to immediately attend to my cellphone ringing in my pocket, while holding up my finger and mouthing “just a minute” to an employee standing in the doorway of my office, while I lean over my desk responding to an email.
Machines need to be un-jammed, networks need to be restored, paper needs to be ordered, time cards need to be fixed, customers need to be helped, and before I know it the front door gets locked, the open sign is shut off, and finally the interruptions of the day begin to settle and my focus comes to rest on weighing what absolutely has to be done before tomorrow and what can wait another day.
Most often, the VIP jobs that have to be done today belong to this particular client. They have to be printed tonight in order for the ink to dry sufficiently to allow them to be cut and packaged for delivery the next day before 2:30pm.
So, like clockwork, I call my favorite burger joint and place a to-go order for my favorite burger with a value meal #2 that includes waffle fries, and an XL Dr. Pepper, and get to work with a goal to hopefully make it home before the kids to go to bed. Sometimes I make it, most times I don’t.
But day after day, every phone call is pleasant, every customer gets met with a smile, and all of my emails are worded meticulously portraying a man that has it together and is at the top of his game when deep down I am sleep deprived, my back is aching, my arteries are getting cluttered with cholesterol, and I’m starving because lunch time was three hours ago!
And so the question weighs on my mind; when I am making so many sacrifices to fulfill these jobs, what value does that equate to and when does it get to a point to where I simply can’t put a number on that?
I’ve often seen the cards laid before me and told to myself “brother, it’s time to fold.” But I also know that bluffing for just a little bit longer could buy me the capital, clientele, and time I need in order to crest over that rise and descend into the Garden of Eden that lay below. To a time when things handle themselves, jobs flow in and out seamlessly, the money that comes in is far greater than the money going out, and I come and go as I please wearing a smile because I know I’m finally earning what I’m worth.