March 27/April 3, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 21
By Jim Augustus Armstrong
(First of three parts)
“I was putting in 60 or more hours per week,” Earl Swalm told me. “I have two kids and I felt like I was missing out on a lot. It was really tough, very stressful.” Many dealers can relate.
In this series you’re going to learn Swalm’s story. Specifically, how he took control of his business, cut his work hours by more than half and grew his revenue by 50% in one year.
Swalm owns a flooring dealership in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan; he bought the business in January 2000. He worked many 70-plus-hour weeks for 10 years. “I started to implement paper systems early on, but couldn’t escape the ‘I wish I could find someone just like me’ syndrome,” Swalm said. “I felt like if I didn’t do it myself or babysit it, things wouldn’t get done right.”
He liked the flooring business, but he couldn’t escape the fact he was working for his business instead of it working for him. The long hours, stress and the burnout were taking their toll. “I finally decided to sell my business,” he told me. “I couldn’t see any other way to get my life back.”
This is something I hear from a lot of dealers. They get into the flooring business because they see it as a better opportunity than a 9-5 job to create a great life for themselves and their family. Unfortunately, for many the dream of owning their own store turns into a nightmare, with long hours, stress, not enough money, etc.
Swalm began to research selling his business. He wanted to get top dollar, so he reached out to me to help him with his marketing and business systems so the store would be more appealing to a buyer. He began implementing systems and strategies to make his business more profitable and efficient.
About a year into this process I got an email from Swalm saying he’d decided not to sell after all. Curious, I called him and asked why. “Because I’m only working about 35 hours per week,” he quipped. “Business is fun again. Why sell it?”
In my opinion, the purpose of your business is to fund and facilitate your ideal lifestyle. Providing employment and great products and taking excellent care of your customers are all important. But if you’re not funding and facilitating a great lifestyle, then what’s the point? If you’re stressed out and tired all the time, then what good does that do you? Life is too short to live it burned out and wishing for something better. The bottom line: Make it count.
In the end, that’s what Swalm decided to do. Today he works an average of 35 hours per week and oftentimes only 25. He regularly takes time off, including 10-day trips away from his business. And while he’s away it continues to run like a well-oiled machine. Last fall his revenue was up 50% year-over-year.
“I now work from home a couple of days a week,” he told me. “My day starts at 7 a.m. and I usually quit by noon or 1 p.m. Last Thanksgiving I took four days off and completely unplugged from work. In the past, when I’d take time off, I would check emails and take phone calls, so I was still mentally working. But now I’m totally present for my family, and I really enjoy myself. It’s great.”
In the next I’ll cover the sales and marketing strategies Swalm used to grow his revenue and review the steps he took to cut his work hours.
Jim Augustus Armstrong specializes in providing turnkey marketing strategies for flooring dealers. For a complimentary copy of Jim’s book, “How Floor Dealers Can Beat the Boxes and Escape the Cheap-Price Rat-Race of Doom Forever,” visit beattheboxestoday.com.