What sanding a deck can teach you about growing a business
My husband and I bought a fixer-upper just over a year ago. We have spent the past year putting holes in sheetrock and patching them, painting, reflooring, replacing light fixtures and doing more painting.
It's a ton of work.
We are finally at a place where the house looks almost finished. (OK, save for some missing baseboard and a few paint touch ups.)
But there has been one project looming on the horizon. And in the northwest, we have a short window of time when we can do it. Our house has three good-sized wood decks that haven't been maintained for at least 15 years. As a result, it was full of rotten boards and rusted screws. In its state, it needed a full-scale intervention.
I didn't quite realize the extent of this when I read online deck refinishing blogs. One breezily called it a "weekend" project.
I am wondering which weekend, because we are going on three plus all the weeknights. Also, in our efforts to guarantee we wouldn't run into rain, we picked the hottest weeks this summer. (Oh, but it still rained one day, forcing an emergency run to Walmart for $100 worth of tarps).
But as I was on my hands and knees, my sweat dripping into my safety glasses, my mask adding about 10 degrees to the 90-degree weather, and clouds of wood dust floating around me, I couldn't help but think about the similarities between sanding a deck and building a business. (I'm making them both sound so fun, I know.)
1. Don't expect instant gratification.
In our world, we are used to getting what we want at the touch of a button. We want instant transformation. We want it in an insta second. It is almost confusing when something in the real world takes longer and more work. That's how I felt with my deck.
There were no short cuts.
My husband and I had to literally crawl over every inch of surface of the deck with our sanders to achieve the result we were looking for. And it was hard.
Ok, so we did break down at one point and rent a floor sander, which saved us some time. But we still spent two and a half weeks sanding.
When it comes to the growth of your business, there are no overnight successes. We have to put in the work, day by day to achieve growth.
A lot of it is not glamourous. But that's what it takes.
2. It's a process, not a project.
I was talking about our deck to my dad, who has 35 years of construction experience, and he causally mentioned that we will have to re-stain it in a couple years.
It had not dawned on me that I would ever have to do this again. In fact, I was vowing I never would. Not to mention two years from now.
His point was that if you do it right now, it will be easier later.
A lot of us with small businesses are putting in the ground work now. This is the grueling hard part that it often feels like you are sweating through. In five or 10 years, you won't stop trying to make your business grow, but by then it might be easier because of the groundwork you put in now.
We have to think of it as a process that we build on continually, not a once-and-done affair.
3. Momentum is everything.
I've noticed with every construction project we do, set up is half the battle. Once you are going, you get in a rhythm and you start to see progress. This holds true day to day as well. When we took breaks that were longer than a couple days, it was so much harder to get started again.
But if we kept at it each day, it became easier to pick up where we left off.
Momentum begets momentum.
The same is true for business and marketing. I have let my marketing lapse at times as I've gotten busy serving clients or caring for a toddler or working on a house. When I stop for any length of time, it is so much harder to start up again.
You build momentum in the every-day small habits that slowly but surely build on themselves.
So to those of you in the early trenches of business growth, I see you, from down on my knees with my orbital sander in hand.