" Practical, direct, no-nonsense. Wish I'd had The Elements of Building when I was starting out. . . and for the decade after that. It is a very good book. . . " Mike Reitz, founder and editor of The Journal of Light Construction (JLC)

Saturday, September 29, 2018


A friend who has been a successful builder for 40+ years and I were talking about the idea from the post from two weeks ago, September 25th, that is, ”If you want to be a tradesmen work for someone else, if you want to run an business, put your tool belt aside as soon as it is practical and run the business.”, and he said that he knew people who work in the trades and run their business successfully. At which point I remembered that I also had known a few people who had succeeded doing both. 

On the other hand I have known countless guys who worked 40+ hours per week in the field and did their office work evenings and weekends, but because this cannot be maintained for long periods of time—it is relentless and exhausting and the office work will be poorly done because it is not being given their best attention—many of them went out of business (some several times) or existed on the very edge of failure for years.     

The person that my friend was talking about is in a strong market and was succeeding by strictly dividing field and office work: working in the field four days per week and religiously taking one full day and perhaps part of Saturday to do his business work. My issue with this idea—and my personal experience with it—is that because field work is so immediate and demanding, it takes uncommon discipline to consistently stop, week after week, to give office work its due. 

Perhaps the conclusion is that with rigorous discipline it is possible to continue as a tradesmen and run a business, with a few caveats: it will limit the size of the business; there will likely always be a bias toward the field that will need to be kept in check; and it will be hard to determine at times where best to put ones effort: the pressing field issues or to take care of the office. On the other hand, many people work in a trade because they get satisfaction from it and thus don’t want to give it up and many of us want to make a good living, not to build an empire.  

And a final thought: while the idea of working both in a trade and in the office has worked for some people, and it has great appeal for many of us, it remains my belief that most of us will be best serviced by putting our time into learning and applying business skills as soon as it is practical.   

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