Business Should Enrich Your Life, Not Consume It
Bruno called me around 3 p.m. to find out if his delivery truck would be ready today. This was a Friday in July 1990. We had his truck all week and hadn’t touched it yet. Bruno owned a local bakery and the weekends were his busiest days. With deliveries tomorrow, he desperately needed it finished. Bruno let me know that being down a truck would hurt sales. He was a valued customer and I could not disappoint him. I let him know that he would have his truck ready to go for Saturday deliveries. I told him he could pick it up in the morning.
Finally, around 7:30 p.m., I began working on it; installing a rebuilt transmission. It was hot and humid that day, with temperatures reaching into the upper ’90s. By this time of the day the shop felt like an oven. By 9 p.m., I had the old transmission unbolted from the engine. I was working alone, so getting the old unit on the floor and the rebuilt unit onto the transmission jack was not any easy task. I managed to get the transmission set on the jack and continued to work.
As I attempted to push the back of the unit to line it up with the engine, the transmission slipped off the jack and wedged my right hand between the transmission and crossmember. Because of the awkward position, I couldn’t lift the transmission away with my other hand. I reached for a pry bar and lifted the transmission just enough to free my hand, which swelled up a bit, but for the most part I was lucky. It could have been a lot worse.
I finished the job around midnight and left the truck outside for Bruno to pick up in the morning. I was tired, hungry and exhausted. As I was cleaning my hands, it dawned on me that working alone at night was not one of my better choices. I locked up the shop and headed home.
Not expecting my wife to be up, there she was sitting in the kitchen with a plate of food waiting for me. Knowing I had an exhausting day, she reached in the fridge and grabbed a cold drink. This was not the first time April stayed up to make sure I made it home OK. Back in the ’80s, there were countless times when I overdid it, pushing my body to exhaustion. But each time my wife was there, making sure I was fed and taken care of.
Like you, I am a shop owner. I know what it is to put in 15-hour days. I know that there are days when you just can’t close the doors and go home at six. And while this level of commitment is to be admired, we need to remember that our business should enrich our lives, not consume it. We must not forget about our family. Your loved ones might not be physically side by side working with you, but they are definitely in your corner, supporting all of your efforts. They worry about you, share your pain and want to help.
By the mid-1990s, I began to view life and business a lot differently. But it wasn’t until my wife returned to work as a nurse that I really began to change. Being a newly hired nurse and assigned to the night shift, there were times I too found it hard to relax and would wait up until she got home.
I also realized that, financially, I wasn’t any better working those long hours. The hours could not make up for the inefficiencies during the day. Working on a plan to hire the right people, pay attention to the numbers and customer service was the only way to build a profitable business—not working 15-plus-hour days in an attempt to make up for lost production.
Success in business should be a goal, but never at the expense of family. The truth is you can have both a successful business and a fulfilled life. And when your priorities are in line, and you focus on balancing life and business, success will be even greater.
By the way, when I got to work the following morning back in July 1990, Bruno’s delivery truck was still there. There was a message on my answering machine and it said, “Joe, this is Bruno. I decided to do all the deliveries out of one truck. So I won’t be picking up the truck. I’ll pick it up sometime next week. Have a nice weekend.”
Joe Marconi has more than three decades of experience in the automotive repair industry. He is the owner of Osceola Garage in Baldwin Place, N.Y., a business development coach for Elite Worldwide and co-founder of autoshopowner.com. Reach him at <a data-cke-saved-href="mailto" href="mailto" firstname.lastname@example.org"="">email@example.com.