by Bill Prosch

When it comes to operating your business, what’s more important: Managerial skills or technical competencies?

Without a doubt, it’s technical competencies, right? Those of us who started cleaning and restoration companies because we thought our bosses weren’t doing things right would undoubtedly argue that point. How can you possibly run a cleaning company without knowing how to remove soil from a Haitian cotton sofa without ruining it? How can you dry a structure if you don’t know the difference between a dehumidifier and a doghouse?

But, what if you came from a management background? You would view this question in an entirely different light. Good managers understand the value of applying solid management principles to any business, no matter how large or small.

I would hazard a guess that most cleaning and restoration companies are started by people with some version of the first example. These owners are typically very good technicians and know they can clean carpet and upholstery, dry structures, or rebuild houses better than anyone. All that’s needed is to mortgage their house, buy a truck mount, a few air movers and dehumidifiers, and simply by being the best technician the world has ever seen, success will beat a path to their door. If you’re that guy (just like I was), let me know how that works out for you. In my case, it only took about four years to realize I had hocked my house to buy a job. Instead of being a slave to the guy who didn’t know how to run a business (or so I thought), I was now the guy who didn’t know how to run a business… and was a slave to the bank on top of it.

But, what if the aspiring, technically-savvy entrepreneur was to put together a well-thought-out business plan?

Let’s use “Steve” as that technically-competent entrepreneur and take him on a little business journey.

What if, before starting his business, Steve took inventory of his skills and included in his plan a way to obtain those he was missing? As a suggestion, let’s start by having Steve attend an Accounting 101 class. Not that he aspires to be a CPA, but maybe because Steve recognizes that understanding basic accounting is necessary to successfully grow his company. At the very least, this basic knowledge will help Steve understand what his accountant is telling him. It will also help greatly when the company grows to the point where the first bookkeeper is hired. Understanding the job he is trying to fill will help him to find the right person faster and with fewer false starts. Further down the road, as Steve’s fledgling company moves toward becoming a multi-million-dollar powerhouse, he can understand what the numbers on a profit and loss statement and balance sheet mean to his bottom line and be able to effectively communicate with the company controller.

Steve also understands that no business can survive for long without customers. Simply lettering his truck and obtaining a company phone number probably won’t drive a single customer to Steve’s door. Sooner or later, Steve will realize that an effective sales and marketing plan is necessary to demonstrate his technical skills to potential customers. So, he needs some sales and marketing knowledge. Even if the sales and marketing of his fledgling company is subcontracted to others, Steve needs this basic knowledge to avoid spending his entire sales and marketing budget plastering the company’s logo on things as ineffective as bus stop benches and supermarket shopping carts.

Let’s look at what Steve has accomplished so far. To go along with his unparalleled technical skills, he now has basic knowledge of accounting and sales and marketing. Bring on the business, right? Or did he miss something? Oh, yeah. People. Steve is going to need people to do some of this stuff. That’s the easy part, right? All Steve needs to do is place an ad on the newest online job board and thousands of qualified people will flock to his company, begging to work for him. Or not. Maybe his plan needs to include a way to recruit, hire, train, and manage the people who will eventually help turn Steve’s grand idea into the juggernaut he envisioned.

In the end, the answer to our original question is this: Successful businesses are built on both managerial skills and technical competencies. Successful managers create and follow solid business plans.

Take inventory of your skills. Use what you have, and learn or hire what you’re missing. But understand this — for your company to grow, you must continually grow as an executive, which means sharpening those existing skills and learning new ones.

Successful businesses don’t happen by accident. They’re simply a result of careful planning and deliberate execution. Maybe our old bosses weren’t so stupid after all. Maybe they just had more to learn.

Bill Prosch, CR, is a Business Development Adviser for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly-respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Prosch is a leading expert in operations and a Certified Restorer. He has a deep understanding of entrepreneurial challenges having owned and operated a successful restoration company for more than 30 years. Through Violand, he works with companies to develop their people and their profits. To reach him, visit violand.com or call (800)360-3513.