Starting My Own HVAC Business: Part 2 – Work-Life Balance

starting your own business - work-life balance

Remembering the importance of work-life balance and keeping your family close to you as you start up your new business

Many of us who have started our own business did it from scratch.  We had no customers and no leads.  We seemed to be so focused on getting that first customer it appeared to be the only thing on our minds.  But don’t forget who is cheering you on.  Your family is right there, filled with anticipation for you.  Then you get that first customer!  And the machine begins to roll.  Today we’re going to talk about the importance of work-life balance and keeping your family close to you instead of pushing them away as you start up your new business.

Getting Established

I started my company in 2015.  I did so many things on my own at first; it seemed a little overwhelming.  I was answering the phones, scheduling appointments, making the repairs, prepping all the installs, loading the trailer, doing all the installs, making deliveries, purchasing supplies, and purchasing office equipment.  It also required paying bills, finding insurance agents, buying a service truck, building out that service truck, stocking that service truck, getting decals on that service truck, buying tools, creating relationships with vendors, figuring out what service parts I was going to be using for my customers, and figuring out what brand of equipment I was going to start installing in people’s homes.  It also involved accumulating a maintenance club membership base one-by-one, marketing my company, going to business networking groups, and attending HVAC conventions. 

I then created a website and business accounts on Google, Yelp, and every single search engine so I could be found online.  I also created a Facebook page for my business and began uploading photos and messages to interact with my customers. 

On top of everything else, I created a YouTube channel to start showing off my company to service techs and potential customers.  This required that I shoot the videos, load the videos to my computer, edit and produce the videos, and upload the videos to YouTube.  I had to learn how to optimize those videos so people would even see them, create thumbnails for those videos to make them stand out, and respond to incoming messages from technicians and customers alike.

Whew!  Still want to be a contractor?  I know I left some stuff out, too.

Work-Life Balance for Your Family

Let’s suppose you still have the desire to start up your own business after hearing all that.  It takes a lot of time to do all that stuff.  Your family will be gung-ho about all the time and effort you’re putting into your new business, but after a while, they’re going to start feeling left out. 

New business owners (heck, any business owner) can be found guilty of dividing their daily obligations into separate categories to fulfill all of these obligations and just get through another day.

Recognizing Work-Life Balance Tensions

If you think your family has no business getting involved in what you do, because they don’t know the first thing about HVAC, think again. It’s going to be too hard to leave work at work and keep your family life completely separate, without it intervening somehow.  You’ll feel great if you win a job you’ve been working hard to get!  If you lose that same job, you’ll feel terrible.  All that time and energy you spent shucking and jiving just to be turned down for one reason or another.  One thing after another can leave you feeling happy or sad when you get home.  Either way, your wife is going to feel it, and your children are going to feel it if you don’t handle it right.   This will eventually add up to tensions at home that might become irreversible.

Eventually, husband and wife teams can start to look at each other differently.  The person you once thought was the most caring and understanding in the world has now become insensitive to your everyday problems.  Little does she understand why you have to work such long hours just to make ends meet.

Respecting Roles 

So how do you keep this work-life balance? I’m no magician, but communication is the key to everything.  Talk to your spouse about what’s going on.  Include them in the things that are important to you.  If your wife joins you on the team like mine did taking over the administrative side of things, you’re going to have to remember she doesn’t work for you. 

Regardless of whose company it is, if you screw up that relationship, then what were you doing this all for anyway?  Instead, respecting each other’s role in the company is key to making it work.  Indeed, someone has to be the president of the company, and the next person on that chain of command will have to be agreeable and do their part to make this work too.  If you, as the principle of the company, have a vision or idea of the way you want something done, then, sure, you’ll have to stand your ground.  But pick and choose your battles.  Give independence to those who are working with you. Don’t be a micromanager.  Oh my god, these are all the things you hated about working for someone else, and now you’re the one that’s a hard-ass employer. 

Working Independently

I’m clueless about the things Melissa does for the company.  I have a good idea, but if I had to take her job over today, I wouldn’t do a great job.  For the most part, it’s the same for Melissa.  If she had to step up and handle the operations, building codes, service, and installation, etc., she would struggle.  So we allow each other their freedom to work independently.  This keeps everyone happy at work and, most importantly, gives you a good head start at keeping things at home in order. 

No one gets in the way of my time with my family — and my sports.  I play ice hockey every week.  I ride indoors on my bike almost every day on Zwift.  Physical exercise helps me keep my sanity.  What keeps your mind clear?  Is it fishing? — playing a musical instrument? — reading books? — hanging out in the garage?  Great!  Whatever it is, though, don’t let it take time away from your one true love — that family of yours.

Remembering Who You Are

It’s essential to want to be great at running your new business.  But, keep in mind the right work-life balance will help you maintain your personal life and your professional life. You’re not just a business owner. That’s only part of who you are.  You had other things going on in your life before you started that business.  Just don’t forget they’re still there.

Fox Family Grows Into a New, Larger Location

Fox Family relocates

In 2015 Fox Family Heating and Air started a business.  We worked out of our home.  We took calls on our business cell phone I kept in my pocket.  Our warehouse consisted of a 5-tier shelf to store PVC fittings, copper, capacitors, and other supplies.  I did all the installs, service calls, and maintenance calls myself.  Since day one, I had always wanted to grow as a company. 

By the time we hired Keith and Colin, we needed more warehouse, so we rented a storage space in Rancho Cordova and moved that single set of shelves to the storage space.  First, we rented a 5×10 space, then a 10×10 space.  Melissa and Sasha came on as administrative help but were still working out of the loft upstairs in our house that we converted into an office.

Fox Family relocates
Fox Family relocates
Fox Family relocates
Fox Family relocates

Relocating to a Great Spot

Three years ago, in 2017, we worked with a commercial real estate agent I knew and found a great spot on Sunrise Blvd, a 2000 square foot office/warehouse combo.  It was very exciting.  We had so much room I thought we’d be in the space forever.  I had a couple of shelves and workbench that I had built.  I had the original shelf I was using at my house for the first couple of years.  We bought another shelf as well, to round out the storage space.  The warehouse included a second floor with shelving already built.  The office space had a front lobby and two offices that Melissa and I occupied.  It was super cool having this new setup.

As the next three years went along, summers got busier and busier.  2020 was an outstanding summer full of equipment changeouts and service calls.  It seemed like we were ordering inventory and other supplies several times a week just to keep the techs’ service vans stocked.  The real demand on our warehouse footprint was for equipment storage a few days before the jobs went in.  Two to three, and sometimes four jobs worth of equipment sitting on the floor took up a lot of space, so much so that it was hard to walk around all of it!

A Bigger Warehouse

As our third year of being in the warehouse came to an end, we had the option of renewing our annual lease.  Because Fox Family Heating and Air wants to get bigger and do more business, we decided we needed a bigger warehouse.  A tenant who occupied a 4000 square foot space in the building next door was moving out after 25 years.  It was the perfect opportunity for us to swoop in and take over the lease on the place. 

Whereas our first warehouse had one garage door and a large warehouse floor, our new warehouse has two garage doors and a much bigger floor space.  The warehouse is deeper, because the front office area is wider, so fitting three of us in the new space is easy.  We had enough room to add a fourth desk for a future administrative employee, thanks to Melissa knowing an interior workspace planner who consolidated the space well for us.

Fox Family relocates

Growing Into a New Location

The location of both warehouses is one of my favorite features.  Location, location, location.  With a street front view, thousands of cars and trucks pass by our warehouse daily.  I cannot tell you how many people have said they see our place every time they drive by.  We were smart enough to put a prominent Fox Family Heating and Air sign above our front door, which really helps people see us, too.

As our company has grown, we’ve gone from working out of our house to having a 4000 square foot warehouse/office complex and two garage doors for access.  I knew Fox Family was going to grow.  The rate of our growth has been perfect too.  We have been able to keep all our staff for years and bring them over to the new warehouse.  And I’ve managed to bring along that first set of shelves from the bedroom in our house.

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you on the next blog post!

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