Growing and Scaling Your Dirt Business
Written by Randy Blount
January 16, 2022
Randy and Aaron Witt discuss the pitfalls of scaling a dirt business too quickly, as well as the advantages of intentional growth.
So much focus is placed on growing and scaling your business. One day you’re doing what you love, because you love it, and the next day, you’re running a business that’s larger than you imagined, spending your day putting out fires.
Blount would ask you, What are your goals? Do you want to grow a massive business to pass along to family—or sell—or would you rather shape a business that fits you and what you enjoy doing?
With so much pressure to grow, no matter what, it’s easy to get caught up in chasing a huge business. But what if you’re attached to operating a piece of equipment that you really enjoy? If so, perhaps building a mega Dirt World business isn’t right for you. It’s easy for the business to outgrow you if you’re not paying attention.
If you decide that you do want to scale, it’s important to reflect on how you’ve gotten to where you are now, including what mistakes you’ve made. Focus only on the big ones that can impact how you scale—for when other people on your teams will make some of the same mistakes you did.
To scale, you’ll need to let go of some control.
Blount suggests that growing a business has some parallels to parenting: Certain things you let your child do, where they can fail and the stakes aren’t high. But you wouldn’t, for example, leave electrical outlets uncovered.
Initially, you may not want to relinquish control, yet there’s a risk in remaining too hands on: “No one will rise, if every time they put their effort into something, they just get shut down,” said Blount.
Look for opportunities to share control, and seek to understand the other person’s perspective. It’s good to ask, “Help me understand why we're doing it this way. Why did you think to do it this way?” said Blount. “There's probably a few really good ideas in there.” Also, when you delegate, be sure to step back and let the person do the work. Resist the urge to micromanage, if you want your people and business to grow.
To protect the business, set some guardrails, or systems, that will apply, so you aren’t micromanaging every project. You have to acknowledge, “Okay, the business is bigger than me now—which happens super quick,” said Blount. “Try not to hold on to that. Check your ego here, too.”
Look for the definable activities and create a system of guardrail systems. Job costing is one of those systems; along with forecasting, project management, and budgets, to name a few.
Build in some freedom for your business—and yourself.
Within any controls that you establish, define where the safe space is for your teams (and the individuals on those teams) to be creative and make decisions. If you define those first, it will simplify a lot of future decisions. Where you need to, define the no-go areas as well.
As Blount noted, some of his biggest mistakes turned out to be his business’s biggest blessings. When you’re new to delegating, expect to see some things done differently than you would do them. If you can let it play out, things may be fine. “Don't be so in a rush to step in and stop what's happening,” said Blount.
Cost-benefit analysis comes in handy here, too. When you review the outcomes, compared to your estimates, you may find that doing something differently has a cost that’s smaller than you’d imagine.
Scaling your business can benefit your personal life as well. For Blount, “The last three years of my life have improved exponentially."
With the right people and systems in place, he and his wife could take a 12-day European vacation, with both guardrails and safety nets in place that protected the business from any interruption.
Trust and empower your people. “There’s this creativity that's allowed within these safety measures that creates innovation. If you just keep narrowing them more and more,” Blount said, “All of a sudden, there's no innovation. We're not getting better.”
Empowering your people leads to a greater sense of control over both your business and your life.
Two primary takeaways here are:
- Decide if scaling the business is right for you, and then
- Do so in ways that also grow your people
Blount knows that if he had attempted to retain total control, the business would be perhaps a third of its current size. And he also doubts he’d still be in the industry.
“From 26 to 30, I learned and grew a ton.” But he did it working 36 hours straight on occasion, which is not sustainable behavior. Most likely, he would have burned himself out, “which would have been sad, because I love this industry,” concluded Blount.
Allow for creative problem-solving and you’ll not only grow your business—you’ll also grow your people. As a leader, Blount said, “Some of the greatest joys you have should be having those guys who step up or those girls who step up and make those leadership decisions, and they just knock it out of the park.”
Want to learn more about scaling your business? The best way is to learn from people who've done it. Check out Aaron's conversation with Alan Guy, who helped grow Anvil Builders into a leader in California's disaster clean-up space.
Written by Randy Blount
January 16, 2022