Lessons from an old, wise neighbor

image courtesy of Flickr user House of SimsYears ago I had this neighbor named Gil who had an incredible knack for restoring old furniture.  It was just a hobby for him at first—his family, he explained, had a lot of junk lying around and he liked the idea of making something old look new again—but now it was his bread and butter.  It was how he paid his bills and put his kids through college.

I remember the countless pickup trucks and rented U-Hauls that pulled into Old Gil’s driveway, and the run down items people would unload into his garage: curio cabinets, antique sofas, blanket chests, circa 1930s wardrobe armoires.

One day as I helped Gil wrap some plastic around a few antique chairs, he said something that still sticks with me all these years later: The problem with doing what you love for a living, is doing it for a living.

For Gil, running a business was messy, overly complicated, and took up too much of his time—time he could be spending on his art.  And when I think of this now, I can’t help but think about how many of my colleagues and friends today in the web development field share this same sentiment.

So you’ve spent years mastering graphic design or programming (or both) and now you’re expected to run a successful small business too.  It’s not really the deal some of us thought it would be when starting out.

But the good news is that this complicated, time consuming thing called running your own business can be easier.  It did get easier for Old Gil.  His investment in his children’s education paid off well.  His daughters—one an accountant and the other a young entrepreneur—eventually helped him with the messier side of things.

And the answer for the rest of us falls along similar lines—family.  Not all of us have accountant daughters, but all of us have a choice in who we include in our business family.  This is especially true for web development businesses that resell (or refer) hosting and other complementary services.  Are you working with a web host because it’s a necessary evil or because they can help your business?  Are you partnering with those that only see you as a customer, or those who see you as a part of their business family?

It should be the latter.

In a recent blog post from Howard Man’s The Business Brickyard, he asks, “Who is your business showing the love to… are your customers just using your services or are they an integral part of your company?”

For us, the whole point of what we do here is to make our customers an integral part of our company.  We sort of have to. Your success is our success, and there’s not really a way around it.  Luckily, we embrace this completely and we wouldn’t have it any other way.  We don’t just want to provide hosting and merchant services to your clients, we partner with you so your clients can place a trust in you to provide those services to them.  This is why we created the TechExec Lite program.  We wanted to do more to help our customers succeed while also making things less complicated for you and the Gils of the world.

What do you expect out of the companies your business works with?  Is a sense of partnership or family important to you?  In turn, what are you doing to “show the love” to your clients?  Are you positioning your web development company as a partner for their entire business success?  If not, why not?  Let us know in the comments below.

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