This weekend, I had a repair company come by to fix a couple nagging issues around my house. The first issue is repairing some water damage in my bathroom. The second is repairing a part of my ceiling in the living room that is sagging and was hastily patched prior to me buying the home (~10 years ago). I’m selling my home soon, and I want to take care of these little issues so buyers can focus on the grander house and not on possible “problems”.

The repair man started work on the ceiling by starting to cut at the portion that was sagging. But as a chunk of the ceiling fell down, he stopped. He proceeded to call someone, and then scratched his head while staring intently at the hole now in my ceiling. After hanging up, he looked at me, and informed me that he and the company are unable to repair (let alone touch) plaster ceilings. Wow.

Now, there are a lot of things that make this experience a great teacher in many entrepreneurial and business thoughts. Here are five.

  1. I’m highly non-confrontational. This can be detrimental to conducting business. That is, I did not maintain a strict rubric of how well the repair on the bathroom was made. Instead, I simply wanted to move him along and get along with my day. I signed the payment and review on his phone while he stood in front of me. Had I received the invoice and review separately, I would have likely given a lower grade while provided minimal tip, if any. I never even asked the repairman to re-attempt cleaning the bathroom that he left untidy. As a personal review, I need to be able to speak to folks like the repair to deliver an experience better matched to my expectations, much like I do with subordinates.
  2. On the bathroom repair, I was slow to react to a small nuisance (a bathtub to which water would splash out constantly). That small nuisance kept happening and became a problem (the pooling water seeped tile grout and damaged the drywall behind. Now, it had be dealt with. I think about this like technical debt when an engineer knows code is shipped knowing there are limitations and flaws. But for the sake of speed (in my case, ease), the problem is ignored until it becomes a bigger problem. No matter what, though, the debt must be paid.
  3. If you’re the repair company, what do you do? That is, as a customer, I now no longer have a patched up sag in my ceiling. Now, I have a genuine hole. It’s a much worse state than before, and one that I can no longer ignore as I sell my house. Before, it would’ve been a discussion point during a home selling negotiation process. Now, it’s a show stopper. But as the repair company who does not offer any type of plaster services, what would you to help me now that my situation has been made worse?
  4. Now that there’s a hole in my ceiling, what’s the next best option? In Atlanta, older homes are commonly built with plaster – ceilings and walls – vs. drywall in buildings today. This means plaster service providers are becoming more niche (expensive when a provider is found). Meanwhile, with my goal of selling my home, I want to spend as little money as possible. So, what’s the play here? Much like in startups, there’s goal to grow fast. But that comes at a price. Sometimes, there’s a hurdle like a buying objection that requires the team to quickly adapt. There’s a new normal now. To address that objection or hurdle, what do the solution options look like? How do those solutions affect your primary goal (e.g. building a repeatable process, scalable product)?
  5. How do I learn from the experience with the first repair company and apply the lessons to finding a new service provider? Though the first repair company came highly recommended, how do I take what I’ve learned to also try to uncover things I don’t know. That is, what can impact the results of fixing the problem when I don’t know what I don’t know? How can I ask the right questions and confirm the next provider is capable when the first try was poor?

There’s a lot that can be learned in everyday happenings that can directly influence the ideology and execution of startups. It’s one of the reasons why for passionate entrepreneurs the lines between work and life are blurred.

Look for these lessons. They start to help you understand the gaps you’re in.

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