To Merge or Not to Merge: The Parable of the Carpenter
By Karen Zieba, Zieba Builders
Recently, I was approached by a respected peer from the Remodelors™ Council with an unusual offer ― join forces, combine companies, become one. (Translation: close my company and go to work for them.)
My first reaction was a flat, but gracious, refusal. After all, my husband had built a fine reputation for our company over the course of the past 17 years, and it seemed ridiculous to suddenly vanish from the marketplace.
But after I hung up, I began to doubt my decision, haunted, somewhat, by what I call “The Parable of the Carpenter.” It goes something like this:
The Parable of the Carpenter
In the beginning, there was beautiful carpentry. The home owner liked what he saw and called it good.
The carpenter had a vision of more income, more self-respect and more time with loved ones. The vision comforted the carpenter and filled him with boundless energy and enthusiasm for his work. He became a general contractor. The carpenter pursued this vision for 30 years but oftentimes found himself troubled, wandering alone and seeking answers.
Along the way he encountered charlatans: “This software will solve all your problems,” they said. But it did not.
There were soothsayers: “This process will bring you peace.” But he lay awake at night.
And wise men: “This business is but one means to an end. Act according to the end you seek and you shall succeed.”
Then, the carpenter had a revelation. Perhaps it was not the vision that troubled him. It was the path he had taken to achieve it.
What “end” did we seek? We had never considered the option of working for another general contractor. Was refusing this offer it the right thing to do?
Stepping into a specialized role for another company that is well-managed and well-respected can restore the promise of more income, more self-respect and more time with loved ones almost immediately by reducing the stress of overwhelming responsibility that comes with owning and managing your own business.
As a remodeling general contractor, there’s always estimating, selling, producing, billing, collecting and paying. Let’s not forget recruiting, hiring, training, retaining, firing, worker’s compensation and other insurance liabilities that have to be managed. Or, of course, punch lists, employee reviews, change orders, liability audits, indecisive clients and art juries to aggravate each day.
Specializing as a competitively-paid, respected employee — with a limited role ― certainly has its merits.
Plus, there are more opportunities in the remodeling industry for skilled specialists than many of you realize. In a competitive market, a strong production manager, designer, estimator or sales person can almost name his or her price. That makes now an excellent time for those considering specialization to network with their respected peers about working together.
Not Merging Was the Right Thing for Us to Do
But after much soul-searching, we concluded that declining the merger opportunity was the right thing to do for our company. We enjoy business management, and we take as much pride in providing a fun, supportive and stable work environment for our employees and trade partners as we do in the quality of our projects.
For us, having a strong company, surrounded by highly-qualified, energetic people is just like having a strong and happy family. That is the end we seek.
So, if you enjoy the multi-faceted work of the general contractor but need help to reach your goals, surround yourselves with the best people you can find who share your vision. Allow them to grow and contribute, and compensate them competitively.
If you enjoy and excel at certain facets of this business but would prefer to work with less risk, then specializing for another general contractor who will allow your skills to shine, reward your leadership contributions and respect your personal pursuits is an attractive business alternative.
Karen Zieba and her husband continue to operate Zieba Builders in the Long Beach, Calif. area. They do not have plans to merge with another company anytime soon. For more information, call Zieba at 562-439-5294.