When Brandon Stapper started his first business, a limousine company, over than a decade ago, he never imagined it would lead to a successful printing business. Yes, you read correctly, printing.
Just after graduating high school, Stapper moved to San Diego and bought a limousine, hoping he could turn his one vehicle into a booming business. It was only when he began looking for decals for the vehicle that Stapper realized it was cheaper to buy the decal machine than it was to purchase decals from another company. So Stapper took a leap of faith and forked over $400 for a decal machine. Thus, his printing and signage business was born. Fast forward 12 years and Nonstop Signs has two offices — in Los Angeles and San Diego — and around 30 full-time employees.
4 things that keep business owners up at night — and how to put those problems to rest
Ask any successful business owner and they’ll tell you starting a company isn’t always smooth sailing. There are plenty of daily challenges leaders have to face head-on. Typical challenges include maintaining a work-life balance, keeping an eye on cash flow, and managing employees. In fact, TSheets’ latest “unproductivity” study found there are a multitude of work-related issues that can follow business owners home at night, leaving them feeling stressed out, tired, and unmotivated.*
For Stapper, there are four major business operations that keep him up at night, tossing and turning on the things he should or shouldn’t be doing to keep his business successful. But it’s how he gets through those nights that keeps his mind focused on his business and the future of the company.
1. Cash flow
“The problem never seems to go away,” said Stapper. When he started in business, Stapper said cash flow issues revolved around just trying to keep the doors open. But instead of tapering off with the growth of the business, cash flow problems only progressed.
A growing business means evolving challenges when it comes to money. “It’s always a balance of how you can get more cash in the bank and run a stable and secure company, and at the same time trying to control the growth rate of hiring and onboarding and investing in new things to grow your revenue,” said Stapper.
A simple solution to staying ahead of the cash flow issues? Consult an accountant. A seasoned professional can act as an advisor and help detect cash flow issues early and find solutions before the effects of negative cash flow are felt.
2. Building a great team
For Stapper, building a great team doesn’t just mean hiring or managing employees, it means finding the right fit for the company’s culture and keeping them happy and motivated. Stapper says he is selective with the employees he brings on board, searching for employees who are happy in their personal lives, hoping that feeling will carry over into their work.
Once employees are on the clock, Stapper says keeping them motivated means always having new projects to work on and avoiding at all costs the day-to-day repetitiveness of too many jobs. It also means taking 30 minutes every Friday to stop working, eat lunch as a team, and talk about the upcoming weekend.
“Lunch is one of the biggest things that brings people together,” said Stapper. “It keeps people working together and aligned.”
3. Working IN the business, not ON the business
For years, Stapper says he was too focused on day-to-day business tasks, like dealing with clients or products and managing people, which kept him up at night. As his business has grown, he says he has gotten much better at delegating tasks.
He focuses more on the big picture for the business with future goals and growth in mind. And if he needs to travel for the business or take a vacation, he knows the business will continue to operate as if he was there in person.
Stapper admits one of his biggest fears is being approached by an employee who believes they’re being underpaid or somehow cheated on their hours worked. As a business owner, Stapper says one of his most important roles is making sure his employees are paid properly and on time.
The fear was heightened by the fact Stapper’s employees were filling out their hours on an Excel spreadsheet, using an old punch clock machine, and sending the information to another company to process payroll, crossing their fingers and hoping times were entered correctly and no one forgot to track time that week.
Since switching over to Gusto paired with TSheets, Stapper says the process is much smoother. “It’s taken like a five-hour-a-week task down to five minutes probably.”
Staying motivated is a team effort
We’ve all had that one co-worker. The one who can’t resist sharing cat videos on the company communication forum. Before you know it, the whole office is watching simultaneously, effectively distracted.
When we asked workers about some of the most common office distractions, co-workers were at the top of the list. From talkative co-workers to interrupting co-workers and even sick co-workers, it seems no one is safe from distraction. In fact, 56 percent of respondents in the TSheets unproductivity survey said they’d get more work done if co-workers would stop interrupting them.
For Stapper, it’s no different, so he’s developed some unconventional methods for curbing office distractions. He says his own office has the opposite of an open-door policy. He sets times of day when people can come and see him if they need anything. Outside of these times, his door is shut and his cellphone is off. “I don’t even have a phone at the office,” said Stapper. “That’s the kind of thing that interrupts me and my thought process.”
For many of his employees, though, Stapper says the “closed-door policy” is not an option. Their office, like many, has an open floor plan. Such a floor plan allows his employees to collaborate, but even the most diligent workers can get distracted by one thing or another. Stapper says there needs to be a fine balance between work and play in the office. Giving employees tools like noise-canceling headphones or desk dividers can help keep employee focussed on their work.
Beyond the tools, Stapper says it’s important his employees feel motivated, and for many, that means keeping the dollar signs in their eyes by rewarding hard work with cash bonuses and incentives.
Stapper’s advice: Do something you love
More than having to overcome challenges and distracting co-workers, what ultimately keeps Stapper motivated is his drive to keep building his business. The money is just a plus.
“I enjoy seeing growth, I enjoy seeing momentum,” he said. “It’s fun to grow a company. It’s fun to hire people and see them start at a certain level and then, two years or five years down the road, see how far they’ve come and know you’ve built that. You have helped them build that. I think that is really, really cool.”
Stapper’s advice for keeping business owners motivated through all the sleepless nights? Do something you love. “I think if you don’t have a purpose to get up every day and you are forcing yourself to go do something, it doesn’t make sense,” he said. “You should just stop and find something that excites you and fulfills you. For me, I don’t look at it as work. It’s part of my life and it’s a thing that I enjoy doing.”