I write a lot about business issues that might interest contractors in my audience. As an editor by trade, I can’t tell my readers a thing about drilling, whether it’s foundations, geotechnical, geothermal or water wells. But, like a lot of Gen Xers, I work a day job and have a side hustle — a small business I operate on the side — and can talk about that.
Thirty, 40 years ago, workers got a job, got a pension and retired from that job. That doesn’t apply a universally to Gen Xers or Gen Yers as it did to baby boomers. Jobs these days have a much more transient quality. We need something to string a safety net under our professional lives. Enter the “side hustle.” A lot of people I know might do freelance work or photography on the side, so they have skills to fall back on if they have to move on for one reason or another — a company downsizing, for example.
Maybe contractors in the audience can relate. Often, your business’ security and future can depend on how that next job turns out. I know getting the right contracts can always pose an obstacle to business growth. But, beyond that, I want to hear from readers about what limits the growth of drilling contractors and small manufacturers — my core readership.
Finding cash for capital equipment
Is financing a limiting factor for your business? Do you have trouble getting a bank to help with that next drilling rig? Maybe it’s a line of credit to acquire a new machine for your production facility, something that will grow your DTH hammer product line and help you enter a new market.
I hear a lot about “tight” credit. I’ve seen it myself. You’re busy hustling for new contracts. Who has time to cold call a couple dozen banks and hear a chorus of “no”?
It’s not easy. But, as with anything these days, it’s who you know. Yes, you may have to make 20 calls, but it’s invaluable to find and keep close with a banker who knows you by your first name.
A solid business plan helps, if you don’t have one. There are lots of programs to help with that, including the Small Business Association.
One other tip I always follow: When you meet a banker to ask for money, dress like you don’t need it. It sounds silly to say, but I’ve shaken enough hands at drilling events to know that jeans, t-shirts and work boots are all-occasions attire for some folks. There’s nothing wrong with that. I wear jeans every chance I get. But dress for respect when you visit your banker.
Finding workers to fill drilling jobs
Is finding good employees your business’ limiting factor?
Here at National Driller, we write a lot about drilling’s “generation gap.” Young people just aren’t going into drilling and the median age on drilling crews keeps going up. It’s nice to have experience on your team, but you also need a pipeline of new workers.
One way to approach the issue is to find workers with potential, and bringing them on to train. Maybe you find workers acquainted with geothermal, but you need them to run geotech sampling rigs? Putting a new-to-your-sector employee under the wing of one of your experienced tool pushers shows him that you’re willing to make an investment in his skills growth. I mentioned earlier that younger generations tend to skip around in their professional lives. I know from experience that I’ve stayed at jobs longer when employers have shown a genuine interest in my development. It’s a win-win: The workers get new skills, and the employers get capable, loyal crews.
Other reasons your business can’t grow
What else limits your contracting business? Does your area have stiff competition for your specialty? Do you have logistics issues getting your products to the people who need them? Does regulation and paperwork make you not want to bother to grow?
I want to hear about it. Tell me about your challenges, and how you’ve succeeded despite them. Send an email to email@example.com.
Stay safe out there, drillers.