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If you don’t make the tough calls, you may go out of business.
If you don’t make the tough calls, you may go out of business.
June 29, 2007 7:00 AM CDT

Tough decisions keep you in business

Contractor tip of the month


Much like the famous saying, “The buck stops here,” business owners must make tough decisions every day and move on. And for every decision (good or bad), the responsibility rests on you – the owner. Regardless of what your employees, peers, local residents and others think, the rise or demise of your business rests in your hands. Although you will hear complaints and catch flack from people who disagree with you, it would be foolish to make important business decisions based on what would make others happy.

Running four companies that will do combined sales of more than $18 million this year, I realize that – as the business climate changes – I have to make many tough decisions along the way. While I believe that listening to your employees is the best thing a leader can do, I encourage you to seek input from them, analyze their opinions, and then proceed in the best interest of the company. Some of the decisions will not always be popular. However, if I don’t make these tough decisions and move on, one or all of the companies could go out of business. And, ultimately, no one benefits from that.

Business ownership is not for the faint of heart. Looking back a few years ago when I made the decision to drug test all employees, I was told by several employees – even a couple of managers – that it would be the biggest mistake I ever made. Back then I wondered: “Would these people feel the same way if one of our employees were to get hurt or killed on the job by someone under the influence and it forced our company out of business?” Years later, I have had people thank me for giving them a safe place to work.

While driving through my hometown, I can count several businesses that are in the same buildings where five or more businesses have come and gone before them. With about 50 businesses in town, it is obvious 200 of the same nature have come and gone. And, if history repeats itself – which it normally does – only five of these 50 businesses will be here long term. When you consider this kind of success rate, deciding to make the tough decisions that will help keep your business open suddenly is an easier choice!

Many business owners tell me that they feel like a schmuck when they have to do the hard things, like firing an employee for not doing his part. I always tell them they have it backwards: It’s the employee that is the schmuck for not doing his part in the first place.

So don’t run from the tough decisions that it takes to keep your business successful. In fact, if you have a difficult task, such as disciplining an employee for not performing to your expectations, I suggest this is the first thing you do that day. It will make the rest of your day much easier and you will be more productive.

Just remember this: If you don’t make the tough calls, you may go out of business. And, when you do, whose fault is it? You’re right, the buck stops with you.

About the Author

Damian Lang is a mason contractor in southeast Ohio and inventor of many labor saving masonry systems and products. Lang has served as the Marketing Committee Chairman for the Mason Contractors Association of America. He is also author of the book Rewarding and Challenging Employees for Profits in Masonry. To network with Damian on contractor tips or tips you have and would like published, contact him at or 740-749-3512.


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