Generating ‘Brain Pickers’

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While on the topic of generators, I got a call the other day from a guy down in West Palm Beach, Fla., who wanted to “pick my brain” about the industry. . .

(First, a disclaimer: We do a lot of different work here at H-B (PET’s publishing company), and many times I’m busy with one of my other assignments for our timber magazines—lost in an Oregon sawmill or trying to remember operating conditions on a logging job in central Idaho or south Alabama. Many times I just can’t take a call, though I do my dead-level best to (eventually) respond to all reader inquiries. A lot of times it’s a consultant (or even a Fortune 500 company) wanting trend-type information about the industry—or perhaps an information shortcut for free on a project that’s being billed for thousands to a client on the other end. Yet at the same time, I pride myself as being the editor most likely to take the weird calls, odd requests and comments from readers and clueless Google searchers who’ve come across our publications. Many times a call about “picking my brain” sends a red flag up my spine—but there’s just as many times that I’ll take the call and delve into the unknown if only to add spice and variety to the workday.)

Yet I knew I had made the right call to take the call from Robby West, who operates Acreage Mobile Small Engine in West Palm, when he told me he was just trying to “stay out from behind the Ryobi 8-ball” when it comes to mass merchant service work. West operates Acreage Mobile Small Engine, an at-home mower and small engine equipment service business. He had recently branched out and gotten his contractor’s license to perform complete home standby generator sales and installations and was doing well, he said.

The standby generator work is proving a natural outgrowth and growing part of his service business, West said. We talked a bit about the industry, and his thoughts on doing mass merchant service work. (As little as possible, he said, having been burned behind the proverbial 8-ball one to many times.) He wondered whether more expansion was the way he should go. Good Lord don’t put that on me, I said, and related two independent business truisms that I’ve learned after working with a half-dozen trade publications for the past 20 years:

Any supplier or major customer outlet that encourages you to take on more work/inventory/trade area as a big new opportunity is ultimately doing so in their interest, not yours, even though you may have a great relationship, know the guys personally, etc.

Any great situation you work out as an independent business person, where your business has found a new product, market, process, etc., will not last. Oh, it may last two weeks, two months or two or 10 years, but ultimately you will be forced to change, because that’s the nature of business, competition, changing markets, etc.

These two rules are good to remember. Anyone have any other small business or lawn and garden truisms? (And “No rain, mo’ pain” doesn’t really count)