Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year! Goodbye, 2013!

This is the time when most people or companies write lengthy retrospectives and make bold, grand, crazy resolutions. Believe me, I'm tempted to do the same. But for me it's tough for two reasons:

  1. This year went by in the blink of an eye.
  2. I'm too busy to be sentimental.
Still, I'll indulge in a little sentimentality...

The biggest event of 2013 for me had little to do with this business. This year we welcomed child #4 into our home. Baby Anna Sophia arrived in September. I remember precisely where I was when I learned of her impending arrival -- I was on the VRE platform in Manassas reading about a meteor that hit in Russia. My wife called. She was, to put it lightly, "concerned."

And then the rest of the year happened. It seriously went by in a blur. I took a LOT of time off to help my sick, pregnant wife deal with our three other beautiful little terrorists. I won't say I did it gladly -- the business demands a full-time attention span and then some -- but I was very thankful that this company allows me to be closer to the kind of guy I want to be.

Anyway, in September she arrived. She was beautiful. And now she even smiles at me and giggles and coos. And to see how our other kids dote on her and love her...oh man, you've never seen a more beautiful thing. 

But back to the business...

Tomorrow I'm going to look at the "metrics," the numbers that tell me how we did this year. I know right now that we didn't do as well as we'd hoped, but there are still some fumes in the gas tank. I know we did better than last year, we helped more people than any other year (more than some years combined), and that we're within spitting distance of our big gross revenue goal. Still, it could have been much better.

We lost some people this year. It's a high-turnover kind of industry, which is to be expected, but some of the people had been here a long time. Some left in good circumstances, some not. I guess it's natural in business, but I'm not used to it yet.

We paid off our trucks, which is awesome, but we now need more trucks. We found an amazing new HQ. We won the Angie's List Super Service Award for the fourth consecutive time, and we now have more visible Yelp reviews than we've ever had. 

On the whole, things are good even though we're in the midst of the normal deadly slow slow season. We have the best crew we've ever had, with most of the guys buying in to what we're trying to do here. We have plans, we have strategies, we have the wind in our sails. We have something better than a "sure thing" lined up for 2014 -- we have an epic battle where victory is by no means certain. That is far more interesting, in my opinion. It's quite possible 2014 will be our breakout year -- the year we cross some invisible line between fighting with all our might for mere survival to a comfortable, reliable number of jobs that not only pay the bills, but allow us to put money away, pay guys bonuses, and hell, maybe even get a health care plan.

On the other hand, it's entirely possible that we've overextended ourselves, and that we're going to crash hard. There are literally hundreds of things that could go wrong, things that could lead to bankruptcy, lawsuits, or the simple, inexplicable dissolution of fortune that leads MTB to an impoverished, ignominious end. These ephemeral fears keep me up at night -- nameless worries that haven't materialized but still terrorize me by their mere possibility. Talk to any small business owner -- they know what I'm talking about.

I want to give thanks to everyone out there who has given MTB a shot. I don't have the numbers yet, but we helped somewhere over 2,000 people this year. We received somewhere around 7,000 requests for help. SEVEN THOUSAND. I work hard and hope for the day when we can help every single person who put their trust in us by filling out a work request form. 

And we have a record number of "brand ambassadors" out there recommending us, telling their friends about their awesome experience, or writing reviews. I'm incredibly indebted to you. I wish for -- and daily kick myself for not creating -- a better system of tracking people in our "tribe" who recommend us or refer people to us. This simple (but heartfelt, I assure you) "thank you" doesn't begin to express my gratitude for you folks who speak well of us. This is a life-and-death struggle for us. (Seriously -- livelihoods are on the line. I just had a meeting, of sorts, with one of our long-time guys who constantly struggles to make ends meet. No jobs means he can't feed his family). So while an off-hand mention at the proverbial water cooler may be forgotten quickly, it is literally keeping someone clothed, fed, and sheltered.

That's small business.

I was going to write a bunch of stuff about my resolutions for the New Year. I started making a list, thinking I might have one or two areas I can improve, but I ended up with 30 game-changing, life-altering things that make me wonder what I've been doing with all my time. I'll get to those throughout January.

Again, thank you for using MTB, or even just following our story. I, and all the ridiculously hard-working guys here who do mighty deeds for people every day, sincerely thank you.


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