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  • Mark Olivito

Mental Health, Customer Service & A Small Business Breaking Point

Updated: Feb 2

An abnormal few weeks brings this post to life. Would have made a better podcast but I would not have gotten through it. Bob Segar's Against the Wind came on at 5am, and the waterworks started. So here we go....


I committed a long time ago to be public about not just the Victories, but the struggles in owning, running, and trying not to screw up a 20 year small business. Actually, it started in 2012 when I first started writing on my blog (hustleorbust.com).
People can learn more, or at the very least, not feel so ALONE if they know the struggle is not unusual and there is someone that you can reach out too. So here goes.

Forest gump, sunset, new begginings
Forest Gump Sunset: Image Credit- The Film Spectrum.com

I'll sleep better getting this out of the way.

(908) 873-7522.
That's my personal cell. Should you have problems getting to PAVERART via our office line, our black hole voicemail of 90-day new phone system, email, social media DM's, or dropping in for local folks now you have it. Our intention is to absolutely be responsive, but sometimes we miss things.
Or if you could really care LESS about PAVERART but you need an ear or perspective on anything you may think I could help you muddle through, PLEASE USE IT, it would be my pleasure.

If I have kept your attention until the end of this post you'll understand why sending this to thousands of people is LESS stressful than not putting it out there.


Every week resembles a whirlwind, but the past few have been unusually more so:

  • We had a great Summer at PAVERART, lots to be proud of. We closed out the summer with a couple of great concerts, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen.

  • Record revenue in August, but you would think from September 1 to today we are out of business! Smoothness and Small Business do not co-exist on the same planet. It starts as irritating, and becomes stressful, but also action inducing.

  • My wife lost her stepmother (long battle with cancer) and within 2 weeks her Mother (unexpectedly). To put this in the "tough stuff" bucket is an understatement.


And the worst?

My Frenemie. GOOGLE. One of the most impactful businesses of my lifetime. I swear they like to F with me like a psychopath. I admire the hell out of Google, and they've been the inspriration to our apprenticeship program, Brick By Brick which I wrote about. But they are indeed my Frenemie at the moment.

There's a Google PAVERART I take pride in, but I digress.


paver design, paverlogo, paverart, custom hardscaping
Google Logo By PAVERART

I woke up Wednesday morning and found out that our Google Ads Account has been "paused" due to a failure in their new advertising verification process.


In short, Google needed a slew of documentation that proved that the owner of the PAVERART Google Ads account, is actually the owner of PAVERART. No problem, we submitted it all. And they rejected it. Why? We suspect the copy of the driver's license (my wife) should probably coincided with our corporate docs (should have been MY license).


So we re-submit what we THINK is the fix and they said "3-5 days" for a decision. Great.


Then I did what I shouldn't have done. I start GOOGLING (how ironic) other people's experiences with the verification process. And I started seeing horror stories. And frustration.


Episode 36 I've talked about my "mental freight train" tendencies/challenges/demons. The Big G set this off. Here's the episode if you'd like the story of Mental Health Challenges, or as Brian calls it, "SQUIRELLS!"


Normally, my mental freight train happens on my 3:30am walk. And 75 minutes worth of walking slows it down to a crawl and I'm able to tackle whatever life throws at me. But the Google news came at 9am, while I'm working at home. Who else is at home working with me?


My wife. And she's endured a hellacious few weeks and now has to deal with this. Hardly the stuff business ownership and life partner dreams are made of, at least in that moment.


So personal scorecard from me as a supportive husband AND on the ball business owner. FAILURE.

So I proceeded to write a letter to our 2022 account manager at Google pleading for help, who can intervene so this doesn't become a major problem. Did you notice 2022?


We no longer have an account manager. We are spending a healthy 6 figures a year on Google AND increasing our spending by +57%, but that no longer warrants service in the world of big G. Of course, no response.


So we are on our own.


And if our website traffic goes down -95%? Tough. Figure it out. Cross your Fingers.


A few other random thoughts.


  • The great Jimmy Buffet passed away. He had great meaning to so many people, Mike and his family in particular.

  • A Paverart Client/Friend shared with me he lost his beloved dog. I really feel for him, and anybody that loses their furry family members. I hope to see him and his wife in the near future if their travels allow for it. Having clients you admire and get to know beyond a transaction is meaningful for me.


I am often asked one form of the following question:

So how do you have 25 years of experience in FOOD manufacturing and then just pick up and by PAVERART?

Fair question, the question behind the question is usually some form of, "This seems awfully harder than alternatives, no?"


It got me thinking back to April, when Ken Bull, Co-Founder of PAVERART and COO of one of the Country's most successful retailers (Five Below) came back home to PAVERART for episode 37. The studio wasn't even finished, the mic's weren't perfect, but it was absolutely fascinating to hear how challenging it was for the first few years of PAVERART.


In fact, at minute 41:40 Mike and Ken start talking about CAPITAL challenges to help make PAVERART sustainable, and Ken's leadership in that world. The result? Over 15 pitches.


Results?

O For 15. Zero. Nada.

  • People were polite.

  • They said PAVERART was ground-breaking.

  • They kept saying the word "SCALE." You couldn't grow 10x to create a profitable investor exit.

Scale.

One of those million-dollar MBA terms that determines if you are good enough in the eyes of the financial community to warrant investment.


I've got a competitive streak that's fairly healthy. Some ratinale types may consider it UN-healthy. If things have plodded along for 15 years at a certain rate, with plenty of negative feedback from the financial world despite top 1% talent working on it, am I REALLY that person that can help defy those odds?
Sometimes I think that's the real answer to my friend's question.

I look at Ken and all the success of Five Below and his senior executive role with great pride. Extraordinary talent. And long before the rocketship of Five Below, Ken, Mick and Mike started little PAVERART.

So back to the cell phone.


Is giving out my cell phone number "scalable" to create a business that is more durable, with a stronger team? Maybe not. Most would say build out support, work ON the business, not IN it.

I get all of that.


But there's a strange thing that plays out in the real world that is different than an MBA textbook....


Google is a massively successful money printing machine, with a 90% market share of one of the largest and fastest-growing markets on the planet. I'm glad I own their stock. But they are indeed my Frenemy.


When it comes to little PAVERART, we are not even a rounding error on Big G's financial statement and they have purposely designed a world where humans shall not speak to one another. Humans are messy.


Building a culture and core values starts with a person saying, THIS IS WHO WE ARE, or at the very least, this who we want to ASPIRE to be.

It's hard stuff.


I've written a bunch about the magical H's in business.


HEART & HUSTLE.


Successful companies tend to be great at the HUSTLE part. Getting better. New methods. Innovation. Cost management. Growth.


HEART? That's more challenging.

  • Heart is all about the HUMAN side of the equation.

  • Humans are messy. They sometimes miss the returned phone call, email and often have bad days. Some humans (myself) can't figure out the freaking new voicemail and is too stubborn to read the instruction manual!

Heart, is about the employee with an expanding family, a lost loved one, jumping on a zoom call, making yourself available, and doing everything possible that the MBA's might consider UN-scaleable.
If EVER there was a case to be made for the world of small business to not just survive, but to thrive, I suspect the answers will mirror close to the HEART vs Hustle side of the equation.

Hopefully, wearing some struggle on the proverbial sleeves may make some people feel less lonely.


If I can ever help, my cell is above. Monday's/Tuesday's/Thursday's from 4:30-6pm or 5am-6:30am I tend to be behind the wheel on autopilot and am happy to take any call if I can help in any way. Text messages are not an intrusion at ANY time.


Too many people struggle with Mental Health, and depression and never raise their hand for help. It does not need to be that way.


I do not pretend to be a doctor, psychologist, or therapist. In fact, I'm a lousy shoulder to cry on. I suffer from the male DNA of wanting to solve problems, not just be a sounding board.


I'm a small business owner with an annoying voicemail challenge, a frenemy or 3, and a handful of personality quirks to manage around. All while trying to manage through the growth whirlwind.


I suspect there are plenty out there in a similar situations.

Thanks for listening.












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