Jason Russell | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Jason Russell


Based in Tacoma, WA, Dr.Decks has been creating custom decks for clients across Washington’s Northwest Region for more than 25 years. Owner Jack Russell recently won first prize for Best Alternative Deck by the North American Deck and Railing Association.

The Mistake:

Trying to go it alone.

I’m a control freak. So earlier on in my business, I had a hard time letting go of the reins. I was trying to manage my books, pay all the bills, make all the phone calls and design decks – all on my own. It used to take me three or four days to get back to potential clients. By the time I’d call them back, they would already have someone else doing the job. I was also paying late fees on my quarterly taxes, because I couldn’t stay on top of those.

I almost had a nervous breakdown. I would get up at 5:30 a.m., get home at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., and spend the rest of my night working on estimates. I wouldn’t get to bed until midnight.

I realized that if I wanted to say afloat and grow, I would need some help.

You can’t be Superman.

The Lesson:

You can’t be Superman.

I wish I had been educated on what it took to run a business, back then. I was young when I started out in the decking industry, so I had to learn everything the hard way. I wish I had found a mentor or took some classes to better understand what I was getting myself into.

At some point, my wife started helping me make phone calls to prospective customers, and then started helping me take care of all the bills. Once that happened, we were corresponding with clients much quicker, and we  never had a late payment. When I finally hired an accountant, I ended up saving even more money. I’m so happy I did that.

I’ve learned to let go out of necessity, and it’s kept this business alive. That’s not to say I’ve let go of everything so easily. I’m still trying to find employees to help me with the construction side of things, since I won’t be able to do that forever. It’s been hard, because it’s the thing I love to do most. But I know it will be for the best.

Follow Dr.Decks on Twitter at: @DrDecks

Photo courtesy of Jason Russell

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