I previously wrote about our experience when our motorhome burned earlier this year, and how I used Evernote to track the insurance claim. The good news is that no one was hurt, and our insurance settled quickly.
We still don’t know all the details, but based on the fire department’s report, we have a pretty good idea of what happened. According to the report, the owner of a motorhome near ours in the storage lot was using starting fluid to get his motor started. The engine backfired, causing a fire, which then spread to the adjoining units.
Starting fluid is highly flammable and must be used with care. Remember the old Brylcreem commercials (“A Little Dab'll Do Ya”)?” Well, that’s definitely the case with starting fluid! When I Googled the term, almost every discussion I found about it included a horror story of using too much, resulting in the engine backfiring through the carburetor and starting a fire. All of my mechanic friends told me that they have a can that is about 10 years old and still at least half full. It doesn’t take much. And if the engine doesn’t start after a few tries, the problem is likely something else.
So while I don’t know it for a fact, it’s a safe guess that he used too much. The resulting fire destroyed or damaged four motorhomes and two boats. It also killed or damaged nearby trees. To say it was an expensive mistake is an understatement.
Fire Department wrapping up after the fire.
Photo © Don Downs
Avoiding $1M Mistakes
So how does this apply to your business? In my previous post, I wrote about the advantages of doing things yourself, especially during startup. As discussed in that article, learning how to do a task helps you recognize the value of it. Not only does this give you better appreciation for the worth of hiring the task out, it also helps you recognize when the job is being done well.
However, it is important to recognize when you don’t know how to do something, and to ask for help. For simple tasks, you’ll likely be able to find some articles or videos on the Internet to get you going. For complex tasks or those with large implications (for example, legal issues like incorporation or trademarks) you may need to hire someone to do it for you.
And those “in between” tasks—those that you don’t yet know how to do well, but could easily perform with the proper training—it’s worth hiring someone to show you how to do it. Once you’ve mastered it, you’ll know whether to continue doing it yourself or to hire someone else to handle it for you.
So yes, doing it yourself has many advantages. But don’t be afraid to get help when you need it. Don’t make a million dollar mistake.
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