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Shawna Schuh

What Running an Excavator Can Teach You About Business



THIS SPRING, WE started a project to put in additional roads around the barn and a huge parking lot to accommodate horse trailers coming to use the new trail course we’re creating in the woods. Highly exciting and fraught with risk.

If you have a pet business, you know all about excitement and risk.

On the one hand, you know expansion is smart, needed and potentially lucrative. The end goal, right?

On the other hand, there is a lot of outlay, many moving parts, and it’s uncertain how much or how fast the investment you’re making will pay off.

Somewhere the expression, “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room,” crossed my mind. Though funny at the time, that feeling of hanging on by my toes is a good description for what I  experiencied as the project swirled around me.

To make this project work, friends stepped in to lend their expertise. To do the work, we ordered a bulldozer and an excavator at great expense. One of my friends can operate both, and both were needed. But he couldn’t do both at once, so the excavator was sitting idle a majority of time that first day.


The cost of this idle time was weighing heavily on me. You know that feeling?

So, I thought to myself, “How hard can it be to run this thing?”

I think that most lessons or experiences begin with a question like that. You might have thought something similar before you jumped into business, “How hard can it be?”

And then we find out.


Running an excavator is not that difficult, after all, and so the point is made that nothing is impossible or difficult, at first. What I learned, however, is how difficult it is to do it well. And how frightening it is when you get yourself off-kilter or to close to the edge. I nearly tipped it over a handful of times and scared myself silly in the process. But I figured it out, same as you do.

What I learned from this adventure are a couple of things that will help me, and you, do business even better:


Take the risk. If you’re not growing, expanding and stretching, what are you doing? And if something really scares you, remember you are strong enough.


When you get on shaky ground, back up a bit. It’s unlikely you’ll tip over, but moving back a bit will gain you confidence and help you reposition for higher success.



Even when you can do something, hiring an expert, or turning it over to an expert, is smart, especially if you want to get more done and in a better way. Necessity may be why you climb into the seat, but it doesn’t mean you should stay there. I was happy I took the controls and even happier to relinquish them to a better operator who magically appeared.

The project is still in process, but it’s turning out even better than imagined so far, and I have a feeling the risk, the stretch, the fear will not only be worth it, I will remember all of it fondly when I say, “I even ran that big excavator myself!”



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