Owning a Small Business in PA - Is it Worth it Anymore if Your Business Sub-Contracts for Another Larger Business

Michele Orsinger

*This is a work of nonfiction that was witnessed or experienced by myself and others. Everything you read has been written with permission and based on real life situations.

As a small business owner on the contracting side of things, it amazes me how it’s all hit or miss with respect and deserving pay. Income for job duties should (realistically) stay on a level playing field… you know, a stable income that doesn’t fluctuate from high to low… especially when the work performed is always consistent or above. I’m not sitting here discussing performing job duties for multiple different people who utilize our services… this is about us busting it out for the same company we have the past few years.

Just a small business trying to survive...Photo byMichele Orsinger

This story may blow your mind just as much as it devastates mine. While most employees receive raises throughout the time and effort standing behind their employers, we are dealing with the total opposite. In all reality, we don’t technically have an employer since we own our contracting business. Our business is subcontracted through those who need our services. We take pride in what we have to offer and perform to the highest of our abilities. That is something that served us well over the years… up until this past year.

While the compliments on our provided services (clean-outs, demo, and hauling) have been through the roof, the financial payout to our business has declined. To provide you with an example - last year our daily job site paid out a certain amount per day and that didn’t include a $50 per day fuel incentive. At this same time (a year later) the daily rate dropped and the provided fuel was suddenly cut off. That translates into an $80+ loss per day at every job site we show up at. Make it make sense.

Inflation on the cost of living is continuing to rise at record levels. Prices to feed families have almost doubled. Don’t even get me started on utilities for households.

As contractors who drive our work truck to a residence - we provide hand on services that can be described as the dirtiest of the dirty… the disgusting nonsense that no one else would dare to do themselves… and we take pride in it. The services offered by our business are a skilled trade… most details of the jobsites need to be cautiously and legally performed. To be paid a certain wage for years, it’s a hard blow to have that amount decreased by $400+ a week… considering we have business expenses to cover on top of our day to day bills. You know, paying to keep a roof over our heads, utilities covered, and maybe even some food on the table.

Photo byMichele Orsinger

What began as a successful and respectful joint effort among combined businesses working together de-escalated significantly. It’s devastating. Tell me where the respect has gone… the appreciation and camaraderie. Our family owned business that has been extremely successful (even though we were still sitting at a lower to middle class income) is starting to sink - all because those who cut our checks decided to keep more money in their pockets. It all boils down to greed… there’s no other way for my brain to explain it. After all, I need to be cautious about how much I spend at the grocery store to feed my family now… that’s nothing I had to worry about last year. My heart hurts.

Doing my bookkeeping, I can boil it down for you in layman's terms. After our expenses are paid (which the income is no longer able to keep up with), we also have to keep money out of that aside to cover the yearly taxes of owning a business… as well as the upkeep on our work truck (which averages $5000 a year) - after that’s all taken into account, our business averages well UNDER minimum wage. It’s a shame when promises are broken that way… when there was no communication any time we reached out.

My advice to anyone choosing to start their own business in the contracting industry (if you decide to sub-contract)... get everything in writing… including the fine print. I don’t want any one of you to sink in this same way. It’s not fair to line the pockets of others while yours are running dry… especially when your profession is hands on, dirty, and hazardous. Decrease of income to the extent we suffered is unacceptable and unprofessional.

We should all be looking out for each other… that’s the bottom line… where has the respect and professional courtesy gone…

If you enjoyed reading about the insights into the pros and cons of running a small business in PA and would like to contribute towards the work of this struggling writer, feel free to buy me a cup of coffee. Everything raised goes directly towards providing meals for our family. Thank you for reading and I hope each of you have a blessed day.

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My mission is to provide the world with inspirational, educational, and real life stories. Almost everything created is done so in an editorial way. It's important to me that readers can find articles to read while feeling like they're part of the story.

Mechanicsburg, PA

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