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

Founder and president, TROCO Custom Fabricators


Founded in 2002, TROCO specializes in architectural and sculptural metal fabrication while also working with glass and other materials. The St. Louis-based company creates custom architectural elements for residential and commercial applications, including customized stair and railing systems as well as large components for outdoor sculpture installations. Its client list includes Edward Jones, the St. Louis Blues and Panera Bread.

The Mistake:

Not paying enough attention to the accounting side of the business.

When I got into my business, my passion was building things and design. There were things I just didn’t look at as much as I should have, such as accounting and taxes. It was actually something that really had a heavy effect on me several years down the road as my business grew.

I had an accountant handling all my accounting and wasn’t paying much attention to it. I was handing everything over to him and things were not being handled properly. It was probably the biggest mistake I ever made with my business – not being more focused on the accounting aspects of the company.

It’s really important to know where every penny is spent. You can look at the end of the month and say, “Oh, I have so many dollars in the bank and I have these bills to pay.” But I wasn’t really gauging, from month to month, what I was doing. Without that, it’s really tough to forecast anything or look back at previous years.

You find out as you go along that accounting really is at the heart of your company.

The Lesson:

It all came down to making sure that accounting was handled properly and having the proper people working for me. It affected cash flow. It affected taxes. It was something that was really difficult for me to figure out because I had no experience with it. You find out as you go along that accounting really is at the heart of your company.

I was really fortunate to find somebody who grabbed me and said, “Hey, these are the things that have to be done now.” She put me on a schedule for things that had to be taken care of. We also started handling things differently in the shop and made sure that we knew everything was accounted for, everything that was coming in here and going out, down to paper towels for cleaning the office.

She’s moved on, but she did an awesome job as far as getting things set up properly. It’s something that business owners don’t want to talk about because no one wants people to know they weren’t taking care of their books properly. But the woman I worked with, that’s basically what she does. She moves from company to company helping businesses out.

I was always so in tune to making sure we build things properly and had the cool design work. You just feel as long as you’re getting paid and you’re paying your bills that you’re OK, but that’s not always the case. You have to make sure that you understand where all your money is going and where it’s coming from. I’ve just seen my company flow so much more efficiently since we’ve been able to look at our monthly and quarterly reports to see where we stand and we can project where we want to be next year.

If you had asked me seven or eight years ago about the most important part of the business, I probably would’ve said quality and design. All that’s really important, but really, the heart of the business comes from accounting. Now, I go over the books with a fine-tooth comb and I wish I would have back then because I think I would have gone a lot farther a lot faster.

Photo courtesy of TROCO Custom Fabricators.

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