For years, restaurants and home service contractors have been in competition for a rather uninspiring crown: the greatest number of business closings. (It hovers around 20% per year.) This is never pretty.

A creative chef opens a restaurant with very high hopes, though he placed too much emphasis on the curry-flavored ice cream, and soon enough, it’s gone. Dashed dreams and a funky smell lay just inside the “closed” sign.

An aspiring technician decides he wants to do contracting “his way” because his boss has the IQ of a sand flea and even worse people skills. But, he soon realizes that it’s actually helpful to sell something at a profit. He should’ve realized this before his truck payments were six months behind.


The three legs

There are three legs to any business — lose one and you lose out. People fall in love with the first one, dabble at the second one, and generally fail themselves and the business by overlooking the third one.

It is the basics, the fundamentals, the process of working these three legs that spell success or failure. You will not find a successful business that ignores them.

I’ll cover the first two quickly, since a) they’re not sexy, and b) I know enough about them to know I needed to hire people who understood them.

Technical proficiency. This is about quality product, quality skills, production efficiency, and the ability to do the “thing” you’re in business for. Great food at a restaurant, repair and installation from a contractor, and brakes and exhaust service from Midas, for example.

If you fall totally in love with this item, you are destined to remain a “technician” — the chef, copywriter, mechanic and candle maker. But business growth is not in your future until you discover the next one.

Business operations. This is the structure, the organization and the management of people, product, prices and profit. If it can be counted, it’s here: staff number, inventory, equipment, dollars and hours. It’s all input and output with presumably enough left over to call it a living.

Obsession here leads to system paralysis where forms are created to keep up with forms and there are meetings to discuss meetings. Though necessary, this part of the business has caused me to mentally create torture devices for the practitioners, none of which seem adequately painful.

Yet there won’t be any operations to fund, profits to count or technicians to employ without this last one.

Marketing and sales. Unless you’re selling door-to-door, the order is important. Sales come from leads; leads come from marketing. Every dollar you now possess or will earn in the future started as a lead. Not enough leads? You’re going out of business, and it’s just a matter of how soon.

Some goobers tell me, “Oh, I don’t do any marketing,” and I want to see if I can detect light by looking in their ears. If you have a sign, a business card, or visibly demonstrate good work, you’re marketing. It just depends on how much and how efficiently it’s fueled.


Making observations

Recently, I was at a national conference where I conducted a seminar and hosted an exhibit. We had perhaps 120 to 150 exhibit visitors, and their conversations could be grouped to create order and patters. Here’s what I observed:

  • One group focused on tools, technicalities, the craft as king, regulations and the latest equipment.
  • Another group focused on management, pay plans, the organization as king, structure, and hierarchy.
  • A third group had the first two things in place but focused on completing the triangle with sales and profit. Our discussion turned to marketing and lead generation.

Yes, many came to see the way to simply market while multiplying results, but it was most interesting to see what we all already know: You get what you focus on.