For more than 17 years, I’ve been helping contractors learn and practice good habits. It has improved their lives, their employees’ lives and even the lives of the customers they serve.

This is my mission.

I’ve been lucky to have great mentors come into my life — without them, I’d still be struggling professionally and personally and probably turning wrenches into the wee hours of the morning. Now, that’s a scary thought!

I believe when you’re given a gift, you’re obligated to share it by giving back. I do so to honor those great mentors who came into my life and helped me see a different path.

Know that I’ve been very fortunate to work with great contractors here in the U.S. and Canada. Along the way, I’ve made a very successful consulting business by doing so. But, it’s not how I pay my bills or how I put my kids through college. I left my family business not really needing to work, but choosing to work because I believed then, as I believe today, that the work I do with my fellow contractors is still important.

Here’s the tough thing to admit. It’s way easier to preach to others about what they must do versus me continuing to actually practice those great skills and habits myself!

Wouldn’t you agree that continuing to practice your skills as a contractor and a business person takes discipline and it’s easy to fall back into old habits?

When I’m tempted to take a shortcut, blow off a meeting that I put on my calendar to work on my business and my business plan, I always hear my dad’s words, “Never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.”

It’s what pushes me to take my own good advice and practice what I preach. And to make sure I do what I said I’d do, I have my Outlook calendar loaded up with recurring meetings, tight agendas and the items that require action.

In particular, here’s a quick overview of what I continue to do that pretty much mirrors what I preach to my clients, so they can effectively lead and manage their companies and improve their own lives:

I hold a one-hour weekly “Meeting with Me” to review my 10 Golden Rules for Business and my 10 Golden Rules for Life. I do this because, like my customers, I want to make sure that I’m living according to the standards I’ve set. I also want to make sure both my business goals and my life goals are in sync and not in conflict with one another.

 

Put it in writing

I have a formalized business plan in writing. I call mine my Master Project List. It’s the 100 or so projects and habits I know I want and need to be working on over the next three to five years. It tends to grow and shrink in size as items get done and new challenges and opportunities arise. But I’m always pleasantly surprised at the progress when I look back. The trick has been having the courage to put it in writing and to look and act on it!

I have a Top 30 List of projects and habits that I want to put in place over the next year. The way I arrive at a Top 30 is to boil down the Master Project List to a tidy Top 30. On this list, I have only the projects and habits that will have either the greatest chance for me to solve a problem or challenge or the greatest chance for me to grow my company going forward. It’s hard to do, but it’s what keeps me from bouncing around and never really getting anything done or put in place. Did I strike a nerve here?

I have a very tight Top Five No. 1s that I spend time, energy and money working on at least once a week. The work on the Top Five No. 1 list is a crucial part of the “Meeting with Me.” It holds me accountable to me. The Top Five No. 1 list comes from whittling the Top 30 down yet again by using the same two filters which are: Which project or habit will give me the greatest chance to solve a problem or challenge and provide me with the greatest chance to grow and make my company more profitable.

I have enlisted a trusted outsider to look at my business objectively at least once a year. And to my great luck that person is Ellen Rohr the former PM columnist and financial expert. She and I have been meeting once a year for the past nine years. We do this because we both know how hard it is to look and see what must be done when it comes to our individual businesses. We’re too emotionally close to see it all. That’s why we need each other to bounce ideas off. We need each other to make suggestions that we didn’t think of because we might be stuck in our thinking. Our annual meetings and our periodic check-in phone calls have made both our companies stronger and more profitable. Our lives are better, and so are the lives of our clients we serve either individually or together. Make no mistake here; we’re supportive of one another but we also don’t pull any punches. That’s because we trust that the other has our best interests at heart, and most importantly, will tell us what we need to hear and not just what we’d like to hear. Holding up the mirror to someone is a gift that I’m grateful for. Thank you, Ellen!

So, how well are you practicing these business skills? Who’s holding up the mirror to you? Are you and your company continually evolving and getting better?