As you are well aware, our incredible industry has been experiencing massive growth for the last couple of years. We have been seeing contractors post record months for both sales and profitability at unprecedented levels. It seems there has finally even been a shift from how this industry is viewed from the outside. Our industry has become dinner conversations for bankers, private equity firms, strategic partnerships and so many more like never before.
What does this mean when it comes to you and your own business or career? What are the specific lessons you can learn whether you plan to keep your business and work in this industry for another 20 years, or you’re a part of a combined “rollup” and you can’t wait for the day you finally exit? As the CEO and founder of The Blue Collar Success Group, I have the great opportunity to consult in every aspect of this business as well as help leaders and owners create behavior change and navigate the speed of change we are all involved in right now.
One of the areas I am blessed to be able to create value for industry leaders is by helping them see the differences between what they perceive reality to be and what reality actually is for them and their own unique experience in life and business. With so many conversations and so much focus being placed on massive growth, this month, I want to offer you some perspective regarding some misconceptions when it comes to scaling up in business.
Misconception No. 1: Knowledge is enough
Growing up blue-collar and getting into this industry at only 23 years old, I was led to believe that I needed to know more stuff. I felt that as a broke drain cleaner by myself in the truck, working as hard as I possibly could work, I just needed to learn more about what to do. And I was absolutely right, but only to a point. I hired my first consultant only two years after starting my business and began a career-long quest of being shown and taught things that I didn’t know. This is great, and I’m a huge fan of knowledge. Heck, I even run an education business for the trades, but I’ll also be the first to remind you that education and knowledge don’t mean a darn thing! This may surprise you or seem harsh, but I think we can agree that it’s only the implementation of what you learn that matters. I see contractors learn new things all the time and keep doing the same things they’ve been doing over and over again. We all know that is the definition of insanity. Don’t let yourself or your team fall into the trap of believing more knowledge will solve your lack of implementation issues.
When you get clarity about these three [misconceptions], you can allow yourself some space to grow your own business — or department you lead — at the right pace.
Misconception No. 2: Just because you can, you probably should
As driven business leaders, we have a tendency to believe that more is always better. Unfortunately, this is absolutely false. If I’m not very profitable, adding more lines of business, more sales, service calls, installs or whatever simply gives me a whole lot more not very profitable work. I recently recorded an episode on my “Leadership in a Nutshell” podcast called “Myths of the Masters.” I encourage you to check out this episode where I expand upon this critical point regarding profitable growth. More is not necessarily good, it’s simply more. We want to add more of the right stuff. Years ago, I asked one of my mentors the best possible way to grow my plumbing business. He asked me the following question I ask you now: “What is the most profitable thing your company does that generates the least amount of complexity?” He answered the same way I will answer you today, “Go do a whole lot more of that thing!” In today’s world of information overload, technology and free-flowing capital, it’s become harder than ever to remain focused because you can do so many things, offer different services, add locations, etc. Just make sure you remain committed to being the best at what matters most.
Misconception No. 3: A bigger business will eliminate frustration
We have been taught the right answer regardless of the question is always to grow, grow, grow! While I sincerely believe that as human beings, we have an innate desire and need to grow, I don’t believe it always has to do with top-line revenue. I believe our internal purpose as humans is to elevate our own levels of consciousness. As businesspeople, we happen to utilize our businesses and careers as a platform for understanding our own conscious levels, as well as identify growth opportunities.
Think about the current size of your business, revenue, trucks and profitability. Was there ever a time when you thought if you could just get to the level you’re at today, things would be easier, you’d be less stressed and team members and clients would no longer frustrate you? If you’re like myself and countless other leaders, you have a tendency to fall into a trap of thinking that gratitude, success and fulfillment is just on the other side of the current level the business is currently experiencing. As you and I have both proven time and time again, this is simply not true. Don’t get me wrong, bigger business can absolutely help you to navigate some frustrations, but only if you can lead effectively at that desired level. Business never eliminates frustrations. How you think, act and feel is the only thing that can truly eliminate any frustration.
There are countless misconceptions when it comes to growing a business — these are just a few for you to think about. When you get clarity about these three, you can allow yourself some space to grow your own business — or department you lead — at the right pace. Yes, you need knowledge, but the only thing that creates sustainable change is effective implementation of that knowledge. Trial and error. To do is to know. What have you learned recently that you need to take action on?
When you try to do too many things at once, nothing gets mastered. Yes, you can do all kinds of things, and you might even do many of them well. But remember, just because you can, or are capable, does not mean you should. What are you truly great at? What do you enjoy the most? What makes your company and service stand out from the competition? Do more of these things!
Recently, I received a great lesson. I had three back-to-back coaching calls in one day. My first call was with an operator of a $3 million company, and he was frustrated. My second call was with the president of a $25 million company, and he was frustrated. My third call of the day was with the chairman of the board of a $400 million company, and yep, he was frustrated as well. A bigger company does not automatically eliminate frustration, my friend.
Remember why you started your business or this career. Revisit who you are and what you enjoy the most in this industry. Realize that the size you’re currently operating at is the exact right size for you at this moment in time. Relax a little bit, take a little pressure off of yourself and make sure you are enjoying this great game of business we have all chosen.