Lessons for success from contractors all across the nation.

No, I'm not talking about a Coors. The “silver bullet” I'm talking about is what industry leaders, trainers and consultants say all contractors are looking for.

To a contractor, a silver bullet is the one thing he thinks will magically fix everything that's wrong or not working at his company.

Well, I won't keep you in suspense.

I don't have a silver bullet in my arsenal either. But, here's what I do have for you from traveling around the country meeting and working with some of the best contractors:

  • Even the best companies don't do everything perfectly. There are too many disciplines that go into running a successful business. We have financial, marketing, sales, sales coaching, leadership, operations, staffing and training skills to master, and we have to master them all at the same time. That's juggling a lot of balls in the air at once.

  • They manage to do enough of the right things often enough. They are strong in some of the fundamental skills they need to have and proficient enough in the other areas that they succeed. Most companies have either a strong focus on the operations and technical side of the business or they have a strong focus on the marketing and sales side of the business. It's rare that they are strong in marketing, sales, operations and technical work at the same time.

  • There is always great management that knows how to inspire the staff and get buy-in. The owner has learned how to properly delegate a project and communicate with the managers to create a lot of help in working toward success.

  • They know how to prioritize. They decide what few key things they must work on and discuss how to intelligently create solutions. They know how to do this because they value what each one brings to the table, and they hold one another accountable for contributing something to the process.

  • They know they're either getting better or they're getting worse. So, they recognize the value of innovative products, services and advice that will make them better, and they're willing to spend the time, energy and money to do whatever it takes.

  • They have a clear reward-and-consequence system. That means everyone knows what they have to do to keep their jobs. They know what they have to do to get rewarded, and they know how long they can miss the mark before getting coached and eventually sent packing.

  • They know the key numbers to track. And they are dogged in their determination to track it all the time. There's no guessing and no skipping. They know the numbers that matter most to operating a successful business and they base their business decisions according to these facts, not the fiction of what they'd like them to be.

    But the most important factor I have found is the one that makes all the difference between those who ultimately succeed and those who don't. It's the ability to make a decision and act on it in a timely manner, to create a plan of action and then do it.

    We've all seen other companies talk an issue to death. Maybe they even create a plan of action but they never pull the trigger on much of anything. Instead of six guns blazing, their gun is still in the holster. It takes the heart out of everyone. Nothing else is more deflating. And by waiting, the decision gets made for them. Waiting to react has limited their options. They are doomed to play catch-up if they can.

    Why would a business choose to be reactive instead of proactive? It's the fear of being wrong. That fear is so powerful that it undermines the best plan of action. They lack the determination to plan, to implement and then trust that they can make the necessary adjustments to make it work.

    How should you get started? List all your projects on one form. Then senior management needs to select only the top five priorities that will either solve your biggest challenge or provide your biggest opportunity for growth. Create a plan of action together.

    Now, go show them you mean business. Take the gun out of the holster, take dead aim, take a deep breath and squeeze the trigger.