Define 'success,' then go for it!

Everybody wants to be “successful.” However, it seems most people have difficulty defining their particular version of success. Definitions range from selling a business for millions of dollars, to becoming debt-free, to simply getting some time off. That's a pretty wide range, so the steps to accomplishing different levels of success are going to vary significantly for each individual.

Regardless of what your personal vision of success may be, it will be almost impossible to reach if you can't describe it - in detail; you have to know what you are striving for to be able to reach it. So before attempting to get beyond dreaming about success, take the time and energy to be specific about what you desire.

Be specific, in terms of effort, assets, how you spend your time, etc. If you can't picture your goals, you are behind where you should be in attaining them. Do that now, and then you are ready for the next step. Accomplishing great goals begins with small steps.

Add Power

Mentally identifying and clarifying your goals gets you moving toward achieving the success you have defined. The next step adds another powerful dimension to the process. You must take advantage of this additional force if you want to progress. Write down your goals. For a reason I can't readily identify, writing down your goals makes them permanently inscribed in your mind, and they become part of your subconscious thoughts as well.

When you reduce the goals to writing, you become more focused on them, you further clarify them, and you are more likely to pursue them. In fact, if you don't do much else but write them down, you will increase the chances that you will reach your goals. Write with a pen or on the computer; either one will work. Keep a printed copy in front of you as you work every day.

However, there is more that you can do. Let's look at the next few steps to follow to further contribute to achieving your goals.


Most hardworking service and repair business owners and managers tend to shy away from the “P” word (planning) because they are busy, have higher priorities, or don't like to spend valuable time working on something that may seem distant and intangible. They have technicians to deal with, customers to keep happy and financial concerns - the usual day-to-day activities. But you can't omit the planning step if you want to assure reaching your defined success goals.

The planning stage has two important inputs that you need to address. First, you need to identify specific actions that will move you toward your goals. Then, you need to determine the resources, time, training or other activities that will permit you to accomplish each goal. The process is easier to understand with specific examples, so say you want to increase your profits, a common goal.

There are only a few basic actions you can take to keep more of your business revenue. For more profits, you can either increase revenues - more business or higher charges for the same volume of business - or cut expenses. Combining all three can be a much bigger leap than just focusing on one at a time.

Let's select increasing prices (even with the same number of jobs, more revenue is generated). This action often makes business owners nervous because they may state, or at least suspect, that customers will run to the competition. Rarely does that occur. A caution note, though: Offering the same level of service (your “product”) and expecting more for it may be a challenge unless you are pricing well below the market now. So what do you do to reasonably expect more for your jobs?

Naturally, you are going to offer more value to the customer. Since that is an overused word and too general, let's determine what will allow you to legitimately justify receiving more for the service and repair work your technicians perform.

Resources, Time, Training

Now we proceed to the next step of our plan - applying the resources, time, training or whatever else it takes to make the specific action part of our plan work. If you are going to expect more for the same job, it can't be the “same” job. Customer service must be better for the same part replacement or maintenance work.

It's interesting, the customer often evaluates what he perceives as “service work” in a different way than people in the trade do. They may, for example, view the technician's appearance, ability to explain the pricing and neatness of the cleanup as representative of the quality of the job, regardless of the technician's expertise at installing a fixture. Understanding that perspective - the customer's - we can easily add more value and more quality to the service and repair work. Let me give you some more examples.

Training technicians so they can comfortably show the customer the flat rate manual (sharing the book so the customer can see the job description, the price and any savings from service agreements or add-on jobs), is one way to add value to the customer's experience with your company. Another way is to implement a professional diagnostic approach to determining what needs to be done, showing the customer that your company doesn't just start tearing things apart. Pricing the job with a real price before any work is begun shows the customer you have his concerns in mind - more value for the customer.

Even the arrival, parking and appearance of the technician can influence the customer's decision about the value of the job and your company. If the technician doesn't block the customer's driveway, doesn't damage flower beds and arrives at the door with a friendly greeting in a clean, professional-looking uniform, the customer will recognize that your company is a top-quality service company. Better quality commands - and justifies - a higher price, just like any other company the customer deals with.

Assembling The Plan

The example used above is only part of a typical success plan. Increasing revenues is a key part of such a plan, but there are other elements as well. For instance, training your technicians to sell service agreements fits right in with generating more revenue per job. And, like the professionalism that must be instilled in your technicians to justify the professional-level pricing, you must commit resources and time to assure your technicians are trained to sell service agreements. (Technicians often tell me the agreements sell themselves when you use a flat rate manual that lists the savings next to the price of the job for service agreement customers.)

By combining several goals and the resources to accomplish them, you will painlessly assemble a plan for success for your business. Making a strategic plan for your business will not only increase monthly and annual revenues, but increase the value of your business. Designing and implementing a good plan shows you are an effective manager, attending to long-term goals, not just putting out “fires” on a daily basis.

Examples of other goals could include more effective call-taking and dispatch. The resources, time and training for those goals can pay off just like the pricing goals did.

Another goal could include evaluating poor-performing employees, and either training them to perform as needed or discharging them. Still another could include reaching more customers - increasing the number of jobs, as well as increasing the revenue. This goal would require some marketing planning and a commitment of marketing resources.

Cost savings could complement the other goals. One way to cut costs would be to improve inventory control, which may include an automated inventory control system or a better stocking program for the trucks, so fewer trips to the supply house are required.

Soon you will have several aspects of your business plan that work together to make the business more successful. Less costs and more profits, but it all begins with a single concept or goal that you want to apply.

Final Step

Excellent plans are not effective unless they are written down. Plans that succeed are dynamic; changes are implemented as needed for changing conditions. Dynamic plans are reviewed and strictly followed.

The final step toward success: Make a commitment to follow the plan. The plan by itself, without commitment from leaders, is not enough. Design the plan, then commit to implementing it fully.

Seeing that you can begin to achieve success with a simple stroke of the pen should motivate you to apply the principles I mentioned to your business. The hardest part is to pick up that pen. After that step, simply follow the process, and success will be yours.