Many years ago, Dan Holohan called me at the end of a very long workday. He said, “Al, what business are you really in?”
I answered, “I'm in the heating business.”
Dan replied, “No, you're not!”
In a New York sarcastic voice, I responded, “OK, Dan. What business am I really in?”
Without hesitation, Dan said, “You're in the comfort business. Al, the railroad tycoons thought they were in the railroad business. That was their big mistake! They were really in the transportation business. And if at anytime they had realized what business they were really in, they could have owned the entire airline business!
“Al, to avoid this happening to you, you need to spend 15 minutes at the end of each day thinking about what business you're really in, what business you should stop doing and what business you should be going into.”
A couple of days later, I began to reflect on what Dan said. The words of advice helped me to redirect the company, so we focused on doing the work we should be doing for the people who were truly our kind of customers.
It got my family and me to recognize that we were, indeed, in the comfort business. And that meant we needed to provide more of the comfort services our customers were seeking from us.
We expanded beyond heating and started providing plumbing and cooling solutions. We called our newly formed division Comfort Specialists. Because that's the business we're really in, and it's also how we saw the level of professionalism we brought to the trade.
What's the best way to maximize the effectiveness of your 15 minutes at the end of each day?
Start by following the great advice contained in “Good to Great,” written by Jim Collins. In his book, he talks about the Hedgehog Concept. It's about looking at the answers to the following three questions as circles and discovering where they align:
- 1. At what can you be the best in the world?
2. What drives your economic engine?
3. About what are you deeply passionate?
Do Something For Yourself
Did you know that adding 30 minutes more at the end of the day to focus on something other than business can have a positive effect? If you spend 15 to 30 minutes at the end of your day devoted to just unwinding, it'll have a positive effect on your family life!
Isn't it fair to say that there's a lot of pressure dealing all day long with difficult customers and employees? And isn't it also true that if we're not careful, it can drive us crazy trying to balance our family life with our business life? I know I struggled to get my head and my heart in the right place in the course of a 24-hour day.
Here's what you need to learn to do: Use those extra 30 minutes for yourself. Either do something or do nothing. Let the day fade away before you go home to be with your family.
For me, when the weather was nice, I loved to hit a bucket of golf balls at the driving range. You might like to hit the gym or just relax by listening to music. The point is to do something or do nothing to unwind before you get home. Otherwise, the problems of the day at work ruin the precious little time you get to be at home with your family.
Even if things are lousy at work, your most important clients - your family - want their turn to have your full attention. They want to be heard, and to do that, you must be mentally and physically ready to listen.
That's hard to do when you know that after dinner is done, you've got hours more work to do putting together price quotes, doing paperwork and a whole lot more. But, those 30 minutes to unwind before you get home will make all the difference in both your business success and the success of your family life.