You need a well-designed plan - a yellow brick road - to make sure you’re heading in the right direction.

Welcome back! In last month’s column, we talked about how contractors certainly have the hearts, the brains and the courage it takes to enter the profession.

That’s a great start, but it may not be enough to provide a great finish.

As a business mentor, I have one more thing to do and that’s to help contractors use their hearts, their brains and their courage together to execute a sound business plan. Without such a plan, these valuable traits left alone and apart might even trip you up down your own version of the yellow brick road.

Ready to learn why you haven’t been as successful as you want to be? To find out why, answer all three questions below honestly:

1. Have you been skipping a beat in the heart department lately?

Are you burnt out and feeling the passion for the work slipping away? Are you at war with customers and employees instead of seeing them as allies in your journey?

To regain your heart, your passion, you need to stop thinking about what you’re not getting and start being thankful for all you have. Think about those who have entrusted their wellbeing to you - your customers and employees. They recognize you for the heart you have, and they have chosen to align themselves with you. Be that person they see. Rekindle your heart by first being thankful that your customers and your employees have chosen you.

Hire new, young staff based on willingness and a positive attitude. Provide them with the training that will build their skills the right way. Their can-do attitudes will reignite your own passion as you move toward inspiring others to be their best. You will rekindle the fire that drove you when you first started out on your own.

Reinvent the way you spend your day by first tracking how you’re spending your time. Find out if there are things you can delegate or outsource altogether so you’re free to work on the business rather than working in it.

Add some fun to your day. Create some games and contests for yourself and your employees as motivation. Let the positive competitive juices flow. Celebrate their wins, and coach them when they fail so they can win the next time they play. Post each month:

  • How many new accounts you signed up;
  • How many customer satisfaction letters you received;
  • How many special items you were able to sell.
The important thing is to work and play as a team. Find something to do as a group - such as fishing, bowling or even paint ball - that will bond you as a team.

Look in the mirror and let yourself see again the passionate person you once were. Inspire others by inspiring yourself first.

2. What have you been thinking about when it comes to using your brain lately?

Do you have a real business plan in place? Follow these words of wisdom, “Plan to succeed or plan to fail.” And my new favorite saying from Ellen Rohr, “Plan or be planned for.”

Maybe you do have a new business plan. Congratulations! But is there a new plan formulated just about every week? If so, there are too many plans at work and that leaves your staff disenchanted and stalemated. They’ve been trained to wait and watch you change your mind. It’s kind of the way they describe England’s weather, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute. It’ll change.”

Your brain can easily get overloaded with too many things to remember and too much knowledge coming at you. It must be sifted and filtered to make sure it fits. Your yellow brick road needs to be paved with systems that are repeatable and in writing. Get buy-in by letting your team fine-tune the process with you. This way we get to download all the good knowledge locked up in your brain that empowers others to help you while your brain power is freed up to work in new ways.

The way to get paralysis by analysis is to take too much advice from too many different sources. Any system beats no system, but not all systems work together. Would you build your dream car with a Toyota engine, a GM car frame, a Mercedes transmission and parts from a junkyard? Why would pulling a business plan from different books, DVDs, workshops and consultants work any better?

3. Where’s your courage been hiding out lately?

If you have created a well-designed plan to get the success you want, what’s holding you back from implementing it? Is there a lack of commitment causing you to procrastinate? All of it comes from not applying the courage you have within you. It takes courage to attack your areas of weakness.

Here are just seven key areas where most contractors drag their feet:

  • Creating a business plan with measurable goals and objective tracking.
  • Creating a set of standards and holding people accountable to them.
  • Learning the basics of business finance.
  • Creating a well-tuned marketing plan.
  • Becoming better at selling.
  • Trusting and empowering others.
  • Becoming great at recruiting, hiring, training and retaining staff.
You won’t be successful if you don’t have heart, brains and courage because it takes all three.

Hey, if all it took to be successful was being smart or passionate, there’d be a whole lot more successful contractors out there. And if all it took was being courageous, there’d be a whole lot more successful contractors out there.

Use the heart you already have, use the brain you already possess and apply the courage that’s always been in you to make your life less stressful and more successful.

And where should you implement all of this? Remember, there’s no place like work … there’s no place like work … there’s no place like work.