Finish What You Start
Let me describe a contractor and see if he sounds familiar.
He has big plans. He sees the potential in his business and his market. He just knows there is an opportunity to hit it big in this industry and really grow a company that stands tall among all the local competitors. He looks around his market and does not see any single company that has accomplished more than he believes he is capable of.
He smiles when he thinks about the “what could be.”
The smile turns to a frown of consternation when he thinks about the present day. There is just so much to do. There is marketing to work on. This whole Internet thing sure is a lot of work and tough to figure out.
And there is so much to do regarding truck layout and design. Where do the bins go? How big? What parts to stock? And the warehouse - don’t get him started. The list is long.
Then there are so many things to do with employees. Who should he hire? Where is he going to find them? Once he finds them, how does he train them? If he finds them and trains them, how much should he pay them, and should he include some kind of incentive program?
Next is the software. He thinks he should upgrade, but there are so many choices and he really doesn’t understand all the functionality of what he currently has. Neither does his bookkeeper, who blames the software for every accounting error.
This contractor also attends industry trade shows. There is no shortage of good ideas and he is bombarded by all kinds of business-improvement products. He sees all the new trenchless technology for both supply and drain piping, advances in water-conditioning equipment and thinks he should get serious about expanding his business with these new products.
Finally, he keeps current on all the industry trade publications and reads all the “guru” columns. Each month he gets some new information and ideas on how to make his business better. The tips on how to train better, sell more and manage more efficiently hit him like darts each month as he reads the trade magazines. The list of business improvements continues to grow.
Remember, he wants to run a great business. He would even like to have a couple different locations spread across the state, if truth be told. He knows he has to implement all of the above ideas. So what does he do?
He starts them all. In no particular order, he starts working on all of them - pay plans, marketing, truck and warehouse improvements, new product introductions, software. Of course, he doesn’t get very far.
Every day he wakes up with good intentions. But then the day starts and he tends to a customer call, troubleshoots a couple problems over the phone with a technician, runs to check on a larger job, picks up a part for that job, takes in a truck for an oil change, talks to a backslapping sales person who walks into his shop and before you know it, it’s 5:30 p.m. Time for a beer and some rest for his weary brain.
None of the projects that make a long-term difference in his business have moved forward. It is like this day after day, week after week, month after month. Busy, busy, busy!
And when he looks back on the year, the business really has not progressed. He still has the same number of technicians, the same annual revenue and the same low profits and owners’ compensation.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Do what successful contractors doIf you analyze the traits of successful contractors in our industry, they have the ability to finish what they start. They do not have a 100-item list of business-improvement initiatives in their heads that are never put into operation.
One of the critical differences between successful contractors and the vast majority of the businesses in our industry that chronically under-perform year after year is the ability to get business improvements done and successfully implemented in their companies.
Lack of implementation is so common that when I see successful implementation, I am almost startled!
Working as a business coach for Nexstar, every contractor I work with has the absolute best intentions. There are very few contractors who reach our organization who are not ambitious and willing to work. What also is common is most contractors seek out help not because they lack good ideas, but because they lack the ability to get those good ideas started.
For the vast majority of the contractors, this lack of implementation is not a question of ability, but rather a lack of organization, discipline and accountability.
If you suffer from “lack of implementationitis,” consider a simple business-planning implementation list to help you get started and stay on track. You can read all kinds of books on how to improve your business. You can hire expensive consultants to map out an implementation plan for you. Or you can just follow this simple outline and make your business better.
This is a commitment to your company. No try. No might. You will get these done. Now assign what can be termed a “drop-dead implementation date.” Write that date next to the item. Pretend if you don’t get these done, you will lose your company. They have to be that important to you. Here is what separates successful contractors from the rest: When they commit to a date, it is written in stone and not subject to change. This is where you likely have been failing short. You have not been serious about an implementation date and, as a result, projects drag on and on and on. It is time to get serious about setting and hitting deadlines.
Return to the list and take the next projects and repeat the process.
Use the format in the table above to illustrate how to set up a project-implementation plan and document your progress.
Remember, the key difference between a highly successful company and the average company in our industry is the level of business improvements each has implemented. Get to work in 2011 and finish everything you start!