Al Levi inbody
Photo credit: © Cumming

Years ago, my friend, a noted industry specialist in heating and influential columnist in our trade, called me to complain that he had encountered a number of contractors who would call him up to seek his advice because they were in a bind. But no matter what questions he asked or what advice he gave them, their answers were always one of these:

  • “That won’t work. What else do you got?”
  • “I tried that years ago and it didn’t work back then so why would I try it again? Got any other suggestions?”
  • “Nope! Can’t be because I’m pretty sure I checked that out already.”
  • “Sounds pretty good but I don’t want to try it unless I know someone personally who has done it.”

What my friend had come to learn is that although plenty of contractors struggle and say they’re seeking help, many of them love the misery of complaining about things more. Having a successful result sometimes falls victim to the greater feeling they have, which is success is something that will always elude them. The sad truth is, they’re right.

A quote attributed to Henry Ford says, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t … you’re right.”

The other undermining reality is plenty of contractors won’t accept advice even when an expert is sharing his expertise with them. And that’s because, to them, the only one ever worth listening to is themselves, no matter how much failure has ensued. This flies in the face of logic because many have repeated the same missteps, the same procrastination, or used the same miswired thinking that has led them to struggle and suffer a life of misery. Many times a contractor digs a deeper and deeper hole of debt and/or does harm to his own health.

What I’ve come to learn from my work in the industry — as a contractor for more than 25 years and now as a consultant for more than 10 years working one-to-one — is that contractors exist who are just happy to fail because it’s what they’ve grown accustomed to.

Weird but true!

Avoid Negative Thinking

Failure and misery can become like a favorite moth-eaten, worn-out sweater that just feels too comfortable to toss out. What these contractors really want is to feel that the problem can’t ever be solved whether it relates to the jobs they’re working on, the business itself or their personal lives. Therefore, it can’t get any better because they believe even the “expert” can’t have the answers they need.

We have some great trade groups that serve our industry. I belonged to a very prestigious trade group when I was a contractor. What I observed is the successful can-do contractors tend to hang with one another and share what they were doing to expand their success.

At those same meetings were contractors who had scraped together the annual dues, taken time away from their business and plunked down even more money they didn’t really have, just so they could attend these meetings. Here’s what I saw a lot of them do. They sought out the other kindred spirits who also would say: “I tried that and it didn’t work for me either. What can you do? Hey, want to get a drink?”

My advice is be very careful with whom you associate. But more importantly, be extra-careful to sniff out the negative thoughts you’re thinking and the ruinous myths you’ve allowed yourself to believe and fall prey to.

Only when your mind is clear of these types of poison can any expert advice be of service to you.

An expert should have earned his status by working in the business and developing key strategies that have a proven track record of success. But keep in mind that there’s as much bad advice in the contracting world as good advice.

I’ve read that there are two ways to learn: by mistakes and by mentors.

Mentors should have earned their stature and have the testimonials from successful contractors so you don’t have to rely on their words alone about how good their advice is.

Whether you pay for advice or you take advantage of the great advice that is already out there (in magazines and on the Internet), you need to trust the person giving the advice. Then implement it the way you’re instructed to do, without all the resistance.

Otherwise, it would be like going to a doctor who’s a specialist and then ignoring his sage advice on how to get well or stay well. Mighty foolish, don’t you think?

Why Resist?

Sometimes we resist because we fear that, like medicine, advice about our businesses may be distasteful and involve changes. The sneakier thing to consider is it might just be a secret desire to prove the doctor, or the business expert, wrong. It’s easy to fall victim to loving only your own thoughts. But ask yourself, are the thoughts and actions you’ve taken so far helping or sabotaging your company?

As a consultant, I know that people have hired me and not taken the advice I’ve given them (and they’ve paid for). Or they don’t do it in the sequence that’s given despite my specific instructions. It’s puzzling to me but not unexpected. Face it, we’re all human.

I don’t know about you but when I hire a contractor to work at my home (and yes, these days I hire contractors … the thrill of being a do-it-yourselfer has long left me), all I tell him is what I want and how I will judge the project a success. What I don’t do is tell him how to do his work. I hire experts with a proven track record and plenty of testimonials.

Consider where you’re getting your information, and ask other contractors and trade groups you trust whom they recommend for help. When you know you’ve found a mentor, I recommend you listen, process and act accordingly. Follow the treatment!

The success you desire and deserve is always a step away. That step may just mean opening yourself up to sound advice and then implementing it.

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