This article is not about my golf game! I bet you’re relieved to know that.

Why use the example of never making a putt I didn’t think was going in? Because it ties to our thoughts as business owners. When I’m thinking negatively on the golf course, things don’t get better, they get worse. So why do we think negatively? It’s just a bad habit. And like all bad habits, they can be altered or eliminated. But we need to recognize them for what they are first.

The point is that as long as you allow negative thoughts to hang around in your head, you’re unlikely to get the results you really want.

When I was learning to be a technician, it wasn’t my skills that would sabotage me; it was my fear and negative thinking. It was only when I learned to be confident that I could be freer to do my work.

I learned about the importance of using positive thinking and language — with myself and others. This has followed me into my consulting career.

A while back I was having lunch with a good buddy of mine who works in the supplier side of the business. We started out talking about our families, what we were up to at work and then, as usual, we got around to talking about the contracting industry in general.

He put down his hamburger, stared at me and then a genuinely curious look crossed his face as he asked me: “Al, you work and interact with so many contractors from so many different trades from all around the country. Why aren’t more of them successful with all the great information that’s out there?”

I stopped for a moment and then replied: “It’s not a lack of information that’s holding them back. I base that on the loads of emails I get from contractors and the numerous consultations I’ve done. It’s a lack of implementation. And it’s hard for them to do for many reasons. So many contractors cut themselves off from ever experiencing the joy of owning and running a successful business by their negative thoughts. The words they use about their businesses and often their personal lives are what I call the Seven Terrible Thoughts.”

“That makes a lot of sense,” my friend nodded. “What are they?”

Here is what I shared with him:

1. “I’ll always have to work hard just to eke out a living.”

2. “I’ll never make any money in this business.”

3. “Nobody charges what they need to charge, so I can’t raise my prices either.”

4. “There isn’t anybody here who wants to help me. In fact, they sabotage my every effort.”

5. “Customers are only interested in the cheapest price.”

6. “Customers and staff are always trying to pull a fast one on me, so I may as well take what I can from them, too.”

7. “It won’t work here, no matter how successful it’s been elsewhere.”

Rewiring your words

How often do you find yourself thinking or saying anything like those negative thoughts?

Here’s a quick exercise I like to do with clients to uncover these issues so we can work together to rewire their words and thoughts to ones that help rather than hinder them.

• Take out a clean piece of paper and take five minutes to write out all the negative messages you catch yourself thinking or saying to yourself.

• Go as fast as you can so you don’t try to filter yourself.

• Take out another piece of clean paper and put it next to this list. Try to rewrite each of these negative messages by replacing each with a positive restatement. One trick is to avoid words that are negative in themselves, such as “stop,” “won’t” or “can’t.”

• When you’re done, go over to the shredder and watch yourself carefully as you insert the paper with the negative messages. This will reinforce in your mind a picture of these destructive thoughts being destroyed forever.

• If you want to do it in a more dramatic way, you can take it outside and set it aflame and watch your negative words go up in smoke.

Seeing them obliterated is key!

Keep the positive statements someplace you can look at them each day before you begin your workday. Remember, be kind to yourself and know you’re bound to stumble and go back to negative words and thoughts, but also know you’ll catch them quicker.

Want to really get good at this and change your business and your life?

Do this exercise again a year from now. I’ll bet you will find it easier to bring the lingering negative thoughts to mind, and convert them quickly and effectively into powerful positive statements!

This article was originally titled “Importance of positive thinking” in the May 2015 print edition of Plumbing & Mechanical.

Being a contractor is tough!...

Well, it doesn’t have to be…but don’t take my word for it. Here’s what just one client had to say:

“Why is running a commercial and residential service and install business so hard? Why can’t employees do what I need them to do? After all, it’s just common sense…isn’t it?

Truth is, I love being in business. I’m excited to design solutions to the problem and acting on these solutions. All great stuff until I’m faced with the frustrations of day-to-day business.

With the work our company has done with Al, I came back from a vacation and the GREAT thing I found was that the team had kept the progress of what we are doing going forward. It was as if I was still there. Boy, this is really nice! Also, speaking to the CSRs, the busy days went really smooth ... much better than in the past. Better customer satisfaction and the employees are working more efficiently. Everyone sees the improvement and likes it!”


— Dave Dalpe, Owner, Victory Mechanical, Bellingham, MA