Growing Pains

If you are like most contractors, you dream of growing your business. You may want to get out of the bucket and turn production over to others. You may want to hire a salesman or office manager. You may want to add another crew. Regardless of your own particular goals, growth can be a painful experience if it isn’t managed properly. And the key to properly managing growth is having systems.

Growth necessarily entails delegating tasks and responsibilities to others. If we want to get consistent, desirable results, then we must have systems in place to ensure that our employees are taking the proper actions.

When I first began delegating responsibilities, I often lamented the fact that my employees didn’t do things the way I wanted. It took me a surprisingly long time to realize why—I hadn’t trained them to do things the way I wanted. I assumed that they would somehow know. That erroneous assumption led to a lot of growing pains. Systems won’t eliminate all of the pains associated with growth, but systems will minimize those pains.

With systems in place, we have a process for handling the myriad issues that accompany growth.

For example, if we add another crew, we need to sell more jobs. And to sell more jobs, we need to generate more leads. When we sell more jobs, we have more customers to keep informed. We have more paperwork to keep organized. Without systems, we could easily find ourselves dealing with an endless stream of emergencies, jumping from issue to issue in an effort to put our the latest fire.

But with systems in place, we have a process for generating leads, for selling jobs, for communicating with customers. Fewer things fall between the cracks. We can be proactive and manage the company’s growth, rather than be reactive to the crisis du jour. And that is a lot less painful.

Breaking the Bottlenecks

If you are like most painting contractors, few days pass without some frustration, stress, or problem. These issues are symptoms of a bottleneck—actions or inactions that are restraining or constricting the attainment of your goals.

Bottlenecks are a part of owning a business. The dynamic nature of business guarantees that we will never eliminate every bottleneck. But we can eliminate many bottlenecks and reduce the impact of others.

Unfortunately, we often treat the symptoms rather than the cause of a bottleneck. The pain may go away today, but if the cause is not addressed, it will return again and again in the future. The same cause leads to the same effect.

If we want to end this cycle of frustration and stress, we musadt address the cause. We must break the bottleneck.

Our manual, Breaking the Bottlenecks, provides a systematic process for:

  • Identifying the root cause of a bottleneck
  • Identifying the actions necessary to get desired results
  • Identifying potential negative consequences of proposed changes
  • Implementing the changes necessary to resolve the bottleneck

Breaking the Bottlenecks does more than provide solutions to specific problems. It provides a system for solving any problem, large or small. It provides a new way to look at problems and find creative, long-lasting solutions.

This powerful 32-page manual is available in PDF for only $6.99. Upon ordering, you will receive an email from BEP Enterprises with download information.

Finding the Root Cause

We understand that, all things being equal, the same causes always lead to the same effects. But often we fail to act on this knowledge. We tell ourselves that this time is different. We convince ourselves that a particular problem was an aberration. We rationalize, and we procrastinate. And we fail to address the cause. The extent to which we fail to address the causes is the extent to which the effects will return again and again.

Addressing causes means much more than pointing fingers or casting blame. Certainly, there are times when an employee really messes up. But such situations are more rare than we often believe. And even when employee error occurs, that is seldom the root cause.

The root cause is the most basic or fundamental source of an undesirable effect. It is the action or inaction that starts a chain of events resulting in the symptom of a bottleneck.

Often, when faced with the symptoms of a bottleneck, we look for a quick solution. This is understandable. We want the pain to go away. We want to extinguish the fire. Unfortunately, that is all we do. We make the pain go away, but the cause remains. And the pain will return sooner or later.

If we want to find the root cause, we can’t be content with the first thoughts or explanations that we have. We must dig deeper. We must probe and play detective.

Consider a common experience among painting contractors—running short of paint at the end of a job. If we ask why this happens, a typical answer is that insufficient paint was ordered. This is certainly true, buy why was insufficient paint ordered?

If we stop with our first thought, our inclination will be to simply order more paint. But how much more? And should we do this on every job? If we start ordering extra paint for every job, we could see our material costs explode. And that’s not good either, particularly if we don’t need the paint. We will have simply exchanged one problem for another.

But if we probe deeper, we can find a better solution. Continuing with the above example, let us assume that you find that the amount of paint ordered matches the quantity estimated. But that amount is sometimes insufficient. We now have a clue for further investigation. Does the material shortage occur on certain types of jobs, such as interiors or exteriors, with greater frequency? Is the shortage occurring with a particular product more than others? Questions such as these can help
us identify trends, and trends can lead us to the root cause.

Suppose we find that the vast majority of our shortages occur with exterior trim paint. We now know to look at the spread rates we are using for calculating material needs, as well as the application methods of our painters. If we are calculating 400 square feet per gallon, but are painters are applying the product at the rate of 300 square feet per gallon, we have a discrepancy that needs to be addressed.

By probing deeper and finding the root cause, we are able to find a solution that eliminates or greatly reduces the problem forever. And it does so without creating a new problem in the process.

The Four Quadrants of Change

Change can provoke a mixture of emotions. It can fill us with excitement, and it can fill us with fear. It offers promise of a better future, and it carries with it the risk of uncertainty. It is not surprising that many people do not eagerly embrace change.

This can be particularly frustrating to business owners. We want to improve our business, and improvement means change. Yet, we cannot improve if our employees resist the necessary changes.

We often think that it will suffice to tell employees how beneficial the change will be. But the benefits of change are only one aspect that must be addressed. If we want employees to embrace change, we must address all four quadrants of change:

  1. The benefits of change
  2. The pain of change
  3. The benefits of the status quo
  4. The pain of the status quo

The failure to address all four quadrants is one of the biggest mistake that business owners make when trying to improve their business.

Consider a simple example: buying a new truck. The benefit of the change is a dependable vehicle. The pain the cost. The benefit of the status quo is the absence of a monthly payment. The pain of the status quo is the undependability and cost of maintenance.

If we don’t consider all of these, we may not make the best decision. If we only consider one of them, we are making a decision out of context. For example, if we look only at the benefit of the change, we are ignoring the cost. If we look only at the pain of the change, we are ignoring the cost of maintenance on our current truck.

The same applies to any change. This is particularly important when we want others to embrace change that we advocate. Further, we must address the four quadrants as they relate to others.

For example, we may think that a particular change will be good for the business. But how does that pertain to our employees? If we want them to embrace the change, then we must look at the pros and cons from their perspective. Only then can we effectively promote and implement change.

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