If it sounds too good to be true…

…maybe what you consider to be good or true is skewed. Sometimes things are so good and so true that people just don’t want to accept it. They may be weighed down with skepticism or shackled by fear.

For example, what if I told you that you could buy rental real estate for $150 and generate cash flow of $120 to $150 a month? You would probably think that this sounds too good to be true. You’d be right that it’s good. You’d be wrong that it isn’t true. I’ve done it twice in the past 4 months and I’m going to do it again in March. And what if I told you I’m going to buy another property for $0 and it’s going to generate the same type of cash flow?

My point here is not about real estate. My point is about your mindset, and that applies to any business endeavor, including painting. Indeed, it applies to life.

You’ve probably heard all kinds of claims about real estate, internet marketing, selling vitamins, and countless other businesses. And if you are like me, you probably dismissed most or all of them. Certainly there are people making outrageous claims that could never be true. There are also—on occasion—people who make outrageous claims that are true. The “trick” is to identify which is which.

Outrageous success usually requires outrageous claims. For example, the Wright Brothers made an outrageous claim—they could build an airplane. Henry Ford made an outrageous claim—he would build an automobile that the masses could afford. These men, and countless others like them, made claims that were considered outrageous at one time. But their claims were true and they proved it.

So, the fact that something sounds outrageous or too good to be true is not a valid reason to reject it out of hand. And that brings me to the real point of this email.

Growth, in any form, requires pushing boundaries. It means venturing into unchartered territory, doing something new, challenging the status quo. Physically, our growth from a helpless little baby into an adult happens automatically. But our success in business and in life is not automatic. It is a consequence of the choices we make.

If you want to grow your business you must push boundaries. You must try new things—at a minimum things that are new to you. And sometimes this means embracing ideas that seem outrageous or too good to be true.

As an example, years ago the late Richard Kaller was a prodigious poster on various Internet forums, including those for painting contractors. He challenged conventional thinking and often made claims that seemed outrageous, such as claiming that painting contractors could and should sell their services for $50 an hour or more. He was regularly and routinely chastised, called a snake-oil salesman (and worse), and subjected to all forms of verbal abuse.

On the surface many of his claims were indeed outrageous. But when I looked below the surface, when I looked at the full context and the reasons for his claims, they made sense. Increasing your prices from $30 an hour to $50 an hour is preposterous if nothing else changes. However, if you consider the full context the claim makes perfect sense. If you understand that customers buy value, that to command a higher price you must offer more value, that you must communicate that value and its benefits to the customer, then you can see that $50 (or more) is not outrageous.

I certainly don’t mean to suggest that every claim is valid and warrants protracted consideration. But to reject ideas out-of-hand simply because they are new and challenge our thinking can be very limiting. Sometimes what seems too good to be true just requires a new perspective.

Sometimes you have to break your rules

Developing systems for your painting business is an important part of long-term success. Having specific steps for performing the myriad tasks within a business helps to insure consistent and desirable results. But sometimes, following those steps too rigidly can create problems. Sometimes the rules may need to be broken.

Bill Hogg provides an example. He submitted an article, which was promptly rejected because it did not meet certain guidelines. After considerable explaining on Hogg’s part, the publisher finally relented and published the article.

The publisher had a perfectly valid rule in place. But in this particular instance, that rule was defeating the purpose for which it was implemented. In other words, the rule was not achieving the desired results.

There are times when we must break the rules. Of course, if we do this too often the rules become meaningless. But if we drop the context and follow the rules, no matter the outcome, the rules are equally meaningless. Rules are not intended to be commandments to be followed no matter what. They are established to be applied in a specific context.

When we establish procedures we must do more than just state what we want done. We must explain why we want it done–what results we are seeking. Not only does this provide clarity to the procedure, it also helps us and our employees identify when the rules should be broken.

Do you know where you are going?

I started my painting business somewhat unintentionally. At the time I was a free-lance writer, a profession that didn’t pay particularly well or consistently. One day I helped an acquaintance pressure wash a house and concluded that this could be a flexible part-time business. So I printed up some crude fliers and pounded the pavement.

For the first several years I focused almost exclusively on pressure washing. I would clean houses one or two days a week, hand out fliers for a few hours on other days, and had plenty of time for writing. My business served my ends very well–it provided a modest but steady income and allowed me ample time for writing.

Over time customers would ask me about other services, such as minor carpentry, painting, and handy man type tasks. As I expanded my services I found myself unable to keep up and began hiring. I also found myself spending more time thinking about business than writing and realized that I was enjoying the process of building a business.   I will be the first to admit I was pretty clueless about running a business. I couldn’t read an Income Statement or Balance Sheet, I didn’t know how to estimate, and I knew little about painting. But, since my ends were changing–since I now wanted to build a business more than write–I set out to learn about running a business.

This was years before the Internet, and the process was slow and laborious. I spent a lot of time picking the brain of anyone who could offer help. I read books and magazines. I came up with lots of ideas–some of them so silly that I am now embarrassed. I probably made every mistake imaginable, and perhaps a few that can’t be imagined.

Like many contractors I grew increasingly frustrated with my business. No matter how hard I worked or what I tried, things just didn’t go right. I spent lots of my time dealing with emergencies, fixing problems, and baby sitting my crews. I slowly began to realize the source of the problem–me.

My goals for the business were vague. I didn’t know where I wanted to go with it or what I wanted it to provide for me. In other words, I didn’t know what ends my business was supposed to be serving. That began to change when I read the E-Myth.

It was easy for me to say that I wanted to grow my business. For years I had established specific growth rates, written business plans, and constructed elaborate spreadsheets. But there was one question that I failed to ask: Why? Why was I doing this? Why did I want to grow my business?

The implicit answer to these questions was: To make more money. But even that was an insufficient answer. Money doesn’t buy happiness, though as David Lee Roth once said, it can buy you a boat big enough to sail right up next to it. I then asked myself another question: If I could spend my time doing anything I wanted, what would it be? If I didn’t have to work for a paycheck, what would I do? That, I realized, is the ends my business should serve.

As a business owner, you can create a business that serves your ends, whatever they are. But before you can do that you must first identify your ends. First you must identify where you are going. Only then can you figure out how to get there.

Using the right tool for the job

If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning. If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the evening. If I had a hammer, I’d hammer all over this land. I don’t know about you, but thinking about doing all of that hammering makes me a little tired. If I had that much hammering to do, it might make sense to invest in a nail gun.

Don’t get me wrong, I like hammers. In fact I have 6 different hammers, ranging from a 12 ounce claw to a 20 pound sledge. Hammers are great tools. They allow us to drive nails and break things. But sometimes there is a tool that works better than a hammer. Sometimes there is a tool that will get the job done faster and more efficiently.

Unfortunately, many small business owners hammer away all day long and never spend a few moments looking for a better tool. They think that old ball peen they inherited from their father is the only tool that will work.

While that hammer may do the job, it has its limitations. You could use it to break up a concrete slab, but it would be a slow, laborious task. But in a figurative sense, this is precisely what many small business owners do.

Rather than using the available tools to build a better business, they plod along doing things the same way as their predecessors. Rather than take advantage of the technology available today, they use an abacus to do a computer’s job.

The ironic thing is, they are basically using their forehead as a hammer. They are beating their head against the wall and then wonder why they have a head ache. If they’d only pause and reflect on their situation, they might realize that their head can be used as more than a hammer.

Page 3 of 812345...Last »