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.

Your Price is Too High

Suppose your customer utters that bane of contractors everywhere: “Your price is too high.” How do you respond? If you are like many contractors, you say something like, “It’s a lot of work.”

“Your price is too high” might seem like a pretty straight forward statement. But what does it really mean? It could mean:

  1. I have lower prices from other contractors.
  2. That is more than I want to spend.
  3. That is what I am supposed to say as a negotiating tactic.

These mean very different things. If we start trying to defend our price without clarifying the customer’s meaning, we could literally talk ourselves out of a job. So, let us consider a different approach.

A professional contractor should expect his price to be higher than most of his “competition.” He shouldn’t hide from that fact, and he certainly shouldn’t be defensive about it. Instead, he should treat it as a source of pride—he has earned it.

Consider the following reply: “I’m not surprised. In fact, I’d be more surprised if I wasn’t the highest price you have received.” Rather than apologize for your price, wear it as a badge of honor.

Defending your price tells the customer that you aren’t confident in what you are charging. And if you aren’t confident, the customer certainly won’t be.

This doesn’t mean that you can charge arbitrarily inflated prices. But if you are offering superior value, you should charge accordingly. If you got it, flaunt it.

 

Negativity and the media

If you listen to the media, the world is coming to an end. Unemployment is up. The stock market gyrates like a roller coaster. Gas prices are up. Uncertainty abounds. It’s enough to make someone depressed.

While many of these things are real, we don’t seem to hear about anything good. We hear about the bad things going on, as if that is all that there is.

Some say that the media focuses on negative stories because that is what sells newspapers and attracts viewers. I disagree. I think the media focuses on negative stories because they have a very cynical view of life. They believe that success is an aberration, and life truly consists of groveling in the muck and mire to eke out a meager living.

I think that it is important to stay informed. But that does not require reliance on the mass media. The Internet provides an abundance of news sources. (But just because it is on the Internet does not mean that it is true.)

I get my information from many sources– the newspaper, radio, television, the Internet, and more. I do not accept what I read and hear uncritically– I integrate it with what I know to be true, what I observe, and with my knowledge of economics, philosophy, politics, and other subjects.

Much of what we hear in the media is motivated by an agenda. Much of what we hear is only half of the story. Keep that in mind the next time the media tells you that the world is coming to an end. Not all of it is.

Making it through tough economic times requires the same business principles as making it through good economic times– marketing, selling at the right price, cash flow management, and more. Do the right things– in good times and in bad– and good things will result.

Pursuing your passion

I have been asked why, if my systems are so successful, I bother with sharing them. Why don’t I simply keep the information to myself and build a painting dynasty? This is a legitimate question.

The implication of the question is that my systems aren’t all that great and I am just trying to make a quick buck. Given the proliferation of people on the Internet doing this, I am not offended.

I would like to emphasize that I do not advocate a particular system as much as I advocate systems. There are multiple ways to accomplish a desired result, and my way is not necessarily the best way for you. Your goals are different from mine. I use my systems as examples, which you should modify to fit your goals and circumstances.

Certainly I am trying to sell information. I have spent thousands of hours studying and developing systems. I have spent tens of thousands of dollars attending conferences, buying books and tapes, and obtaining training. The information I have is valuable.

A number of years ago I conducted several workshops for the Certified Contractors NetWork on systems development. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and realized that training/ teaching/ coaching was an unrealized passion. That experience gave birth to Out of the Bucket.com.

Over the past few years my interests have also changed. I no longer enjoy owning and operating a contracting business as much as I once did. As a result, I have scaled back my business so that it demands less of my time so that I can pursue other interests, such as consulting, writing, and real estate.

Unfortunately, many people have a passion that they never pursue. They promise that they will do so “someday” and that day never arrives. They lock themselves into a profession or career, and even if their interests change, refuse to reconsider. Life is too short to spend our working hours in a pursuit that we do not enjoy.

One of the great things about owning a business is that we can literally create a business that allows us to pursue our passion. That is what I have done, and will continue to do. You should do the same. You should pursue your passion. And just so you know, systems are the key to doing it.

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