By George Hedley
Several years ago, I made a resolution to take charge of my business life, put my priorities first and focus on building loyal customer relationships. I committed to work smarter, get organized and in-control, focus on the 20 percent that produces 80 percent of the results, delegate as much as possible to my employees, spend 33 percent of my time with customers, and get home at decent time.
When Monday morning rolled around, I was excited and got to work early. I made a list of all the things I had to do and prioritized them into three categories: must do, should do, and don’t have to do. Then guess what happened at 8:30 a.m.? I started to get calls and emails putting demands on my time. People were requesting I attend meetings, customers had immediate needs, superintendents were having problems with subcontractors, the concrete crew was sitting around waiting for concrete, and one of our trucks had broken down. So I did what I always do: I went out and attempted to fix everyone else’s problems for them.
When I finally got back to the office at 4 p.m., I realized I had missed lunch and my desk was piled with at least 25 new requests, notes, invoices, voice mails, and files requiring my immediate attention. So much for getting to my priorities! Then, my best customer called and asked me to play golf with him at his private country club the next morning. He wanted to introduce me to his banker and talk about his next project. How could I play golf? I didn’t have enough time in the day. I have to fix everyone’s problems and put out all these fires.
The Top 2 business priorities
Decide to be bold. Do what you know you have to do. What are your top priorities? Are they in your calendar? Are you going to do something about them? In order to stay focused on what will make the biggest difference in your business, step back and take a hard look.
In my opinion, business is simple. The two most important priorities are to find customers and then keep customers. Finding customers involves everything to keep profitable revenue coming in the door. Finding customers includes sales, marketing, estimating, presenting proposals, customer appreciation, schmoozing, networking, and what you do to build loyal customer relationships. This area is often overlooked in construction businesses. Most construction company owners focus on bidding work, and then getting it done. As a top priority, finding customers cannot be delegated easily. Customers want to know who they are doing business with.
Keeping customers is all about doing a good job and meeting your customers’ expectations and contractual requirements. This top priority is an outcome of a well-organized and systemized operation led by a professional management team and well-trained employees. This area of your company can be managed by a professional management team that implements your business mission, philosophy, organizational systems and procedures. But, without great systems in place, delegating operational tasks is impossible.
Hire pros to grow
Here’s an email I received from a plumbing and heating contractor in Santa Fe, N.M., who saw me present to a large group of local contractors. He wanted to share some things that work for him: “Fire the idiots! But, more important, I found two top-notch working foremen and convinced them to come to work for me. I had to offer them about a 50 percent wage premium over market wages. I had to raise my open hourly rates significantly, and I charge them out even higher on bid work. Guess what? Virtually no customers were lost, my percentage of really excited customers soared, and I was free to do what I do best: sell jobs! They run their jobs, ask me an occasional question (perhaps just to flatter me) and I give them free rein. After this experience I realized that if I have to go to a jobsite for a reason other than boredom, curiosity or public relations, I don’t have the right man on the job. Find the right people, give them the right resources, set ‘em free, and never look back!”
The fastest way to get your company organized and focused on keeping customers is to hire the best and give them the task of getting the work done. Great people do cost more money, but take less time to manage than weaker ones. Plus, you’ll never be able to get your business to grow beyond the capacity of your top people. Professionals will make you money. You can’t continue to do it all yourself. Sell your truck or backhoe, lease a used one, take the money, and hire a professional to help you.
Put your priorities to work
Don’t just talk about it, get started and do it! Continually ask yourself if what you’re doing is a good use of your time and money. When you do things you shouldn’t be doing or don’t like doing, your business becomes a drag. Activities that are not rewarding drain your energy. Exciting tasks and activities included in your top priority list are rewarding and actually invigorate you. When you are moving toward your goals, improving your business and seeing progress, you will get excited about your future. What are your Top 2 business priorities? Remember that your #1 priority is to keep your No. 1 priority as your No. 1 priority!”
George Hedley is a licensed professional business coach, popular professional speaker and best-selling author of “Get Your Business to Work!” and “The Business Success Blueprint For Contractors,” available at his online bookstore. He works with business owners to build profitable growing companies. Email firstname.lastname@example.org” title=”mailto:email@example.com“>firstname.lastname@example.org to request your free copy of “Winning Ways To Win More Work!” or sign up for his free monthly e-newsletter. To hire George to speak, be part of his ongoing BIZCOACH program, or join one of his ongoing Roundtable Peer BIZGROUPS, call 800-851-8553, or visit www.HardhatPresentations.com.
George Hedley, HARDHAT Presentations