Words: George Hedley
Several years ago, I made a commitment to take charge of my company, put my priorities first, and focus on building a business that works for me. I committed to work smarter, get organized, be in-control, focus on things that produce bottom-line profits, delegate as much as possible, spend more time with customers, and get home at a decent time! When Monday morning rolled around, I couldn’t wait to get to the office. I got to work at 6:00 a.m. and made a list of all the things I had to do. I prioritized these tasks into these categories: Must do – Should do – Nice to do – Don’t have to do.
Guess what happened at 7:30 a.m.? I started to get calls, faxes, and emails putting demands on my time. People were requesting I attend meetings, customers had problems needing immediate attention, project supervisors were having subcontractor problems with needed my attention, one of our field crews were sitting around waiting for the concrete to be delivered, and one of our trucks had broken down. So I did what I always did: I went out and tried to fix everyone else’s problems for them. When I finally got back to the office at 4:00 p.m., I realized I had missed lunch and my desk was piled with at least 25 new requests, notes, faxes, invoices, call slips, and files requiring my immediate attention. So much for getting to my priorities! Then a good customer called and asked me to play golf with him at his country club the next morning. He wanted to introduce me to a banker and talk about his next project. How could I play golf? I didn’t have enough time in the day. I had to fix everyone’s problems and put out all those fires to keep jobs moving and the crews busy.
What’s your top priority and #1 focus?
If you’re like most business owners, this has happened to you. You have good intentions and want to change the way you operate, but can’t make it happen. What’s on your ‘must do, should do, nice to do, and don’t have to do’ lists? The real question is “What will make your company successful?” A ‘Best In Class’ business is never built on good intentions. It happens when the business owner stays focused on what really matters. As you observe successful and profitable business owners who have their act together, think about what’s their primary focus, how do they spend their time, and do they get to their priorities?
When you observe successful business owners, you notice they live their priorities. I have a very successful business friend who owns a major construction company we compete against. His company is continually recognized as providing the best service and quality in our marketplace. Plus, he makes lots of money, and seems to have lots of time for his family, friends and customers. He surrounds himself with a top management team. He makes customers his top business priority. I see him at the golf course weekly with a foursome of well know business executives and customers. He annually hosts numerous customer fishing trips to Alaska and other outings. In addition, he takes several extended vacations with his friends to great golf resorts, and weekends with his wife and children on a regular basis. He is truly living his priorities. And his personal and business bottom-line is doing very well as a result.
Check your priority scale!
When you put immediate business pressures first, you don’t have time for the important things that make you the most money and give you the greatest returns. Continually ask yourself:
– Is this a good use of my money, my time or my energy?
– Is this activity moving me towards achieving my targets and goals?
– Am I doing what I should or want to be doing?
– Am I living my priorities or someone else’s?
It is meaningless to waste energy on doing things right, while doing the wrong things. The more problems you fix for others, the less they do for you. Employees work for their boss. The boss doesn’t work for employees. As soon as you realize the reason for having employees is to get them to do what you want them to do, allow you do grow your business, allow you to make more money, and allow you to work on your top priorities, the sooner you’ll start getting your business to work for you.
Only accomplishing YOUR priorities will make your business successful. But, if you never get to them, your business will continue to struggle and you’ll have to keep doing all the ‘important’ work yourself. The more you do, the less they’ll do! The more you do tasks that your employees should be doing, the less you’ll make! What are your priorities this week? What will make you the most money and give you the greatest return over the long haul? What activities will give you the greatest return – taking a loyal customer to a major league baseball game or sitting at your computer and ordering all the materials needed to keep your employees working today?
Why is it so difficult to get to your priorities?
Make a decision to start putting your priorities first. Set a date, and then do it – and stick to it. When I first started my business our motto was: ‘Do a good job for the customer and the money will come.’ But I eventually realized when I always put customers first, I was putting myself last. How can you truly help your customers when your business is totally dependent on you, your employees can’t make a decision without asking you for the answer, and you have no personal life?
Several years ago I discovered and wrote out my life purpose statement. At that time it was:
“Help other people achieve their goals.” It’s awesome when you discover what turns you on in your personal and business life. It keeps you focused and becomes a beacon and map to guide you towards what really matters in your daily activities. For several years I worked hard as a general contractor helping others by building buildings for them. But after fifteen years of building great projects, putting my customers first, and taking care of employees, I realized I was getting tired and worn out as my personal priorities were being neglected.
I was giving my all in the service of others as I built my company. What was missing was the realization that I also needed to get what I wanted along the way. I had to make a change in how I conducted my business and lived my life. I sat down and rewrote my life purpose statement. My new and improved life purpose statement fulfils my needs now:
My life purpose is to help other people achieve their goals so I can achieve mine!
If you aren’t moving toward achieving YOUR business goals, how can you do the best for others? For example, if you work 80 or 100 hours every week getting everything done for everyone else, doing routine paperwork or the estimating yourself, downloading your own plans, calling subcontractors or suppliers for quotes, preparing submittals, working hard to schedule and supervise crews, ordering material deliveries, covering for supervisors who aren’t allowed to make decisions without your approval, or chasing money to pay the bills, your business will be continue to be in the stress zone. If you aren’t getting a great return on your time, how can you make a profit, build your business, and reach your financial goals? If you have to make all the simple decisions for your employees, review every purchase or contract, or make every sale yourself, how will you ever have enough time to enjoy the benefits of business ownership? If you let other people (employees, customers, vendors, landlords, partners, etc.) control your calendar, how will you decide what you want to or should do every day? Successful business owners and managers do what they do best and hire great people to handle the rest.
To grow your business profitably, decide your role to achieve your goals:
- What should your priorities and role be?
- Where can you get the biggest return on your time?
- What do you like or want to do?
- What are your business strengths and what role should you be doing?
- Where activity should you stop doing?
Most business owners are not good at managing people.
And they falsely think they’re the only person capable of handling every business task required to keep their company going, including sales, operations, pricing, scheduling, finances, and management. So they continue to multi-task poorly, simultaneously performing roles they shouldn’t be doing. When I was building my business, I mistakenly thought I was a pretty good people manager but continually struggled to get employees to do what I wanted them to do. In reality, I was a horrible manager and have a tough time making employees accountable or responsible. I waited way too long before I fire anybody. Because I wasn’t a gifted manager and have poor people skills, my business suffered and had lots of employee turnover. This caused my company to struggle as I tried to manage people by controlling them and using my tough style. One of my biggest mistakes was not hiring an excellent operations manager to handle the people and operations and let me stick to what I’m good at: leadership, estimating, and customer development.
Make tough decisions!
What about you? What business activities and roles are you good at and which ones should you NOT be doing? Stasrt doing what you should be doing to build a better business! When most entrepreneurs start their companies, they take on every role on their organizational chart. As they grow, they hire employees to help them get the work done. But they don’t really delegate any of the accountability or responsibility. Spend your time on what you do best and what gives your company the biggest return: leadership, sales, customer relationships, motivating employees, leading your management team, or monitoring operational systems. As your business grows beyond your ability to be in charge of everything, decide what position you need to fill next. In anticipation of growth, don’t hire cheap! Surround yourself with the best managers you can find and pay top dollar. Hiring cheap will stunt your growth and force you to take back accountabilities and responsibilities you transferred to your key employees.
Decide to be bold. You know what you have to do, so do it now! In order to stay focused on what will make the biggest difference in your business, step back and take a hard look. Analyze your current employees, and their strengths and weaknesses. List out the opportunities for improvement and the key success factors that will allow you to grow profitably.
Put your priorities to work!
Why haven’t you hired experienced professionals to help grow your business? I know you can’t afford it, but when will you? Professionals will make you money. You can’t continue to do it all yourself. So do it! Sell your car, truck, or backhoe, lease a used one, take the money and hire a professional to help you. Don’t just talk about it, get started! Continually ask yourself if what you’re doing is a good use of your time, money, talent or energy. When you are moving towards your goals, improving your business and seeing progress, you will get excited about your future. What’s your #1 priority? Go make it happen!
As a professional construction BIZCOACH and popular industry speaker, George Hedley helps contractors increase profits, grow and get their companies to work! He is the best-selling author of “Get Your Construction Business To Always Make A Profit!” available at his online bookstore at www.HardhatPresentations.com. E-mail GH@HardhatPresentations.com to sign-up for his free e-newsletter, join a peer mastermind BIZGROUP, attend a BIZ-BUILDER Boot Camp, implement the BIZ-BUILDER BLUEPRINT, or get a discount for online courses at www.HardhatBizSchool.com.
George Hedley CSP CPBC
Phone: (800) 851-8553