Words: Corey Adams
There are tons of contractors out there looking for help. They turn to peer groups, consultants, friends, and a host of other sources. Some good, some not so good, but they all have their place. When you are active in these situations, you tend to get recurring questions. Most of them are basic questions about contract language, marketing, employee attraction, etc., but by far, the question I see the most is “What is the best advice you can give an owner?”
At face value, the question seems simple. What would your best advice be? The first time I was approached with this question, my mind began to explode. How do I pick just one thing? Should I touch on quality control? Fiscal discipline? Or maybe we should discuss professionalism? I didn’t know.
I had to pause. There are multitudes of lessons that a construction business owner needs to learn. Most of them are not mutually exclusive with each other. You can do good work, but without at least a basic marketing bone, nothing will happen. You can be extremely profitable through good work and marketing, but it is a ticking time bomb of failure if you have zero fiscal discipline.
One day while reading a book on getting through to difficult people, I had an epiphany the size of an atom’s mushroom cloud. It took me a while to finally get my scrambled thoughts to agree on an answer to the “best advice” question. The answer had nothing to do with the business and everything to do with us as owners. Keep your mental health on the right track.
Our mental health is the most important part of running a successful business. If you’re like me, you have ridden the roller coaster of entrepreneurship. Ups, downs, and sometimes corkscrews. The mental fortitude it takes to leap into ownership is just the beginning. The constant pressure of contracts, employee management, quality control, and financial responsibility is enough to break even the strongest of us. That is why my best advice is to focus on correct mental health.
So, what helps our mental health? This is by no means a complete list, an absolute list, or the panacea to mental health struggles among business owners. Everyone has different triggers, pain points, and mental exercises that we use to keep focused. Here are some things I like to do for myself.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew. We are only human. Never overpromise your company’s ability to perform a project. Time, budget, or quality. Know what you are capable of and stick to it. Over-promising is a quick way to add undue stress to an already stressful occupation.
- Sleep. It sounds simple, but seriously, get some sleep. Invest in a good mattress and force yourself to go to it. Reading before bed is a great way to take your mind off the day’s activities and prepare your mind for rest.
- Talk it out. Find people you trust and discuss things with them. This can be other owners, consultants/mentors, or anyone that has a perspective towards what you are trying to accomplish. We as business owners often think that we need to think our way through a task and keep it internalized until we have the correct decision. This wreaks havoc on our mental health. We are not alone. There are tons of people that have been there and are willing to help. Find them and talk to them.
- Time management. Structure your time to structure your thoughts. Do not check your emails 75 times a day. For example, only check and respond to emails at 7 am, 11 am, and 3 pm. A structured time will keep you from losing focus on the task at hand.
- Single Task-Oriented. Honestly, I am pretty good at multitasking, and I know that sometimes this is a must as a business owner, but it isn’t the most productive skill. Setting yourself up to only handle one task at a time is key to upping your productivity. When you begin to feel overwhelmed, pick a task, then do it. No distractions, no excuses. Completing even a simple task gives us a sense of productivity and pride.
Your mental health is your greatest weapon, and keeping it in a positive position is key to not only success but a long, happy, and fulfilling career as an entrepreneur.