Have you ever watched the gerbil in the pet store window on the little wheel going around and around? He works endlessly but never seems to get anywhere. He mistakenly believes that hard work and running faster will produce the needed results. A spinning wheel of tiring and futile activities consumes his poor little life.
Ever feel like that gerbil? Do you have days where you drive home and feel like the business won? Did you at one time believe things would be better, and yet it only seems like you work harder and harder to get where you are and you are not even sure where that is anymore? While everyday may not seem that way, frustration can make even the best of contractors question the big picture.
So how do you escape the treadmill? How will next year be any different if you continue to do the same things over and over? Hard work alone is not the answer; you must be willing to change. When you are already busy and have more than you can do, change is really difficult to achieve. The following are some thoughts regarding the direction you can take.
Pick Which Hills You Need to Die OnRunning a business is an endless battle of issues and constant fire fighting. Only by carefully prioritizing your targets can you be successful. You cannot fix everything at once. Trying to do it all will only result in more hopelessness and frustration.
Take a moment and look at what is causing you the most trouble. Divide your problems into three categories: financial, sales and marketing, and production. I always recommend starting with the financial. Carefully look at which jobs are returning the most gross profit per day or per hour. If you have more work than you can do, raise your prices and see if that helps. Look at your cash flow. If you need more cash and are under capitalized, avoid government and new construction contracts that tie up your money for long periods of time. Get the money right. If not, you will keep trying to fix production or attempt to use sales volume to save you.
Use the numbers to decide which hills you need to die on and then fight that battle. The good news is that financial battles are won and lost quicker than you might think. Developing systems and people takes time, but if your problems are as simple as realizing that you lose money on certain types of work, the fix may be quicker than you think.
Divide and ConquerContractors tend to be control freaks. As the business grows and the pie gets larger, it is impossible to maintain control. The treadmill circle gets larger and larger with no hope or end in sight.
If you have more than you can do, decide where you need help. You may need an administrative assistant. Maybe you should upgrade the foreman position and have better crew leaders. Hiring more managers may not be the answer. Instead, you want to clearly define what others around you need to be doing and make sure they do it.
If your systems and organizational skills are poor, you will only increase your overhead and compound your problems by adding bodies to a poor system and organization. For example, if you have weak foremen, hiring a production manager may simply double your cost as the production manager visits from site to site and tries to do the foreman’s job.
As they grow, too many contractors become overpaid administrators and babysitters. If you need to go by your foreman’s job to make sure he is doing what he needs to be doing, then you simply have a foreman who is not doing his job. If you file bills and schedule your own appointments, you are doing the job of a $12 an hour administrator. How could you ever hope to be getting off the gerbil wheel if you are doing things that a clerk or a delivery person could do?
Avoid IsolationMany families have a crazy Aunt Edna who stays at home and watches Jerry Springer because she is too afraid to go out in the real world. The more she worries and thinks about it, the more she reinforces her warped perspectives of the world. “Stinking thinking” is a direct result of solitude. If you believe and reinforce your own thoughts, you can lose perspective.
Find other business people to share ideas with. Look for mentors and coaches to bounce ideas off of. You could join our networking groups but that sounds pretty self-serving. So, let’s take another approach. Call up three of four other subs and see what their issues and problems are. Meet once a month to trade ideas and information. Find a successful businessperson in your town and pay that person to coach you. You may also want to hire a business coach.
Don’t run around that treadmill alone. Find someone to coach and cheer for you. Isolation is not a good thing.