Perspectives From a Road Warrior Business Consultant
The following is a collection of miscellaneous thoughts and ideas accumulated over 30 years of business consulting; possibly they will prove helpful to you:
• No sane person purposefully drives off a cliff. Unless they are crazy, most folks don’t purposely drive off a cliff. Not monitoring the numbers and looking at simple financial benchmarks causes many businesses to in effect drive off a hidden cliff and destroy their business. You can’t run a business in the fog. Failure to look at weekly job costing and monthly financial statements is like driving around in the dark. Once your momentum reaches a certain point, trying to stop that car before it goes off the cliff is impossible.
• Never fight with pigs; you get all dirty and they just love it. Conflict in business is inevitable. Things happen, but it takes two to fight. This does not mean you give in to unreasonable demands or be a coward. What it means is that you maintain your emotions and stick to the facts. In a dispute, the least emotional person usually wins. Some people thrive on chaos and emotional turmoil, but you don’t have to lower yourself to that standard.
• When you are knee-deep in alligators, it is hard to remember you came to drain the swamp. Day-to-day battles can be hectic and your emersion into those battles can cause you to forget what you like about your business and why you chose to be a contractor. There is a famous story about a riverboat race in which the boat that was leading the race ran out of coal for the boiler. The finish line was in sight, so they took pieces of wood from the boat itself and used them for fuel. They won the race but the boat sprung a leak and sunk shortly after crossing the finish line. The moral: Don’t lose focus on the battle and lose the war.
• Sports strategy does not come from the scorekeeper. Contractors are the coaches and strategists of their business operation. When the coach walks to the locker room at halftime and the sports journalists asks for his or her thoughts, you never hear, “I don’t know yet. I have to talk to the scorekeeper.” Yet, it is not uncommon to talk to contractors and when you ask how they are doing, they have to get information from their accountants. Accountants are scorekeepers. They don’t bid jobs, assign foremen, chose the work to be done, buy equipment or perform any type of operational activity. Coaches know the plays that are and are not working, who is scoring points and who is not. Contactors must have that same information and outlook.
• Even a blind squirrel finds an occasional acorn. Many contractors use a blind squirrel marketing strategy. They don’t know who their target customers should be and frankly found their best customers by luck. A customer happened to call, there was a good fit and the relationship just grew from that point. Successful contractors have profiled who the right customer is and are actively looking for that person.
• It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor as long as you have money. Money does not bring happiness, but poverty stinks. Money does not make you happy, but the presence of money gives you more choices and less potential stress. Contracting is stressful enough without having to worry each and every week how to make payroll. Work to have adequate cash on hand.
• It’s hard to build value relationships with prostitutes. Prostitutes come in different classes from the $50 streetwalker to the $1,000 call girl, but the bottom line is the relationship is still built on price and money, not the value of the interaction. If you obtain work by being the low bidder, don’t kid yourself into believing there is a non-monetary relationship that really does not exist.
• Never try to teach a pig to sing; it doesn’t work and annoys the pig. Employees come in all shapes and forms. Some want to be foremen, maybe even project managers. Others are content to be laborers. Others may have the right attitude but may lack the ability to be your star performer. Understand your people. Offer opportunity but try not to set employees up for failure. Also, remember that if your employees thought like you, they would be your competitor, not your employee.
• If you can’t dazzle them with knowledge, baffle them with bull. Sales skills are a totally misunderstood proposition. Selling is not about “shooting the bull” but rather about communication and developing trust. How can you develop trust if there is no substance to your communication process? Customers buy because they think you will solve their problem, not because they technically understand what you do. You take medicine the doctor prescribes because you trust the doctor, not because you understand the chemical reaction the medicine creates. Customers buy contracting with the same thought process.
I hope these thoughts provide a moment of reflection and thought it today’s hectic world. If I can be of service, just call me.