I’m fortunate to soon be going on a magnificent fishing trip to Alaska. An acquaintance commented that I sure was lucky. This got me thinking about luck, because I think luck has little to do with it. Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s, was credited with saying, “Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat the luckier you get.” I have lead a successful life but I think it has more to do with hard work, curiosity, a willingness to change and taking advantage of opportunities, than mere luck. Don’t underestimate how little things and a willingness to change can dramatically impact your success.

Efficiency matters. Thirty-five years ago, I saw the need to learn how to efficiently type and expand on technology. I’m absolutely awful at technology. The joke around the office is that I can break a computer simply by touching it. It was and is not easy. However, it’s made a huge impact on overhead and my financial success. After a couple of years, I was able to eliminate an administrative position at $30,000 a year. You do the math; $30,000 annually times 30 years is a lot of money. In addition, I was able to hire good help rather than someone who retyped my awful handwriting. Are you proficient with a keyboard and process information, or still inefficiently hunting and pecking? With voice recognition, it’s gotten even easier. Are you and your project managers as efficient as they should be? Don’t be a dinosaur. 

Seizing Opportunities

Twenty-seven years ago, I ran a group consulting meeting with the goal of merely selling some type of income for the slower summer season. There was no grand networking scheme. I simply saw how well the concept worked and built the business from that moment. Today, we have approximately 185 contractors — each from a unique geographic area and the group represents over $72 million in owner’s income and profits. What’s interesting is that every single thing we’ve done to help our networking contractors was to fill a specific need, not for me to generate a buck. I was making money speaking and consulting. Building the networking group was never just about money but rather using passion and skills to fulfill a need. Helping people succeed is very fulfilling and purposeful. Are you chasing income without passion or purpose? Are you so caught up in your day-to-day business that you miss opportunities? Don’t lose your passion to help others and be the best roofing contractor you can be. Do something well and fulfill a niche; profit will follow.

Winter is always peak season for contractor consulting and speaking. I’ve been sold out every winter for over 30 years. One day while watching TV, I saw people on the beach in Australia at Christmas. It hit me. They speak English in Australia and New Zealand and our seasons are opposites. I went on to develop a following in those markets, traveling there to speak on numerous occasions. I went there not for vacation but rather to help people and build a business. The commute was longer but the work was very similar. Are you doing things to promote your business opportunities in the offseason or are you so busy with your season that you simply run out of work with it too late to do anything different? 

Be Willing to Change

In 1980, interest rates hiked to 18 percent. I lost my best two customers within a two-week period and no one wanted to learn about cost and accounting. Sales and marketing was the rage. I knew nothing about sales and marketing but I taught myself with a vengeance.

I set my alarm at 4 a.m. and used the first four hours of each day to teach myself new skills. I still made it home at night to see my kids. Soon the business began to rebuild itself. Are you keeping up with new products or just doing business the same old way? If not, do you have young people in your organization who want to grow and improve?

The contracting business is good. The majority of the industry is swamped with work. Don’t let this bull market drive you into complacency. The market will slow down or competition will grow to meet the current needs and make it harder to succeed at the same old, same old. Is your business evolving or are you just chucking numbers at the demand and puttering along? Use the good times to invest for the bad times. Stay ahead of the game, don’t be complacent.

By the way, I do believe in luck. In 1976, I was working for Daniel Construction as a cost analyst on a job that was winding down. Soon I was going to be unemployed. I took an outdated, semi-toy typewriter and sent a letter to contractors looking for work. I received a reply from a successful subcontractor who had started a hobby business helping other contractors. I went to work for him and built PROOF Management into a business. So yes, I do believe in luck — but luck did not send that letter. Only by seeking opportunities can you continue to grow and succeed.