by George Hedley
Several years ago, I made a New Year resolution to take charge of my business life, put my priorities first and focus on building loyal customer relationships. I committed to:
- work smarter, get organized and in-control
- focus on the 20% that produces 80% of the results
- delegate as much as possible to my employees
- spend 33% of my time with customers
- get home at decent time!
When Monday morning rolled around, I was excited to go to the office. I got to work early at 6:00 a.m. and made a list of all the things I had to do. I prioritized these tasks into three categories: must do, should do and don't have to do. Then guess what happened at 8:30 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 superintendents were having problems with subcontractors and wanted my help, the concrete crew was sitting around waiting for concrete to be delivered and one of our trucks had broken down. So I did what I always do. I went out and attempted 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 twenty-five new requests, notes, faxes, invoices, call slips and files requiring my immediate attention. So much for getting to my priorities! Then my best customer called and asked me to play golf with him at his private country club the next morning. He wanted to introduce me to his banker and talk about his next project. How could I play golf? I didn't have enough time in the day. I have to fix everyone's problems and put out all these fires.
If you're like most construction business owners or managers, this has happened to you. You have good intentions and want to change the way you operate everyday, but don't make it happen.
- What's on your 'must do' list?
- What's your top priority?
- What's your #1 focus?
- What will make your company successful?
You do what you do!
People do what they want to do. People live their real priorities. Actions speak louder than words. A balanced and 'On-Purpose" business life is never built with unfulfilled or good intentions. It happens when the business owner or manager stays focused on what really matters to insure long term success of the company. As you observe successful construction business owners who have their act together, think about:
- What characteristics set them apart?
- What do you admire about them?
- What is their primary focus?
- How do they spend their time?
- Do they get to their priorities?
- What is their key to success?
- Why are they successful?
- What do they do that you don't?
- What don't they do that you do?
When you look at successful people, you find they are living their priorities. I have a very successful business friend I admire. He owns a major construction company. It continually is recognized as the best in its' marketplace. Plus he makes lots of money and still has lots of time for his family, friends and customers. He surrounds himself with a top management team. His business is based on quality loyal customer relationships and he makes customers his top business priority. I see him at the golf course weekly with a new foursome of well know business executives. He annually hosts numerous customer trips to Alaska fishing spots, the Rose Bowl game, big sporting events and golfing outings. In addition, he takes several extended vacations with his family, couple and friends golf trips to great resorts and romantic weekends alone with his wife 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!
Are you living your priorities or reacting to what you have to get done to keep your construction jobs running? When you put business pressures and everyone else first, you don't have time for the important things that make you the most money and give you the greatest satisfaction in life. Continually ask yourself:
- Is this a good use of my money, my time or my life?
- Am I doing what I 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. Take a look at where you spend your time versus where you want to spend it:
What do you do Vs. What do you want to do
Hard work won't make you wealthy!
The more work you do, the less time you have for your priorities. 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, 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 work, 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? It is my opinion that construction business owners make the most money when they spend 33% of their time building relationships with loyal customers and 33% of their time developing their management team. If you focus primarily on these two top priorities, you will have lots of time for the important things in your business and personal life. What will give you the greatest return - taking a loyal customer to the big football game or taking off the next job to bid?
Why is it so difficult to get to your priorities? You know what you should do. Make a decision to start living your priorities and putting your priorities first. 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? Complete this exercise to identify things that are going well in your business versus what needs to be changed:
Things we do well Vs. Things I should change
Get fed or starve!
Several years ago I discovered and wrote out my life purpose statement. It was: 'My life purpose is to help other people achieve their goals.' It's awesome when you discover what turns you on in life and in your business. It keeps you focused and becomes a beacon to guide you towards what really matters in your life. For several years I worked hard as a commercial general contractor helping others by building buildings for them. But after fifteen years of constructing great projects for customers, I realized I was getting tired and worn out, and my personal priorities were being neglected.
I was giving my all in the service of others as I built my construction company. What was missing was the realization that I also needed to get what I want along the way. I had to make a change in how I conducted my business and lived my priorities. 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 THAT I CAN ACHIEVE MINE!" (For those who want to discover and write their personal life purpose statement, get my book entitled: 'On-Purpose.On-Target! - How To Balance Your Personal And Business Life To Get Everything You Want' at my online bookstore at www.hardhatpresentations.com)
If you are not moving toward achieving your personal and business goals, how can you be and do the best for others? For example if you work 100 hours every week to finish projects for customers, your personal life will be a mess. If you aren't getting paid enough for the work you do, how can you make a profit, build your business and reach your financial goals? If you have to make all the decisions for your employees, how will you ever have enough time to enjoy the benefits of business ownership? If you let other people control your calendar, how will you decide what you want to do everyday?
To grow your business profitably, decide:
- What do you like to do?
- What turns you on?
- What excites you?
- What should your priorities be?
- What do you want to do?
- Where should you spend your time?
Answer these big questions. Not what you need to do or have to do to get your jobs built, keep the doors open, the lights on and the money coming in to pay the bills. Successful business owners and managers do what they do best and hire great people to handle the rest. For example, most construction business owners are not good at managing people and making them accountable. To solve this dilemma, surround yourself with the best operations manager you can find and pay top dollar. Spend your time on what you do best: estimating, marketing, sales or customer relations.
Make the tough decision!
Decide to be bold. Stand up for you want. Do what you know you have to do. Do it now! - Hire a key operations manager? - Fire a troublesome employee? - Fire a customer? - Stop accepting excuses from key field employees? - Stop making all the decisions for your staff? - Put Friday afternoons in your calendar as personal time?
What are your priorities? Are you living them? Are they in your calendar? Are you going to do something about them? People tend to adjust very slowly to what they are expected to do, what other people ask them to do and not what you want to do. In order to stay focused on what will make the biggest difference in your business, step back and take a hard look. Analyze you current company strengths and weaknesses. List out the opportunities for improvement and the key success factors that will make it grow profitably the way you want it to. Consider all areas in your company including:
The top 2 business priorities!
In my opinion, business is simple. The two most important priorities are to FIND customers and then KEEP customers. Finding customers involves everything to keep profitable revenue coming in the door. Finding customers includes: sales, marketing, estimating, presenting proposals, customer appreciation, schmoozing, networking, and what you do to build loyal customer relationships. This area is often overlooked in construction businesses. Most construction company owners focus on bidding work and then getting it done. As a top priority, finding customers can not be delegated easily. Customers want to know who they are doing business with.
Keeping customers is all about doing a good job and meeting your customer's expectations and contractual requirements. This top priority is an outcome of a well organized and systemized operation led by a professional management team and well trained employees. This area of your company can be managed by a professional management team who implements your business mission, philosophy, organizational systems and procedures. But, without great systems in place, delegating operational tasks is impossible.
Hire pros to grow!
Here's an email I received from a plumbing and heating contractor in Santa Fe, New Mexico who saw me present to a large group of local contractors. He wanted to share some things that work for him:
"Fire the idiots! But more importantly I found two top-notch working foreman and convinced them to come to work for me. I had to offer them about a 50% wage premium over market wages. I had to raise my open hourly rates significantly and I charge them out even higher on bid work. Guess what? Virtually no customers were lost, my percentage of really excited customers soared and I was free to do what I do best: sell jobs! They run their jobs, ask me an occasional question (perhaps just to flatter me) and I give them free rein. After this experience I realized, "If I have to go to a job site for a reason other than boredom, curiosity or P.R., I don't have the right man on the job. Find the right people, give them the right resources, set 'em free and never look back!"
The fastest way to get your company organized and focused on keeping customers is to hire the best and give them the task of getting the work done. Great people do cost more money but take less time to manage than weaker ones. Plus you'll never be able to get your business to grow beyond the capacity of your top people. Why haven't you hired management professionals to help grow your business? Where do you need the most help?
- Accounting manager
- Operations manager
- Chief estimator
- General superintendent
- Senior project manager
- Office manager
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. Sell your truck or backhoe, lease a used one, take the money and hire a professional to help you.
Put your priorities to work!
Don't just talk about it, get started and do it! Continually ask yourself if what you're doing is a good use of your time, money, talent or life. Visualize and think about what you want your business to be and how you'll make it become a reality:
1. What a perfect business would look like to you?
2. What is your perfect business day, week, month or year?
3. What business activities do you find most rewarding?
4. What can I do to create more rewarding activities?
5. What can I do to move towards accomplishing these activities?
When you do things you shouldn't be doing or don't like doing, your business becomes a drag. Activities which are not rewarding drain your energy. Exciting tasks and activities which are included in your top priority list are rewarding and actually invigorate and give you more energy. When you are moving towards your goals, improving your business and seeing progress, you will get excited a bout your future. What is your #1 priority? Will you stay focused on it? Will you keep it at the top of your mind? Change how you do your business. Get what you want and adjust your calendar. Always remember that your #1 priority is to keep your #1 priority your #1 priority!"
George Hedley owns Hedley Construction and Hardhat Presentations. He is the author of the "The Business Success Blueprint Series" now available in 8-workbook & audio CD sets. He is available to speak at your organization on his proven system to build profits, people, customers and wealth. Construction company owners are invited to attend his 2-day 'Profit-Builder Circle' boot camp held regularly. E-mail him to receive a free copy of his book entitled "Everything Contractors Know About Making A Profit", signup for his free management e-newsletter, visit his online bookstore, or receive more information. Call 800-851-8553, visit his website at www.hardhatpresentations.com, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3300 Irvine Avenue #135
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Phone (949) 852-2005
Fax (949) 852-3002
Email: email@example.com website: www.hardhatpresentations.com
George Hedley owns a $75 million construction and development company and
Hardhat Presentations. He speaks to companies on building profitable businesses,
leadership, and loyal customers. He holds 3-day in-depth "Profit-Builder
Circles" open to construction company owners in an interactive roundtable
format every 3 months. His "Profit-Builder System" includes proven
tools to always make a profit, build equity, create wealth, win profitable
jobs, motivate your people, and enjoy the benefits of owning a profitable company.