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It’s my birthday this weekend so I’m going to address a few topics that have been on my mind.

For many of you, business has been good the last few years. The last real downturn we had in our business was back in 2008 – 2009, and that downturn cleaned out a number of contractors, frankly, many of them because they were running their business like a hobby. They didn’t follow business principles and weren’t focused on making a profit.

Keeping your business sharp and profitable is an ongoing process, and it’s easy to get lax about the little things that can cost big money. Let me point out a few.

Ego Purchases

I don’t understand the need to overspend on company vehicles. I’ve seen trucks with all kinds of bells and whistles that make you proud to drive them, but at what price? No matter how much money you’re making, how does it make sense to buy the biggest and most expensive vehicle? Granted, they can make you feel good, and you look great driving from point A to point B. But are you in business to impress others with your vehicle or are you in business to provide a service and make a profit doing it?

A vehicle is a tool. Its job is to carry you, safely and dependably, from one place to another. As long as it can do the job and look respectable, going beyond is a waste of money.

You don’t have to be as extreme as I am; I’m driving my fourth vehicle since 1970. I currently drive a 1997 Ford F-150 with four-wheel drive. It’s clean, dent-free, paid for and transports me as well as any fancy truck can do, for a heck of a lot less money. Consider that the next time you think you need to buy a luxury liner.

Phone Use on the Job

Devon and I were on a walk recently and went past a few building sites along the waterfront. The first building had five guys standing around; two were talking, waving their arms, while three were sitting on their bums, two of them staring at their phones. No one was working and it wasn’t because they didn’t have anything to do. It was easy to see plenty that needed doing.

Behind the next building we passed another worker standing alone, deeply involved with his cell phone. He wasn’t talking or texting, just reading. When we came back maybe fifteen minutes later, he was still there.

Are you paying your employees to stand around and look at their phone? How much does that cost you?

I know things are different now. We’re all nervous to be caught without a phone in our pocket, but some jobs don’t require a cell phone. Unless someone’s expecting a baby or having a life crisis, in my opinion cell phones shouldn’t be allowed on job sites except for the leadman or foreperson.

I told you it was my birthday this week, so humor me and at least give it some thought.

Foul Language

There’s a stereotype attached to the construction industry and it’s not pretty. You know, the guy driving a beat-up pickup, wearing dirty clothes, whistling at women who walk by, and swearing up a storm.

In reality, the construction industry is diverse. We’ve worked with contractors of all races and nationalities. We’ve worked with both male and female business owners, gay and straight. It wasn’t unusual for our two-day class to have at least one woman attending who was the sole operator of a female-owned business. The construction industry, in many ways, looks just like the buying public.

Most contractors are now driving decent vehicles (or the biggest and best, see my earlier note), they clean up for sales calls, and they know whistling at women is no longer acceptable in any setting. This is all good.

But for some reason, too many are holding on to the foul-mouthed stereotype. I want to remind you that there’s a large swath of people who don’t consider vulgar language acceptable, and they include your potential clients.

I’m not going to define foul language because most of us could agree on at least a few words that are offensive in polite company. An old rule used to be that if you wouldn’t say it in front of your mother, you shouldn’t say it.

My high school coach used to say, “What you do in practice, you’ll do in the game.” If your language is raw when you’re talking to your friends or even to other contractors, you’re apt to let a few of those words fly in front of a potential client as well. You might think dropping a few rough words is no big deal, but the people with money to spend who are evaluating your character might think otherwise. How much business can you afford to swear away?

Zig Ziglar used to say that if you want to be paid like a pro, you must think, dress, act, and speak like a pro. One of our goals has been to raise the bar for contractors. We want to see contractors build stronger businesses, and we’d also like to improve the reputation of our industry.

If you’re using foul or vulgar language, whether privately or professionally, you’re hurting the industry’s reputation and your own business.

What you do in practice, you’ll do in the game. If foul language is part of your vocabulary, even in fun, learn new words. If you don’t there’s a good chance your language will come back to bite you.

Listen to the audio here, or select dots on the right to download:

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