How I wish each of you could be a mouse in my pocket for just one day. If you were, you’d hear the complaints I hear about both general and specialty contractors who don’t answer the phone or return phone calls. They show up late, if at all. They don’t bother to clean up after themselves. Those are probably the most common complaints we hear about contractors. Sometimes I hear those complaints from the buying public, sometimes I hear it from other contractors.
When I got into this business back in the 1950’s, I did what I was told and did it well, or I got a boot in the behind. Quitting wasn’t an option because we lived in a small town and there weren’t that many jobs. If you wanted to earn money, you did the job, the way it was supposed to be done, in a timely manner, or they’d find someone else to do it.
It wasn’t just the workers like me who needed to perform well. The business owners also made sure they did their job, did it well, and in a timely manner, or they’d be out of business.
It’s almost the end of the year, and that’s a good time to look at how you’re going to do business. What standards have you set for your performance, and are you keeping those standards?
Are you returning every call the same day or by 9 am the next morning? If not, why not? You aren’t too busy, that’s an excuse. The truth is, you’re either too disorganized, or your business is a hobby and you don’t care about the details.
Do you show up for every appointment on time? When you set an appointment, you’re giving your word. Would you want to do business with someone who doesn’t keep their word?
Are your jobs kept clean at all stages? You made the mess, so you clean it up. No one else should have to pick up after you.
Do you set a job schedule and hold to it? Setting a job schedule show your client you’re serious about the job, and it helps you stay on track to get it finished on time. Things happen, but fewer things happen when you have a schedule.
Too many construction business owners today seem to think the world revolves around them and they can do as they darned well please. Truth be told, in many cases they’re right. They don’t have to answer their phone or return calls. They don’t have to show up on time or at all. They can leave their jobs a huge mess and if the other guy doesn’t like it that’s their problem.
It won’t always be like this. The construction industry, just like the economy, has cycles. When it’s good, like it is right now for many of you, it’s great. But that’s when some business owners start to slack off. You can’t alienate the buying public and your fellow contractors and expect them to forgive and forget when you need them.
If you don’t do the simple things that a responsible business owner should do, don’t expect to have a long-term future in business.
I don’t know what next year holds. For those of us in the United States, it will be politically volatile, but we’ve had so much of that already maybe it’ll all be background noise, and the economy will move on like always. On the other hand, it’s been strong for a long stretch and a downturn is long overdue.
Whatever happens, aim to make 2020 better than 2019. Make a plan for your business so you have a goal to shoot for. We always recommend year-end planning, an exercise where you look at how you did this year (sales, overhead, production, profitability), what you’d like to see next year (sales volume, profitability), and how you’re going to make it happen. The exercise also involves reviewing what went right and what went wrong with clients, jobs, contracts, employees, subs and suppliers, and more. We cover this exercise in detail in Year-End Planning Part 1 and Part 2.
When you make your plan, set the standards for how you operate. Make those standards public so you can be held accountable. Our standard is outlined in our Mission Statement, and explained in What We Believe.
If you know another contractor who doesn’t run their business like they should, send them a copy of this post. We like to see the good guys win, and we all know our industry needs more good guys.