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Michael Stone: Who You Listen To, Matters

Every now and then, we wonder if we’re still relevant. I know that what we teach still matters; the fundamentals of business don’t change and we talk about the fundamentals. But as I watch young people coming into the industry as coaches and consultants, I wonder how much they really know.

This article is going to be about what to look for when you’re looking for advice on your business, and I want to begin by saying that I’m not making a pitch for more coaching clients. I’ll turn 81 in a few months and am what some might call semi-retired. My mornings are spent in the office working with clients or catching up on my reading, and my afternoons are spent doing what I want.

I’m concerned about who’s coming into the industry behind me. I believe there are business coaches in the construction industry who are doing a decent job, but there are others who give me concern.

Truth be told, I never went to coaching school. I haven’t been through any special courses on how to be a business coach. I began coaching after writing the book and then spending hours either on the phone or in person with contractors, helping them get out of debt, become profitable, and start running their business instead of having the business run them.

I believe there are two different categories of coaches; motivators and problem solvers. Again, I didn’t go to coaching school so this is my observation only.

Problem Solvers

In construction, you can’t have the knowledge needed to solve problems without the experience of doing the work, especially in the residential market.

I’m not talking about production issues, “how do I put this together” problems. I’m talking about people problems. In residential remodeling, you’re working in someone’s home. You’re a stranger walking into their castle, their sanctuary, their private place. You’re also dealing with what is usually their largest financial asset so they are heavily invested in the work you’re doing. That can bring out the good and the bad in anyone. Add to that mix both employees and specialty contractors on the same jobsite, and you’re facing challenges every day. You don’t learn how to handle those issues in the classroom; you learn from experience.

A few years back, a friend told us that her son who had just graduated from college with a degree in business was going to be a business consultant. Folks, they’re out there: business coaches who learned their answers from a book. It might work in other industries, but it doesn’t work in construction, especially if you want or need a problem solver.


Some coaches are motivators. There is nothing wrong with wanting a coach to motivate you to keep going when it gets tough, as long as you know that’s what you’re paying them for.

Back when I first started coaching, I received a call from a client’s wife and she was furious. Her husband, the contractor, was sleeping in rather than going to work. She was furious with me because I wasn’t making sure he got out of bed to work.

I’m not going to call a business owner and tell them to get out of bed. We solved the problem by refunding their money. Obviously, her expectation of what coaching entailed was different than mine.

She was looking for a motivator and hired a problem solver, so I gave their money back. If you’re looking for a problem solver and hire a motivator instead, you might not get your money back. Make sure you know what you’re getting before you hire.

A few suggestions when you’re looking for a coach:

  1. Have they done the work?

    If you want a problem solver and the person you’re talking to didn’t spend 20 years in the field before becoming a coach, don’t count on them as a problem solver. They might be able to give answers they learned in a book, but they don’t have enough experience in enough different situations to be of much help when real problems arise. If you’re looking for a motivator, they might be okay.
  1. Do they sell their services without knowing what you need?

    If they start their sales pitch thirty seconds after meeting you, their interest is in the sale. They care more about gaining clients than they care about giving clients what they need.
  1. Do they sell their service on emotion?

    Imagine being on a sales call with a married couple and one of them isn’t interested in having the work done. You need the sale so you join the other spouse in browbeating them. “It’s selfish of you to want to save the money for something else.” “If you really loved them, you’d give them what they want.”

    Once the contract is signed, how well do you think that job will go?

    Relationships built on emotion don’t last. If someone pressures you to sign up for their services by saying it’s what your spouse wants, or you’re a loser if you don’t sign up, that’s selling on emotion. Frankly, it’s emotional blackmail. Recognize it, control your emotions, and walk away.
  1. Are they someone you can respect?

    The late Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker, said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Is the person you’re talking to someone you can respect? Your coach won’t be your best friend, but they need to be someone you’d like to emulate.

I don’t believe everyone needs a business coach. You need to continually work on your education, because we all have short memories and forget what we learned a few years ago. If you’ve read our books, read or listen to them again. If you’ve attended our classes, watch them again. Make continual learning a daily habit, and your profitability will improve.

It’s also helpful to have a mentor, someone who has proven success and is willing to help you stay on track in your business. I had a couple of mentors early in my career who changed my business mindset, and it made all the difference in my success.

A business coach can help you work through problem areas, even those you might not be aware of. They can help you increase profitability, which is the first priority, and grow your business if that’s important to you. However, you can do a lot of that on your own if you’re diligent with your education.

Whatever course you take, it matters who you listen to. It matters who you surround yourself with. Choose carefully.

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

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