Starting small to grow big (And the painful complacency challenge)

Construct canada
chase at our booth
Chase at the Construct Canada booth

Graeme Owen provides in his recent blog a rather intriguing (and simple) systematic approach to grow a tiny back-of-the-truck renovation business to a larger, scaled, successful business. His points: Take the small jobs (initially from your network), use systems and processes to manage them like big jobs and deliver truly exceptional service, are givens, but few contractors will do what he suggests. Some will be content to operate day-by-day handyman-type services; others will deign to lower themselves to the grunt work involved, and most who try parts of his approach will either give up or adapt or “simplify” to the point that they don’t follow the rules.

Who is talking here? ¬†Well . . . me. Because the stories of systems and processes and failures apply for businesses with more experience as well as less. We fall into our comfort zones, and accept things as they are and then wonder why we aren’t going anywhere, fast.

My recent experience with Chase at Construct Canada proves the point. We had a simple display, easy to set up and take down. And we probably did about as much business at the show as we would have in previous years, when we spent significantly more in time and resources to work the room and develop opportunities, and track things through systematized reports. We of course had used our experience to simplify the priorities. There were certain clients we knew to meet — and reconnect — and who would quickly give us some business. The only major obvious mistake I made this year (which I should have remembered from last year) is not to bring so many copies of papers/publications. Even with rack space at the front of the convention hall, we could have gotten by with about 35 per cent of the materials we brought to the show, and left in the recycle bins.

However, there is a problem with the way things worked out here. Yes, we had all we needed to do the show. No need to have three or four reps (with hotel and meal and travel costs); no need to develop sophisticated ‘get people to our booth’ systems because we knew who would be most likely to want to do business with us; no need to really reach out and experiment and do more — because we knew who our customers were … but equally, no need to grow. We were in a holding pattern, failing to capture the potential and opportunities that might be right under our noses — and perhaps (both) tending to take short-cuts to the relationship-building process.

I don’t have easy answers to these questions. Right now, I sense that I’m preaching more than I’m practicing here. I know we can do better.

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  1. Mark
    Did you put together a proposal to do a presentation this year like in the past? if not to promote you or the business how about SMPS Ontario Chapter?
    Did you attend all 3 days of the show?
    Did you set up any meetings to connect with people while at the show?
    Next year would you want to invest a few hundred dollars for the return of the booth babes to hand out the calendars and papers?
    While at the show I set up time to connect with Databid to discuss how to better use our relationship to promote the online tender information we have access to.
    I walked the floor looking for new connections and ideas to generate themes in the publications like revamping my “security” issue.
    I looked for photo opportunities to reconnect with long standing clients and a chance to build stronger relationships with new ones.
    I looked at the competition to see what they did differently and only difference I saw was attractive girls handing out the papers to slow traffic down at the booths to allow more conversations.
    We need to evolve for 2014 I think that means host an SMPS Ontario Chapter networking event one of the evenings of the show. Tap in your blog network for an event.
    Let this be the starting point on how to evolve for 2014.


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