Michael Stone published the following note from Scott Avery of Modern Tech Floors in Portland, OR in his most recent Markup and Profit Newsletter. I’ve received permission from both Michael and Scott to republish it here.
LOOKING AT YOUR BUSINESS
This week, I have the great pleasure of sharing a terrific attitude with you.
Scott Avery of Modern Tech Floors came to us late in 2007 looking for help. His world was not what he wanted. He was willing to make changes, and since then he has been busy rearranging his life and his approach to business.
Read carefully what Scott has to say. As you’ll read in the last paragraph, his business has almost doubled in gross revenue this year. He knows what he is doing.
Early one Sunday morning on vacation I was carrying my five year-old son to the car and I asked him if he was my best friend. He said yes. I didn’t expect him to say no, but during the previous two weeks there were a few days where I could see disappointment in his body language when I had to run out the door too many days in a row. On that day I knew we were on great terms again while I carried him in my arms.
Operating a contracting business can be hell on your emotions when you have to serve a family AND clients. Recently, a few weeks of my hardwood flooring company were some of the most demanding I’d had in a while. We try to keep very satisfied clients and I was emotionally and physically exhausted in making the choice of where to spend my time. One floor in particular had been so challenged with bad luck that I was prepared to let the job (and final payment) go just so I could keep the bad client energy from affecting my life at home. It was Thursday and I had one more chance to fix things and I was nervous that things would go badly from self-doubt. At a pivotal moment that evening, I looked at my two year-old son playing on the carpet and realized that I needed to succeed not for my ego, but for the better future $1,100 could mean to my children. The next day was the best Friday I had in a long time because I started the day with a sense of purpose, knowing why I had to succeed. The floor was fixed perfectly and I managed to wrap up a two-week marathon perfectly at 5pm.
Saying no to a job can be extremely difficult, especially if you could use the money. When I look back over the years I wish I had learned when to say no to bad clients and projects. I guarantee you that anyone who has been in contracting for any length of time has more than one story about a crazy client. I’ve had my share of difficult clients over the years that cost me money and time. In the end I recovered the money, but I will never get back that time. I will never gain back the moments with my family and children, so I consider what I’ve learned about choosing clients to be priceless. If you don’t put a value on your time, then the world will drain you because free is the best price of all and cheap isn’t bad either.
Why is it that ego and macho can often accompany owning a contracting business? Think about the slogans for any contracting company in America and the majority of slogans are about how great their work is or how many years they have been in business. These are poor benchmarks from a marketing perspective because they don’t appeal to a specific market of customers that are in need of a contractor who solves specific problems. The result of “ego marketing” is that you dilute your own effectiveness by trying to stay busy and serve too many markets. Just remember that for everything you agree to do, you pass by another opportunity to make greater profit in less time. The “best” contractors simply have lots of time for their family and are at financial peace. The goal for any business owner should actually be to provide maximum time, freedom and profit as a reward for intelligent use of time and knowledge to make effective business decisions.
In order to make your time more effective and win in business you simply have to care about planning for your success and reorganizing priorities. Reprioritization of time and habits important requires more than one good article or happiness speech. The real roadmap lies in staying inspired regularly enough to figure out a blueprint for how you WILL succeed. You have to awaken the “what if” portion of your brain with the consistent positive changes in your daily habits. This means honestly evaluating the people you are around, the things you eat, drink, read, listen to, and watch. If it doesn’t make you feel better, more capable, or creative then throw the trash to the curb and don’t look back.
My life changed dramatically when I looked at how much of my day was spent wearing earplugs while sanding floors. I realized that this was a “dead” space in my time and that instead of wearing earplugs I bought soundproof audio headphones and I was able to borrow inspirational audio CD’s from my local library. I was able to repeatedly listen to the most successful entrepreneurs in business such as Brian Tracy and John Maxwell on my iPod. To go see these guys in person and buy their material will run you hundreds to thousands of dollars, and I found it free at the library. If you are a contractor, then chances are you spend 1 hour or more a day in your truck or van driving to and from jobsites. Ask yourself and answer this question honestly: Who has more knowledge about improving your attitude and business, your local sports broadcaster or Jim Rohn? Let the jocks take a backseat because they could care less about your success and the future of your family.
Knowledge and happiness are fine and dandy but will not complete an equation. Your business success will be leveraged when you also grow your network of experts. You don’t have enough time to be an expert on everything to make your business successful, but you must make the time to learn from the experts outside of your specialty to leverage your time. Many business owners sadly believe that networking is simply about meeting a lot of people and talking about what you have to offer hoping that someone will buy. The hidden secret of networking lies within placing you and your “pitch” on the back burner and learning to identify experts in computers, marketing, finance, etc… People love to feel smart and will share very specific tips and clues about their industry when you show a genuine interest in what they are saying. I’m not suggesting you become a predator of other people’s knowledge and time for your own interest. I am suggesting your job is to run a better contracting business through any means necessary such as associating people who are smarter in different industries and adding value to their life or business in any genuine way you find.
Talk and ideas are absolutely a waste of time unless accompanied by action and tangible takeaways. As a contractor and entrepreneur I’ve become a much better evaluator of bs and fluff since leaving my corporate job, so here’s a real blueprint I used to improve my business:
1) Stop putting yourself number two behind the customer because you DESERVE to retire before your time is up. You have to find the real reason to shift yourself from what you should do to what you MUST do to grow your profits. For me it is my family and control over my time. They’re more important than any customer’s floor.
2) Develop a true reason for your purpose in this business besides money. The longer you put ambition on retirement because you love sports, beer, and stuff the more you delay your happiness. There is a science to success and the first part of that equation is admitting you can always improve your game in some way from your marketing to your health.
3) Don’t fish at the same pond everyday because you know the path to get there. Get out and meet new people every single week and learn something new. The tools in your truck are useless without leads and contracts that make you profit. Find some new friends in different industries by stepping up your networking efforts.
Our business has almost doubled in gross revenue this year and I am certain that it is because I became a better businessman through humility and a burning desire to quit being worn out financially and physically. It took me meeting the right people and learning new perspectives for succeeding because I was sick and tired of sitting on the side of the road while my life was passing me by.
COMMENTS FROM MICHAEL
As you can read in his letter, Scott refocused himself, set his priorities and made them happen. Each of you can do the same. Do you want to?
Thinking about it and talking about it doesn’t make it happen. You must decide what you want and then put a written plan in place to make it happen. Let us know if we can help.
While you are reviewing this material, see how Avery has positioned his business in the social media especially on Facebook and Twitter, and look at these comments onYelp. Of course, you don’t get this type of endorsement unless you really deliver the services clients are seeking — this is the foundation of all successful marketing.