I will never forget the day I got in the truck and burst into tears.
I had just come off a speaking tour.
I was sleeping three to five hours a night, and Igor, my business partner, turned to me and asked where my bag was.
I had no idea. “I can't do this anymore,” I replied.
I was exhausted, both mentally and physically.
I had pushed myself too hard and my body was deteriorating.
My happiness was gone. My bowels were playing up; I thought I had cancer.
I was toast.
It's a point many entrepreneurs reach.
Contractors by nature have a grinder mentality.
But this means they tend to push themselves further than they should.
Growing a business is tough.
You start off doing everything yourself because, well, it's more convenient that way and you keep track of everything.
But there is a point of critical mass when you have more work, more people, and more things are requiring your attention that you didn't allot time for . . . and now you're screwed.
It's time to change lanes to be able to keep going.
But making that change can be tough.
Either stubborn pride prevents you from letting go, or, the fear of the unknown prompts you to start making excuses.
The problem is, what got you here won't get you there.
If, like me, you have a business partner, it can be your leveler.
They call you out on your BS and you are accountable to them.
But for those without a business partner, it's essential to have a “boss-like” figure, like a coach or a peer group (no, your spouse or employee won't cut it).
Once you are being held accountable, the next step is to gain focus, for the long term.
These are six simple steps that will help to start working on your business, rather than in it.
1) Financial Planning
A lot of roofing entrepreneurs have a goal, and that goal consists of X amount of revenue. A simple concept, right? It seems like a great goal. The trouble is, it can be so misleading. What's far more powerful is to have the budget and tracking behind that goal to back it up. It will turn from a number on a wall into a profitable revenue goal.
2) Organizational Structure
You have your goal, now you need to push your team to get there, right? But it all seems to be falling on your shoulders. The trouble with this approach is, you'll end up looking like a dick to your team! It's like standing in a tennis court and smacking a ball in their direction, and then shouting at them when they miss the ball. Instead, imagine walking to the other side of the court, standing together and looking at the problem. Working together you'll find a solution far quicker (and with less frustration).
3) Intentional Recruiting
Finding people is tough, especially in today's climate. I spent eight years of my career deep in recruiting. It was only in the final two years I cracked the code. I realized two things: You need to start with a great business (build it and they will come), and you need to shift your thinking and start looking for people you can develop.
We are in the recession of people right now. We just don't talk about it. Think about it; 40% of US dollars in existence were printed in the last 12 months. That's caused a temporary tidal wave where there is more money in the economy than there are people to do the work. The value today is in the people, not the money. It's time to allocate some of the time and money you would usually spend on sales and marketing and put that into recruiting (there's enough work out there, but not enough people). And don't just go in search of skilled labor, find people you can develop. If that makes you nervous, look at it this way: for every week you don't have a roofer, that's $3,000 a week in lost gross profit. After week 10 you've already spent $30,000, so spend that money upfront – it's called the opportunity cost and it pays off long-term.
4) Internal Training Systems
Own up. How many of you take on a new hire, have them follow you around and that's what you consider “training?” For some people that works, but on the whole, it's hard to find skilled workers these days. Instead, build a structured training program, because once you've built it, it is repeatable and will stand the test of time. In the end, your candidate pool is directly related to the robustness of your in-house training program (meaning you can hire people you may have previously passed on). Also, research has shown that 70% of employees stayed in their job if they were given training and development opportunities. As Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
5) Sales & Marketing
You've hit a 70% closing ratio, that's reason to celebrate, right? Before you crack open the champagne bottle, here's some food for thought: The reality is, if you're hitting those high numbers, then you are most likely undervaluing your business. Your closing ratio goal should be 30 to 50%, max. If it's higher than that, it should be setting off alarm bells. Either you're not paying your people what they are worth, or if you are, it's impacting your bottom line. Remember, the profitability of your business is directly proportionate to your ability to sell value.
6) Priority Management
My business partner Igor always reminds me, either you let the outside world fill your calendar or you fill it and allow the outside world to follow your parameters. I have the shiny object syndrome, something many entrepreneurs have, where we have an idea and want to focus on that. That can lead to a knee-jerk reaction that jostles your entire team. Instead, consider whether the idea will be beneficial in the long term and if you're willing to commit to it. I write my ideas down on a piece of paper and bring them to the quarterly review (if it's indeed still relevant by then). Once we agree on the projects we then assign them, and I block out two days in my weekly schedule, Thursday and Friday, that I fully commit to working on the company. If you do this, you're back in the driver’s seat.