Planning Power

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Fleet Management Done Right

Would you drive your personal vehicle 100,000 miles and never do an oil change? Ignore the flashing red engine light on your dashboard hoping it will go away? Continue to drive it after you dropped the front wheel into a deep pothole at 70 mph?

Of course not!

You would take steps to maintain and fix the vehicle as soon as possible. That’s because you are the manager of your personal fleet of one, two, three (or more) vehicles and you know waiting will only end up costing you more in the end.

When it comes to the fleet for your contracting business, however, the consequences of not being proactive has yet another layer of risk and a huge financial impact. That’s because each one of your trucks is a rolling cash register and every time one of your trucks goes out of service, your ability to generate revenue for your business goes with it. To avoid this, you need someone acting as the Fleet Manager. Someone has to have the job to make sure those trucks not only stay on the road but also are utilized properly by the Technicians who are operating them.

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The Goal Writing is on the Wall

By the time you read this, most people’s New Year’s resolutions (aka goals) will be a distant memory and they’ll be back to doing the same things they said they were or weren’t going to do (lose weight, make more money, work fewer hours). Maybe you even have a few. Here’s the thing: Setting goals is easy. It’s the follow through on the plan of action that will create the change you want that’s the tough part. A famous author once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

That said, there’s a process for energizing goals properly, and the first step is to put the goal (or goals) in writing. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how much push back I’ve gotten on this one over the years. The reason is because if you never put the goal in writing, you don’t have to be wrong or miss. You can always be perfect in your mind because there’s nothing tangible to remind you of what you said you wanted. You don’t have to confront failure or any of the other negative messages in your head that say you didn’t deserve it anyway.

Here’s the thing: A goal is just a destination. The plan you create to get to your goal is your map or GPS. That’s it. You will inevitably learn new things along the way, and that may cause you to adjust the goal or the plan to get it. Even if you fall short, you’ll almost certainly be better off than if you hadn’t tried. As I told one client who was stressing over this, there’s no “goal police.” The sole purpose of a goal is to give you something tangible to shoot for.

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Owner Procrastination Implementing is the Biggest Problem

In my seminars, workshops and webinars, I often ask the audience the following question, “Why do people resist change?”

I get a lot of good answers like:

1) They fear the unknown

2) They are uncertain about what the outcome will be

3) They worry things might actually get worse

4) They admit they want to protect the status quo

But I’ve learned along the way, both in my own business and now as a consultant to so many other businesses for so long, that the number 1 reason people resist changes is… Fear of Failure!

I didn’t understand this phenomenon when I was young so I was baffled as to why my team would resist the change I was proposing when it was clearly getting rid of something they said they hated with something they agreed could possibly be better.

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Buying Your Way to Growth

When I talk to contractors, many ask the same question, and that is, “How do I grow my company the right way?”

To me, there are only two answers:

1) Master Organic Marketing

2) Master Acquisition

Mastering Organic Marketing means you are so good at the right messaging delivered using the right marketing vehicles that you create more demand for the work you can do in a given day which means you need to grow your team to support this ability.

Great Organic Marketers have figured out on their own or with good marketing outsources how to make their phone ring “off the hook” which has allowed the owner to hang up their tool belt and begin to focus on what it takes to run a successful business.

Mastering Acquisition means you’ve learned how to buy someone else’s company and acquire their customers and good will and sometimes their assets like trucks and inventory or even their building.

Great Acquisition Players know that Acquisition can and often does happen in many ways and in many forms.

My focus here is on Acquisition as the best way to… Buying Your Way to Growth.

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The Right Way To Cut Business Costs (Part 2)

As promised at the end of Part 1 of The Right Way to Cut Business Costs, I’m going to share here in Part 2 the rest of the 5 most common areas to look to cut expenses the right way.

The remaining three are:

3) Inventory is in overload and out of control. The vast majority of shops I visit when I first do my 1-to-1 consulting are way overloaded with dead inventory that is costing them money. To me, it costs money because they could be trading this excess inventory off for credits with a supplier or sold off at a discount to generate money. It’s easy to think, “I should have those items on my shelf because if I buy in bulk it’ll be a good deal,” or “I want a lot of it in my warehouse because I don’t want to run out.” It’s all flawed thinking.

The best thing to do is what I call “Exit the Warehouse” business process, and that means finding a great partner with a great vendor or even two great vendors if need be. They can help take control of what you keep in stock, and they can help you arrive at the correct minimums and maximums for each item. It requires restricting access to the warehouse itself to a very limited amount of…

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The Right Way To Cut Business Costs (Part 1)

Are all the expenses you’re “used to” carrying still pulling their weight?

Probably not!

Getting a better handle on this means you need to dedicate yourself to getting Financial Power in place.

Where should you start when it comes to cutting the right expenses in the right way?

Start by looking at all your expenses from the prior year listed in your Profit and Loss Statement (aka P&L). Take out a yellow legal pad if you want a manual moment or open up a Word document and list them all. Then, sort that list into must expenses and nice-to-have expenses.

It’ll be tough to do this because everything you now spend money on seemed like a good idea at the time. But a sinister thing about some expenses is they may be small expenses, but if they’re occurring every month, for instance, there is a compounding effect, and not in a good way. The reality is all these “small” recurring expenses add up.

Here are two of the five most common areas to look at when it comes to cutting expenses:

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Marketing to Pick Up Dollars, Not Dimes

If you’ve been in the service contracting business for any length of time you know what it’s like when business slows down and money gets tight. And if you’re like most service contractors, marketing spend is usually the first thing to go!

My dad, Irving, called that “stepping over dollars to pick up dimes.”

Why? Because without marketing your phones are going to go dead and/or stay dead.

It might seem counter-intuitive but those slow times are actually the best times to be doing testimonial-based marketing, which I’ve seen work well not just for my own service contracting business but also for dozens of other contracting businesses ranging from plumbing, heating, cooling, electrical, roofing, garage door service—to name just a few.

To make sure the marketing of your contracting business hits the mark you’ll want to focus your time, energy and your money on three main drivers such as:

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Who Goes to Training and Seminars? Probably Just You…

In the beginning of my work career, just my brother, Richie, and I attended advanced training at my company. After all, we were never going to leave the company, unlike the possibility that one of our employees might get this costly training and then leave us.

Did I say we were smart or thinking ahead at this point in our lives?… No!

What happened is when Richie and I went to Fireye® controls training in the Boston area, as an example, we were the only ones who would then be capable of handling the big commercial boilers when the client would call. Lucky us!

Nope, not really.

That’s because we had commercial and industrial accounts that operated 24/7/365, and despite our having four rotating crews of 4 Techs on until 2 AM, they would get to a job like this and have to call… you guessed it… Al or Richie.

Well, we hated that. Especially when they called us in the middle of the night or over the weekend. They were on a paid shift, mind you, and not On-Call. But they were stuck, and we blamed them for not knowing what to do.

Remember, it was our decision to not send them to the same training we had gone to.

Well, Richie and I may not have been forward thinking about this policy, but we were not dumb, and we quickly woke up to the reality that only by sending our Techs to the same training and seminars we attended could they ever be as effective as they needed to be.

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90% Chance Nothing Bad Will Happen

There’s a 90% chance nothing really bad will happen at your company if you spend at least two hours a week disconnecting from your business to work on it. BUT, there’s a 100% chance that failure is imminent if you’re unwilling to do this.

Pretty dramatic? Nope!

What separates the most successful contractors I’ve worked with from the ones for whom success eludes them, has nothing to do with how smart they are or their being in the right marketplace or anything like that. It was their ability to focus on getting things implemented at their company.

I’ve had clients pay me a lot of money to come and work with them. I can tell you I don’t vary my approach all that much, but I don’t use a cookie-cutter approach. That’s because I do tweak it to fit the type of contracting business I’m working with and where the existing company is on the business spectrum when I first arrive.

The reason I’ve been hired over the years to help contractors is…the business has reached an impasse (otherwise I wouldn’t be there). The impasse is different for different owners. Either they’ve grown to a size where they’ve run out of hours in a day, days in a week, weeks in a month and months in a year to get it all done. They can’t figure out how to clone themselves, so they are stuck. I also work with fast growing companies where they have grown chaotically, and they have tried to hire and throw people at the problems because they too realize they’re stuck. Both types of clients learn quickly that these issues will continue until they commit to work on changing how they run their business.

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Mitigating Bad PR

The threat of Bad PR (aka Public Relations) used to keep me up at night when I was a contractor. It doesn’t take much Bad PR to make it tough for your company to grow or, if it’s bad enough, to go out of business.

And as you grow your company and more and more people are at work each day, there are more and more people who can slip up or even give the appearance that they’ve slipped up.

What can you do to mitigate – or better yet – avoid Bad PR?

Learn how to play both offense and defense.

Note: As a CYA (aka Cover Your…Anatomy), you’re welcome to get advice from your own professionals who specialize on any and all of this. There’s a lot at stake.

In the meanwhile, I’m going to share my take on some examples of the high stakes game we, as contractors, must play…

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