The business you’re running today isn’t necessarily the one you need to achieve your goals. I know this is a hard pill to swallow. In fact, most people in this situation will defend the status quo even though their business may be like a “boat”… full of holes and rapidly sinking.
If this is you, you probably need a way to release your emotional attachment to the situation. Here’s an exercise I recommended to my 1-1 clients and really to every contractor to do periodically so they can more objectively evaluate what is going on—and what needs to change.
Imagine for a moment you’ve closed the doors at your existing company and are going to reopen it down the street as a brand-new company.
The goal is that you end up with a business that works right this time and that requires you do a real self-assessment of your business today:
- What worked right?
- What didn’t work but could be made to work with some tweaking?
- What was broken (or missing) and needed to be redone?
- What should you have stopped doing?
Next, you’ll want to look at some other non-competing businesses and take some notes:
- What do they do really well that I want to emulate?
- What do they do OK?
- What do they do that we never want to do?
My brothers and I did this years ago and it’s amazing what you can see by visiting other non-competing shops. We always came away smarter for it because we said to ourselves:
- We should do that too.
- We have kind of done that but now we know how to get it to a done.
- We don’t EVER want to do that!
If you came to me and wanted to know some nuts and bolts on how to approach this reset, here are my Top 10 things I’d have you do:
- Create the right org charts. Your name will probably be in a lot of the boxes especially if you’re a small company. That’s only natural. Your job is to hire and train people to take most of those boxes away from you or at least move you down the Depth Chart. The right box org chart also allows you to show new people where they can go in your company so you can offer them careers and not just jobs.
- Set up your office based on that org chart. That means the right people sitting next to each other to maximize communication. Watch your callbacks go down. Are you in a 2-story building? Make it a goal to get everyone on one floor, in the right layout.
- Create some operating and trade manuals that cover the 80% of what goes on. You’re never going to cover 100%, but with this you can hold everyone to the same standards. Finally get rid of the C and D players that your A and B players hate and end the resentment they feel for you keeping them around.
- Leverage those operating and trade manuals to train your staff. Use the trade manual to create a hands-on training center, training curriculum, and training room, and turn it into a “university” where training is always happening.
- Look hard at the services you are doing today. Then, also look to dump services or sister businesses you have that detract from your main offerings. You want the Techs to be freed up and better prepared to master the right services you do. Your customers will be better served and you’ll be better able to make money today and set yourself up in the future to add the right services the right way.
- Look at your customer list. Pay attention to the ones that don’t let you make a living because they demand the lowest price and then don’t pay on time. Gone. (You won’t miss them, I promise.)
- Get rid of dead weight, things you’ve been hanging on to. Look in your warehouse. What can you convert into cash? What can you exchange for credit? Test everything and dispose of things that don’t work. Tag what’s left over, and if it’s still there a year from now, dispose of that stuff too.
- Look at your fleet. Do you still own all your trucks? Why? They’re just a depreciating asset that is tying up money. There are just all kinds of reasons to lease instead.
- Get your debt down. Know that you’re not alone as many owners struggle with this. The best advice I can give you is to reach out to your creditors and let them know what you can and can’t do. You’ll get better terms if you are proactive rather than waiting until they take some punitive action against you.
- Get all these things you want and need to do into a plan. The plan is made up of a series of projects where you work on a maximum of five at a time for at least two hours a week. To make the list, a project has to either solve your biggest problem or better your ability to grow and be profitable. Doing these projects is how you’ll move forward and get more of what you want (and less of what you don’t want).
Realize there are going to be emotions. The analogy I’ve shared with clients over the years is, “You’re standing on this riverbank. You don’t want to be on it because its fraught with struggles and you’re losing money. So, you start rowing your boat across the river, and now you’ve struggled to get halfway across. The current is strong and the rowing is wearing you down plus your boat is probably a little leaky too.
“Know that it will be just as much effort to row back to where you came from (that you hated) as it will be to keep moving toward the riverbank you want to be on. So, keep moving—forward. Everything you want is on the other side of the turbulent river.”
I presented this shutting and reopening the business concept as an exercise but this is exactly how my clients, some of whom were in some pretty dire straits, were able to reset their businesses successfully. My recommendation is that you follow my advice so you too can trade in the leaky rowboat for a beautiful yacht that is taking you where you want to go!