Expenses vs. Investments – A Mindset Shift

As small business owners who are not only responsible for ourselves and our families, but our employees and their families as well, it’s no wonder we keep our eyes on every dollar that comes in and goes out of our businesses. Hopefully we all have a good grip on our numbers (balance sheet, P&L, and yearly budget updated on a monthly basis) and everything is trending in the right direction towards a healthy net profit.

There are a few simple ways to grow your bottom line when running a contracting business – increase your prices, finish your projects under budget for a little extra profitability (without cutting corners, of course) or buy frequently used items in bulk at a discounted rate.

There are also a few areas where I see business owners cut back thanks to getting “tripped up” when considering if something is an “expense” or an “investment.” The first is with marketing, most of which should be looked at as an investment strategy, but more on that in a future post.

The second is with investing in themselves. I posted on LinkedIn a little while back about how ALL athletes have coaches, especially the GOAT’s, but the same isn’t true when it comes to business owners. Many busy business owners, especially those in the thick of it all, look at hiring a coach or a consultant as an expense, and often one they can’t afford right now. Unfortunately, RIGHT NOW is when you need the coach or consultant the MOST. So, I’m encouraging you to flip the script on how you look at hiring outside help – as an investment in the future success of your business.

Depending on what you need help with, that “future” could be mere weeks away, or maybe a few months out for a larger issue that needs a bit more time and attention. Either way, the sooner you get started, the sooner you get to cross the finish line and reap the rewards of your investment.

And if you think you can’t measure the ROI of hiring a coach or consultant in dollars, think about what an hour of your time is worth (especially if you’re the salesperson) and then how much you’ll be saving if you streamline your daily operations or tackle that big issue that just keeps coming back up. As a consultant, I live by the motto that “the fastest way to get something done is to slow down,” and help others see the logic in hitting pause, solving a recurring problem, then hitting play again with some new tools and strategies at your fingertips.

If you, or your business could  benefit from working with a coach or consultant, I highly encourage you to set aside some time on your schedule and some money in your budget to accelerate your growth. Then find someone who’s been where you are and now has what you want, and use their experience to help you avoid the common pitfalls of streamlining or scaling your business. When it comes to marketing, the saying goes “you have to spend money to make money” and the same is true for personal and professional growth. But guess what, you’re worth it.

P.S. – It’s also important to find someone who’s a good fit for you. There are plenty of coaches and consultants to choose from, but working with someone who aligns well with your style and your goals will make the process smooth and hopefully enjoyable. If you’d like to learn more about my style and see if we’d be a good fit, you can schedule a free discovery call here.

What’s On Your Bucket List?

This has been a “milestone” year for me, with my daughter graduating from high school last month 😊 and getting ready to head off to college next month. 🥲

We celebrated by taking a trip out west to Colorado and Utah (Salt Flats pictured). At some point around her 5th birthday, I decided visiting all 50 states would be a cool thing to do and added it to our bucket list. With this trip now complete, I’m up to 41 and she’s up to 32.

To make sure we had enough time to do and see everything we wanted to, it meant taking 8 consecutive days off of work (this included a weekend). The best part of it all was I did not get one “emergency” phone call while gone from our painting business. Flash back 5 years, and that would not have been the case. After a vacation full of “avoidable interruptions,” I made sure to set myself up so that would never happen again. What’s the point of taking a vacation if you can’t truly unplug?

What did it take?

Clear systems and processes that could be delegated and followed in my absence, and taking care of as many things that only I could do before heading out.

As business owners and entrepreneurs, one of the perks is being able to control our own schedules. Unfortunately, more often than not, we quickly fall victim to spending too many hours working IN our businesses, leaving no time for those long weekend getaways or bucket list trips we vowed to finally take now that we “have control” of our time.

For those of us who started with the tools in our hands, the thought of delegation can be a scary one, but is necessary if you’re looking to:

1. Grow and scale your business

2. Be able to say “yes” to that once in a lifetime trip when it presents itself

3. Build a business that can operate without you (at least for a week or two, to start…)

#3 should be the ultimate goal for all business owners, especially if selling the business when you’re ready to retire is on your to do list. This requires stepping out of your comfort zone of “doing it all yourself” and building a rockstar team around you along with solid systems and processes that everyone follows.

Want some help figuring out where the best place to start is for you?

Schedule a free discovery call at the link below. ⬇️

While it may seem daunting, the steps between where you are now and where you want to be aren’t usually as steep as you think. And as the old saying goes, “the best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago, but the second best time is today.” Don’t put off building the business of your dreams so you can live the life of your dreams any longer. 😎

Schedule a Free Discovery Call Now

A Little Bit About Me

With over 18 years of experience in marketing, I know that my marketing efforts should be focused on YOU (my ideal customer), but I’m going to deviate from the norm for a minute and tell you a little bit about ME.

Why, you might ask?

Because I want YOU to see why I might be a good fit in helping you solve your current business systems issues.

 

So, here goes:

  1. I’m whole brained – which means I’m both creative and analytical.
  2. I like things done right, but also done fast – which means we’ll knock out your “to do’s” in weeks, maybe months, but definitely not over a full year.
  3. I rank in the 98% for time and priority management – which means I’ll keep you on task to get things done.
  4. I love variety in my work – which means your issue is a fun challenge for me to solve.
  5. I’m a high “SC” on the disc profile (and low “D”) – which means I’ll bring a calm and systematic approach to your current situation and have the patience to help you work through it.
  6. My Strengthsfinder top 5 are: Achiever, Learner, Intellection, Futuristic and Strategic – which means I can help you with the present as well as plan for the future.

And last, but not least….

  1. I love being helpful – which means seeing you benefit from a tip, tool, strategy, or system that I can share with you brings me joy. The more I can help you, the happier that makes me. 😎

 

So if you’re thinking “I need someone like this on my team” schedule a free discovery call and let’s chat about how I can help you get from stressed to streamlined.

Schedule A Call Now.

P.S. – If you haven’t taken a DISC assessment or read Strengthsfinder, I highly recommend doing so to learn more about your natural style and strengths. Then do the same with your team so you can maximize your effectiveness when working together and use everyone’s natural talents to the fullest. 🙌🏼

Is Your Business Built Like A Rube Goldberg Machine?

My younger brother and my daughter have always had a special bond. I blame it on their shared traits of being wicked smart and a little bit naughty. 🙃. They’re both great at “solving puzzles” and from a young age, he loved teaching her how to do things and then teaching her new and “more fun” ways to do things.

When he introduced her to Rube Goldberg, I didn’t know who he was or what he was famous for, but once he explained it, it all made sense as to why he chose to impart this particular bit of knowledge.

You see, Rube Goldberg was known for taking something simple and making it as complicated as possible, just for fun.

Need to open a door? Let’s build the most complicated contraption that doesn’t require you to use your hands, but will turn your entryway into a impassible space once you have the door open…. Want to pour yourself a cup of coffee? Let’s set up the pot and the cup and then add levers, pullies, dominoes, etc. to tip the pot and fill the cup without spilling, leaving your kitchen counter cluttered with non-kitchen essentials….

So what does this have to do with your business you might ask? …. (If you’re new to my blog, you’ll learn quickly that I like to tell stories and then connect the dots…..) Many of us have built businesses that operate like Rube Goldberg machines without even realizing it. As our businesses grow organically, which is part of the natural evolution, we often add steps to our processes or new systems to the mix and before we know it a simple process is now overly complicated. In Rube Goldberg’s case, his “complications” are intentional. I’m encouraging you to do the opposite and be intentional about not over-complicating things.

What’s the best way to do this? Take some time each quarter to work ON your business and re-evaluate your current systems and processes. The goal should always be simple, easy, and repeatable. If they’re not, brainstorm with your team on how to modify them and then try, track and tweak as needed until you get It just right.

Think back to being a kid and building a domino chain that would topple with just one tap. You most likely didn’t get it right on the first try, but if you stuck with it until you got the spacing and angles just right so the small push at the start led to a smooth chain reaction with a clean finish it was well worth the effort.

Want more help with looking at your business from a different perspective? Schedule a free discovery call and let’s chat about the areas of your business that could use some simplification.

The Natural Evolution Of A Business

I talked to a fellow contractor recently and when I asked him how long he’s been in business, his reply was “20 years, but I think I repeated the same year over and over for the first 15.”  😳 😂 If you’re nodding your head and thinking “been there, done that,” I’ve got some good news for you….  almost every business goes through a Natural Evolution.  The trick to successfully navigating it however, lies in your ability to:

1. Identify what phase you’re in

2. Make the needed adjustments to move into the next phase

Here are the phases:

                         Common Sense –> Brute Force –> Best Practices

The Common Sense phase is just what it sounds like. You’re good at something, or interested in a specific trade and decide to make a go of it, so you do what “makes sense.” In the world of painting (which I know best as far as the trades go), this might mean buying tools and equipment, learning the basics, spreading the word that you’re now providing painting services and taking on one job at a time for a price that allows you to pay your bills with a little left over. With no major overhead expenses yet, you can work IN your business during the day, work ON your business after hours or on the weekends, and you can maintain this for a while as you continue to build your brand and establish a reputation…

But … as I like to say … if you’re good at what you do, your business will grow naturally, and to meet the new demands and increase your profitability, you will need to add more people to your team. Finding a few guys and gals to join you will allow you to produce more work and generate more revenue, but it will also mean additional business expenses to accommodate your new structure. This inevitably leads to the Brute Force phase, which is very easy to move into (often times without even realizing it), but more difficult to move out of.

In the Brute Force phase, you’re still operating on the principles of Common Sense, but by now your business has most likely outgrown the ability to “just do what makes sense” anymore. Multiple projects and multiple crews often lead to inconsistency from job to job without a more formalized approach to HOW you do WHAT you do (i.e. – written systems and processes). You might deliver 5 star service on one job only to turn around and have a major callback on the next. And you may struggle to identify WHY, in your mad dash to keep up with the new demands on your time both IN and ON the business. If you’re working 60+ hours a week and still don’t feel like you’ll ever get caught up, then you’re most likely in the Brute Force phase and “just pushing through.” No one wants to stay here, but many business owners struggle with determining HOW to move out of Brute Force and into the Best Practices phase….

Getting to Best Practices requires you as the owner to spend more time ON your business than IN your business, and to do so effectively you will need additional overhead to support this shift. This could include people, technology, and infrastructure, and should be looked at as an investment and planned for in your overall budget. I like to call them “step changes,” and while you should plan out a few at a time, you may not be able to execute them all at the same time without causing too much of a dip in your overall profitability.

The first “step” is often hiring someone to help out in the office, which will be a new overhead cost for your business. If done well, after a slight dip in your productivity (during training and on-boarding) having a dedicated person to handle your administrative tasks should result in more efficiency overall and more time for you to focus on selling and continuing to build your brand. Hiring this person will also require you to get the “common sense” systems you’ve been operating on out of your head and onto paper. To successfully onboard and delegate, you’ll need clear procedures to train this new hire. This is also a great time to add procedures for the field as well to ensure a consistent experience on each and every project.

The Best Practices phase is where you truly formalize your business. The goal is having the day to day operations of your business run smoothly without you needing to oversee every little thing yourself. While this may seem like a daunting task, consider the alternative – staying in the struggle that is Brute Force for yet another year. Mapping out the path to move you into Best Practices phase is the starting point for it all. While business growth is often organic and unplanned in the early phases, successful and sustainable growth is intentional.

Need or want more help? Sign up for my free Business Assessment Webinar or schedule a free discovery call and let’s chat about mapping out the best plan for you to reach your business goals and life dreams. 🤩 🤩

Do You Need More “SC” In Your Business?

If you’re familiar with the DISC profile, here are some interesting statistics…. Only 10% of the overall population are “high D’s”, but when it comes to entrepreneurs and business owners, that number jumps to 65%. This makes sense given that it takes guts and action to launch and grow a business, and high D’s are big “doers.” What I’ve seen and found, however, over 15+ years in the contracting world, is that most business owners need more “S” and “C” in their businesses (and lives) to help balance things out as they continue to scale and grow.

When I joined the family painting business back in 2005 and starting attending conferences with my father, I noticed something pretty early on. The other business owners in attendance who were running successful and streamlined businesses (most of them being high D’s or high I’s) had hired a office managers who were high “S” or “C” to balance things out. And what I’ve continued to see over the years, is that smart business owners build teams that compliment their strengths and fill the gaps where they are weak.

While high D’s want to go, go, go, and aren’t always focused on or worried about the details, having a high S or C in the mix helps to ensure that all options are reviewed and a clear plan of action is outlined. Together, this combination of the “idea” generator paired with someone who’s great at implementation can lead to amazing results within a business. And collaboration often leads to a final result that is better than what could have been conceived or achieved individually.

One of my favorite quotes is “the fastest way to get something done is to slow down.” As a creative person and a high “SC”, finding the balance between idea and successful implementation comes naturally to me. I love taking the time to truly look at a system, process or procedure and say “Is this the best way to do this? Is there a way to make this more efficient, simpler, and easily repeatable?” Then I like to take it one step further and use my Try, Track, & Tweak method to evaluate and create the best possible process.

If you’re in need of more “SC” in your business, lets chat. You can schedule a free discovery call here, and if there isn’t a date that works well for you, just send me an email and we’ll find some time to connect.

Systems vs. Software – Where, What & How

I’m going to go ahead and date myself right now by telling you that when I first joined the family painting business, there was very little software for the industry, and nothing at all for those of us who have always been Mac users. I know a fellow contractor that purchased ACT and tweaked it to the best of his ability, and there were plenty of us who made due with Microsoft Word and Excel for years until a few dynamic Excel platforms were launched specifically for painters. Fast forward to the present, and the problem seems to have almost been over-corrected. So much so that APC magazine is now hosting Virtual Tech Fests to help us all evaluate and choose what’s best for our businesses within the world of contracting.

Which brings me to the point of this post…. the difference between systems and software. For clarity, please note that while I am a systems specialist, I am not a software specialist. What I can tell you about software, however, is that it’s the WHERE in your business. Tie it back to the name – software – and it’s easy to remember. Whatever software you’re currently using or considering, it’s WHERE you store all of your information.

Systems, on the other hand are the WHAT and HOW of your business, and are critical in setting up a streamlined and successful path for growth (with minimized growing pains). Systems answer the questions of HOW you do WHAT you do, and HOW you gather information and WHAT you do with it. Of course, you need somewhere to store and easily access all of this information, but without clarity in your processes for the WHAT and HOW, the WHERE doesn’t stand as well on it’s own.

Here are some quick examples:

  • HOW do you reply to a new lead?
  • WHAT do you do with that information once you have it?
  • HOW do you prepare for a meeting with a potential client?
  • WHAT do you do with the information once you’ve discussed the scope of work?
  • HOW do you plan internally for each project?
  • HOW do you communicate with the customer throughout?

I think you get the idea, and the list goes on from that very first marketing piece that caught their attention to the successful completion of the job. Which leads me back to what started it all… the Customer Experience Circle. I’m thrilled to announce that my comprehensive course is now available, in which I’ll “walk” you around the circle and assist you in setting up systems for each “stop” along the way. You can learn more here and sign up for my launch party for a sneak peek at everything that’s included.

Think Like A Customer – Act Like A Business Owner

While I hate to have to say this out loud, Customer Service seems to be a dying art. With the continued advances in technology and automation, it seems many businesses and industries are attempting to “make things easier” by automating as much as possible. But who is it really easier for? More often than not, it’s easier for the business, but not the customer (and don’t get me started on “convenience fees”…I did all of the work 😝). 

This trend is all the more reason Customer Service should be your primary focus for the coming year. There’s no easier way to elevate your brand and stand out from your competition than to deliver exceptional customer service. And for many of us, isn’t that what we set out to do in the first place?

The trouble, however, often lies with implementation. And the hard truth that we’re usually thinking like a busy business owner and not thinking like a customer. Once we are able to shift our focus, the next question that comes up is How? How do I set up my business so it’s customer focused, but still keep control of the internal processes so it’s manageable for my team?

The short answer – Implement A Singular Operating System.

If you’re reading this blog, you’ve most likely seen “The Customer Circle”, some of you may have seen the detailed version, a few of you may have heard me talk about it in Denver, and now I’m excited to share the launch of my On-Demand course where I’ll take you through it all in full detail.

As busy business owners, we’re all guilty of spending too much time IN our businesses and not enough time ON our businesses. My goal is creating and launching The Full Circle Customer course is to help you carve out 1 hour a week to work ON your business, teach you how to build out systems for consistency and success (you’ll be able to download my notes, tools, and templates as well) and turn the 8-10 hours you spend working through the course into 10x that in time back once you’ve implemented the processes into your business.

If you’re ready to learn more and get a preview of what’s included, join me for my Free Full Circle Business Assessment Webinar this month. Click here to learn more and save your space.

Over Plan, Then Go With The Flow

I’m writing this post from the balcony of a condo in Siesta Key, Florida, where I”m on vacation to start off the New Year. Sorry, not sorry… I really needed a break…. and if you can’t remember the last time you took a real vacation, when you finish reading this, open your calendar and block out some time in the 1st quarter for your own break.

Now, back to the point of my post… yesterday, we decided to “island hop” and drove up to Anna Maria Island for the day. Naturally, being the organized person that I am, I had a plan in place before we pulled out of the parking lot. 😂 Which brings me to my travel motto, and the title of this post… Over plan, then go with the flow.

We’ve been traveling pretty regularly since my daughter was a baby, and while I used to have entire trips planned  out from touch down to take off, the summer she turned three is when I learned to let go of my agenda and just enjoy the ride instead. But, because I can’t help myself, I still have a list of “possibilities” ready for each new destination. And once we arrive and settle in, we decide each day what we feel like doing and then take it from there. The list has definitely come in handy in making sure we don’t miss any “must do’s” when in a place we may not be back to again (like Greece and the Door to Nowhere).

So for our trip to Anna Maria, I packed everything we could possibly need for the day, looked into what was happening on the island (we actually shifted the trip by a day because of my research and were able to stroll through the open air marketplace by the beach – see, it does pay to plan ahead), and checked out local restaurants for lunch. And we had a lovely day on a different beach, did a little shopping, and ate a delicious meal before heading back to Siesta Key.

So what does this have to do with your business? Much like taking a vacation to a new destination, every new year in business brings with it a plethora of unknowns. If you take my vacation motto, however, and apply it to your business, you’ll be prepared for just about anything that comes your way. So here it is again…

Over plan, then go with the flow.

And here’s what it might “look like” in real life:

  • Create a yearly plan, budget, and revenue goals
  • Break the plan down by quarter to stay focused on 90 days at a time (click here for a free template to help you get started)
  • Create a monthly to do list for execution across all areas of the business (there are 6)
  • Start thinking about the “what if’s” (both good and bad) before they happen – back up plans never hurt
  • Operate daily as if everything will go according to plan, BUT be prepared to shift and “go with the flow” if necessary.

Having a plan is a must, but holding on too tight can lead to failure instead of success. As the year unfolds, stay the course, but be willing to adjust as needed as the road ahead continues to unfold. And be sure to take a break every once in a while for some much needed time off and a chance to reset and come back fresh.

Big Changes & Little Adjustments

My daughter got her license a few months ago, and with a dad that’s a bonafide car guy (he buys them, rebuilds them and races them), together their working on “building” her very first dream car. It’s a (used) Jeep Wrangler – 4 door, hard top, all black – just as she requested. 🖤

Once she got the hang of driving it and passed her test (in a Mini Cooper 😂), the first big change was the tires. And when I say big, I mean big. She picked them out, dad swapped them out, and back out onto the road she went.

As she was driving around, turning left and right to navigate the roads and back out of parking spots, she noticed a rubbing sound she hadn’t heard before. So back to dad’s shop she went only to discover the new and much bigger tires were rubbing up against the fenders. So what’s the solution? Lift the car a bit. This was on her wish list as well, and was added sooner rather than later to eliminate the sound and the extra wear on the new tires.

What’s the point of my story you might ask?  If you’ve read more than one of my blogs so far, you’ll notice that I like to tell stories and then “connect the dots.”

When it comes to growing our businesses, it’s often easy to spot the big changes that need to be made to continue to grow and reach our goals. But in the midst of figuring it out, executing and getting everyone on board with the big change, we often forget that big changes almost always require small adjustments.

There are very few things in life that work perfectly out of the box, and we’ve all learned to tweak and adjust things as needed in our day to day life. Somehow though, we seem to forget that similar tweaks are often needed within our businesses. Like the old saying goes “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

So the next time you’re considering a big change in your business, be sure to give it time, pay attention to any hiccups you encounter, ask your team for input, and adjust as necessary to reach the best final version – which is very rarely achieved on the first attempt.