7 Hard-Knock Truths To Building A Successful Contracting Business
Truth #1 - You Must Have Incredible Passion
You're going to face a lot of struggles in your business. You're going to have hard times. You're going to have great times. In the end, the majority of it depends on you and how passionate you are about your business. It can't be something that you "kinda want to do" and expect huge results.
You have to be psychotic about it. You've got to work relentlessly for it. You've got to sacrifice certain things in your life now, so your passionate can push your business to where it needs to go. Like the old saying, If I do what I have to do now when I have to do it, the day will come when I can do what I want to do when I want to do it.
Truth #2 - Surround Yourself with The Right People
There's a saying that you can judge a person's life by their 5 closest friends. I've found that to be amazingly true. Take a look at who you spend your time with and determine if they bring you up, or do they bring you down? Sure, it can be hard to disassociate with people that you love, who really aren't good for you. But I promise you, you won't find many long-term successful people who do not have a great support system surrounding them.
Make strong bonds with people you admire, or who have qualities you want to possess. Or, people that are in a place in life that you want to be. Befriend them. Ask for their advice and help. Don't be shy. I've found that successful people typically love to share and help others who truly want to make it.
And remember, it can't be all take. Do something for them also. You may not be able to help them with business advice, but what can you do for them? Every person I've met has something they aspire for or wish they had or could do. Perhaps you can fill that role? Though it may seem simple in your mind what you're getting in return, don't think for the other person. Your help may mean worlds more than what they feel they are giving you.
Truth #3 - Hire & Empower People Who Are Better Than You
At first, I had a hard time with this. Because of my passion, I used to think that "no one could do it as good as me" or "no one could want it as much as me". Wow was I wrong on that one. I've seen this in a good many unsuccessful contractors. We feel that we're the best or the only one who can do it "our way". So, we spend our time doing things "our way" and making bad mistakes in the business because of this.
Or, worse yet, I've seen contractors who hire people that are not as good as them. Why would anyone ever do that? Their own personal insecurities. They're more concerned about someone else looking smarter or taking the glory, over being successful. Wow, what a formula for failure.
This one really is important. I've worked with some amazingly successful people. One trait I've noticed about many of them is that nothing was really amazing about their abilities. They weren't the best at one thing, or some super smart business guy. One thing they all possessed was the ability to hire people who were great in areas that they lacked expertise. They let them do their job. That's also a key.
Want to stifle an employee? Put limits on them. Be hard-fast on what they can and cannot do. You'll take a person who could be great and drive them to mediocrity in your company, and eventually looking for other employment.
Hey - you hired them. You pay for them. Let them do their job!
Truth #4 - Get Out of The Way
The bottleneck is always at the top. What a true saying. I've seen a good many contractors grow their business successfully. One thing I noticed was that, in each case, a large portion of the growth happened when the owner got out of the way and had competent employees doing the work.
Again, I had trouble with this originally. It's your business. Your baby. Letting go of the reins is tough to do, but it has to happen. Otherwise, you'll be the bottleneck in your company's growth.
Why do we do this? Worry of things being done properly. Control issues. Personal insecurities again. Trust. These are all things from which you have to break free.
Here's what helped me get over it. My business mentor said once sentence that really woke me up. It was simple. "If you hire 2 people that do it half as good as you, the same job gets done and you have freed up all of your time to move forward". Wow, that really stuck. I don't need to have another person who's as "good" as me. I can spend my time cultivating that employee to that level and move forward. Then the job still gets done and my time freed up to "move forward".
Truth #5 - Become A Business Person, Not Just a Contractor
If you've ever read the e-Myth books (there's one targeted for contractors, by the way), you understand this truth. Think about this story...
Most contractors fail because they are technicians in their business, not a true business person. In other words, let's say I'm a great carpenter. I do great work, so I decide to start my own carpentry business. I'm a technician (carpenter) starting a business (not a business person).
So now, I'm working on the business, marketing, selling, payroll, taxes, and all the other burdens of running a business. Well guess what? I'm not spending any time being a good carpenter! I'm spending my time being a bad business person because it's not what I'm good at.
So, in order to be successful, you're going to have to pass the trade work off to others and hone your skills in business. Otherwise, save yourself the stress and hassles and just work for someone else doing what you're good at.
Truth #6 - Step on the Gas
There's one consistent fact that trumps everything else - you have to be a successful marketer in this industry. Everything starts with marketing. Without it - nothing else matters. You can have a great sales staff, do great work, etc. But, if you don't have any leads coming through the door, you will eventually fail.
If you dedicate your efforts to successful marketing plans (in whatever form of marketing/advertising that works for your industry), you'll have a pipeline feeding into your business machine that keeps it going.
Sure, referrals are great leads. Word-of-mouth advertising is "free" and "the only way for me". That's a great business model if you can survive on getting leads only when people talk about you. Unfortunately, it's a failing model. Here's why.
Not every job you sell will talk about you and refer you. Even if they did, not every referral you generate will turn into a sale. Thus, eventually you dwindle down to no referrals, no leads, no money. No good.
Push your marketing and make it work.
Truth #7 - Never Let Off of the Gas
I've seen this happen several times, and it's soul crushing. A contractor builds a successful business. He says "whew" and starts to relax. He loses that intense passion that got him to where he is. Then things go downhill. The business loses momentum. The competition catches up and passes by. In the end, the business fails.
Wow - never let this happen to you.
Does that mean you'll always have to work like a madman? No way. There will come a time where you'll want to enjoy life more. Perhaps pass the business on to a child or family member or friend.
But that doesn't mean you let off the gas. It just means you focus your efforts on getting someone else to keep their foot on the gas.
Until you've completely replaced yourself from the business, and it can continue to grow without your direct involvement, you've got to keep the hammer down. Once you've successful accomplished this, the world will be your oyster.
So, my friends, I know this got long winded. However, I hope it has shed light and inspiration on your goals for success.