Do Your Kids Respect Your Business?

THIS IS A CONTINUATION of the New Years Resolutions list I started in December (pg. 18). You should strongly consider using this as an operational checklist for 2004. If you thought the December column was a crock of crap, I would not be surprised. PHC contractors have a way of explaining very logically to their family, friends and to themselves why it is necessary to be constantly broke in order

THIS IS A CONTINUATION of the New Year’s Resolutions list I started in December (pg. 18). You should strongly consider using this as an operational checklist for 2004. If you thought the December column was a crock of crap, I would not be surprised. PHC contractors have a way of explaining very logically to their family, friends and to themselves why it is necessary to be constantly broke in order to be a plumbing-heating-cooling contractor.

Resolve to serve as a personal example to the world that this is a proud profession that pays its members well. To attract good people to the industry, the first step is to create a good and attractive industry.

Quite frequently an industry executive or some group announces that we need a program to “sell this industry to quality new people.” Let me remind you, the old saying still stands, “The proof of the pudding is in the tasting.” It’s not the pretty, full-color cookbook picture of the pudding, it’s not the ingredients in the recipe, it’s not the author who presents the pudding, it is the taste of the pudding itself.

Say all the words you want about our industry, pose all the great color pictures of attractive, young, shiny, new professional models holding shiny new tools, and you still must deliver a real life, prosperous and professional industry to attract and keep good people and, yes, to afford to pay them.

The good news is that you, as an individual contractor, can do it all yourself, for yourself. Don’t depend on an industry association, a slick advertising agency hired at megabucks or the words of any columnist (including mine here) to change your personal circumstance. This is your job and the proof is in the job you do, the taste of your own personal business pudding.

I’ve remarked many times that too many contractors’ children, (usually the pick of the litter), move out of the industry. They move out because you have, through your lack of your own personal success, not made this industry attractive to your own family!

It is not a matter of your being respected by the community, but your family will notice and be proud of your business, if you are.

It is not just being financially successful, but your family will appreciate and enjoy the good life prosperity brings.

It is not enough to be the best craftsman in the world but to be respected by your clientele who are willing to pay you well for the quality goods and services you deliver. Do this and your family will offer up the talent to move your business to the next generation.

If you get your act together, you will have personally made your business attractive to your own family members and to the “best of breed” in it and attractive to other young people in the community wanting to opt for a career as a plumbing-heating-cooling contractor.

Find an industry hero, a mentor, you can emulate. Don’t look to the price-cutting, single-truck bandits for examples of proper pricing, proper appearance or proper anything. Most of these competitors are just as clumsy at recognizing the true value of their services as you may be.

Look instead at the most successful professionals in the marketplace and learn from their service and labor charges. There will always be the tinker jacklegs, bottom feeders and moonlighting factory pipefitters, but there is no merit or reward in matching their prices if you want to be successful.

With the help of your new accountant, which I suggested last month, build a budget that looks out ahead as to how you intend the business to operate profitably. Your budget is a financial plan that expresses how you are going to generate income and how you are going to use that income to grow and to reward you, as the owner, and your true key employees. To paraphrase the movie “Field of Dreams,” if you pay well, they will come.

The stark numbers in your budget will help convince you that you should be working to upgrade the quality level of your customer base. I have had contractors object to the prices that I have recommended they charge. Part of their objection is often, “Who would take care of my poor customers who can’t afford those high prices?” My answer has always been that you can’t worry about people who are unwilling to pay you. One of your less successful competitors deserves to lose money serving them. I continue to believe there is nothing better to do with deadbeat customers and slacker employees than to send them to your competitors.

If you do these things, if you clean up your act from top to bottom, the quality people will seek you out and the profits will flow quite naturally and impressively.

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TAGS: Management