Last time we talked about reducing the effort of growing our businesses to small, manageable steps that any Doofus could follow. I was called that ... and it hurt. However, bein' called stupid pissed me off so much I decided to show “them” — all them negative types who are only comfortable projecting their fear onto others. They say, “You can't.” I say, “You can!”
No offense, but your own parents, teachers, or ministers may be in your head right now pullin' you down because of their fears. My mom, a well-meaning, tough Italian woman was panic-stricken when I started my biz, then literally stunned when I became successful. She'd suffered much because I was called stupid, borderline-retarded, a Doofus by my teachers; and these negative portrayals were raised to the level of truth because I failed almost every math test I took. Her fear was multiplied seven-fold by the fact I'd come off the streets only a few years earlier, and faced returning to jail if I messed up again. I was driven to prove to her that finally her 47-year-old “kid” was goin' to make it ... and I did.
I'll never forget the year our little four-tech, one-CSR outfit broke $1 million in sales, and I took everyone and their families out to celebrate, including my own, spry, 80+-year-old mom, Elsie. I watched as she looked around at all the family members —almost 20 people — then piped up loudly out of the blue, and very emotionally blurted out, “I'm so proud of you. You proved to me, and all those damned teachers who told me otherwise, that you could do it.” There wasn't a dry eye in the place, including mine. And, yeah, Elsie talked that way.
Has anyone taken one step forward towards success? As Rabbi Hillel said 2,000 years ago, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?”
I systematized everything — every small thing, every small challenge.
And what was my secret? How could I achieve what other, smarter, faster thinkin' folks couldn't? It started by simply joining up. I found groups of folks who shared most of my business challenges, treated me like an equal, even helped with my personal math-related challenges. My journey started with Plumber's Success International until I outgrew them; moved on to my local Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors; then ended happily with the best-of-the-best, the Service Roundtable.
But joining up wasn't enough. The secret was to systematize everything then act on it (thank you, Michael Gerber and E-Myth), and for once my form of dyslexia came positively into play. To succeed, to understand how to run a business, to build from the ground up rather than attempt to understand from the top down, I systematized everything — every small thing, every small challenge; and, while doin' that, I turned over the bigger systems to my wife, Rebecca, a more beautiful, smart, and lovely a partner no man could ask for.
I began with the small step of treating myself as my own employee.
Challenge: I was totally reactive during the day, almost ADD.
System: Keep a time card of my own to become pro-active.
Challenge: Phone didn't ring.
System: Knock on two neighborhood doors a day, plus ask for referrals on my customer's FB page.
System: Develop checklists for every job — approximately one job a week.
Challenge: Customer complained I fixed one problem but another popped up after I left.
System: Develop a checklist for “Whole Home” inspections (or the HVAC and electrical equivalents). A year later — done! I had a smooth running operation that had turned into a cash cow I could happily ride into the future ... and, yes, you can saddle a cow.
There are a lot of "I's" and "Me's" in this article. They're there only because if I could do it, so can you, although some of you might have to dumb-down a bit; git out of your own oh-so-important way; think simpler instead of complicated; and take some direction before giving it. But all of us can do it.
There's the Goose's Golden Eggs again, folks. How many will gather-up them eggs rather than kill and cook the bird? An even more interesting question might be: How many will attempt to breed it? ?
Ed O'Connell is the founder emeritus of O'Connell Plumbing Inc. He is the subcontracting business coach for smaller contractors and a Service Round Table Coach. He can be reached in Auburn, California, at home/office: 530/878-5273 or at [email protected].