Forget tough. Today, competition is fierce. And although the construction contracting business has been challenging, it’s time to take steps and implement actions to move forward. If you are one of the lucky contractors who had a profitable 2012, and 2013 is looking good, you can never get too comfortable where you are. You still need find new ideas and strategies that will put you ahead of your competition and keep you there. If you know how to drive smart, your results can be well worth the long trip to increased business, higher levels of customer loyalty, improved productivity, and increased profitability.
MAP THE BEST ROUTE
To maximize your driving power, you need to first take a good hard look at what you already know—the world is changing more rapidly than ever before. If you don’t keep up, you may be left behind. If you aren’t distinctly better than your competitors, you can’t possibly create and sustain business growth.
What you need is an accurate road map to show you the best route. To obtain one, look at your business as if you were an outside consultant and think about what you need to do to drive faster and smarter than your competitors. Then tap into what should be one of your greatest assets—the combined brainpower of your employees. Within them lie answers to your questions, solutions to your problems, ideas to rev up your business’ growth, and methods to keep you from breaking down. That is, of course, if you have hired an exceptional pit crew and aligned yourself with the best accountant or CFO, great suppliers, associates, and advocates who want you to succeed.
GET THE RIGHT GEAR
Imagine for a moment that you’re a professional racecar driver. To win the race, you’ll need a state-of-the art racecar and proficiency at the wheel. With daredevil and risk taking, you can slant the odds of winning in your favor. But without a highly efficient and cohesive pit crew and support team, you will never win the race.
Just as speed is a critical factor in racing, it’s the same in business. You must be fast to respond to needs of the customers and customers you serve, fast to implement new technology that will make you more productive and find cutting-edge solutions to problems that may exist. For right now, though, you need to slow down before you can speed up. Slow down and work with your staff and support team to create your strategy.
Ask them to answer all of the questions with complete honesty on the High-Performance Road Map. If you have the right type of culture in your business, they will not be afraid to address sensitive issues and come forth with ideas. Listen to your people. Then, take a consensus of opinions and draw conclusions.
Once this brainstorming is done, you’ll be in a better position to see things more clearly, make decisions, and create your race strategy. This can be hard work, but your biggest challenge will be to implement necessary changes and sustain the momentum of the drive. Expect the road to get a little bumpy in places, and keep the following in mind.
- Always drive with a clear focus on your customers and their customers. The key to sustaining the momentum is dynamic leadership and consummate driving skill. Encourage everyone who works in your business to listen to the voice of the customer and to drive with an obsession for delivering their best performance and workmanship for every customer, every day.
- Follow your race strategy. Once you have completed the road map stage, you will have your own customized new business and customer service strategy. Follow it as closely as you can in order to stay on course.
- Employees tend to promote what they help to create. Ongoing employee involvement is the key to your success. Seek to obtain their commitment to “buy” into the goal of winning the race and working together as an efficient, cohesive group—just like a great pit crew. Set goals to increase your business, avoid problems, and improve quality. Keep in mind that if rewards are in the picture, you will be more likely to obtain results. Do the same for those who assist you in this process.
- Business growth is crucial to the success of your business, but both you and your employees need to enjoy the view while you drive. How’s the culture of your contractor business? Is it a great place to come to work each day? Do you practice peer support and celebrate small successes?
Are you ready to get your map and drive in the race for business growth? If you are, you must understand and accept that the road will be much more challenging for you than for any racecar driver. Here’s why: For them, there’s a finish line to cross. For business owners who are striving to move forward in today’s world, the race to obtain and sustain a competitive advantage has no finish line.
Drive as smart and as safely as you can. You just have to drive faster, delivery quality work on time and on a consistent basis, and have a strong ability to develop stronger relationships than your competitors. ■
HIGH-PERFORMANCE ROAD MAP
Follow these directions and you will be on your way to the road to business success: Gather your entire pit crew together. Communicate that your objective is to involve them in sharing ideas to exceed customer expectations and outshine your competition, uncovering any service or quality problems that may exist, discovering methods to prevent problems, and finding methods to improve productivity and morale. Then, obtain answers to these questions and add some of your own that are applicable to your specific business.
- What are our strengths?
- What needs improvement?
- What, in your opinion, does management need to do to help the business move forward?
- How much of our business comes from referrals?
- Can we boast 95 percent like some of our competitors?
- Where are there opportunities to obtain more referrals or drive more business to us?
- How can we promote our business in a way that is different than the competition?
- Are we calling on as many customers as we can?
- What is our reputation in our area?
- What can we do to sway our competitor’s business over to us?
- What are we hearing in the field?
- Does our business operate consistently like a well-oiled machine? Can we depend on each other, so we can focus on the most important person to our business—the CUSTOMER? Do we consistently strive to improve productivity and solve problems? Do we need to improve team communication to avoid problems and improve quality? How is our overall morale?
- Do we need a new approach to business development? Are our advertising, sales, and marketing strategies working? Do we need to conduct more marketing research? How can we do better?
- What are we doing that is different from other contractors that will make us stand out in the minds of our customers and promote word-of-mouth advertising? What have we done to differentiate our business from others?
- How would the customers we serve answer the questions: What’s different about working with our business? Do they know why we are better? Do we know how to articulate why we are better? Do we know how to articulate the value of bringing their work to us? How can we do better?
- Are we consistently working to improve our service? Since our offerings are not different from what our competition is offering, are we far better in the level of service we provide? How much effort do we put into soliciting feedback from them to discover what they want and need from us? How quickly do we respond to calls? Is it easy to do business with us? Does everyone in our business know they are expected to bring forth ideas to improve customer service and do they regularly contribute their ideas? Are we listening to the voice of the customer? Do we have an effective CRM system? How can we do better?
- What can we do to develop stronger relationships with our customers? What have we done to exceed expectations, and what practices can we put into place we exceed expectations in the future? Do we all pull together when we have a problem and help each other deliver service excellence? How can we do better?
- How well do we bid? If it is higher than our competitors, how well do we communicate the value of the higher price? How can we do better?
- How’s our reputation? How are we perceived in the eyes of the customers we serve, and those we have yet to serve? How are we perceived in the eyes of our industry association? Do we operate with ethics and integrity? How can we do better?
- Do we consistently strive to be a better business? Do we consistently work toward being better than our competition? Do we make an effort to be better than our competition in every aspect of the customer experience? Do we strive to under-promise and do everything we can to over-deliver? How can we do better?
This is a lot of work, and often done best during a retreat. Whenever you do it, take a good hard look at the answers to the questions. Then, create an action plan that will help drive the growth of your business and improve profitability.
Does this seem overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be. Determine what three things you need to implement in the next month, and GO.
Be sure your pit crew buys into your course, and ask them to be accountable for their performance in executing your action plan. And ask for referrals from your advocates and suppliers.
Then, remember, knowing what you should do and doing it are two very different things. Without execution, your action plan is just that, an action plan.
Just remember to ENJOY THE RIDE!
About The Author:
Christine Corelli is a columnist, consultant, and author. For more information, call 847.581.9968, or visit www.christinespeaks.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, August 2013
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